This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Please see my disclosure.
One year ago yesterday, I became vegan. I didn’t transition slowly or even try out vegetarianism first. I went full force, over night vegan. Like many vegans, I’ve become incredibly passionate about my new found lifestyle and I love educating others about why I believe it’s the best option for animals, ourselves and the planet. I’ve decided to mark my one year of anniversary of being vegan by putting together this little guide about my story, reasons to choose a vegan lifestyle, how to choose a vegan lifestyle yourself and other interesting information.
What is Veganism?
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Vegans do not consume or use animal products (leather, wool, etc) of any kind and likely purchase only cruelty free items (not tested on animals). Yes, veganism includes staying away from fish, honey, backyard chicken eggs and more. Vegans also stay away from any practices that are using or exploiting animals such as zoos, circuses, riding animals, petting zoos, swimming with dolphins and much more. Animal and farm sanctuaries are a great way to see animals without exploiting them.
My Path to Veganism
I find that many vegans will tell you that they didn’t go vegan because they didn’t like the taste of meat and I would be one of those vegans. I grew up in a traditional Southern home – every meal consisted mostly of meat and butter was lathered on everything. For 29 years, I ate a diet primarily of animal products. I ate packs of bacon in one meal, I ate cheese on everything, butter was a common condiment, meat was bought in bulk, I could drink a gallon of milk in one day and so on and so on.
I’ve always been a relatively healthy individual – no cholesterol issues, no blood pressure issues, nothing wrong when it comes to testing. However, I’ve been riddled with problems that don’t really present themselves to others but I’m aware of them. I’ve had migraines for as long as I can remember. In my early 20s, I started getting severe – very severe – abdominal pain randomly and consistently. I had it checked out in every way it could be checked and nothing was wrong but still it had me doubling over in agony on a daily basis. I was constantly tired my entire adult life no matter how much sleep I got and I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my adult life. I also had severe acid reflux.
Despite all of this, I never really attempted to alleviate my problems with food. No one ever informed me about the benefits of a plant based diet and I never came across it either. I literally can’t pinpoint one moment that made me think about veganism.
Then one day last April, I was sitting at lunch eating with my boyfriend and I randomly told him that I think I wanted to try veganism for a month and see how I like it and he agreed that he thought it was a good idea. At this point, I knew what it was and I knew a few people who were vegan but other than that, I was completely green to the subject. I messaged one of my friends, Lauren at Justin Plus Lauren, to tell her what I was planning and asked a few questions I had. Okay, she answered a lot of questions I had. I had the intention of trying it out for 30 days but then thought I’d just go back to regular omnivore ways after that. Little did I know that my life would change forever and for the better.
During the first week of my 30 day challenge, I decided to watch a few documentaries and I decided right away that 30 days would turn into forever. I’ll outline below which documentaries I watched and others I recommend.
How is Veganism Beneficial?
You’ll hear almost every vegan say that veganism is the best thing for health, animals and our planet. They are 100% correct and that’s why veganism is beneficial to everyone and every being. Different people switch to veganism for different reasons. It doesn’t have to be solely for the animals. Some environmentalists do it because it is the best diet, period, for our planet. Some do it because they are literally on the way to their death if they don’t change their diet. Some do it for purely ethical reasons and couldn’t care less about eating healthy. The original reason doesn’t matter – it’s getting there that matters. It all benefits the same things in the end despite the reason.
I don’t believe that food is the ONLY cause of disease but I do believe it is the major contributing factor. Veganism is linked to a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more. I’ve always managed to have good cholesterol, blood pressure and so on despite being in a family riddled with bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and more. So, I’ve always been aware that these things could be issues later on down the road.
What I didn’t know was that I could prevent them with the food I eat. I mean I knew being overweight didn’t help but I had no idea that meat and other animal products is directly associated with these diseases. Once becoming vegan and diving into this world, I started watching documentaries and reading studies and realizing the misdirection and misguidance that has been give to us since day one.
It is possible to be vegan and unhealthy. There are so many vegan alternatives, vegan processed food and more. Being vegan doesn’t just mean you’re automatically healthy. For health reasons, I would suggest a whole foods, plant based diet.
My favorite resources discussing health aspects of being vegan include The China Study, Eat to Live, The Campbell Plan, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Food Choices. The last three are documentaries found on Netflix.
For the Environment
Going vegan is the single best thing an individual can do for the environment. I had NO idea that eating animals and their products was playing a large part in what is happening to our planet. Raising animals for food uses a vast amount of resources. Of all the agricultural land in the US, 80% is used to grow grain to feed animals and to raise animals for slaughter. Eighty percent. Imagine how many people we could feed with the land we are using for that. Cutting out the middle man would eliminate this issue. If instead of growing crops to feed animals to then feed us, we just ate those crops directly, we would save so many resources.
Additionally, cutting out animal products greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire transportation industry COMBINED. Factory farms also pollute waters and decrease air quality.
Eating just fish isn’t the way to go either. We are way over-fishing and if we don’t stop what we’re doing, we could see fishless oceans by 2048.
My favorite resource discussing environmental aspects of being vegan is Cowspiracy (Netflix).
For the Animals
Finally, the most important aspect of veganism for myself. Even if it weren’t for the health and environmental aspects, I would be vegan for ethical reasons alone. I had no idea what went on in the animal agricultural industry at all. I, of course, knew animals were slaughtered for their meat but likely many was disconnected from that fact. What I didn’t know was that the dairy and egg industry are just as cruel and maybe even more so than the meat industry.
The egg industry is extremely cruel. Hens are kept in miserable conditions, forced to produce a large amount of eggs and are slaughtered at an early age because their bodies are so used they can no longer lay eggs. When chickens are born, males and females are separated – females go on to live the life that all hens live and males are ground up alive or left in plastic bags to suffocate because they are useless to the egg industry.
The dairy industry is somewhat similar. Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated (because cows will only produce milk when pregnant or recently pregnant – just like all other mammals) in a device literally called a “rape rack,” they live in horrible conditions and when they give birth, their babies are taken away immediately (or within 2 days). Female calves are led into the same lives as their mothers and males are slaughtered for veal. Dairy cows go on to do this every year until their bodies literally give out, at which point they are called “downer cows”, and then they are slaughtered for hamburger meat.
You may think YOUR meat and dairy doesn’t come from these cruel industries but I assure you it likely does. A factory farm is a large, industrial operation that raises large numbers of animals for food. Over 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, which focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of animal welfare (source).
Slaughterhouse conditions and practices are literally something from your worse nightmare and it’s not just bad for the animals – it is literally one of the worse jobs ever and slaughterhouse workers often have many mental conditions afterwards such as PTSD.
How to Go Vegan
Going vegan after a lifetime of eating animal products can seem like a very daunting task. Some choose to take it slow. Some go overnight. Just know, it’s possible and there are plenty of people happy to answer questions. My best suggestions if you’re interested in going vegan :
- Watch the trifecta – Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy, and Earthlings
- Make a list of your favorite meals or foods and figure out the vegan versions (check out Pinterest or great vegan recipe blogs for countless recipes!
- Join vegan groups on Facebook (New Vegan Support is great for beginners)
- Make a vegan friend who will be supportive and help you with all your questions (my inbox is always open!)
- Visit a farm sanctuary – Gentle Barn in Tennessee is very dear to me but they’re all over!
- Find vegan options locally using the Happy Cow app – restaurants and stores!
- Get a Vegan Starter Kit!
You will never miss animal products either! Look at all this amazing vegan food!
Here are some of my vegan posts :