Why I Switched To A Plant-Based Diet

I have always loved to eat animal products. When I was a toddler, my favorite food by far was cheese on toast. As I grew up, I loved burgers, milkshakes, chicken nuggets, sushi, macaroni and cheese… you name it, I would’ve eaten it. This love of meat and dairy changed once I saw how damaging these industries are to the planet and how much this food seemed to be damaging my body.

I’ve always turned to food for comfort and for pleasure. When I was happy, I would eat. When I was sad, I would eat. Food always made me happy and was always there for me when I felt as if I had no one to turn to. Don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing wrong with loving food, but my relationship with it turned sour as I navigated my teens. Throughout my adolescence, my diet yo-yoed from healthy to not so healthy, but I had never given much thought as to what exactly I was putting into my body. Once I started college, I was faced with an all-too-real case of the freshman fifteen. For me, it was more like the freshman twenty-five (yikes). Picture it: I had just moved to a college in New York City, I no longer had to participate in gym class, and I had a meal plan that was free of my parents’ gorgeous and nutritious home-cooked meals. And did I mention that Starbucks was included in my meal plan? The weight began to pile on like I’d never seen it before. I was rarely eating any fruits or vegetables, and I barely drank enough water. It was only until I saw pictures of myself from my 19th birthday that I finally realized my diet was not healthy in the slightest and was causing me to gain an unhealthy amount of weight. 

In the weeks following my 19th birthday, I encountered a series of events that changed both how I viewed food and how I viewed the food industry. This began when I prepared a dinner for my family that was spaghetti and meatballs. The night following this meal, I became violently ill and this absolutely scarred me. I never wanted to see or touch, let alone EAT red meat for the rest of my life. I decided that this was a good point to start cleaning up my diet and incorporating exercise to become a healthier version of myself again. It was around this time in the spring of 2019 that I watched the Netflix documentary What The Health?, and it opened my eyes to what I should be putting in my body and how cruel the meat and dairy industries are. I then set myself a challenge: why don’t I just try being vegan? I have never looked back since.

Becoming plant-based has not only made me think twice about what I’m putting into my body, but it also helped me to explore a variety of foods that I hadn’t touched in years. I began to eat so much more fruit and vegetables, and I noticed myself getting stronger from all the new sources of protein I hadn’t thought of since I was eating meat. I also noticed that all the aches and pains I was getting from heavy periods were becoming a lot more manageable. My mood was better, my skin didn’t look so red and irritated, and I didn’t feel so sluggish all the time. The documentary I watched also discussed how dangerous the meat and dairy industries are to the planet and how they contribute to global warming—a topic that I am passionate about, but also rather fearful. 

If you are an avid meat-eater or you can’t see yourself living another day without mozzarella sticks, I don’t blame you. Becoming vegan is certainly not for everyone, but I do want people to be aware of where else you can get those essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. All protein is naturally derived from plants, and the protein you get from eating meat is from the plants that the animal consumed while they were alive. Although it is certainly difficult to become plant-based, it’s important to note that I don’t crave meat or dairy. I have had friends ask me: “How do you do it?”, and the truth is that it is not a challenge for me. I love being vegan, and I cannot see myself eating animal products ever again. Many people force themselves to avoid animal products, and it ends up being a mental battle that no one should endure. I also understand that these products are such a staple in many people’s diets, in particular if you cannot afford fresh fruits and vegetables or if you are part of a culture that often uses meat and dairy in your cooking. All I ask is that you consider cutting down on your consumption of these products, as it is beneficial for both your body and the planet. So why exactly should you try ‘Meatless Monday’? Here’s something to think about from the Meatless Monday non-profit:

"Because going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. And going meatless once a week can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save previous resources like fossil fuels and fresh water."

Again, I understand that not everyone can become plant-based, but it is so important for the planet and your body to have at least one day out of the week without consuming meat and dairy. There are a ton of vegan recipes out there you can try that will be both nutritious and delicious. Whether you decide to go vegan, or even vegetarian or pescatarian, the most important thing above all is to love your body and to know what you’re putting in it so that you can live the healthiest life possible.