Last year, all I did was eat. I ate when I was happy. I ate when I was sad. I ate if I went out with my friends, and I ate if I was by myself. I was always eating, eating, and eating, until I had an epiphany.
Between living dorm life, a terrible dining hall that is sponsored by Aramark, and constantly going out to eat, I probably was not putting the best food in my body. I realized that in turn, my body was going to beat me up in the future. Not out of anger, but because it will eventually have a lack of energy.
Between summers and winter breaks, I used to work at Bojangles Famous Chicken and Biscuits, the fried chicken place that is known better for its biscuits than its chicken. During my time working there, my favorite part was the end of the night. This was because after closing, there was nothing left in the store but food, and it was up for grabs.
I always immediately went for the chicken tenders, the honey mustard, dirty rice, and mac and cheese. With that, I had to take home at least twelve biscuits and grape jelly. Now I usually did not eat ALL off the food, but I ate enough to where I came back to college with noticeably larger hips and butt (that my boyfriend loves, by the way). My body also came with a larger stomach. I gained 30 pounds that summer because I was too poor to pay for groceries over the summer without assistance from the dining hall.
At first, I liked my new body. It fit well in dresses, and I looked like the curvy black woman that everyone sees in music videos, minus the flat stomach (my stomach belonged nowhere in music videos). But as the months went by, I realized that I spend way too much time out of the year eating nothing but Bojangles. I thought back to the time when I watch “What the Health” and remembered that chicken has carcinogens, which are substances that promote carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer. I remembered that dairy milk has a legal amount of pus and blood, which means that so did cheese. I remembered that butchers cut cancer out of meat so they can sell it. I made a snap decision: I was going to become a vegan.
My decision was very abrupt, but one I thought was necessary. Eating animal products and animals in general was a habit that I found immediately gross and unnatural for humans, especially considering our teeth and stomachs aren’t made for such.
So I did what I had to do: I went searching for meal prep ideas for veganism. Being in college, I thought the only way I could be vegan was to avoid the dining hall at all costs and cook for myself. Luckily, I had just been offered a resident assistant position, so I would be moving to the last house on campus that had a community kitchen. It was exciting.
Since I made this decision over Christmas break, I decided I should try out meal prepping at home, this way I would get an idea of how much time every week I need to allow in my schedule for cooking. I found a vegan meal prep from Rich Bitch Cooking that supposedly costs $23 for a five days worth of food.
It was the worst decision I’ve made in this journey. I spent over four hours in the kitchen cooking, for one thing. I was cooking things that did not even seem to make any sense. Cabbage lo mein… with no lo mein noodles in sight. Instead, the recipe called for regular spaghetti noodles.
My first Vegan Meal Prep
I cooked “vegan chili,” which was essentially a mixture of rice, uncooked kidney beans, and diced tomatoes straight out of the can. All that is is rice and beans with tomatoes. That isn’t chili.
My meal prep was beautiful. But my taste buds and wallet hated me for a week.
The meal prep did not hurt my wallet. In fact, the total would have come close to the $23 I was supposed to spend if I hadn’t had to buy the seasonings and Olive oil, which rounded it up to $15 more. The reason my wallet probably was irritated with me was that I thought most of the recipes were disgusting, so therefore I didn’t eat most of them. Mostly I took little bites of each one and ended up throwing the rest away.
I was discouraged. Here I was, $30 and sick taste buds later, with food I hated and know knowledge about veganism. I knew I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, and I knew that I still wanted to be a vegan. But what was I to do? Everything in my fridge at home had either milk or eggs in the recipe. I had nothing to eat. Then I spoke to a friend.
She spoke some wise words about what veganism is and isn’t. Veganism isn’t perfection, but it is a lifestyle that most choose to embark for various reasons. Some do it for animal rights, and others do it for their health. Sometimes both. However, even vegans who have stayed on track for 30 years have their moments of weakness. Then she gave me unlikely advice, “Try vegetarianism first,” she said.
It clicked. I was finally able to eat the mac and cheese that my uncles made for me to eat.
So now I’m a vegetarian. Not because I’m in love with cheese, or because I just want to eat eggs all of the time, but because right now, it’s what I’m able to give to the universe. To save money, I take plastic bags into the dining hall so I can get food from the salad bar, like chickpeas, spinach, and mushrooms. I’ve used those ingredients to cook buddha bowls, spinach mushroom alfredo, and black bean burgers.
If I can’t commit myself to veganism, I am being unfair to myself, the people who look up to me, and to the universe. With this said, I have been a vegetarian for almost three months. I am proud of who I have become, and I am also proud to say that I no longer live to eat, but I eat to live.