The first day of November is known as World Vegan Day and last year in 2019, I celebrated my first World Vegan Day with an Instagram post packed with pictures of my favorite vegan finds. Now I’m a year and a half into living a full vegan lifestyle and, in all honesty, it’s been a journey to get here–a journey I’ll be sharing with you: how I transitioned into veganism and, in light of the holidays, how I maintain it during this time of year.
I didn’t jump straight into veganism–for most people who do this, it’s hard to remain committed to it because you have to get used to the diet/lifestyle and your body is unaccustomed to the dramatic change of what you eat. Oftentimes this is also the reason people view/treat veganism as more of a trend or New Year’s resolution that crumbles over time rather than a commitment to the diet and/or lifestyle itself. For me, though, long before I went completely vegan, I knew this going vegan was not just a goal I wanted to reach, but a lifestyle I wanted to commit to for the rest of my life.
Back in early 2017, two years before I considered myself entirely vegan, I decided to go vegetarian and stop eating meat. This decision came after I read several books regarding the environmental impact of the production of meat, poultry, and dairy. Contrary to what some might believe, including my own parents, I was not pressured into reading these books or changing the way I eat; I decided to go vegetarian on my own terms, for the good of the environment as well as myself. I’ve always loved animals and felt a bit sick eating certain meat/poultry dishes–I’ve even gotten sick from eating something as basic as a cheeseburger on more than one occasion–so, in a way, I felt like vegetarianism/veganism called to me. That’s not to say that people who aren’t vegetarian or vegan are bad people; I just think the way animal products are produced should be regulated in a way that is neither cruel to the animals nor harmful for the environment.
Beginning my vegetarian diet, I became more aware of what I was eating and how it was produced; the veil between consumer and producer seemed to lift as I read more about it. At first, my parents weren’t on board–my mom even suggested I learn to cook since she wouldn’t know what to make me. As a person of Mexican heritage, it can be even harder to accommodate a vegetarian, let alone a vegan diet, so I taught myself how to cook. It was difficult learning on my own and working with ingredients I wasn’t familiar with, so naturally I made some mistakes, but it was a lot of fun. I honestly never thought I would be the cooking type, but now that I gave it a try, I realized I actually have a passion for it. My parents grew to love my vegetarian (and later vegan) meals as well–that was mainly why they eventually warmed up to my new lifestyle.
As I mentioned, transitioning to a fully vegan diet and lifestyle was my end goal ever since I went vegetarian, but it was a long and difficult road of course. I remember my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian was already hard enough because I wouldn’t eat turkey or ham and the potatoes my uncle prepared unfortunately contained bacon. Thankfully there was mac-n-cheese, which was my main dish, but I knew that a vegan Thanksgiving would be even harder. Thankfully, my aunt (by marriage) has been so considerate as to prepare several vegan holiday dishes ever since I became vegetarian for the both of us to share and partake in the festivities. It inspired me to contribute and make some holiday dishes myself, such as pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, and even tamales (a Mexican must-have, especially for Christmas!).
I’m still growing and I make mistakes sometimes, but learning is a part of life. Being vegan isn’t just a diet, but a lifestyle of avoiding animal products in everything I consume. Although it can be hard sometimes, there are so many more vegan options now not only in the food industry, but in other industries such as hair, beauty, etc. My parents once thought my vegetarianism might be a phase, but now that it’s delved into veganism, it’s taught me a lot about myself and nothing makes me feel better than this. One thing is certain: I’m proud and happy to be vegan.