This post will give you my honest to goodness opinion on my experience being vegan. I am not going to pretend veganism is perfect. I am not going to tell you that veganism is guaranteed to work for you. However, going vegan has changed my life in the most beautiful way and I do not regret one bit of my journey. Continue reading to hear my story.
Before going vegan, I had been vegetarian for 5.5 years. Going vegetarian was a decision I made at a relatively young age, and I truly attribute this to the empathy towards animals and the love I had for our natural world even from my earliest memories. I was totally happy with being vegetarian, but never really wanted to go vegan based on the fear that I would have to give up cheese. In my view at that time, NOTHING would feel as good as cheese tasted! I mean, guys, I would have to give up pizza. So I packed veganism up in a box labelled "deprivation" and continued on with my life. Though I had a few vegan cook books, I never really used them.
I continued being a happy vegetarian until I saw a video on the internet that basically said that vegetarianism is just as bad as eating meat. What?? How could that be? I thought. How is it possible that during the past 5+ years when I thought I was making a difference, I was actually just part of the problem? As it turns out, supporting the dairy industry is the same thing as supporting the meat industry. You cannot have dairy without fuelling the meat industry because the cows that are used for dairy are raised in heartbreaking conditions, having their children taken away from them right after giving birth, are psychologically traumatized until they can no longer produce milk, and are then sent to the slaughter house to become beef. Now I know that sounds blunt and harsh, and that not all farms use poor animal welfare practices - but these are facts. This does happen. Being vegetarian may not be as bad as eating meat, but there are some aspects of it that started to seem hypocritical to me.
Important note: if you are feeling like I am judging you for being vegetarian, or for eating meat, please keep reading. I am telling this story based on my perspectives at the point in time that I became vegan, which are not necessarily my perspectives now. I respect your decisions, and I never judge whether a person is "good" or "bad" based on their food choices.
I decided to go vegan while on a "Gut Cleanse" recommended to me by a nutritionist. This cleanse was so restrictive (to me, as a first-time cleanser without proper preparation), that all the recipes in my vegan cook books started to look DIVINE. I flipped through the pages just longing to devour the vegan food that only my eyes were allowed to feast on. I removed veganism from the "deprivation" box. I watched some documentaries on the dairy industry and read through some vegan social media pages and by the end of the cleanse, on September 12th 2016, I decided to go vegan for health, ethical, and environmental reasons.
At first, I was so passionate about it that I talked about it all the time. I would try different recipes and I felt so good compared to how I felt since high school that I literally talked about it constantly. I feel a little sorry for my poor friends who probably wished I would just shut up, but man, I was just so excited. I felt like I was contributing positively to the Earth, and for the first time, I was not concerned with how healthy each meal was because I knew everything I was consuming was healthier than before. I experienced the freedom of eating what I wanted when I wanted, and it was an amazing feeling.
I continued on this newly-vegan high. My body was responding well - I lost a little weight but not too much. I mean, I didn't have that much to lose as I was not actually significantly overweight even though I perceived myself to be. I don't know how much weight I lost because I do not weigh myself. The best way I can describe it is that I got a little less "puffy." But my learning and transformation did not stop there. There were still the imperfections of veganism that I had yet to understand.
The first imperfection I learned was that veganism is not "cruelty free," in fact, I have come to really resent the term. Just because a product does not contain animal products does not mean it is cruelty free. In saying that a vegan product is cruelty free, you are ignoring the other forms of cruelty that may have gone into the making of that product, such as human cruelty. Living in our globalized world, there is little to no way of knowing if what we are using is truly 100% cruelty free. I wish this was not the case, but in all honesty I do not think it is possible to live in a developed country as a privileged white person without contributing to some form of cruelty somewhere in the world.
While this is a sad point to swallow, it brought me to the realization that I think is most important. If you are to take one idea from this article and apply it to your life, it is this: everyone is just doing the best they can with the tools they have been given. Knowledge is a tool. Relatively high socio-economic status is a tool. Time is a tool. Support from friends and family is a tool. The privilege to choose what to eat and what not to eat is a tremendously valuable opportunity - one that many people, I think, take for granted. Some vegans say they do not understand why everyone is not vegan, or they get upset that their friends claim they could never go vegan. In truth, not everyone can. Not everyone has the tools to do so. It is not always a silly excuse to say veganism is not realistic, because for some people, it is not a viable reality when they are struggling to by food of any kind in the first place.
Even when people do have the tools, and this is the second most important point I want to make, they may not be vegan because there is more than one way to help heal the world. I had struggled with dating a non-vegan for a while because I was frustrated that I was with somebody who did not want to make each daily habit into a habit that bettered the world. I was so upset! I was upset until I talked to my partner about it, and he explained that while he may not be vegan, he is devoting his career to making the energy sector more efficient in oder to save our precious resources. He said, "there is more than one way to save the world." And this stuck in my head, this shifted my perspective. It's true - veganism is not the only way to save the world. Each person has strengths that are suited for different actions. For me, using my everyday choices to make a difference is super easy. Supporting local companies, ethical products, and choosing foods that have the lowest water use is easy for me. Making strides to change the way energy is used is most definitely not easy for me. But who am I to say which is more important, or even which is better? That is relative to your perspective. There are no absolute truths in this issue.
With all the things that make veganism imperfect, I cannot honestly say that veganism is not worth it. Is it practical for everyone to go vegan? No. Do I still think that going vegan is a good idea to try out? Absolutely. I feel amazing. Especially lately, as I have been filling up on plant-based healthy fats and avoiding sugar. I feel like I am walking on sunshine. I feel awake. It's not a feeling you can understand until you find a healthy balance in your diet. When you do, you see how magical it is. If you're thinking of going vegan, remember to play around with different ratios of carbs, fats, and proteins and to find what works best with you. Most importantly, just have fun. There is so much more to life than what we eat.
To sum things up, this is what I have learned in the past year of being vegan:
- Eating vegan makes me feel like a forrest goddess
- Everyone is doing the best they can
- Vegan people talk about food a lot and it's beautiful
- Veganism makes you feel more connected to the Earth
- Not everyone can actually go vegan
- Veganism is not perfect
- There is no such thing as 100% cruelty free unless you grow everything organically in your own backyard
- There is more than one way to save the world
- There is more to life than the food we eat
- Above all else, love. Love people, love animals, love yourself. We are all the same anyways.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, it honestly means so much to me.
Of course, with love always,
Kristen Joy xx