Ever since I got into healthy eating, which was about seven years ago, I found myself curious about meatless diets. I didn't know much about the healthy aspect of going vegetarian and I also didn't understand the reason for going vegan (I had thoughts like, "Milking cows doesn't kill them!" and "Eggs don't hurt hens!").
However, I got really upset one day after watching videos online about undercover investigations at slaughterhouses. It hurt to watch what really goes on before that ounce of meat is served on my plate. I thought about those videos a lot when my family and I went out to eat at restaurants and fast food joints.
I could have tried meatless options away from home but it was very difficult for me because I was really young; I was too young to move out from my parents' house and I was also too young for a job so I didn't have my own money to pay for a new diet that no one else in my family was interested in.
Still, I kept finding myself upset about slaughterhouses and I wanted to do something better for animals. I had to stop eating meat!
Another thing that I realized about meat products is that it's extremely harmful to the earth. Slaughterhouses account for so much pollution, ammonia, and methane gas, not to mention it also causes dirty water and soil due to the blood, pus, and feces that surround the area. Also, the precious water needed to produce an ounce of beef is ridiculous. I couldn't believe my former favorite hamburger could cause so much destruction!
Knowing all of this really opened my eyes.
So, for about five years, I fluctuated on and off with going vegetarian for the same reason that I just literally couldn't help family meals sometimes. Also, I didn't know much about nutrition or cooking so it was tough to go vegan immediately.
In fact, the first time I went vegan cold turkey I got sick and weak because I did not know how to choose the right foods. Thankfully, I started going to college after my short-lived at-home high school program and I began learning about healthy nutrition. I learned which foods give us certain vitamins and minerals and I used this knowledge to help me try veganism once again.
So the next time I experimented with meatless diets, I started off slowly; first I was pescetarian (only eating fish as meat), then lacto-ovo vegetarian, then strict vegetarian (no eggs or milk), then I finally went vegan and avoided all animal products whenever possible. The slow progression that I made really helped me pace myself and listen to how my body reacted after not eating meat, eggs, and dairy. It was great to see how, even though I gave up so many foods, there were tons more that I could eat and cook! And all of these foods were much higher in nutrition!
Speaking of cooking, my food prepping skills increased highly once I started living on my own. It took a little getting used to since my parents provided meals and fast food was part of my almost daily eating routine but plant-based cooking really paid off.
It saved me money rather than going out to eat or buying pre-made packaged foods all the time, and it also made me healthier. I felt so light and free after going vegan! Another plus, I learned to love vegetables and I never thought I would.
In addition, it makes me feel great to know that my diet alone makes a positive impact on the earth and for the animals. This impact may be small to some but I believe money is the greatest voting system and, say, if I buy plant-based options rather than meat and other animal products, big companies will see that change and they might begin brainstorming and selling greener and healthier options. It all takes time but it makes me feel wonderful to know that I'm aiming towards that better future.
A vegan lifestyle also helped me embrace and deepen my yoga practices, which I have been a part of for around seven years now. Yoga teaches us a lot about compassion and respect for ourselves, this earth, and others. Going vegan helped me connect even deeper with that mantra and my practices are more meaningful than before.
In closing, I've been vegan for about two years now and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. I feel so great all the time and it's hard for me to quit sharing the benefits of this way of life to others! Nothing is stopping me from continuing to live this amazing, compassionate, and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Photo credit: Patrizio Martorana