Where do I begin…
In the early months of 2014, I decided to try switch to a Vegetarian diet. More out of curiosity, my aim was to try and cut down on my intake of meat and become a little healthier. In fact, It turns out that my dairy intake went through the roof, I developed a mild lactose intolerance and soon caved in and consumed meat in higher quantities than ever before. This backlash so to speak made me feel like a failure and I was back to the drawing board. I was determined to give Vegetarianism another go and approach the situation from a new angle. Luckily fate was on my side and a spontaneous trip to a friend’s house truly opened my eyes. Having been invited over for dinner, I was not anticipating arriving at a Vegan-only household. After indulging in the most delicious cruelty-free meal and seeing just how easy this whole ‘animal-free’ lifestyle could be, I wanted to learn more.
Hitting the Documentaries
In order for me to truly give the ‘meat-free’ lifestyle another chance, I had to seek other options. Being a rather visual individual, the shock factor seemed to be my only choice. With titles of numerous Netflix documentaries written on my hand and my laptop at the ready, I sat down to what would be one of the most haunting afternoons of my life.
I started off on the milder end of the cruelty spectrum, watching the more social of documentaries with the likes of Vegucated and Food Matters. Vegucated follows the lives of three meat and dairy loving individuals who gave veganism a try for the duration of 6 weeks to see if they could lose weight and reap the health benefits. Along the way they were exposed to the cruelty first hand, witnessing the route of their food from farm to plate and waking up to the harsh realities of animal agriculture. Food Matters however, presents the facts of how a carefully selected diet can not only reduce the risk of prevalent health conditions but also cure. Encouraging substituting healthy plant based foods over medical treatment, Food Matters opens our eyes to mother nature’s natural ability to heal.
Having been educated a little in the health benefits of eating a more plant-based diet, I wasn’t shocked or heavily convinced. I knew that the only way in which I would change my lifestyle for good was to be moved to tears. Next on the list was Earthlings, the real game changer for any human being with a conscience. From what I had heard, I did not need to see the whole documentary, only watch the trailer. Within seconds I was glued to my seat, tears streaming down my face, my lunch bubbling in my stomach and at any given second it would have ended up on the carpet if I hadn’t hit pause. After a minute or so I was done. The decision was made. If I, as a human being, could sit and watch animals be subjected to such horrific pain, endure endless rounds of torture, and be killed purely for human pleasure, then I had the right to eat meat. Seeing as I couldn’t bare to witness another second of the mass murder, I could not allow myself to consume such a thing.
It was from that moment, on the 2nd of July 2014, that I made a vow to never consume meat again. 3 years on, that promise has never been broken, nor do I intend it to ever be. Why didn’t you just choose Vegetarianism you may ask? Well once you dig a little deeper and see the harsh reality of the dairy industry and battery farms, you are soon put off consumption for life. Thankfully, the lactose intolerance has kept me well and truly away from drinking cow’s milk as well as the deep disgust and repulsion that has developed over time.
Dealing With Others
Making the decision and accepting that choice for yourself is the easy part. Others however seem to have a hard time processing such a change. For me, I am an all or nothing kind of girl. Overnight I went from consuming a meat and dairy based diet to nothing of that kind. On one hand, I was dying to scream out about my new way of life, how my eyes had finally been opened to such cruelty and torture that I could not understand anybody else’s life choices. Yet, only days before, I was just like everybody else. On the other hand, I wanted to keep it a secret. You can never quite prepare for the reaction’s of others, nor always have a speech prepared when they fire thousands of questions to try and ‘catch you out’. It is quite fascinating how your own life choices can create such anger and hatred within another human being, and how what is on your plate becomes such an issue. I have lost count of the times I have been asked how my ‘funny little diet’ is going or better yet ‘where I get do I my protein from?’ At first people’s reactions created anger within me too, feeling defensive and protective over my own beliefs and choices. But, you soon learn that smiling and politely declining a discussion is usually the better option. Making such a lifestyle choice tends to set apart the acquaintance from the friend and makes a little more room for people that accept you for who you are. You will see past the negativity, reach out to other Vegans and support one another on a journey, continuing to inspire others to make a change.
The Health Benefits
Truthfully, the first few weeks of the diet were rather difficult. Your body reacts in strange ways to such a huge change, and for some it may work better to slowly eliminate food groups rather than go ‘cold turkey’ so to speak. I had to retrain my body to seek energy from more wholesome food sources, educate myself on getting the right nutrition and making sure that I consume enough calories on a daily basis. Like many, in the beginning I had comfort foods that I stuck to, particularly when staying with friends or family. I had weeks of eating Peanut Butter and Jam sandwiches, jacket potatoes with baked beans and too much houmous to even comprehend.
However, after the first two weeks had passed, I felt lighter, more energised and mentally clearer. Without getting too graphic, my bowel movements had gone from next to nothing to being extremely regular, which not only enhanced the new found ‘lighter’ feeling but tackled the bloating I had been battling with for years on end. With time, I have learnt which food types give me the most energy, those that satisfy sweet and salty cravings in a healthy manner and discovered those that have medicinal purposes. Switching to wholegrain has been something that I will never look back on in addition to cutting down my refined sugar intake. Veganism allows you to view your body differently, more as a sacred space rather than a dustbin so to speak.
You Can’t Be Perfect All Of The Time
Now I will not sit here and lie to you and say that I have followed a strict 100% Vegan diet for the duration of the three years. There have been slip ups, both intentionally and unintentionally, where sometimes missing out on that piece of chocolate or slice of pizza was just too much to resist. Before you call the Vegan police, not only did I feel a deep regret after such an episode, my body sure paid for it the next morning. When you cut out certain food groups from your diet, your body builds up an intolerance to such substances and cannot handle it any further. Let’s say my love for dark chocolate has and will always continue to out grow any cravings for a slab of Galaxy, and will continue to for the foreseeable future. Another plus for being Vegan, you become more in tune with your body than ever before.
You Are Continuously Learning
Although many individuals will view Veganism as restrictive and therefore refuse to take the leap, this couldn’t be far from the truth. Now, we all know that our Veggie burger will never taste like a hunk of cow nor our dairy free cheese alternative taste like a mild cheddar. However, after a few weeks of giving the diet a go, the alternatives will change your taste buds for the better and you will begin to crave more wholesome choices than those of the impure variety. You will become more adventurous at trying different foods, excitedly discovering new ways of making old favourites, encouraging friends and family to try too. And, of course, if you are craving junk food, there is an incredible array of products that have branched out from health food stores into mainstream supermarkets such as dairy-free chocolate, ice cream, ready meals and even gelatine free marshmallows! The options are always there, you just have to be willing to open your eyes.
More Than Just Food
Away from the food sector, Veganism opens our eyes a little further. You begin to make more conscious decisions, seeking cruelty-free make up, cleaning products and carefully selecting your clothing. In my opinion, this doesn’t call for a mass burning of all non-vegan products in your household or that leather jacket you had since you were 15, it stands for making you think more ethically about the products you will buy in the future and how you can impact your own life and the lives of others more positively.
These three years mark a milestone of such importance. Not only have I halved my carbon footprint, followed a diet that has a reduced water intake of 1,350,500 gallons per year and spared hundreds of animals lives, I have also persevered on a daily basis without giving up nor forgetting why I started.This blog post isn’t a plea to try and convince others to go Vegan but more as a way to highlight how easy it can be. Everybody is entitled to make their own choices in life, just like I chose to change mine that had been instilled in me since birth. I am proud of how far I have come on this journey and where I will continue to go.