How My First Year of Being Vegan Changed Me

Last month I celebrated the one-year anniversary of the day I decided I was going to commit to being vegan. After first experimenting with it for a week out of sheer curiosity, I decided to make the change because I loved the way it made me feel, and I was excited about taking on a new challenge. I would say that for my first three-ish months I was eating about 80% plant based, and since then I have been as fully vegan as I can be. There have been occasional slip-ups or accidental egg and dairy ingredient consumptions, but for the most part, I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made over the past year, and how quickly I have been able to transition from a plant based diet to a vegan lifestyle.

When I first decided to transition to a vegan diet, I honestly had no idea about the changes it would bring to my life. Most people have a solid reason for why they went vegan, most commonly for moral reasons due to animal cruelty, for environmental reasons, or for their health. For me, it happened a little bit differently. One of my best friends, Samantha (who inspired this post and who also has a blog called By the Soul that you should all check out), had been vegan for almost a year when I met her, and I was simply curious to know what it was actually like. So one day I was at the grocery store and I decided that I would commit to eating only plants for one week, and the rest is basically history.

I went vegan for no real reason, but I’ve decided to stay vegan for so many. I spent the following months doing research and watching documentaries that only made me more confident in my decision, and I have since experienced an incredible change in myself – not only in how I feel, but in how I see the world and in how I live my life day to day.

After reading Sam’s post 5 Unexpected Things That Happened From 3 Years of Not Eating Meat, I realized that I related so much to her experiences, and I thought it would be fun to reflect on the changes I’ve experienced in my first year of being vegan.

My love for ALL animals grew so much stronger

I think that this one would happen for almost everybody if they took the time to watch a few videos and do a bit of research. It didn’t take long for my switch to flip after doing these things. And I think that once it clicks for you, that’s it. People ask if I ever crave meat, dairy, etc. and the answer is truly no. After educating myself on the horrendously cruel practices of the meat, dairy, and egg industries, and listening to animal activists’ perspectives, I began to see all animals as sentient beings who want to live. I realized that there is no “ethical” or “humane” way to kill an animal who doesn’t want to die. I realized that it’s incredibly hypocritical to have been so disturbed by the thought of other countries eating dogs, but to not think twice about eating pigs, chickens, and cows. Who was I to decide who’s lives were more or less important than another’s? I realized that these animals, too, can think, feel, and love, and that they experience pain and fear just as we do. Now I find myself feeling the same kind of love toward all animals that I used to only feel toward cats and dogs.

I became much more environmentally aware, and have begun another new journey of sustainable living

For the environment was the first reason that pulled me in and made me see the importance in veganism, because it was the first thing that I educated myself on. The documentary Cowspiracy on Netflix was the hard slap in the face that I needed, and after learning about the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry, I found myself in disbelief that this wasn’t common public knowledge. Since then, I’ve realized that while being vegan is one of the biggest things I can do to help the planet, there are so many other things I can do as well. I think that once I realized how much of an impact something as small as my diet can have on the planet, it kind of created a snowball effect. I realized that by using a reusable cup when I go to Starbucks, or by shopping at bulk food stores and using plastic-free alternatives in my day-to-day life, I would save hundreds, even thousands, of pounds of plastic waste in my lifetime (see my posts Earth Day 2019: Single Use Plastic and Earth Day 2019: Zero Waste Kitchen ). I started seeing the unnecessary waste that we create, and became almost addicted to reducing my contribution in any and every way. And it hasn’t made my life harder – if anything, it’s made it feel more rewarding and purposeful. Being more mindful of my impact and caring enough to do something about it has been such a positive experience and has aligned me with values that I am proud to have.

I became a more conscious consumer

After making changes in the food that I spent my money on, I came to the realization that by spending money on animal-based products for all those years, I was supporting, and essentially paying for what was happening to these animals and for the damage that was being done to the planet. And it didn’t take long for this idea to spread into other areas of my life and other purchases I made. I realized that if I was so against animal cruelty for the production of food, why would I support it in the production of clothing, shoes, accessories, or beauty products? Changing these buying habits has been a bit of a slower transition, but I have now stopped buying shoes and accessories made with leather and fur, and have been slowly switching my skincare and beauty products to vegan and cruelty free alternatives (rip to my fav foundation, we had a great run).

Animal cruelty aside, I also took this mindset that I’m essentially using my dollars to vote for the things I want to support, and applied it to as much of my life as I could. I started seeing more value in buying local and from brands that value sustainability and ethics. I educated myself on fast fashion and decided that I no longer want to support an industry that is insanely unethical and that is contributing greatly to waste and greenhouse gas emissions (see my recent post What is fast fashion and why should we boycott it?). I could go on, but what I’m saying is that making a simple change in the food that I purchased lead to so many bigger changes in the things I value and in what I want to support.

I stopped craving animal-based foods

I still get asked alllllll the time, “Don’t you ever crave cheese?? Or like, a real cheeseburger??” And honestly, my answer is always no. I definitely used to crave certain animal-based foods, but it didn’t take long for me to find new favourites that have replaced those foods. When I’m craving a burger, I crave an A&W Beyond Burger instead of a beef burger. When I crave a grilled cheese sandwich, I crave it with one of the dairy free cheeses that I have grown to love. There are times when I see the food that my friends are eating and I think “ugh that looks good”, but given the opportunity to eat it, I still wouldn’t, because I just genuinely look at animal-based foods differently now, and they don’t appeal to me. And contrary to popular opinion, my life is no less full because I only eat food made from plants. TRUST ME, there is more than enough crave-worthy food out there that also happens to be cruelty free.

I started to love cooking more

I won’t lie, my first couple months of eating plant based were a bit of a challenge because I had no idea what to eat every day. After eating and cooking a certain way your entire life, and being taught that animal products are necessary for a balanced diet, it took some extra effort to figure out what to make that would be both healthy and satisfying. There is this misconception that vegans just live off of salad, rice, and tofu, and that your quality of life goes downhill the day you decide to give up fried chicken and foods loaded with dairy. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Aside from how I get enough protein (*insert eye roll*), the most common question I get is “Do you find it hard? Like I don’t think I could do it, I wouldn’t be able to make enough food that I like”. And to that I say, it’s not hard, it’s an adjustment. Just like any other dietary change or restriction such as learning you have an allergy to gluten or dairy, or getting a list from your doctor of a bunch of foods to avoid because of a condition you have. There’s a learning and adjusting period, but as soon as I started getting a little more creative, I found a new love for cooking and trying new recipes that I never would have otherwise tried. I learned that I could veganize literally any recipe, and create cruelty-free versions of all of my old favourites.

I became more interested in health and nutrition

This was the last of the three common reasons for going vegan to become important to me, maybe because it’s the one that’s for my own benefit. But after exhausting Netflix and YouTube’s documentaries on the environmental and ethical perspectives, I watched Forks Over Knives and What the Health, and again, I was left feeling truly outraged that I was just learning these things now, at 23 years old. I was mind-blown as I learned about the serious health issues linked to consuming animals and their by-products. I became interested in learning about the nutritional value in plant versus animal based foods, so that when faced with the common questions and concerns about whether I get all of the nutrients I need, I can hit people with the facts. Cutting out animal products has made me feel so much healthier, and I know I can feel good about what I’m putting in my body, even if some days that’s an entire pint of non-dairy Ben and Jerry’s. It’s about balance, okay?

That’s all for today! I hope you’ve learned a little bit more about me and why so many people are choosing to go vegan. I’m so grateful for all of the changes and new passions that have come into my life as a result of my own journey. As always, comments and questions are more than welcome. I’d love to hear about your experiences with veganism, or if you’re thinking about trying out a plant-based diet!

With love and (dairy-free) lattes,

Jenna

2 thoughts on “How My First Year of Being Vegan Changed Me

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