The first time I had ever heard of the term vegetarian was in high school. My senior year, I was on the dance team with a girl that explained she became a vegetarian after she had lived on a farm and her family made her favorite chicken into dinner. After listening to her story, my cousin said that she was going to try vegetarianism; I told myself "if she can then I definitely can," and that started my veggie journey.
I didn't do any research on a veggie lifestyle and I really didn't know anything about healthy eating. I wasn't even aware of factory farming. I just knew that if it had meat on it I wouldn't eat it. My diet soon became filled with fries, cheese pizza and cheeseburgers (literally- I would order a cheeseburger without that patty). My cousin always joked that “We didn’t eat any animals, but we also didn’t eat any vegetables.”
Being active and young I didn’t feel the effects of such an incomplete diet. My family warned me that my diet was not healthy, but I just thought that they were not being supportive of my vegetarianism, and I ignored their warnings.
I continue my vegetarianism throughout my first year of college. My university was not veg-friendly at the time, so I survived on waffles, fries, and cheese pizza. Needless to say, after my freshman year and many hungry nights I fell off the veggie wagon and went back to an omnivore diet.
Fast forward eight years. I had just gotten married and I had been discussing with my husband the possibility of going vegetarian again. I had met many vegetarians and was volunteering at an animal shelter. I had always known that I wanted to give it a try again, it was just a matter of when.
The "when" came one day at work. I was bored and filling my time with web searching. I went to the PETA website and clicked on a video called “Meet your Meat" -- a video that shows behind the scene footage of factory farming. This was the first time I saw what happened to the animals in factory farms and needless to say I was not happy.
After watching the video, I immediately called my husband on the phone and through tears I said “I will never eat animals again." I bought a few vegetarian cookbooks and how-to-guides and instantly made the switch.
Fast forward another two years. I had been a vegetarian for this entire period of time and this time I did it the healthy way. I educated myself about nutrition and began using my vegetarian cookbooks to try new recipes. I had also started educating myself on other areas of animal use in foods, such as the egg and milk production industries, and knew that becoming a vegan was the next logical step for me.
My husband was kind of nervous about my vegan path. When I first became a vegetarian I had attempted to force him to follow my path and when he didn't, it caused conflict. By now though I accepted that everyone has to come to the veg lifestyle at their own pace and as long as he accepted my choice and at least tried to eat veg food, I would accept his choice as well.
Around my two year vegetarian anniversary, I began a two month long internship at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen NY. I was going to be working with farm animals that were destined for someone’s plate. Living a vegan lifestyle is a requirement when working at the farm, and I knew that this would be the perfect time for me to make the switch from vegetarian to vegan.
June, 2009, I made the switch and have never looked back. I cannot say that it has always been easy. There have been times where I wondered if I was making the right choice, or when going back to eating animals would have been the easier thing to do.
I became pregnant after my 1 month vegan anniversary and that also added another challenge to my vegan lifestyle. Dealing with negative things that your friends or family may say, negative portrayals of vegan/vegetarians in the media, and uneducated opinions from your doctor to your spouse to sometimes even yourself can get tough.
Three years later (5 years as a vegetarian) I am so glad that I made the choice to go vegan. I feel better, I lost a lot of unhealthy weight, and I can actually cook and bake tons of vegan goodies. Also my son is now 2 and is being raised vegetarian and my husband finally decided to see the light and become vegetarian as well.
Being a vegan is such a huge part of who I am today. I now have my vegan support system and I continue to educate myself on this lifestyle. I have never once regretted my decision and I know that this will be a lifelong journey that I plan to continue to travel for myself, my CrunchyandHappy followers, and ultimately with my son.
Photo credit: Leolin