In honor of World Vegan Day, I figured I would share my own vegan story with you, but firstly one of my favorite quotes:
"I could never go vegan" said every vegan before going vegan
(because same, same).
I grew up in what most would consider a healthy household. Majority of the meals I consumed were homemade, the value of fruits and vegetables was certainly made known and frequented my plate. Healthy body image was fostered with the continuous support and positive vernacular of my parents. There were no foods off limits. There was identification but never restriction on consumption of "treat foods," allowing me to test my own limits. The relationship between food and exercise was also made apparent. I was encouraged to keep highly active in my involvement with extra-curricular sports and to maintain a packed social calendar. I was taught that food is necessary nourishment for physical activity, but not necessarily that there were foods that were more fitting than others for this role.
It wasn't until after I moved out and was on my own living at college, without being involved in a sport, that I actually thought about the foods I was eating, how they made me feel and how they would ultimately impact my body aesthetically and from within.
As this trial-error discovery process went on, I gravitated more toward starches like pastas, potatoes, and breads, accompanied by fruits and vegetables, and usually incorporating nut butters, eggs and dairy too. I found myself in distrust with the meat preparation in terms of cleanliness and quality that was being served in dining halls. I found myself out-rightly disgusted by the process of handling raw meat on my own. I did not let this deter me though. I knew the value of a home-cooked meal, was nostalgic of meals I ate throughout my childhood and saw no other option. I held my breath, closed my eyes, counted to ten, convincing myself each step of the way that this was natural, normal and necessary.
I began to find my own groove of what "healthy" meant to me come my sophomore year of college. Enough so, that I started up my own healthy living blog when summer 2013 began. I was posting quite frequently and even came across some fellow bloggers that I would interact with and bounce ideas off of. One gal in particular went vegan in the time I had met and befriended her. In hopes to generate exciting content for my blog, I decided to create a vegan week challenge for myself. I knew nothing about this diet/lifestyle, but the way she was talking about it had me curious. I have always been a sucker for challenges, so there I was about to dive head first into this new way of eating. I tend to be quite a force when I'm determined to do something, so I had no doubt it would be successfully completed. I did, however, actively remind myself and others that I would never be able to give up my daily staples of eggs, cheese, yogurt and fish, but I thought "what's a week without them?"
In preparation for this week of vegan, I stocked up on all the transitional vegan substitute foods, like nut milks, vegan yogurt, vegan cheese, tofu, veggie burgers, etc. and sought out further education. I watched the documentaries Forks Over Knives and Vegucated on Netflix. These films gave me a much deeper understanding into the scientifically backed effectiveness of a plant-based diet in correlation with western world diseases and the ethical issues that revolve around the animal agriculture industry. Enlightened by this new information and the excitement and energy I was experiencing with this new food, the vegan week challenge flew by. I decided to extend it to two weeks, then a month, then two months, then until I went back to college for fall semester, then all of a sudden, it became my new normal. Habits had formed, my taste buds had changed, and I was loving this new outlook on food.
That next year was lived out focusing entirely on whole, plant-based foods and the beneficial impact they were having on my health. Although the significant increase in fiber took some getting use to, I felt incredible day in and day out. I never knew eating the right foods could make such a difference. At this point, I was mildly conscious of the ethical issues involved in animal agriculture, but didn't think or speak too heavily on it. Because of this focus on me and my health, I knew that this also meant listening to my body (mind) and giving in to cravings every once in a while. For me, this meant *treating myself to pizza with dairy cheese a couple of times that year from my favorite pizza place down the street I grew up enjoying.
It wasn't until a year later when I befriended another vegan (my first IRL vegan friend!) who convinced me to watch the film Earthlings with him that my relationship with the word vegan and this lifestyle was altered entirely. The documentary Earthlings was the catalyst in my thought process evolution through its in-depth exposure of the realities to the manner in which humans and non-human animals coexist in today's consumeristic society. In my eyes, this is when I truly became vegan.
I woke up. I was now fully aware of the pain, suffering and destruction I was once patron to. I was aware of the impact of my daily choices on the lives of others. I harvested my innate human ability to empathize and relate to all beings. I realized that I alone could make a difference. I found purpose.
I became conscious of the brainwashing I had endured; from the meat, dairy and egg industries, the medical and pharmaceutical industries and societal conditioning as a whole. I deeply wondered what other things in my life I had accepted as normal, natural and necessary without question.
I no longer viewed the occasional consumption of animal products to be a treat, as I could no longer view them without vividly horrific factory farm footage playing endlessly in my mind. That brutality and moral injustice that takes place for that "food" to end up on my plate would remain on my mind and in my heart forever.
Living a vegan lifestyle in a very non-vegan world, clearly living outside of society's structured norms, I became more comfortable with being different, questioning authority, following my own agenda, and doing the right thing despite what is most comfortable or the majority view.
"Wrong does not cease to be wrong because majority share in it." - Leo Tolstoy
This entire experience has shifted my outlook on life and has truly allowed me to grow as an individual conveniently at one of the most uneasy times of early adulthood when majority of folks my age feel their most lost, searching for life purpose.
Since then, I have continued to educate myself on every aspect of veganism, all of the arguments against it and the many perspectives on it in each major motivation to become a better activist.
I have amped up my culinary game in my own kitchen, but also dine out often at vegan and vegan-friendly establishments alike to enjoy and spread the word of the best vegan cuisine. Let me tell you, what's out there today would convince anyone to go vegan! There is quite literally a vegan version of every food imaginable, likely done better and without harm to anyone or anything!
I have entrenched myself in the wild world of vegan social media. Through Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and various blogs, I am inspired daily by the millions of passionate individuals similar and different to me that are in this immensely powerful and growing movement together, for the humans, the animals and the Earth.
I stand today, over 4 years vegan, with no doubt in my mind, body or soul that this is the way of the future. This is the lifestyle that will bring us to the world we desire; void of violence, apathy, unnecessary suffering, death and destruction, filled with light, health, happiness and peace.
In short, health is invaluable to me and what initially drew me to this diet which continues to allow me to thrive, but awakening my conscience and actualizing my own ethical values is what has brought me to this lifestyle.
If this has inspired you to give veganism a try, check out my blog post "10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Vegan" and happy World Vegan Day! :)