Today marks my three year anniversary as a “cold-turkey” Vegan. To be fair, I did have quite a few years of vegetarianism under my belt before I made the switch. But, just as every other Vegan says, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Here’s to a lifetime of learning and truly thriving through a plant-based lifestyle.
Lesson #1: Being Vegan Changes Your Mind Just as Much as It Changes Your Body.
Clarity is power. I cannot emphasize this point enough. The physical changes that result from living a plant-based lifestyle are apparent and amazing – short term and long term. But the mental clarity that Veganism has created in my life now affects every aspect of it. It’s like wearing the wrong prescription glasses, always struggling to see things clearly, then one day finally deciding to go get new ones. Everything is clear. Your perspective has become completely different.
I think that what you put in your body every single day has the biggest impact on your mental health, productivity and happiness than any other factors that are just as easily manipulated, changed, or controlled. Food can either fuel your body and your brain, or it can do the opposite. We all become so complacent feeling mediocre that we forget how it feels to experience life in an amazing way – and to have the motivation and drive to propel change within ourselves, but more importantly, outside of ourselves.
As soon as I began eating a Vegan diet the weight of my moral contradictions was lifted off my shoulders. What I was doing was matching up with my convictions. But this caused me to look deeper. Are my actions really in line with my morals? What other areas of my life can I improve upon? How can I share this with others? And the ripple effect began.
Veganism and a plant-based lifestyle has helped me pursue new fitness goals, it has encouraged me to become sober, it inspires me to eat even healthier. I have more energy for work projects and for personal time. It has completely shifted my perspective of what is important to me, who I want to spend time with, and how I want to spend my time. Veganism inspired me to start this blog, to use my voice as a Vegan activist, to be more creative, to seek out knowledge and to start learning again. It’s helped me to dig myself out of deep depression and anxiety. And ultimately, it has helped me to realize that we are all on this planet together, no one’s life more important than another. So it is teaching me to be kind. And to know that I am just a tiny part of this universe that can also make a huge impact.
Lesson #2: Stop Buying Cruelty, and Eventually Companies Will Stop Selling It.
This is a point that I understood, somewhat, when I decided to become a vegetarian back in high school. It makes sense based on the simple law of supply and demand. If we get the word out to enough people, they won’t buy these products and foods and therefore companies will be forced to start offering alternatives. We hurt them where they feel it: Their bank accounts.
The problem: The meat and dairy industry in this country is highly subsidized by the federal government, and the USDA has basically become a corrupt institution that protects the dollars of few at the expense of many. They also have huge influence over popular opinions on what is “healthy” to eat, teaching their suggestions in schools as facts. This, coupled with decades of meat and dairy advertising campaigns focused on “health” has created such an attachment in the American public to the foods they’ve brainwashed us to eat that even now that we’re beginning to realize the truth, we still keep eating them. We write off the studies, and the new research, and the Vegan message as propaganda, when in reality we should be concerned with the information we’ve been force-fed (no pun intended) since birth and have passively accepted as truth. The result is that animals are suffering and dying, our planet is dying, and our health as a nation is deteriorating, with heart disease being our number one killer here in the US. Yes, over cancer.
I will say that for me the journey toward big change has been long. When I went vegetarian, I didn’t know another person who was. Social media didn’t exist. I was lucky enough to be part of the punk rock community and when I’d go to shows outside of my small town, I’d sometimes find like-minded people. But we seemed to be so small in numbers. How would our voice ever get loud enough? Any small step in the right direction is still a step. Thats’s how I always looked at it. It will gain momentum. In my mind and in my heart I know what is right, and eating animals is not right. Eventually the masses will agree. We will be on the right side of history. And then a decade went by. I watched small changes happen; food brands came out with more options, restaurants became mildly better at understanding, some cosmetic companies went cruelty-free. But I was still reminded often that I was part of a less-understood counter-culture that is never really fully accommodated.
Then the last couple of years happened. Veganism and plant-based eating has exploded – it’s becoming mainstream before our eyes. For any long-term herbivore, this is the breakthrough we’ve been patiently waiting for each day, knowing that every small contribution must have been doing something great. And it has. It has been changing the lens we see our world through. It has made more people aware, more critical, and more specific about their choices. And large companies are making changes to accommodate us. We have been voting with our dollars, and speaking up for what is right, and it is finally making huge, visible changes.
I decided that the best way to show you what this means is by using the vegan calculator. If you go to the website www.thevegancalculator.com you can type in the time that you’ve been Vegan to see how much you’ve saved.
1,204,500 Gallons of Water
43,800 Pounds of Grain
32,850 Square Feet of Forest
21,900 Pounds of CO2
1,095 Animal Lives
If I would’ve gone Vegan back when I transitioned to Vegetarianism:
5,621,000 Gallons of Water
204,400 Pounds of Grain
153,300 Square Feet of Forest
102,200 Pounds of CO2
5,110 Animal Lives
I’m sure that I’m somewhere in the middle, and I get so happy looking at this. The point is, your actions do have huge implications. Your choices matter. You are much more powerful than you think you are. And big changes are happening.
Lesson #3: Being Plant Based Will Dramatically Change How You View Food.
I used to view food as just food – something to eat to get me from one day to the next. And as calories, something to be feared and moderated, something that controlled me. Now I view food as fuel, as nutrients, as medicine, as a direct reflection of my morals and values. Eating is something awesome I get to do all the time.
It’s extremely difficult to articulate exactly how the shift happened for me, but the freedom and empowerment I now feel when I eat Vegan food is a kind of joy that is like nothing else. When I decided to go Vegan the clarity and simplicity of knowing that I only eat plant foods shifted my perspective from scarcity to abundance. I now had every choice in the world, because eating within a “normal” diet always seemed restrictive to me. There’s something wrong with a system that is feeding us food that we constantly have to diet ourselves from.
Now I just eat plants. Often. In abundance. Without counting calories. Without guilt. When I’m hungry. And the freedom that comes from knowing I’m giving my body the best possible option, directly from the earth, as nutrient dense as it gets, while doing the least harm makes me the happiest, healthiest, and strongest I have ever been.