Adopting a vegan lifestyle changed more than just the food I eat. It changed the way I view the world, other beings, my health, well-being, shopping habits, and, most of all, it changed the way I interact with myself and my environment.
I could write an entire book detailing all the ways adopting this lifestyle has changed my life. Instead, I’m going to break it down into the 10 major ones (in no particular order), in hopes that you can better understand this lifestyle and become inspired to create your own:
1. I’m more conscious about the interconnectedness of life – When you stop putting your taste buds first, you start realizing how interconnected this world is. Becoming vegan helped me recognize the ripple effect one person can have on the world. I don’t think it is a coincidence that a plant based lifestyle is not only better for animals, but also for human health, the environment, and world hunger. Our well-being is directly dependent on others, which makes me think we were put on this earth to share it, not dominate it.
2. I changed the entire way I shop – for food, clothes, cleaning products, makeup, accessories – When you shop as a vegan, you have to become more conscious as a consumer because you have to pay attention to the ingredients, materials, and production processes used to make your products. Every purchase I make feels like a vote – every product I buy can either support suffering or support animal and/or human rights. I choose products that support the latter.
3. I have more energy and don’t get sick as frequently – Fatigue and nausea used to be my default feeling after a meal. I also used to get sick once a season. Once I stopped eating dairy, I noticed I have a lot more energy and don’t feel nauseous after meals. Also, for the entire first year I went vegan I didn’t get sick. Not even with a little cold. I think I may have had an undiagnosed lactose intolerance (I mean I’m not a baby cow so I probably did), so giving up dairy really strengthened my immune system and energy levels.
4. I eat more food, yet lose weight without trying – I gained the Freshman 20 in college. Even though I was vegetarian and tried eating healthy, I was addicted to cheese and dairy products. Once I gave that up, the pounds literally dropped off me. It was especially weird because I knew I was eating bigger portions than ever before. I mean, my boyfriend and I would frequently split a pound of pasta for dinner. Now, losing weight this fast won’t happen for everyone who becomes vegan – there’s a lot of delicious vegan junk food these days and even though I enjoy it, I make sure my diet is primarily a healthy one. With that said, please note that it’s also possible to gain weight on a vegan diet, if that’s your goal. There are many athletes and body builders who eat a plant-based diet!
5. I feel less guilt and more compassion – I always considered myself a tree hugger and animal lover, but it was hard to justify eating meat with those values. I’ve always been obsessed with the ocean and forests, but inside I carried guilt for supporting industries that wreak havoc on those ecosystems. Once I gave up eating land meat, fish, dairy, honey, and stopped wearing anything made from animals, I was able to feel at peace with myself and my place in the world. Compassion is like a muscle. The more you practice it towards others, the more that characteristic will grow within you. The best part is that compassion doesn’t have a limit. Once you develop compassion for a being as unlike you as an ant, it is one million times easier to feel empathy and compassion for all human beings.
6. I’ve become less judgmental of others, but have felt more judged by certain people – Ever heard the “How can you tell if someone is vegan? They’ll tell you” joke? Not wanting to fall into a stereotype, I made an extra effort not to announce my newfound vegan lifestyle to other people at first. However, eating is often a social experience. No matter what activity you’re doing, your day is going to include food. When people questioned why I wasn’t eating a certain thing, I came clean. “I’m vegan” I would say. Many people were normal about it, asking questions because they were genuinely curious or just nodding along and leaving it at that. Many other people, however, went into pure defense mode, either by attacking my lifestyle, cracking jokes about it, or by trying to convince me why a vegan lifestyle “isn’t actually healthy” or “won’t actually make a difference.” It was interesting to notice – here I was, trying to better myself, my life, the earth and the well-being of others, and yet people were upset by my choice not to eat or wear anything made of animals. So to anyone who thinks “I’m vegan” means “I’m judging you,” relax. If I’m not judging myself to be superior to a cockroach, I certainly don’t think I’m superior to any being. Although I would love it if the world was vegan, I am very aware of how long it took me to get here, and the experiences in my life that led me here, so I am not going to judge other people’s journeys.
7. I read more about politics and corruption – It was mind boggling to learn about the relationships the pharmaceutical, meat, and dairy industries have with our government, and how those relationships have affected the way nutrition is taught in public schools. Once I started learning about the corruption involved in animal agriculture and health industries, I couldn’t stop. If you’re interested in learning more, a good place to start is by reading How Not to Die by T. Colin Campbell, or watching Cowspiracy or What the Health.
8. I feel more sensitive to my environment – I feel as though I can empathize with other beings on a deeper level than before, which feels overwhelming in positive and negative ways. It is genuinely hard for me to now look at a piece of fish or steak without flashbacks of all the undercover footage of those industries flooding my mind. I am dreading seeing a dead turkey served at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. But, in a weird way, this newfound vulnerability to my environment has also opened me up to feel a deeper sense of peace and joy. Instead of dwelling on dead animals on other people’s plates, I redirect my attention to the nourishing food I’m choosing to eat, which in turn forces me to pay attention to the process of eating and enables me to have a more mindful meal. With every bite of food, I feel more conscious and aware of what I am putting in my body, and that makes me feel grateful and fulfilled. With every walk through nature, I remain more aware to watching the trees sway, or hearing the birds chirp. And since I know how rude people can act about vegans, I experience a lighthearted feeling when I meet someone who is open and kind about it. Overall, becoming more sensitive to my environment has forced me to create a much more mindful existence, and that has inspired a deep sense of inner peace within me.
9. My skin feels more clear and hydrated – In order to find out which skincare products were vegan-friendly vs. which were not, I needed to do my research on the ingredients and test methods of skincare products. This had a ripple effect of inspiring me to take better care of my skin, and ever since becoming vegan, I make sure all the skincare products I use are made of natural ingredients that were not tested on animals. My skin is thanking me for this cruelty-free change.
10. I feel comfortable with who I am and excited for who I am becoming – My values FINALLY align with my actions. I no longer have to justify “loving animals” with eating them too. I don’t have to look at my shoes and convince myself that the leather is a sustainable way to “use the whole animal”. I no longer have to explain my actions to myself. I can simply exist, and feel at peace with that existence.
I wasn’t born vegan – I chose to become one. It was one of the best decisions I think I’ll ever make in life, and it’s a choice millions of others make every day, so perhaps it’s worth exploring. Every body is different – you could experience some, all, or none of these changes if you adopted this lifestyle. But at the end of the day, I think one of the main purposes of this life is to open your heart and see where it leads you…
… More often than not, I think doing so leads you to yourself – who you truly are, and who you have yet to become.
Peace & Love.