As a vegan, one of the questions you get the most, besides “where do you get your protein?”, is “what made you decide to become a vegan.”
I became a vegan in January 2011 (yup, I’m a newbie), but the process started 5 years ago when I decided to test out vegetarianism. It didn’t stick then, but it got the ball rolling in the right direction. In my upper-level nutrition classes in college I learned more about food and began to play around with more plant-based foods. I also began reading healthy-living blogs about a year and a half ago, which has had a major impact on my knowledge of food and health.
Initially, eliminating animal products was a decision fueled by health concerns. However, the more I have learned from reading books, articles and blogs, the more reasons I have discovered to help me maintain my motivation. Here are some of them:
1. Health Benefits. I am of the belief (and studies have also supported) that if everyone stopped eating animal products we would drastically reduce incidences of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and many inflammatory diseases. An excellent resource that details the health impacts of the Standard American Diet is The China Study by Thomas M. Campbell II, PhD.
A well-balanced vegan diet is also an important way to help your body thrive. You may not be sick, but you may not usually feel well. Reducing or eliminating animal products can provide such benefits as clearer skin, less GI troubles, reduced mucus production, and give you more energy, among many other things. For those of you worried about your weight, also know that I dropped 10 lbs almost immediately after becoming vegan. Unfortunately, on my frame that was weight I didn’t need to lose so I had to make myself eat more, and eat more calorically dense foods, such as avocados and other healthy fats to make sure I was taking in as many calories as I was burning everyday. My favorite “how-to” vegan book is Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet. It’s a life-changing book full of inspiration. Check Kris out at crazysexylife.com.
2. Environmental Effects. Did you know that the majority of the industrially grown corn in America goes to feed the billions of factory farm animals? This corn is sprayed with tons of carcinogenic fertilizers and pesticides that make their way into our air and water supply, as well as the meat. In fact, there is a dead-zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey caused by run-off from the Mississippi River. Not to mention, that cows aren’t even meant to eat grain in the first place. Their stomachs are designed to digest the grass that they eat in nature and the grain makes them bloated and sick. This is one of reasons that factory farms use antibiotics on their cows, contributing to the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria. Also, factory farms are the number one producer of methane gas from animal farts and poop. Methane is an important greenhouse gas that is a major contributed to global climate change. Check out The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan for more info on the environmental impacts of your food.
3. Animal Cruelty. There is too much information out there on the cruelty of factory farming for me to go into major detail on this. I often consider it a scare tactic to try to guilt people into veganism. I don’t think that is right or fair, but I will say this: when I look at my chihuahua, Arlo, and how smart and human-like he can be sometimes, I don’t see how I could possibly bare being responsible for the torture and death of another animal like him. Farm animals have personalities and can feel pain just like any of the rest of us. Don’t let their lack of human language-speaking abilities fool you. Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin has a great chapter on the horrible treatment of food animals, as well as a ton of other great info on becoming vegan. It’s also a fun read for you ladies out there because those girls pack a lot of sass into those pages. For the gentlemen, they have also now come out with Skinny Bastard, with the same concept as Skinny Bitch, but with the tone and content aimed more towards the interests of men.
4. It’s Really Not That Hard! Armed with the right resources, I had a really easy transition to veganism. There is tons of information out there on healthily adopting a vegan diet. Nutrition info, recipes, support and much more can be found everywhere. Online there are blogs, resources like vegweb.com, and tons of recipe sharing sites. In your library and bookstores you can find vegan diet books and cookbooks. Theres even a Veganism for Dummies, though I cant say I’ve picked that one up yet. Even your local health food store can be a great place to get information about products. I’m always amazed at the fun vegan foods I can find when I explore health food stores and alternative grocery stores. I also plan on providing lots of more information about living vegan on my blog in the future.