A question I get asked a lot is why did you become vegan? Usually my quick response is because I was awakened and I love animals and I love myself, but here’s the more complex answer.
My journey with veganism all began on a cold winters evening in January 2014. I had just finished dinner with my husband and we decided to relax and watch TV. I’m a sucker for a good documentary so I was searching through the many titles looking for something that sparked my interest. The documentary Forks Over Knives popped up on the screen and I decided I’d give it 10 minutes and if I wasn’t digging it then I’d find something else for us to watch. I had no idea that this documentary was about to change my entire life as I sipped on my glass of Cabernet, cuddled up in a blanket sitting next to my husband.
Forks Over Knives is a documentary that claims that most of our degenerative diseases are caused by the processed foods and animal products that we consume, and that we can actually prevent and even reverse some common diseases by switching to a whole food plant-based diet. A whole food plant-based diet is a diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, tubers, and whole grains. No meat, dairy, eggs, oil, or highly refined products like sugar and enriched grains and no processed foods.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer in America, and learning how that and other common diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, and some cancers could be completely prevented deeply really captivated my attention. Watching this documentary was mind-blowing. The research and science behind it all was so alarming and indisputable. How could I argue with science??
My father had passed away 9 years previously to colon cancer, I had family members who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and heart disease. I could easily relate to what I was hearing and seeing on the documentary. I think pretty much everybody could relate, almost everyone knows somebody struggling with one of those diseases or has lost loved ones because of them. It is pretty ironic that the very animals that are killed for our consumption are the same ones that are killing our own bodies through various diseases.
I was in shock that what I was hearing was not being broadcast on the news or slapped across every newspaper headline, the cure to most of the common diseases in our country was right there, within our food system. But why was nobody talking about this?? Why didn’t they teach this in school?? I grew up learning that milk did a body good, and that meat was healthy and good for you. Oh man, how naive I had been, I felt like my whole life had been a lie and here I was coming face to face with reality and I could not ignore it like I had been conditioned to do my whole life.
Once Forks Over Knives was over and the credits were rolling I turned to my husband, looked him in the eye and said “that’s it, I’m done, I’m switching to a whole food plant-based diet right now!” I don’t know if he realized how serious I was but he said he would be willing to give it a try as well, he said he would give it a 30 day trial then go from there. I could tell he was a little apprehensive about giving up his meat and cheese but he was on board nonetheless and I give him major props for being supportive and giving it a chance.
I took the last sip of my wine as I sashayed my way into the kitchen where I grabbed a couple empty bags. I opened the refrigerator, took one look at the contents and said to myself, I’m going to need a lot more bags than two. I spent the next hour removing every single item in my kitchen that was not whole food plant-based. I removed all the cheese, lunch meats, mayonnaise, eggs, milk, sugar, white flour, oil, fruit drinks, frozen pizzas, cereals, chips, basically every food item we had and threw it into the bags. Once I was finished we were left with a handful of fruit, some mustard, a few vegetables, and tea. Literally that was it, just a lot of empty space. I looked at all the bags of food and knew it would be extremely wasteful to throw out all that food so I called up one of my good friends and said “hey, we are changing our diet and I’ve got some food you can have if you’re interested come get it!” which she did and I said goodbye to old habits and hello to a new lifestyle.
The next day was ground zero. What do I eat??? I’m hungry and I have to go to work and I don’t know what I can eat! So I started slow and easy, day by day. I kept to foods I knew were okay, bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bean burritos and guacamole. I googled recipes and meal ideas and I also ordered a few whole food plant-based cookbooks. Over the next few months I continually researched a whole food plant-based diet which also led me to discover a multitude of books about veganism. I became obsessive about researching online and reading every book and watching every documentary I could get my hands on. I learned all about nutritional yeast, Spirulina, tofu, tahini, quinoa, cashew cream and all of these foods I had never tried but were now becoming my pantry staples. I had to teach myself because I did not know anybody who I could go to for help or questions.
The first week or so was a bit challenging because my body was going through a detox, I was cleansing my body and I had literally changed my eating habits overnight, I did not transition at all, I was all in. I felt a big sluggish and drained as anyone who has gone through a detox has felt. Then it slowly started shifting, within a couple of weeks of changing my diet I was already reaping the benefits. I lost 10 pounds without changing my exercise habits at all. I felt AMAZING!!! Seriously the best ever!!! I had energy all day long and woke up feeling refreshed. I felt really good about what I was putting into my body and it showed. I told everybody who would listen about my new-found lifestyle, hoping that something I said might resonate with others and that they too could start down the path of a healthy life.
My husband felt incredible too, after his 30 day trial he kept going along with me and it’s now just a lifestyle that he has chosen to do as much as possible when he is at home.
Although I initially went into a whole food plant-based diet as a health decision it did not take long at all after doing my research that everything came into perspective for me and I identified myself with being a vegan. It was no longer just a diet of eating healthy for me, it became a lifestyle. The animals came to the forefront, the horror of factory farming and unethical practices were enough to solidify any doubts I had that I could go without eating meat and dairy. I also learned all about the environmental impact of eating animal products and how it was not sustainable. I realized that animals were not put on this earth for us to abuse, exploit, and murder.
All of it made sense and again I found myself thinking why isn’t this being talked about?? Why is the government not advocating for everybody to go to a whole food plant-based diet?? It made me mad. It still makes me mad. It’s something I deal with everyday. The government would lose so much money if people knew the truth about their food, not to mention that our healthcare system wouldn’t know what to do without all the unhealthy patients who suffer from the numerous diseases caused by consuming animal products.
I get biometric screenings done frequently through a wellness program at my job so I was able to see the results on the inside as well. My numbers were incredible, in fact most of the time the screeners who go over the results were always commenting on how great my blood work came back and at how low my LDL cholesterol was (the bad one that comes from eating animal products) and how high my HDL cholesterol was (the good one from healthy fat sources like avocados and walnuts). They would always ask what I did to stay in such great condition and I would tell them, I’m vegan!
About 3 months into our journey of a whole food plant-based lifestyle I became pregnant after struggling with infertility for over 4 years. I truly feel that my diet played a substantial part in getting pregnant due to the fact that both me and my husband were eating the best we had ever in our whole lives, we felt better than we ever had, and our bodies were completely detoxed from all of the bad stuff we used to harbor inside.
During the first few months of my pregnancy I had major cravings for tater tots and french fries so I ended up succumbing to those greasy cravings from time to time. I realized that I needed to give my body what it was craving (thank goodness it wasn’t dead animals or something with cheese!) during my pregnancy. I let my strict diet standards come down a notch and allowed myself to eat some of the vegan food products like Tofurkey deli slices or soy nuggets which I found quite delightful. I wanted to continue down the path of healthy whole foods but I also realized that sometimes it was necessary to slow my roll and eat something a little more convenient to prepare on those busy nights. Plus my husband really missed some of his comfort foods so we still ate whole foods plant-based the majority of the time but we also enjoyed some of the convenient vegan frozen foods from time to time. This has been the path we have taken the past few years. I will have my days where I pig out on a container of indulgent vegan ice cream or use olive oil dressing but 95% of the time I stick to my WFPB diet.
Before I was vegan I used to eat the typical standard American diet, I knew that steak came from a cow, but I guess I was just so used to disassociating the fact that cows have a desire and will to live, as do all animals, that I just kept doing it because it tasted good. And it didn’t really cross my mind that it was wrong, everybody I knew ate animal products, I grew up my entire life eating those foods (with the exception of milk and eggs that I always thought were gross….I always thought to myself who was that first person who grabbed a cows utter and said I’m going to drink this, and who was the first person to grab a baby fetus egg from a chicken and say this looks good enough to eat?!).
Before I was vegan I used to always say “Oh I just love animals”, but it never really registered to me that by me purchasing and consuming animal products that I was contributing to and responsible for their murder. Now I can truly say that I love animals and mean it.
An issue that I do struggle with however, is that it always feels like I’m not doing enough, like I should be running around on every street corner in America with signs and a bull horn helping educate people so they can make informed decisions regarding their health, so that I can share all of this information with others. But the sad truth is that a lot of people don’t want to hear it. They would rather eat whatever they want and not worry about their future health, they want to continue with what they are used to doing. I know that we all eventually die, but I want my life here on earth to be a healthy one, and anything I can do to ensure that happens I will do. Take care of your body, you only have one.
Veganism has empowered me and has opened up my awareness of how connected we all are, animals included. I love meeting other vegans because I instantly appreciate what it is they are doing and I really just want to give them a big hug and say thank you on behalf of the animals and the earth. Veganism isn’t just about food, it’s about everything, and I am proud to be a vegan.
If you’re interested in improving your health, living a more compassionate lifestyle, saving the lives of animals, and saving this planet than veganism can be that path. Anyone can do it and everyone should do it, educate yourself and you too can make a difference not only in your life but in others lives. Spread the love, go vegan! Here are some recommendations for documentaries worth checking out:
- Forks Over Knives
- Food Matters
- What The Health
And here’s just a few books worth reading:
- The China Study by T Colin Campbell
- How Not To Die and Main Street Vegan by Michael Greger
- Animal Liberation by Peter Singer
- Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Why We Love Dogs Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy
If you or someone you know is vegan I’d love to hear what made you become one, comment below!