Some people think that going vegan is a liability, an annoyance for social gatherings and meals. I guess some people are scared of being different, for standing out because meals out mean confrontations with waiters on the ingredient list of the menus.
But, if one were to look at veganism in this light, that is only what is on the surface, because veganism is so much more than what goes on your plate.
It has been two years since I became a pescetarian, a year since becoming vegetarian, and a couple of months since I decided to slowly eliminate animal products from my diet. I was questioned, confronted, and put down on many occasions by those around me, especially my family. But every single time I had to justify my choices to those who opposed my decision, I know I made the right choice, because living a plant-based lifestyle taught me how to live holistically.
Why did I change?
Looking back, I realized that everything happened spontaneously and I never had any prior plans or even thoughts about changing my diet at all. Curiosity just hit me one day, and I wanted to know how a plant-based diet is beneficial to one’s health. When I watched a really graphic video by PETA on 10 reasons to be a vegetarian, I knew that I could not put another animal’s body into mine.
I gave myself a month to follow a meat-free diet, with the exception of fish. I did not want to go cold turkey because I knew that it was very likely that I would give up because of the intensity of the restrictions. So I took it one step at a time and gave myself a month to see if the changes in my diet would work for me. I am glad that I followed an approach that I knew would be comfortable for me because if I didn’t, I doubt that I will lead the lifestyle that I am today.
Starting from food
I used to not pay any attention to my diet, to my lifestyle choices, and to my health. Even though it is the life of any typical teenager, looking back, it is something that being vegan (almost!) taught me not to look back to. When I started to eliminate meat from my diet, I had to find ways to recreate recipes that I loved as a meat-eater.
In the beginning, I looked to meat substitutes like vegan patties, “chicken” strips, and sausages to replace meat. It was solely about finding an alternative that would let me create a dish that mimicked meat. As I began to delve more into educating myself on improving my health, I realized that these processed foods were not doing anything for me, much less with helping my body. So instead of eating vegan meats I began to incorporate more whole foods like tofu, beans, mushrooms, vegetable, and fruits.
Because of this I discovered a love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen; I was constantly reading cookbooks and watching videos on what new dish I could try out next. The veggie gene has also rubbed off my mom and she surprised me one day with cooking up one of my all-time favorites, prawn noodles, the vegan edition.
If you really need some “meat”, try crumbling some firm tofu and pan-frying them before adding them to whatever dish you are trying to make. You’d be surprised how good it tastes and you would not have to buy processed ones in the supermarket. Patties? How about mixing up some ground up chickpeas or black beans with your favorite herbs and spices and grilling them up? There is so much to explore and so much to experiment with, you would be surprised with what you can come up with.
More than my plate
Leading a plant-based lifestyle extended to being beyond the idea of not eating animals. As time went on, I began to realize the extent of how so many industries compromise the well being of animals for their businesses. Like many women, I love clothes, shoes, bags, and makeup, to the extent that I decided to pursue my studies in fashion.
Because of this, my love for the two has become a little overwhelming and conflicting. How could I appreciate a form of art that exploits the lives of innocent animals? How could I call myself an animal lover while on the other hand I was supporting an industry that prides itself over products that takes away the freedom and the lives of animals? Most importantly, can I ever work for a company that does not believe in the same things that I do?But you would be surprised at the growing amount of support that both luxury and mainstream fashion and cosmetics are giving to veganism. I am glad that there are people out there who are able to find a compromise between the two, making it possible to keep doing what I love and not having to go against what I believe in.
Learning to live
Changing my lifestyle allowed me to open up my eyes and see things differently. It might seem a little far-fetched that veganism led me on this life-changing journey, but it did. The one thing that I took away from it was to look at things beyond its surface, to be more compassionate. With every change that I made, I became more motivated to keep up with this lifestyle, because I could see the positivity and the impact that it made to how I lived and who I am as a person. Give veganism a go, because you won’t be only changing the live of animals, but yours as well.