22 May 2012

Personal stories: Why I went vegan

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.

Leolin López | Blog
Illinois Leolin is a vegan, mother, wife, writer, vloger, and a cupcake connoisseur. Leolin became vegetarian in 2007 after watching MeetyourMeat.com and then vegan in 2009 after spending the summer at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, caring for rescued farm animals. Leolin started her blog CrunchyandHappy in January 2011. In her blog she discusses and explores the vegan lifestyle through stories of parenting, beauty, animals, nutrition, and food. She also vlogs on YouTube sharing reviews, hauls, and tutorials of vegan beauty products as well as sharing her experiences as a vegan.

Photo credit: Leolin