Monique began the transition from vegetarian to vegan in 2010- but it wasn't just her. As the sole grocery shopper and chef in her family, it also meant that like it or not, her husband and their three sons would be going vegan, too (at least at home). As Monique stresses, her honesty comes from her family- her 13 year-old, for example, made no secret of the fact that he would much rather be eating chicken nuggets.
She wanted to make the switch to a plant-based lifestyle as simple as possible for her family. Her husband was supportive, but was still hoping she'd cook two meals every evening- a vegan one for her, and a meal with animal products for him and their children. Monique knew there was no way that was going to happen! When she looked online to find support from other vegans experiencing similar transitions with their families, but didn't come away feeling like anyone was having the same experience as her. What she's realized since, however, is that plenty of people have these experiences- it's just that not enough of us are talking about it. We're suffering in silence!
When Monique started blogging in 2011, she did so out of the need to find other vegans with which she could empathize and identify. As a new vegan, she felt isolated and overwhelmed by the number of anti-soy, anti-sugar, and anti-oil beliefs. She says she also felt isolated as a brown woman, not seeing herself represented by the vegan bloggers she found online. However, she soon realized that she had the power to keep herself out of isolation- she knew she couldn't be the only one feeling like she wasn't skinny enough, vegan enough, or whatever enough.
She quickly learned that people gravitate towards you when you are honest and transparent! It's a Pinterest world, if you're not careful every image you consume is presented perfectly and beautifully. It's refreshing to talk candidly about issues or struggles we as vegans may have.
Monique underlined this point by providing an example in her YouTube video "True Life: I'm a Chunky Vegan." When she first went vegan, she lost a lot of weight- but then she learned more about cooking and shopping vegan and her weight returned to what was typical for her. She began getting rude comments online for not being "skinny" enough as a vegan, representing veganism poorly through her body image. So she simply turned on the webcam and started talking. When the video went up, viewers reacted extremely positively: many commented to say that Monique's video had given them the strength to stay vegan and ignore the rude comments.
Another example Monique provided was a blog entry she wrote about a particularly difficult day, and how that lead her to "emotional eating" and a cheese pizza. Although she was incredibly hard on herself, so many of her readers resonated and identified with her experience. After experiencing Monique's honesty, they knew it was okay to get up and keep going after the occasional stumble. To Monique, this underlined the ethos that it's not about perfection but progression. It also reminded her that although we show compassion to animals, we rarely show compassion to ourselves.
Of course, where there's honesty, there can also be trolls. Monique says she'll often schedule a post or video that she knows will be controversial to publish in the middle of the night, and then take a few days before reading the comments. She saves comments for days when she's feeling strong and emotionally well. As for harsh criticisms, she understands it can be difficult, but just try to remember it's not about you- and it's 100% okay to delete comments. At the end of the day, she says, "my mom taught me very well how to ignore people!"
Another thing to save for emotionally strong days is looking at what other vegans are doing online. Support your fellow vegan bloggers, but don't let their vision cloud yours. It can be scary to put yourself out there! But it’s important to share your story, to be clear about it, and to own it. It can help you grow in your own journey. As Monique herself says, "it took a long time to get to where I am today. I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm certainly not where I was 5 years ago!"