Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned up side down so I’d like to take a minute just sit right there— (I couldn’t resist, sorry lol), this is the story of how I became vegan though:
I’m from Alabama. Excuse my grammar but ain’t nothing vegan about Alabama or the traditional southern diet. I grew up eating all the fried chicken I could handle, every vegetable dish laced with meat, chit’lins on the holidays and my fair share of cornbread. I have amazing parents who are from Alabama, both of whom worked full-time my whole life, so even though my mom cooked often, I also had my fair share of fast food and frozen meals growing up, as did the majority my peers growing up in the ‘90s because convenience was the “IT” factor in the food industry during that time, with marketing targeted toward working parents.
One day when I was eight years old, I OD’d on chicken nuggets at a very popular fast food chain which led to an ocean of vomit and a solemn vow to never eat at that place again. From that point on, when my parents and friends decided to stop there, I’d pass on a meal, no matter how hungry I was. I still ate other fast food, just not there. In retrospect, that was the foundation of dietary choices that would later require me to respectfully decline foods that I did not feel were the best for me.
Fast forward to 2011, my sophomore year of college. I had entered college as a biology/pre-med major with a goal of becoming an optometrist. However, after freshman year I realized that biology didn’t intrigue me and I decided to explore other sciences that would be more applicable to my life. My university had an awesome food and nutritional sciences program and I decided to study nutrition, because the curriculum was challenging and I would learn information that I could use in my daily life.
My life changed after I started to learn more about food and food production. As I learned more, I altered my dietary habits more. First I cut out fast food and conventional processed foods altogether, opting for “clean” labels, organic foods, and consuming more foods that didn’t come from a package. I also limited my sugar intake and restricted my beverage intake to water only. I entered college at 155 pounds; after making these changes I weighed 135.
Thankfully, I never had body image issues, and I did not change my diet for the purpose of losing weight. However, it blew my mind how much weight I lost by making these changes. I loved my new body and maintained my weight with ease. The more information that I gathered, the more I tweaked my habits. Later in my journey, after counseling heart disease patients during a practicum, I decided to cut out red meat. Eventually, during my senior year, I decided to become flexitarian and only eat meat occasionally. I eased my way into it, by first not eating meat at every meal during the day, then eating meat every other day, and by the time I decided to eat meat once a week, I realized that I ate it so infrequently that I did not crave it anymore.
My last step in becoming vegan was giving up dairy, which was easy when I found out that 70% of the earth’s population is lactose intolerant. I found it very weird that we have to promote breastfeeding to mothers but cow’s milk is marketed to us and widely accepted as healthy, even though mature cows don’t even drink it. So yeah, it made no sense and there were way too many delicious alternatives for me to miss it! After going vegan, I lost another 12 pounds, which came as a surprise. So I went from a size 6-8 to a size 0-2, and my new body is still so weird to me because I remember being bigger. But I feel great and I’m happy, so that’s an amazing feeling!
After easing into this lifestyle, I have made even more changes, sometimes adding things that I wouldn’t consume before. Since I’ve gotten comfortable as a vegan, I now enjoy juice again occasionally and I eat vegan junk food when I have a craving that won’t go away. Vegan junk food can and will add on pounds (as it has), but weight management and overall health for me has been much better since I’ve been vegan.
So, if you’re considering a vegan diet and you have not transitioned yet, or if you’re transitioning but struggling, just know that you don’t have to do it overnight. The most important and rewarding part of the journey is learning. Most likely, your knowledge base will be the key to you maintaining your commitment. So keep learning, keep experimenting, and stay connected to this site for ideas and advice! 🙂
Wishing You Much Love and Veggieness,