This post – the “why I’m vegan” part – is something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but I never felt like anyone would care about why I make the choices that I do. But, I think that it’s important to share my reasoning with the world in an attempt to help educate anyone who reads this about the many social, environmental, and health-related problems that the Standard American Diet (SAD) cause. After I discuss the why, I also want to share some tips that have helped me immensely in the 2.5 years that I’ve been vegan! So if any of this interests you, keep reading! 😃
1. For the animals
First and foremost, I am vegan for the animals. I identify as an ethical vegan, one whose choices are guided by the ethical priniples I have adopted over the course of the last few years. Fundamentally, I believe that the live of an animal is just as valuable and sacred as the life of any other being on earth, and that animals should be treated with respect, love, and compassion. This is what triggered me to go vegetarian (and later vegan) in the first place. I saw the video Meet Your Meat (warning: it’s graphic) and broke down. I saw those animals in extreme pain, and filled with terror, and was just heart broken.
To me, they were no different from the cats I called pets that I loved dearly and considered to be a part of my family (especially since I don’t have siblings, I really connected with the cats we had when I was growing up). I knew that I’d never eat a living being again. And what’s most important to me regarding veganism, is the connection between my values and beliefs and my everyday actions. It’s one thing to claim you love animals, but if we are choosing to eat them (or their bodily secretions), that’s just simply not true. If you eat meat, you love certain animals (like pets) and not others, which is the fundamental basis of speciesism.
In case you were wondering, according to the Humane Society of the United States, in 2015 ALONE, 9.2 billion animals were slaughtered for human consumption. 9.2 BILLION. In one year. To think that that many lives had to end just so we could feed ourselves absolutely breaks my heart, especially since in 2017 being vegan is extremely easy!! And healthier! And better for the planet!
2. For my health
The next reason why I decided to go vegan, and what really stunned me, was the health impacts of consuming animal products. The ideology we all grew up with – carnism – leaves us to think that we need meat to survive, and that we are meant to eat meat. Let me tell you that this is simply not true. Humans are natural herbivores, and our biology tells us this. Moreover, by consuming meat and other animal products, we literally create disease in our bodies. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many cancers are linked to the consumption of animal products. So why would you choose to eat foods that make you sick? Well, it’s because it’s ingrained in us, we were raised to do it, and because to many of us, those foods taste good. But, when I learned about the health reprecussions of the SAD, I knew I didn’t want to feed my body that crap that was just going to make me sick. I know it can be easier said than done to kick old habits (trust me), but continue reading for my favorite hacks to make the transition easier!
If you’re interested in learning more about the health benefits of going vegan, the films Forks Over Knives and What the Health (both on Netflix!) are super, super informative and will really open your eyes. Addionally, the website Nutrition Facts also does an amazing job at showing just how healthy a plant-based vegan diet can be, and how detrimental the Standard American Diet can be. Also, I’d like to point out that it’s important to do your own research, and listen to information that is backed up by science. Not only that, but pay attention to who is conducting and FUNDING the studies. In What the Health, I learned about all of the collusion that is happening in the government that works to keep us – the consumers – in the dark about our food. So don’t just listen to what you’re told. Always question authority and do your own research.
3. For the environment
Thirdly, I am vegan for the environment. I don’t know if I’d put these in any order, though, because they all matter to me. The film Cowspiracy (also on Netflix) really opened my eyes to the environmental destruction and degredation that animal agriculture has on our Earth.
I know that infographic is a lot, so I’d recommend just watching the film. It’s very well done, and very eye-opening! Along with changing my diet, there are many other things I am doing to lessen my environmental impact, which I will likely touch on in a future blog post.
4. For the people
Finally, I am vegan for the people. Because of all the land that is used to raise livestock and the food needed to feed livestock, there are many people who are starving in countries located in the global south. Because of our greed, our preference for meat and dairy, other people are starving. I personally don’t think that’s a very compassionate way to live, so I choose to eat foods that allow for a more compassionate world to exist. If everyone chose to eat vegan, and embrace this lifestyle, there wouldn’t be such a big problem with starvation, and access to clean water. Let me hit you with some facts, all taken from this source:
We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people
82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries
- 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef
These facts blew my mind, and I hope they blow your mind too. It’s insane how many resources we just throw into animal agriculture, and how EASY it would be to switch. Let me help you by giving you some of my best tips and “hacks” about going and staying vegan.
Okay, so let’s just say I totally convinced you to go vegan now that you read the information above, and you’re wondering how. Lucky for you, I am a seasoned vegan and have learned all the tricks of the trade and am ready to pass on that knowledge to you. Here are my best tips regarding both how to go vegan in the first place, and how to make being vegan much easier.
1. Do your research
Don’t go into veganism blind. You can do it, but I can almost guarantee it won’t last and you won’t eat enough and you’ll end up hating it. So trust me, read some books, watch some films, watch YouTube videos, read blog posts, etc. Just do everything you can to make sure you feel knowledgable about the topic and how to successfully be vegan. It’s great to want to jump right into it, but the truth of the matter is that being vegan is a huge life change. It requires a lot of knowledge and while it’s always a learning process, it’s nice to start off on the right food. A great first resource that I always direct people to is VeganKit.
2. Rethink your meals, don’t just try to make vegan substitutes
I think the biggest hurdle a lot of people face in being vegan is figuring out what the heck they are going to eat, which is understandable. But I think a big mistake a lot of vegans make is going the route of substition rather than alternatives. Let me explain what I mean by this. For example, someone could be used to eating sausage and eggs for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and pepperoni and cheese pizza for dinner (I hope no one is eating this, but it’s just an example). If they went vegan without really doing any research, or deciding to try new, alternative foods for breakfast, they’d probably replace every non-vegan item with a vegan version. Vegan eggs and sausage for breakfast, Tofurkey sandwich, and a vegan pizza for dinner.
This is going to lead to the person 1) being frustrated they don’t feel healthier and 2) being convinced veganism is expensive. Any “vegan substitute” is generally going to be more expensive than the traditional counterpart, so by including these in your diet as little extras once in a while, you’re going to save money. Instead of replacing, try new things. Adopt new staples that are not only cheap but also easy. Have oatmeal for breakfast, soup and salad for lunch (there are so many amazing vegan soups!), and rice and beans for dinner. Or literally ANY other whole, plant-based foods (potatoes, barley, lentils, etc.). These are the cheapest foods, and will actually help you feel amazing. Processed food is still processed food, so keep that in mind when selecting vegan options and making your menus.
3. Plan, plan, plan
This brings me to my next point, and it’s that if you’re going to succeed as a vegan, it’s going to require some thought. Until you build up a repitior of your favorite recpies, you will have to spend some time every week looking for a new recipe or two to try out, and you’ll have to get those groceries. I think this is one of the best things about adopting a new diet – the newfound creativity and freedom that comes with trying something totally new! It’s exciting, so look online and in cookbooks and actually PLAN what you’re going to eat (as detailed as you see fit). If you think you’re going to be vegan without planning, think again. Also, it’s good practice to always, always bring a snack with you and to check restaurant menus ahead of time. Trust me.
4. Cook in bulk
I prefer to cook in bulk and then just reheat throughout the week. It saves me time, and is usually pretty cost effective! I dont have much else to say about this, but just trust me on this one – it works.
5. Find a grocery store with all the essentials, or look online for cheaper options
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed with the supermarket Woodman’s, a regional chain of insanely huge grocery stores. Not only do they have everything I need, but the prices are super low. Try to find YOUR Woodman’s (if you don’t live in the Madison, WI area). Find a place where you can find everything you need at the cheapest price possible, and go there. The more you shop around, the more expensive things are going to be. Also, let me plug Thrive Market, and online store that sells a ton of essentials for a discounted price. If you can’t find almond butter for cheap nearby, you can get it on Thrive. It’s a great resource and also a fantastic company!
6. Don’t be afraid to experiment, to make mistakes, and to have fun with it
Being vegan, to me, has been one of the most fun experiences of my life! I never cooked much before going vegetarian, so learning how to make vegetarian versions (and now vegan versions) of my favorite foods has been so much fun! Look up how to replace eggs in a dish, or how to replace oil if you’re trying to eat low-fat, and I bet you’ll end up having a ton of fun in the kitchen just experimenting. Besides, you’re going to make mistakes! It’s a learning process, so have fun with it and utilize all the resources online (there are PLENTY). If you google “vegan” + the recipe you want to make, I guarantee you’ll find something.
7. Invest in quality cookware, utensils, and kitchen appliances
You’ll thank me later when you’re whipping up something crazy in the kitchen and need a mini food processor.
8. If possible, make the ethical and/or environmental connection
I’ve found that for people who are only vegan for the health benefits don’t often stay vegan. I think that being vegan for ethical reasons, or environmental reasons, will help the person more firmly ground their choices. Health is great, don’t get be wrong, but it’s a fairly vain reason to choose to do something as big as go vegan. There are bigger issues out there, and I think that choosing compassion (for either animals, the environment, or both) as your guide will help you STAY vegan in the long run.
I could go on and on with more tips about veganism, but I think I’ll stop for now. Really, I just want to stress that veganism is not about purity, it’s not about being perfect, and it’s certainly not going to be something you’re a pro at right away. It’s a totally different ideoloy that you are using to build your life around you. So like I said, do your research thoroughly and try to expose yourself to as much knowledge as possible. Watch those cruel videos and really get it in your mind what animals are going through. Open your eyes to the problems out there, and research how YOU can do your part to change the world. Because, believe it or not, you can!