How I’ve Managed to Stay Vegan and Happy

I have to be honest, when I went vegan I wasn’t really thinking I’d stay vegan for long. But here we are, 2 years later, and still vegan. I told myself that as long as I felt good and healthy I’d stick to it. Between the warnings I got from the internet and the looks I got from friends, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was getting myself into. But with enough research and trial and error, I think I finally figured it out.

The first time I remember enjoying veganism was about three weeks into my adventure. I remember feeling really really good without dairy. I had been vegetarian for the prior 8 years which definitely made it easier, but when I ex-ed out dairy from my diet I literally felt my whole day change. I had more energy, felt lighter, and my skin cleared up instantly. I wasn’t even really eating that much dairy to begin with, but I loved my cheese sticks freshman year of college.

I was concerned about missing things, that’s for sure. But I quickly realized that there wasn’t much that I looked at and really craved. I am lucky though, I always did like vegetables and plant-based foods, it wasn’t like I ate cake every single day. My school was also really good about having vegan options in the dining halls and any events they held.

a grocery store produce wallWhen I went home I definitely struggled a bit more. Not being in a city made the vegan options at restaurants very minimal and I got sick of salads very quickly. I got through the summer though without much thought about breaking my veganism. I think at that point I was determined to prove my friends wrong who said I would never last?

Once I got back to school it was easier and less of a thought. Boston is super vegan-friendly and there is always loads of vegan options and meat substitutes. I’ve found more than enough dairy free ice cream to eat while my friends and I watch movies.

I will say, being vegan has never felt like a chore to me. I eat my grandma’s pasta, and every now and again I’ll eat McDonald’s fries because I’m not about to hate myself for not eating things. When I went abroad, I stuck to being vegan as much as I could, and didn’t really beat myself up if something I ate was made with eggs.

I’ve always told myself that being vegan to me is, yes, about the animals and the world and sustainability and all of the things that go along with being vegan. But more so, to me, being vegan is feeling good and being happy, the minute that changes is the minute that maybe I do start eating regular donuts or burgers again.

Roased VegBut for now, I’ve embraced begin vegan because I feel good. I’ve struggled with keeping it apart from my identity, because I don’t believe what you eat identities who you are, and in a world of diet culture and “clean eating” I think those thoughts get a bit dangerous and over the top. However, I enjoy being vegan because it has opened the doors up for me to explore what does and doesn’t make me feel sick, and I’ve learned how to cook pretty well, and I also don’t really seem to have a problem with snacking. Oreos? Vegan. Bread? Usually vegan. Chips? Vegan. I can still enjoy a party and live my normal life. Which I’ve learned a lot of people just assume In can’t.

Being vegan was never about limiting where my family could go out to eat or what my friends and I did, it was a personal choice that made me happy. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about eating dairy again, but when I really think about it for me the pros outweight the cons still.

So, if you are struggling with veganism or want to try it, think about how it makes you feel apart from what friends or family may say. Try being flexitarian or just eat anything you want without a label on it. For me the label has helped me stay on track but it isn’t for everyone.

Just remember, you have to do what makes you feel good. This article is a reminder of that.

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