How Did I Become a Vegan?
HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN A VEGAN?
Today marks my first full year of being vegan, and I'm so glad that 365 days ago I decided that I wanted to live this way.
To celebrate this milestone in my journey, I thought I would share the story of what series of events led me to make this major lifestyle change! In the future, I want to publish resources to help people go vegan, let you in on some of the challenges of being vegan, and also explain why it's absolutely the best thing I have ever done for myself.
But for now, let's talk about how veganism happened for me.
WHAT IS VEGANISM?
For those of you who may not be familiar with the vegan lifestyle, I'd like to cite The Vegan Society's definition of veganism as it is the definition that most vegans cite and the one which I personally align with the most.
This means that I don't eat meat (including fish), dairy, eggs, or honey. Nor do I intentionally purchase items made from leather, fur, wool, silk, or any other materials that come from an animal. I also don't attend zoos or circuses that employ animals in their shows.
It sounds like a lot, but I definitely didn't eliminate all of these elements at once! I just did (and still do) the best that I can every day "to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals."
WHEN DID MY JOURNEY INTO VEGANISM BEGIN?
Well, this is kind of a subjective question. I didn't intentionally consider veganism until about two weeks before I went vegan, but realistically, I was setting myself up for success as a vegan long before I knew that's where I was headed.
Before my "official" journey began, I had entertained the idea of being a vegetarian--at least temporarily. I would try to challenge myself to be "vegetarian for a week," to prove that I could do it only to fail after one or two days because I didn't know what I could eat.
The only two things I knew were vegetarian were these butter and honey sandwiches that a friend from school would bring sometimes, and a random recipe I had found on the internet for spinach and black bean quesadillas. Other than that, I was totally lost. Meanwhile, there was sausage in the freezer that was just an easier choice.
I have always been really into health and nutrition and I knew that vegetarian diets were purportedly healthier than the standard meat-based diet I had eaten for the first 18 1/2 years of my life. So I would try, time and time again, to find easy and satisfying vegetarian options, but I didn't know how to do it.
So I would fail and forget about vegetarianism for a while, try again a few months later doing the SAME THING I did the last time, and wonder why I couldn't even do it for a whole week.
I think that qualifies as insanity.
But this all changed June 2016.
I have struggled with body image issues a lot throughout my life, and as I began to gain weight at the end of my senior year of highschool (which, in retrospect, was probably healthy) I was desperate for a way to control my climbing weight.
I wanted to shed some extra pounds, but I also really wanted to eat. I would feel soo guilty about eating a second piece of bread at dinner or eating after a certain time at night for fear that I was self-sabotaging, but I also couldn't help myself.
So I finally said, enough is enough. I want to eat healthier diet, not just restrict calories. I wanted to have a healthier relationship with food, and I hoped that would help me lose the weight in a healthy manner.
Sometime near the end of May, right after I had graduated high school, I told myself that I was going to cut down on my meat consumption. I wanted to at least be a pescetarian (only eating fish) but I knew that doing it over night wasn't going to work if my previous attempts were any indication.
So on June 2nd, 2016 I stopped eating red meat.
I even put it in my calendar:
See. That's PROOF.
And June went really well! I was able to stick to eating no red meat with relatively little difficulty. I had always really liked chicken anyways, and it's widely available. I didn't really have to know anything or do anything special to avoid red meat.
I thought, well, since June went pretty okay, I should continue on my journey. Thus, I put this in my calendar:
I'm not sure why 9 am. I think that's just the default.
Also, I was really excited for the release of the American Authors album, only to be slightly disappointed (I guess that's not what we live for amiright??), but I digress.
It was a bit harder to stop eating white meat, but still pretty smooth sailing. July 1st I officially became a pescetarian and this is really when my journey into veganism started. I know, I KNOW. It's been almost 900 words and I'm just now starting to even think about veganism, but once I started thinking about it things began to move pretty quickly.
Now that I had reached my main goal of only eating fish, I wondered... is there really much of a difference between pescetarian and vegetarian? I mean I know vegetarians don't eat fish, but why? Like... what's the issue? Do I really need to keep going?
So I googled "pescetarian vs vegetarian." I wasn't at all interested in adopting a vegan diet. That was never my goal. I thought veganism was so extreme! I even remember telling my mom that I would never go vegan. Maybe I would just try it for a week to prove that I could do it, but I could NEVER sustain that long-term.
Oh how mistaken I was.
As I continued to research the differences between a pescetarian and vegetarian diet I kept seeing veganism popping up in different lists and videos. I kind of knew that vegans didn't eat any animal products, but I had no idea why someone would voluntarily choose to do that to themselves.
That's why I ultimately became a vegan, I think. I was curious.
I wanted to know why these people were going so far down this road. Were they crazy? Did they hate themselves? Did they cry when they stepped on cockroaches?
I wanted to know. So I watch videos. I can't remember all the videos I watched, but the documentaries/videos that were CRUCIAL to me ultimately deciding to go vegan were:
Fork Over Knives
Summary: Researchers explore the possibility that people changing their diets from animal-based to plant-based can help eliminate or control diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Cowspiracy (On Netflix)
Summary: Follow the shocking, yet humorous, journey of an aspiring environmentalist, as he daringly seeks to find the real solution to the most pressing environmental issues and true path to sustainability.
and The best speech you'll ever hear by Gary Yourofsky (on YouTube--contains graphic footage)
For a full list of the documentaries/films I now recommend, click here.
These three videos offered me a health perspective, an environmental perspective, and an ethical perspective as to why I should live a vegan lifestyle.
After taking in all this information I still didn't call myself vegan, but I definitely did more research. I gathered materials about how to be a vegan, what vegans could eat, how I could eat out with my family, and how I could get all my nutrients.
The more I researched the more uncomfortable I felt contributing to the environmental destruction and violence that is inherent in using animals for food. My health? I cared about that for sure (seeing that's why I started this journey in the first place), but what really caused me to change was the harm I was causing others with my food choices.
It's one thing to clog my own arteries, it's an entirely different thing to knowingly contribute to the pain and suffering of other living beings (animals AND humans) when it's completely unnecessaryfor human health and I have the resources to be able to make choices about what I eat.
It all came to a head when I was eating out at an Indian restaurant with my parents.
Indian cuisine is actually very vegan-friendly, so I still routinely enjoy Indian food, but that dinner in particular I had ordered a couple of vegetarian dishes, and my parents had ordered a chicken dish and a shrimp dish.
At that point in my journey I still calling myself a pescetarian, so in theory I should have had no issue eating the shrimp. So I ate one.
And it tasted pretty good.
But I felt terrible.
I felt like such a hypocrite eating this creature, who used to be a living being, when I clearly had other options. I knew that my actions in that moment didn't align with what I valued and believed in, so the next day this went into my calendar:
And I haven't looked back.
On this day last year, I decided to be a better steward of this planet. I decided that I wanted to live a life of compassion, peace, and non-violence as much as could. I decided that veganism was the only way I could live and still feel at peace with myself and my choices.
HOW DO I STAY MOTIVATED TO CONTINUE MY VEGAN JOURNEY?
- I continue to watch documentaries and YouTube videos about current vegan issues.
- I continually look for and create new vegan recipes. (For recipe ideas, check out the recipe section on my blog. )
- I see how the world around me is changing, how vegan products are becoming more and more available.
- And, above all, I never forget that I'm not the only victim when it comes to my food choices.
NOW THAT IT'S BEEN A YEAR, HOW LONG DO I PLAN ON STICKING TO THIS LIFESTYLE?
Well, it's a lifestyle, sooo... the rest of my life. (: