FEATURE: Erika Mendence

I transitioned to a plant-based diet nine months ago and it’s the best, most transformational decision I’ve made in years!

I have always been fascinated by folks who’ve made the conscious decision to live life on their terms, so throughout my life I’ve had many friends who were vegan or vegetarian.  Several times since high school I had toyed with the idea of changing my diet, but never put it into practice.

Last fall I went to a vegan festival in North Carolina with no intention of being converted, but being in the presence of such thoughtful individuals had a profound affect on me. I made up my mind a few days later—I would finally commit to a plant-based diet. I believe my decision was spirit-led, a type of divine intervention. In order to get to my next position spiritually, emotionally and career-wise, changing my relationship with the food I put into my body was necessary. Up until that point, I had poured so much time and energy into ensuring that what I fed my brain and spirit was nutritious. It was time for me to apply the same standards to what I fed my body.

So, why was becoming vegan the best decision I’ve made? Let me count the ways!

1. Switching to a plant-based diet has made me a more compassionate person. I transitioned to a vegan diet for health reasons, but since the change, I’ve begun to feel empathy and compassion toward all creatures.

2. Transitioning to a vegan diet has reinforced my freewill. We enjoy the standard american diet, not because we HAVE to, but because it is our societal norm. In the same way I can deviate from societal norms diet-wise, I can deviate in other areas of my life (the way I view my body, my career path, the timeline society puts on our lives, etc). Being vegan constantly reminds me to be present in my decision-making.

3. Another benefit has been my relationships to cooking! Before going vegan, I rarely cooked. I married a guy who loves to cook (which was either a lucky coincidence or great planning on my part) and he prepared all my meals—breakfast, lunch and dinner—because the thought of cooking pained me. He cooked, I ate. Since transitioning to a plant-based diet, cooking has become one of my favorite types of meditation. I love to break recipes down and make items from scratch—hummus, tortillas, bread, tofu. I often try new recipes and have even been caught stepping on my husbands toes on his nights to cook because I’m so excited to get in the kitchen!

Since that initial festival,  I’ve attended several more in other cities. Going to festivals and vegan restaurants in different cities allows me to continue to experience and build on the sense of community that initially brought me into veganism. I look forward to meeting more vegans and continuing to cooking up a storm!

“When you become more mindful of what you put in your body every day, that mindfulness will seep into everything you do. Instead of sleepwalking through your life, you’ll be more adept at living in the present moment. And the present, as I like to say, is the only place where good things can happen to you in life.” 

― Russell Simmons, The Happy Vegan: A Guide to Living a Long, Healthy, and Successful Life

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