Change of Diet or Change of Heart?

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Katie Merrick
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Vegan. I thought this was just another weird fad diet until I was enlightened by my roommates. This past fall, I moved in with two friends who follow a diet that doesn’t include any animal products. Through them I learned a lot about a vegan diet, and even decided to try it myself. I want to share with you my experience, challenges, and rewards as I participated in this experiment.

It’s more than just a “diet” –  it’s a way of life

There are many reasons why people choose to be vegan. The first lesson I learned is the varying “levels” of vegan. Some choose to remove animal products just from their diet, and others try to remove animal products from their lifestyle all together.

Varying reasons behind the choice

I was blown away by the “rational” of why people choose to go vegan. It’s more than just a healthy diet, or even just a weight loss tool. People adopt vegan diets because of sustainability, world hunger, and even animal welfare. Some people choose to go vegan to show opposition to the meat and animal industries. By seeing that people are adopting a vegan diet for multiple reasons other than just healthy eating, I felt even more encouraged to persevere and eat more sustainably and more humanely.

A gradual change

I started removing meat products a few days prior to the start of my experiment and removed all other animal products at the start of my week-long trial. I won’t claim that I went the full experience without error. Without thinking I spread butter on my dinner roll and put honey in my tea only to realize afterwards that honey is technically an animal product. I quickly realized the awareness it takes to be vegan and the need for attention to detail. However, my roommates encouraged me not to give up. What is better than perfection is the attempt to make changes. No one is perfect, and there is no such thing as a “perfect vegan.” However, if we all make a gradual change towards the ideals of veganism, we can accomplish so much in the way of sustainability, animal welfare, world hunger – and even our own health.

Results quickly noticed

As the week progressed, I realized all the health benefits of the food I was eating. I was buying less premade food and buying more ingredients and vegetables. It’s not too difficult to cook vegan when you have the knowledge. I was eating more leafy greens and spending more time cooking dinner rather than using the microwave to cook it for me. As a result, I had more energy, and felt more “light” as opposed to the heaviness and grogginess that sometimes results from eating lots of meat and dairy.

A surprising challenge

I found the greatest challenge to be social pressure. When we grow up in a society where eating animals is the “norm” I found it hard to be the “weird one” by standing by my beliefs to eat a plant based diet. People asked me about my protein intake and my health concerns. Eating animals is not necessary to sustain life, and with vitamin supplements and a balanced diet, health shouldn’t be a concern. We can get our protein from dark leafy greens, beans, and even peanut butter! What is most encouraging is seeing veganism on the rise. Millennials are predicted to be the most adoptive generation of the vegan diet. With the younger generation increasing in support of the vegan lifestyle, it’s only growing in popularity.

I learned a lot from this experience. I can see just how much animal products are ingrained into society. There are animal products in almost anything from clothes to hair products. I also learned how rewarding the health benefits are from eating more veggies and fewer dairy products. While this experience was only 7 days, I learned a great deal and I understand why my roommates chose to adopt a vegan lifestyle. While I will not be converting to a fully vegan diet, I do intend to maintain a more plant based eating habit and a greater awareness of what I am eating.

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