Today is my BFF Carla's birthday, so being that she is one of the main reasons I decided to go vegan, I thought it would be appropriate to write about this topic today. I get the same types of questions about veganism a lot, why did I go vegan, how long did it take, don't I miss steak and bacon? So I wanted to take a little time to write about my thoughts and feelings about making this dietary change, and how it has affected other aspects of my life.
Carla and I in front of a mural in Venice, California
Back in my early years of college, I noticed that I was starting to quickly gain weight (freshman 15 anyone?) and just feel overall unhealthy. Throughout my late high school years, I was mostly feeding myself, therefore my diet consisted mainly of McDonald's and instant ramen since I've always seemed to have time to go to school, work and socialize, but never learn how to cook. Now that I was in college, my dining hall had way more options and I felt that I should take advantage of this and eat a more healthy diet. So I ate what most people who are trying to go healthy did, white meat instead of red meat, more fish and veggies. I tried eating salads or lean meat with a side of veggies as often as possible. And although I was consciously trying to eat more plants, the idea of eating them exclusively never crossed my mind. I didn't know what veganism was, and I had like one vegetarian friend growing up who I always felt sorry for because she couldn't enjoy things like chicken fingers and pepperoni pizza. Plus, even though dairy didn't sit well with me, I couldn't imagine not eating cheese. I hadn't had milk since I was a kid because I hated the taste and it make my stomach hurt, but with cheese I'd just drink lots of water and try not to eat too much at once.
Fast forward to my late college years, and I started thinking about becoming vegetarian. I had started watching a lot of videos and documentaries about the meat industry and was disgusted by what I saw. I did my best to go without meat whenever I ate on my own, only eating meals with meat when a family member or friend had cooked it for me. Slowly I cut out all red and processed meats, then chicken and turkey, and finally fish. I was vegetarian for a few months, but was doing it all wrong. I wasn't educated enough on protein and what I needed to eat in order to feel full. So I wasn't eating healthy, was overeating, and eventually went back to eating meat for a few months because I was craving it and my boyfriend at the time was able to convince me that I needed to eat it to feel better again. But I remember feeling so guilty about eating meat again. I vowed that by the end of 2016, I would be totally vegetarian again. And on my birthday in September of that year, I ate my last meal with fish (I had cut out all other meats earlier that year), which was a shrimp scampi dish at The Cheesecake Factory. It was also helpful that earlier mentioned boyfriend, who was a huge carnivore, and I had broken up late that spring. It was hard to be vegetarian at first, all my family and friends still ate meat and would often try to convince me to "just have a little". But this time I was sticking to it, I had seen too many videos about how horrible the meat industry was and felt too guilty when I did eat meat to justify it anymore.
In addition to this, that same summer, I also met Carla, who was already vegan at the time. I had heard a little bit about veganism online but still wasn't exactly clear on how it differed from being a vegetarian. Carla really opened my eyes, but not in a pushy way at all. She explained to me her own reasons for choosing to go vegan and celebrated the fact that I was trying to be vegetarian, which made me feel good about myself and not guilty. After visiting her in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks, I felt even more confident about trying to be a vegetarian and making positive decisions for my body and the planet. So after my birthday meal with shrimp, I happily never looked back. I was getting all the protein I needed from beans, dairy and occasionally eggs, although I was never really a fan. By 2017, I had been a vegetarian for a few months and was happy, but did notice I was eating a lot more dairy than I ever had before. I had sort of replaced meat with lots of cheese, and my body wasn't having it. I started breaking out a lot, felt bloated more often than not, and had an upset stomach nearly everyday. So early in the year, I made a goal, not to go vegan, but to minimize my dairy intake as much as possible by the end of that year.
But after once again spending a few weeks of my summer hanging out with Carla in LA and letting her show me some of her favorite vegan dishes and restaurants, that goal changed. In addition to this, I had been watching even more videos about the food, and particularly dairy industry, and was horrified. I had no idea that cows were forcibly impregnated so they could produce milk constantly and then had their newborn babies ripped away from them so that they wouldn't drink the milk and could be sold for veal. Supporting the dairy industry was basically the same as supporting the meat industry, because after a female cow is too worn out to have any more babies, guess what happens? That's right! She's sold for meat. I couldn't justify this suffering for the sake of my taste buds any longer, and made the decision to go vegan by the end of 2017. Eggs and honey were easy to cut out, I didn't eat them very often to begin with and never really loved them. Not the way that I loved cheese anyway. Despite my strong beliefs and guilt, giving up cheese was extremely difficult, so I do understand where people are coming from when they say they don't know how they could give it up. But I did, and I'm still really proud of myself for doing so. Sure there are times that I crave specific cheesy foods, but there are so many amazing vegan options now that I really can't see myself going back. By the end of 2017 I was eating a completely vegan diet and still am to this day. It makes me feel really good knowing that I can still eat amazing foods, but no animals are being harmed for it.
A vegan "BLT" with a sweet potatoes and a kale salad on the side
So to wrap things up and answer the common questions I get about eating a vegan diet.... Yes I've screwed up a few times and ate something I didn't realize wasn't vegan by accident. No I don't miss steak or bacon, I was actually never a huge fan of either even back during my high school days where my guy friends and I would order meat lovers pizza. Yes I get plenty of protein, I just got bloodwork done a couple months ago and I'm fine! I get it from beans, tofu and certain veggies that contain protein like broccoli and spinach. Yes I do miss certain specific foods sometimes, but there are so many amazing vegan options that I don't even considering just having it "one more time". The only supplement I am currently taking is B12, as suggested by my doctor. Most people do get this vitamin from meat, but a lot of omnivores are actually still lacking it because it is a difficult vitamin to get from food alone. My B12 supplement is vegan, which shows you can still get the vitamin from plant sources, but it's not in most of the plant foods people usually eat, hence why I take the supplement. I do get made fun of for being vegan sometimes, but it doesn't usually bother me, because the people who make fun of me aren't the ones I'm looking to spend my time with anyway.
In addition to changing my diet, going vegan has changed other aspects of my life as well. It's made me more aware of just how much my choices can affect the environment as a whole. I used to love leather and suede, but now I will only buy faux versions. I may still have a leather purse and couch, but I plan on using them until they wear out and then replacing them with something more animal-friendly. I believe that just tossing them out would be a waste, like the animal died for nothing. I've also switched to cruelty-free makeup and going forward am only purchasing vegan products. At the moment I believe I have one eyeshadow palette that has some shades that contain carmine (crushed up bugs -- like, why though?) and one or two lipsticks that contain beeswax. Those products are not vegan but are cruelty-free and the rest of my products are both vegan and cruelty-free. I've also started becoming more minimal and buying less physical stuff, as a way to save money, keep my space more clean and reduce my carbon footprint. I try to wear mostly second hand clothes and buy from small designers who don't don't create nearly as much waste as the fast-fashion industry. And I've been doing my best to reduce my waste by limiting my use of single-use plastics and looking for more sustainable options for everyday items. For a list of some of my favorite sustainable products that you can easily purchase right on Amazon, click here. And of course, feel free to reach out to me on social media if you have any questions about going vegan or making more sustainable choices!
Me wearing a top by Wolven Threads, a sustainable small brand and a pair of second hand leggings