MY JOURNEY INTO VEGANISM . . .
In high school, I became interested in vegetarianism and thought it would be a really cool thing to try. When I was 16, I began to seriously think about giving up meat just to see if I could do it. My initial thoughts toward becoming vegetarian were to really just test my self-discipline and try something new and different. Little did I know how much that decision would change my life.
On Thanksgiving Day in 2010, I decided I would give up meat for a year. I kept this decision to myself, because I didn’t want anyone to know if I ended up failing. But soon it became pretty obvious to my friends and family that I had given up eating meat. Quickly, I began to see how easy it was to go without eating meat. Although I was still eating other animal products (dairy and eggs), giving up meat was fairly simple and not as difficult as I had imagined. Because I was the only vegetarian in my house, I usually cooked my own meals which led me to discover my love of cooking. I quickly found my passion for cooking, while making meat-free alternatives for a lot of the dinners my mom made for the rest of my family. I also discovered my love for foods I had never even tried before giving up meat. I fell in love with peppers, mushrooms, tofu, beans and rice, and so many more fruits and vegetables I hadn’t liked before.
A year went by and there was no looking back for me. I had really fallen in love with being meat-free and had begun to fall in love with nutrition as well. I realized all the good things giving up meat was doing for my mind, body, and soul. This is when I saw that being vegetarian was a lifestyle; it became a part of me but in the best way possible. At this point, I was a senior in high school and had decided to study nutrition in college so that I could learn even more. Also at this point, I knew giving up meat was good for my health, but I hadn’t really grasped the concept of animal cruelty, or environmental harm that meat production caused. I really just looked at it from a health-based perspective and that was enough for me to stay vegetarian at the time. Growing up in a small town in the South gave me the mindset that animals were for us to use, and that we were supposed to eat them. I had no problem with the consequences of animal agriculture; I was just doing it for myself and my own health. My opinions on all of that has definitely changed in the past two years, but that’s how I felt at the time.
I began my first year at Appalachian State and fell even more in love with nutrition as well as living meat-less. I met more and more nutrition majors who were also vegetarians. I had never really met a lot of vegetarians so it was so cool to be surrounded by so many people with the same mindset as me. I continued to live without meat into my sophomore year of college, but soon felt like that wasn’t enough. I felt like I could be healthier, so I started researching.
I had thought about going vegan (again, just to see if I could do it) in the past, but I had never really taken it seriously. It seemed like too big of a challenge to take on. I depended on cheese, milk, yogurt, and especially eggs. I started looking more into veganism and discovered its health benefits. After hours of researching on my own, I decided to slowly give up dairy in the spring of my sophomore year (2014). I had thought maybe I was allergic to it and it was giving me acne and causing bloating. Those were the initial reasons for giving up dairy, but slowly I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought and I was eating real food. I was eating so many more plants. That’s when it really clicked for me that as humans, we are meant to eat plants. Our bodies are designed to eat things that grow from the earth, not “foods” that are from animals. I was still continuing to eat eggs, but knew that I was going to give them up eventually, and completely go vegan.
The summer of 2014 was when everything really changed and it all started to fall into place. I was in natural chef school and was meeting people that taught me so much about not just veganism, but about the power of plants. I heard stories about the miracle of plants, and how it had saved a lot of their lives. I also began to see how many foods you could eat while still following a vegan diet. We frequently prepared vegan alternatives to any meals we made, and they were always delicious. I had been dairy-free for several months, and realized that I didn’t miss it or crave it anymore. I was also physically and mentally feeling a lot better because I was eating a lot more plant-based foods. I felt better inside and out, and realized that I would never go back to eating dairy.
Also during this summer I sat down one night to watch Forks Over Knives, the documentary that changed my life. I discovered the science behind eating animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs) and the biological damages it causes such as cancer and chronic diseases. Eating a plant-based diet just made sense to me. I saw no need for animal products; animal agriculture is bad for the environment, my body, and obviously the animals’ well-being. By the end of the summer I had completely gone vegan. Giving up eggs was the last step for me.
I started to focus my diet around plants and found it to be so easy. I continued to research all about veganism and found out even more information delving beyond the health aspect and into the truth behind animal agriculture. It really wasn’t until the end of summer 2014 I began to realize that not only are our bodies not designed to eat animal products, but that animals aren’t ours to use. Going against what I had grown up thinking, and what a lot of the population is in denial of or doesn’t know about, I realized that frequently used package labels such as “humane,” “hormone-free,” “free range,” “grassfed,” etc. were all lies. No matter what a label says, animal agriculture perpetuates animal abuse that includes the rape, torture, and death of innocent beings.
I didn’t want to contribute to that, nor did I want to consume the products of that mistreatment. I saw a different side of veganism that I hadn’t really seen before: compassion. Not only did I physically feel better, but mentally I felt a sense of peace. I also felt a sense of power in what I was choosing to put into my body. Through more research, I saw how disgusting the meat, dairy, and egg industry is. I began to understand how much of the truth is kept in the dark to ensure that the animal agriculture industry continues to profit. Realizing that greed and money are at the center of it all was a saddening discovery.
After a long seven year journey, here I am. I’m proud to call myself a vegan, not
because I think I’m better than anyone else, or to put myself on a pedestal. I’m proud to be a vegan because every day I get to choose to do something good for my body, my environment, and to reduce the amount of abuse and hate that goes on in this world.