Vegan Views Part 1: Do it For Your Health, Not Just the Animals

I’ve shared my journey to a vegetarian lifestyle on my blog before, and I’ve shared my experience of what it was like to go vegan for a week, so now I want to share my views on veganism and my reasons for leaning toward a plant based diet.

When I first started learning about what it means to be a vegan, I thought that vegans were people who loved animals and didn’t want to bring harm to them. And while that is true of most vegans, I never really thought about people turning to a plant based diet for the health benefits.

Like most Americans, I was raised eating meat, cheese, butter, and drinking cows milk. And I was a fairly picky eater – I don’t really remember liking any vegetables until I was a teenager. I remember thinking that if I drank enough milk I would grow taller, and as a young teenager thinking that if I ate enough low-fat or fat-free dairy products I would lose weight and be healthier. Why did I think that? Because that’s either what my parents told me or what I heard on TV. But there was never really any convincing evidence behind it, that’s just what my parents had been taught and were led to believe.

I grew up surrounded by people who hunted deer, squirrels, and turkeys for food, so I never really thought much about killing animals for their meat. I even went squirrel hunting with my dad a couple of times, but never shot anything. I was a tough tomboy growing up alongside my three brothers, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for animals. My family even thought that I might grow up to be a veterinarian.

When I became a vegetarian I did it for the health benefits, not really because I felt bad that animals were being harmed. But when I had been a vegetarian for about two years, I started following a couple of vegan bloggers and learning more about what it means to be vegan. After doing a little research, I decided to go vegan for a week to see if I could pull it off. I did it and had so much fun cooking new vegan recipes. The hardest part was doing it at home with my family, not because I was tempted to eat the foods they were eating, but because I always felt like they were rolling their eyes at me or making fun of me instead of encouraging me.

As the years went on I found myself eating more vegan meals every week, but never fully committing to a plant based diet. There was this part of me, deep down, that really wanted to become vegan, but it just seemed like a lot of work and effort at the time. One of my biggest reasons for not being fully committed to a vegan lifestyle is the fact that both my husband and my family still eat meat and dairy products on a daily basis. I don’t have a problem fixing separate vegan meals for myself, but it becomes difficult to stick to this kind of diet when visiting with relatives and friends. Just this morning I was talking to my mom about Thanksgiving and what dishes everyone will be preparing, and, to my dismay, every dish she named has some form of animal product in it.

Now a days, there are plenty of vegan recipes that can be found on the internet, but the problem is that a lot of people don’t even really understand what a vegan diet is and therefore don’t know how to prepare vegan friendly meals. My biggest fear of going vegan would be that I would end up being a burden to my friends and family when going out to eat or visiting them. I don’t want to ruin everyone else’s fun because they can’t go to a certain restaurant because I wouldn’t be able to eat there. However, I’m starting to realize that I shouldn’t put off a lifestyle that I want to pursue just because it may inconvenience  the people around me from time to time. After all, this is my health we are talking about, and we only get one body.

The transition to a vegan diet these past couple of weeks has been relatively easy. Even though I haven’t been fully committed to a vegan diet over the years, I have made it a priority to stay educated and informed on all things vegan. I’ve read books, done research, followed vegan bloggers, watched documentaries, and even tried to incorporate vegan meals into my diet on a weekly basis. I believe I’ve watched just about every documentary that is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime about the food industry/plant based lifestyle  – “Food, Inc.”, “Forks Over Knives”, “GMO OMG”, “Cowspiracy”, “Live and Let Live”, “Hungry for Change”, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (1 &2)”, “Vegucated”, “Food Choice”, “Fed Up”, “Food Matters”, “The Kids Menu”, “Cooked”, “Farmageddon”, “Super Size Me”, “Bite Size”, “Sugar Coated”, etc. Seriously, I’m a documentary junkie! And while some of these documentaries are in favor of animal products, they are still worth a watch.  I encourage everyone who hasn’t seen these documentaries to go watch them! Even if you aren’t interested in pursuing a vegetarian/vegan diet it is still so eye opening to see how the food industry has brain washed us.

Honestly, I get really tired of people who question my knowledge on the subjects of health and nutrition. Yes it’s true that I didn’t study medicine or nutrition in college, but that doesn’t mean that I am not educated on these subjects. I’m not claiming to be an expert or saying that I know it all. And no, I don’t just read random people’s blog posts about health and nutrition and take that to be truth. I do my research, I read news articles from credible sources, I read what both medical doctors and holistic doctors have to say, I read books, I watch documentaries, and I have my own experience as well as that of friends and family to base my judgments on. I studied journalism in college and I know how to research and find credible sources.

I know that in my own personal experience, I have been the happiest and healthiest since giving up meat. And now that I’ve been vegan for the past couple of weeks I feel even better. As a teenager I used to have insomnia, I struggled with maintaining a healthy weight, and I had really bad acne. Once I gave up meat and started eating healthier I noticed that I slept better at night, I was able to eat what I wanted without counting calories and stay at a healthy weight, and my acne got so much better. Over the past year I started noticing that my body had a problem with dairy. Every time I would eat ice cream or have something with cheese on it, I would get bloated and have really bad stomach cramps. I started taking a probiotic everyday which seemed to help, but I was still struggling with occasional cramps and bloating. It wasn’t until I gave up dairy that all of that disappeared!

I’m not saying that a plant based diet is for everyone, but I think we could all incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diets and cut back on meats and dairy. From what I’ve learned, there are plenty of connections to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. and eating animal products. Just go watch some of those documentarians that I mentioned earlier. It makes me so sad to see people that ignore these facts and continue on as they have been because it’s more “comfortable” for them. It’s not until they have a health scare that they open their eyes and realize that they might need to make some changes. And sadly at that point it might be too late. My  goal is to make healthy food choices now while I’m young, so that I can have a long, happy, healthy life. And I’d love to help other people make this choice too.

There’s a quote by Dave Ramsey, author of Total Money Makeover, that I love, and while it is pertaining to money, I think it could be applied to our health as well:

“Change is painful. Few People have the courage to seek change. Most people won’t change until the pain of where they are exceeds the pain of change.” ~ Dave Ramsey

Is it time for you to make a change?

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