Why I Went Vegan Part 2: FAQ
Despite the rapid growth and interest in veganism and plant-based lifestyles, vegans are still a minority worldwide. In a world of meat and cheese, it may seem odd that someone might want to abstain from using animal products; and not everyone's reason is the same. Some people choose a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons: to prevent the exploitation and death of animals. Some people also choose it for environmental reasons, and some for purely for their health.
I've been wanting to write this post for a long time, as it outlines my personal beliefs about the vegan lifestyle. I've been vegan for over a year now and I've found it to be incredibly rewarding: which is why I want to share my experience!
1. Why are you vegan?
I'm vegan because I choose to be. What led me here is addressed in more depth in here. The condensed version is that I developed digestive issues as I got older (the most severe with lactose). I decided to cut out dairy, then decided I might as well axe the rest too. Initially, I only went vegan for the health benefits, though now I choose the lifestyle for ethical and environmental reasons.
On Animal Ethics:
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the majority of people are vaguely aware of the abuse that animals face in the animal agriculture industry; but I challenge you to look deeper and think about the necessity of it all. If you live in a first world country where food is readily available, why should we kill when we can feed ourselves with plant based foods that are better for our bodies in the first place? For protein? Tons of plant sources. Iron? Same. Anything you can obtain nutritionally from an omnivore diet, you can obtain from a plant based diet. So for me, subjecting animals to abuse, torture, and death just because we like how they (or the secretions they produce) taste just isn't necessary. This is especially true considering the wide variety of meat and dairy replacement products available on the market today, most of which taste the same or better than the real thing (and this is coming from a former cheese fanatic!) For a comprehensive list of vegan cheese alternatives, check out Tully's post on her site www.vegansfirst.com here!
I love this planet. Period. I have been lucky enough in my lifetime thus far to be able to see quite a bit of it. I want to do my part to preserve it so future generations might not be born on to a trash heap with smog in their lungs. So what does veganism have to do with the environment? Everything. Animal agriculture is responsible for more than 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 91% of rainforest destruction. Just one calorie of animal protein requires 11x as much fossil fuel as one calorie of plant protein. 1.5 acres of land will produce 37,000 LBS of Plant Based food vs only 375 LBS of meat. These are just some of the ways that animal agriculture is impacting our environment. Raising livestock the way we do is harmful to the environment and an extremely wasteful drain on the limited resources this planet provides us, so is it worth it? Definitely not.
I don't have a degree in nutrition by any means, but when the World Health Organization classifies red meat as a Group 1 Carcinogen (in the same group as cigarettes), 70% of the human population is lactose intolerant, and there are often unsafe levels of mercury in fish... you have to wonder. It is also worth mentioning that a plant based diet is associated with lower BMIs, lower disease/sickness rates, better digestion, higher energy, a happier mood, and even more positive benefits. I've personally noticed a difference in all of the above, and I firmly believe that a whole-foods plant based diet is what our bodies were meant to eat (this does not include vegan junk food, even though I'm all about it at times!) I recommend watching the Netflix documentary "What the Health" for a basic overview of the plant based diet as it relates to health.
2: Was it hard to go vegan? Is it hard now?
Personally, it was not difficult for me to go vegan. I was already vegetarian when I began to transition, so I was already meat and seafood free. The first thing to go was eggs and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Honey soon followed. The last thing to go for me were sweets that contained animal products.
Now that I am 100% vegan, I find the lifestyle very easy. I no longer view animal products as food, so I am never tempted. I cook for myself the majority of the time (as I always have) and I still eat out at restaurants as well. I always go to restaurants with a vegan option available, and if there isn't one, I bring my own food or request that the chef customize an order for me.
3: What does your daily intake look like? What do your macronutrients look like?
I don't pay attention to my calories or macros. I am a proponent of eating intuitively, so I eat whatever I feel like eating. If I were to guess, I would say my diet is high carb, moderate fat and protein. I do tend to lean towards energy dense foods though: such as nuts/nut butters, energy bars, avocado, etc. I also really love bread. And sandwiches. Of course, different people have different needs, so if macros are a concern, it is possible to easily hit them on a vegan diet.
4: Where do you get your protein?
Never ask a vegan this.
Just kidding! But this is the question that vegans get asked most often. We are often raised culturally to believe that meat=protein and if you don't eat meat, you won't get enough protein. This is simply untrue. Protein= tofu, tempeh, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, spirulina, nuts, seitan, beans, legumes, vegan protein powder, broccoli, and many more sources. Protein is in nearly everything, so it's highly difficult for anyone to actually be protein deficient. My favorite protein sources are nuts/nut butters, tempeh, vegan jerky, and (recently) I've been drinking protein shakes.
5: What do you eat?
Salad. Nothing but salad.
Just kidding again! Seriously, I kind of hate salad. I eat bagels, veggie burgers, pasta, roasted vegetables, cupcakes, peanut butter, oatmeal, vegan cheese, cookies, avocado toast, sushi, sandwiches, chocolate, the list goes on. I eat whatever I feel like! I never feel like I'm "missing out" because I don't eat animal products. In fact, nearly every food on this planet can be veganized! I have yet to come across one that can't.
6: Do you ever cheat?
No, I don't. I don't feel like I need to. It isn't about restriction or "rules", it is about choosing not to contribute to unethical and unsustainable practices. I am no longer tempted by animal products, as I mentioned above. It also helps that I am really into cooking/baking and make vegan versions of everything from cheese crêpes to Girl Scout cookies.
7: Is it expensive to be vegan?
Nope! The majority of plant-based foods are extremely cheap: oats, beans, rice, spices, potatoes, seasonal fruits and vegetables, tofu, etc. The only way a vegan diet can get expensive is if you buy a ton of vegan replacement products such as vegan meats and cheeses. Thought I do buy vegan "meats" and cheeses, I only buy them when they are on sale, then I stack a coupon on top of the sale! Never pay retail for anything!
Additionally, meat is expensive. Processed food is expensive. There are lots of expensive items that aren't vegan that people buy in a normal grocery trip. So that's why I don't buy the "veganism is expensive" excuse.
As you can gather from this post, there are still a lot lot of misconceptions about vegan life out there. I do my best to address those questions fully when asked. Am I a perfect vegan? No. Do I eat healthy all the time? No. Do I think I'm better than others because I am a part of this lifestyle now? Definitely not. My goal in sharing my experiences here and on social media is to show people how it has changed my life for the better. I may have been vegan for only a year, but this is a lifelong thing for me, I only regret that I didn't do it sooner!
If you have any more questions or want more information, you are always welcome to reach out to me at any time! :)