I’m a vegan. For those who don’t know, a vegan is a person who refrains from using any animal product whatsoever for food, clothing, or any other purpose.
Generally, when I tell people this (though I mostly try to avoid the topic) they become shocked and amazed. “You’re a vegan? Oh, wow!” and “how do you do that? It must be so hard!” are comments I hear pretty frequently. In reality, becoming a vegan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I doubt people are judging me; most people just find it difficult to imagine a life without dairy, eggs, or meat (fish included).
I became a vegetarian in 8th grade after seeing Supersize Me, giving up all meat cold-turkey (no pun intended). As the years passed, I became stricter with what I considered to be vegetarian. Eventually my diet had these rules set upon it in addition to “no meat”: no meat broth, no use of utensils that have touched meat, no food that has touched meat, no gelatin (which is from animal bones), no food cooked in the same oil as meat (no more fried food at restaurants!), the list goes on. And by the summer of my senior year in high school, I’d given up most dairy products too. Finally, I made the decision to become a full-on vegan.
I waited to make this “lifestyle change” until September 1st, the day that I moved into my dorm at college. Being a vegetarian was only tolerated in my house, so becoming a vegan was something that could never happen at home. I didn’t broadcast my new dietary preference; in fact, my father still doesn’t know officially (or even notice for that matter).
At college though, no one could judge my eating habits. Eating in the dorms was a slight problem at first and I remember complaining to my friends about being hungry all the time during Welcome Week. It took a little while to get used to, but after about a week and a half, I had no problem finding food to eat in the dorms and at restaurants. (The key is to look at the menu online beforehand and ask a million questions unabashedly; make sure to make clear that the food you ordered has no meat, dairy, eggs, or gelatin.)
After I made this switch, my skin cleared up, my energy level increased and I dropped 15 lbs without even trying (though that might be attributed to the fact that dorm food, while it had a lot of vegan options, was rather unappealing overall and I just ate less in general). I had more focus when studying and my headaches, headaches that had plagued me for years, became less awful; I no longer required Extra-Strength Excedrin every morning.
There are lots of challenges (oh, the horrors of dorm food) and dealing with public opinion is never fun (we’re all spoiled and sanctimonious elitists, obviously). Oftentimes I do want to cheat and eat a Christmas cookie or fro-yo with my friends, and sometimes it is annoying to order at restaurants, and occasionally I really want an omelet. Eventually though, the cravings for dairy and eggs will go away, just as they did when I became a vegetarian (and I did crave meat- I used to love steak!). But I feel that the benefits of this lifestyle change outweigh the costs, and even though it can definitely get annoying, in the long run, I will be healthier overall. There are many social and political factors keeping me a vegan (I’m very involved in the “green” movement); for me to eat dairy, eggs, or meat would be hypocritical. Make sure that you know why you are doing it before you start and you will be fine (health-wise, if done properly). Try it out and see how it works for you. I’m not making any promises that I won’t ever go back to eating dairy and eggs (I probably won’t ever go back to eating meat), but for now I am just fine as a vegan.