How do you know if someone is Vegan? They'll tell you.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's get on to my tell all about how and why I became Vegan (and how you can become Vegan too if you want to). Today is 'World Vegan Day', so I felt that there was no better time than the present to let you all know about this super important change in my life.
Growing up as a child/teenager I knew a total of two vegetarians. One was a primary school best friend, and the other a high school best friend. Both of these girls were pretty relaxed about their vegetarian diet in the sense that they never made other people feel bad about eating meat. Their being vegetarian didn't have much of an impact on my life because they weren't constantly (if ever) vocalising why they were vegetarian - they just were who they were. And that was cool. It made the idea of being a vegetarian seem "normal". Sure, they may have copped some flack from the meat eaters around them from time to time, but were they ever not invited to social gatherings and made to feel an outcast? Of course not. Because they weren't actively making other people aware of their ignorance.
As an adult, I went on to make friends with another two vegetarians. One who is still a vegetarian, the other who is now a Vegan. Unfortunately the friend who is now Vegan made her transition as she started travelling overseas, so this never really made an impact on me. Somewhere around this time though I finally met my first official full fledged Vegan. She wasn't very vocal about it though, and the only time it was ever brought up in conversation was when someone else (usually a guy) was making a joke at her expense. My first experience of what it is like to be a Vegan was not a pleasant one. Not because of the diet itself, but because of the way she was treated for being different from the rest of the herd. Not long after meeting that Vegan, I met another one. This one was a few years younger than me and in addition to being Vegan she was also opposed to drinking alcohol. I was around 19/20 years old when I first met this girl and at the time I was working in a bottle shop and drinking somewhat heavily and quite frequently as well. Now, it wasn't that her not drinking made her harder to relate to, but I feel like I may have felt like I wasn't good enough to really be her friend given my own lifestyle. Because of this (and possibly other reasons on her end) the friendship didn't really take off, and so I wasn't exposed to her Veganism in a way that I now wish I had have been.
Fast forward 5-6 years to around this time last year, and I was working on a blog and YouTube banner design for fellow blogger Niomi Smart. In watching a few of her videos to get some inspiration for her new design I came across this video where she made a delicious salad and explained that she was trying out going vegan. She made reference to another YouTuber named Freelee the Banana Girl who inspired her to make this change. Being the curious person that I am, I looked up and subscribed to Freelee's videos straight away. To be completely transparent though, despite feeling the need to stay subscribed to her YouTube channel, I was actually pretty turned off by most of her videos. I found her to be very harsh, somewhat of a body shamer at times, and extremely forceful of the idea that Veganism is the one and only way that all humans should live. I'm honestly still not sure why I didn't unsubscribe to her, but I'm glad I didn't. It was through reading the comments of one of her many videos that I found links to other Vegan YouTubers that the commenters claimed were much kinder and easier to watch than Freelee was at the time (I now quite enjoy most of Freelee's videos, I think because now I can see past all the bullshit and focus on the message). I ended up coming across quite a few different Vegan YouTubers that day, one of which was Kalel Kitten, a YouTuber around my age who was very similar to most of the beauty guru YouTubers that I was currently watching at that time.
It was around the same time that I started following Kalel that I had just paid a shit tonne of money to get a personalised meal plan made for me by a very well known Instagram diet/fitness coach. I won't say his name, but basically, at the time, I thought this meal and exercise plan he gave me (which turned out not to be very personalised at all) was going to be the answer to all my weight problems I was having (which I now know is due to my having PCOS). And in a way, it was. At least for the first month anyway. I ended up losing 3 kilos. In saying this, I was also exercising 4-5 times a week at the gym which I hadn't done in over a year. I also became even more constipated than I already was. Sometimes going as little as once per week. I started to become super sluggish, could barely finish my meals, completely went off chicken and eggs (which made it super easy when I eventually went Vegan, so thanks for that!), GAINED 1.5kg back during the second month on plan (and believe me, I certainly wasn't gaining muscle mass), and most importantly.. I became bored. The plan became a chore. Being healthy and happy, simply put, should NEVER be a chore. So I quit that meal plan two thirds of the way in, and cut down my red meat consumption drastically, and my egg and chicken consumption almost completely. I kept going to the gym and managed to shift that gained 1.5kg. I started pooping as regularly as I had been previously, so 2-3 times per week (I look back on this now and am amazed that I ever considered that to be "regular"). I was starting to feel better again. But as with everything that doesn't feel natural to you, going to the gym soon became a hindrance to me. I wanted to start attending classes but didn't have anyone to go with, and just didn't have the confidence to attend these classes on my own. The few times I did attend one I was completely out of my league and ended up being hardly able to walk for 2-3 weeks afterwards. I just wasn't enjoying it anymore. And deep down I knew that being healthy shouldn't have to be that hard.
Fast forward again to the 4th of September 2015, and Kalel Kitten upload this video to her YouTube channel. I'd already been following her for at least 6 months prior to her uploading this video but it wasn't until watching this video in particular that I finally made the connection. If you take any single action from reading this blog post, it should be to watch her video. If you feel inspired after watching it, then you can do the following:
1. Educate Yourself
Please watch the following videos, preferably in the following order:
- 101 reasons to go Vegan (MUST WATCH, trust me!)
- Ditch Dairy
- 6 minute film that will leave you Speechless
- Forks Over Knives
- If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls (Warning: Graphic)
- Best Speech You Will Ever Hear (Warning: Graphic)
- Lucent (Warning: Graphic)
- Earthlings (Warning: Extremely Graphic)
2. Ease Yourself In
If you decide you want to go Vegan practically overnight like I did, then that is fine as well. Don't feel like you HAVE to though. Your health (and sanity) is the most important factor here, so take baby steps if you need to. Do your research to find out how you can (easily) get all of the appropriate nutrition required for a Vegan lifestyle. I would suggest talking to your doctor if you are having trouble, and if your doctor isn't helpful, find a different doctor.
3. Don't Beat Yourself Up
I know it's hard not to dwell on all of the years that you remained in the dark. Those dark days are over now though, and you have nothing but light and positivity to look forward to. You can't change the past, so focus on the here and now instead. Think about the wonderful future you are bound to create for yourself. Also, don't beat yourself up if you accidentally eat something that isn't Vegan. Milk solids are in just about everything. You are bound to slip up every now and then. As long as you are not purposefully slipping up then you have no reason to feel guilty.
After watching most of the videos listed above (I still haven't managed to get through all of Earthlings, it truly is heart wrenching) I decided that I was going to go vegetarian with a view to becoming Vegan. The only thing stopping me from going Vegan straight away was that my partner was already making it very obvious that he was unhappy about me even wanting to go vegetarian. I stupidly thought it might be easier if I eased myself (and him into the idea) slowly over time. Fortunately for the animals, the environment and my health, my body wouldn't allow me to just be vegetarian for very long at all. I went away on holiday for a week to visit my family during my whole two weeks of being solely vegetarian, and during this time I became incredibly ill every time I ate something with dairy in it. I'm talking up all night long with major stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, bloating, etc. I'm not sure why my body chose that week in particular to let me know I was intolerant to dairy, but I'm glad it did. I had had signs of a dairy intolerance in terms of bloating and feeling stuffy in the nose/throat for at least 2-3 years beforehand, but never anything this extreme. Then on my second last day visiting my family I went to stay at my Mums place. I asked my Mum and Brother if they would watch 101 reasons to go Vegan with me, and they said yes. The three of us sat down together, watched together, cried together. Even though I had already seen this video, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Afterwards my Mum and Brother told me that if I want to go Vegan then I should do it now, no more excuses. I asked if this meant that they were open to Veganism themselves and they both said that they were. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. That night Mum whipped us up a super yummy vegan meal (that I will share on the blog sometime soon) and for dessert I had my last ever dairy ice cream before going 100% Vegan the very next morning.
September 27th 2015 was the day that I officially became Vegan.
Upon returning home from my holiday I ceased all consumption of dairy and eggs, as well as all meat/poultry/seafood that I had already given up. I started to cook my meals with passion, but also compassion. It has now been just over a month since I made the transition and I honestly couldn't be happier. Sure, it's hard having people you love mock you, argue with you, discourage you.. but once you become Vegan (for ethical reasons primarily) it becomes pretty much impossible to not enjoy being Vegan. The personal benefits for me in the first month alone have been absolutely amazing. I have lost another 1kg despite not going to the gym and eating all sorts of Vegan junk food (don't worry, I won't keep this up forever). I poop no less than twice per day, as opposed to 2-3 times a week. I have so much more energy during the day. I sleep much better at night. I have become more confident within myself. I feel smarter and more empowered. I care less about what others think of me. The list goes on...
I could talk for days about how great being Vegan is, but instead I'm going to end this post here and thank everyone I've mentioned in this blog post instead. Without all of you, I might not be the enlightened person that I am today, so THANK YOU!