I Accidentally Became Vegan

If someone had told me a year ago that I would eventually become vegan, I would have laughed in their face. It wasn’t that I really loved meat—I didn’t eat red meat anyways—it was that the concept of veganism was so ludicrous and restrictive that it almost offended me. The vegans who I had encountered previously were accusatory, pretentious, and finicky. They were loud and aggressive, constantly preaching the notion that Meat Eaters were Evil and Plant People were Enlightened Saviors. I had no interest in even investigating the benefits of veganism, much less listening to arguments about why it was a valid or preferable diet.

 

And then one of my friends become vegan, and it completely changed my perceptions of food.

 

To start, her brand of veganism was not one I had ever encountered. She strictly adhered to the vegan diet, but she didn’t only wear Birkenstocks or shop at farmers’ markets—in fact, she still ate lots of unhealthy things, like Oreos and Sour Patch Kids. She didn’t talk about being vegan encessently, or shame others for their own food choices, or even tell others that she was vegan at all. She just was, and her quiet choice seemed almost noble to me.

 

One day, I finally asked her to explain to me why she was vegan, and after listing a whole host of reasons, she challenged me to try it, just to see how it felt.

 

“It’ll change your life,” she told me, after I expressed both skepticism and doubts about its efficacy. “Just do it for one week. You’ll see.”

 

So I said yes, fully expecting—no, wanting—to fail.

 

The first day was the hardest; everything that seemed appetizing was aggressively un-vegan. Lobster mac and cheese, poke bowls, chicken quesadillas: I wanted it all, and the fact that I couldn’t eat meat or meat products only made them more appetizing. The second day was only slightly better: I managed to find some vegan meal options in a couple of the dining halls, and I snacked on Skinny Pop to satiate the rest of my cravings. But soon, a couple of days turned into a week, and then a month, and suddenly I found myself practically unable to even imagine myself consuming meat or dairy products without shuddering internally.

 

It was around the second week of veganism that I actually started researching the diet, and the information I found was startling. Hundreds of studies have concluded that being vegan (or at least leading a mostly plant-based lifestyle) is the healthiest option—in fact, compared to meat eaters, vegans have lower cholesterol, body weights, blood pressure, and rates of Type II Diabetes.

 

As I dug into the health side of veganism, the information continued to shock me. Processed meat is listed as a Class One Carcinogen by the American Cancer Society, right along dangerous compounds like Radium and harmful products such as tobacco cigarettes, and yet the ACS still promotes many processed meat recipes on their website. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why: the American Cancer Society is sponsored by corporations such as Tyson and Perdue, which are two of the biggest poultry retailers in the United States. Even more concerning is the beef industry’s tight hold on health organizations in the United States. Red meat consumption has been associated with higher rates of heart disease for decades, and yet the American Heart Association is partnered with corporations like the Texas and Kentucky Beef Council in order to bring beef recipes to a “heart healthy diet.”

 

That information repulsed me, and suddenly I wasn’t just “trying it out”—I was vegan, and fighting to remain so for both my health and my morals. I haven’t eaten animal products since the day I skeptically agreed to eliminate them from my diet, and while I may not have gone vegan for the traditional justifications of saving animals or improving climate change, those are a few of  the reasons I have stuck with it. In just one month of being vegan, a single person will save 33,000 gallons of water, 900 square feet of forest, and thirty whole animals. To me, that’s a worthwhile trade.

 

Documentaries worth watching for more information:

What the Health

Earthlings

Cowspiracy

Forks over Knives