“I could never stop eating meat! I like it too much!” “I could never give up cheese!” “Eggs are healthy….I wouldn’t stop eating them” -All things that I hear people say frequently, and I can’t help but chuckle. Why? Because I’ve said it all, too.
My journey to Veganism was so unexpected…but yet so expected at the same time. I never thought I’d be vegan, but then again, it makes complete sense. Confused yet? I promise it’s simpler than it seems.
My vegan story started when I decided that I was done living the way that I was.
Before getting to that, though, I think it is important to talk about my childhood and my relationship with food throughout my life.
As a kid, I ate the SAD (standard American diet). We ate lots of fast food, processed food, basically, I didn’t eat any fruits or vegetables except the occasional banana. When I was 6 or 7, I became overweight. My weight continued to go up as I got older. I weighed over 100 pounds by the time I turned 10. By 13, I weighed 160 pounds. By 15, I was 180. See how the numbers just keep going up? I always felt bad about my appearance, and I never felt good in my skin. I felt that people told me that it was my responsibility to lose weight…ever since I was 8 years old. So much pressure for a child. I tried Jenny Craig at 16 (at that point I was over 200 pounds), and I used to try to calorie restrict. It made me miserable. Nothing was working, and by the time I reached my 21st birthday, I had gained 50 more pounds. Something needed to be done.
First, I should say that I have considered and tried being vegetarian multiple times throughout my life. As a kid, I always wanted to stop eating meat, but so many people would stop me from it. My parents, my friend’s parents, teachers, friends, etc. At 15, I decided to give vegetarianism a try. Now, I knew nothing about nutrition at the time, and I was still unhealthy (lots of milk, eggs, processed foods, sugar, etc.), but I did find it very easy to maintain my weight. I actually really liked how I looked even though I was still overweight. I was vegetarian for about 5 months. Then, I just gave it up. I had no real reason for it, I just felt done. On one hand, I regret this decision. On the other hand, I feel like I needed to go through what I went through to make it to where I am now.
Ok, let’s get back to turning 21. I ate some despicably unhealthy food and drank lots of alcohol, and I felt….well, awful. This was not a unique feeling: For that entire year, I had felt that my eating choices were catching up to me. I knew that I needed to start doing something about it, but I didn’t until I stepped on the scale about a week after my birthday. I ended up crying. I was done. I was done treating myself so poorly. I was done feeling miserable. Something needed to be done.
My boyfriend agreed that our current lifestyle wasn’t working, and we needed to make a change. In July 2015, I felt ready to make some changes. At first, we were not vegan, but we were eating “healthier” meals (still heavy in animal products, but trust me, it was an improvement). I was researching health blogs, and I came across the term “plant based”. I didn’t understand what that meant (but assumed that it incorporated fruits and vegetables), and when I learned that it was pretty much a vegan diet, I felt a little closed off. “I could never do that”. I kept saying to myself. Still, I was curious after seeing all the positive results that people were having from living a plant based diet, and I couldn’t deny that it had some good health benefits. I came up with this genius solution: 3 days vegan, 2 days vegetarian, 2 days omnivore. Matthew seemed on board with this as well, especially after we tried vegan mac and cheese (and totally liked it). It seemed like a great plan, but an even greater plan was coming..
At the end of July, I was scrolling through youtube, and on my feed, I saw a video called 101 Reason to Go Vegan. I decided to watch it because hey, I had an hour to kill. I didn’t know that it would be one of the most important videos I have ever watched.
I was overwhelmed by all of the information. I learned about the health, ethical, environmental, and sustainable benefits of going vegan. It seemed far too logical to cut dairy, meat, and eggs for good. After the video was over, I wanted to learn more. Luckily, I found Gary Yourofsky’s Best Speech You Will Ever Hear. Gary had a different approach than the activist in the “101 Reasons to Go Vegan” video, but I did not find him off-putting in the slightest. In fact, it was quite the contrary. I felt inspired. I felt ready to make a change for the better. Matthew actually started watching the speeches with me at some point, and even though he did not see as much as I did, he said that he did not want to eat meat or drink milk ever again. I agreed.
The next day, I felt so ready to make some changes. I was going to be vegan. I was sure of that. I just didn’t know where to start. Matthew came home that day and said that our first idea of being vegan for 3 days a week might be better. I disagreed, and he ended up understanding my point of view. It was decided: we were going to be vegan, and we were going to transition as soon as we could. We knew that Veganism would be a healthy lifestyle for us if we did it correctly, so I spent lots of time researching and seeing how to make the most of my diet.
Transitioning was tough. It was the last week of July, and our fridge had milk, eggs, chicken, and other animal products. We knew that we could not completely make this change over night, even though we really wanted to. I’m a college student. My spending is important, and I was not going to waste anything. We ended up giving my mom a few things, but other than that, we made it our goal to officially go vegan on August 1, 2015. It wasn’t fun, but we used up all our animal products, and only bought vegan food from then on. Reading labels for the first time seemed tedious, but we also had fun learning more about recipes that we can make and foods we can still have. Being vegan seemed like it could be fun, and with some creativity, we did not have to give anything up (I was so right!!).
The last day I remember eating meat was a couple days before August 1st. I had lunch with my friends, and remember telling them that I was planning on going vegan, but since it wasn’t official yet, I could have some chicken. Honestly, it wasn’t too satisfying. I knew then that I would not miss meat, and I was happy to know that I wasn’t going to be eating it for much longer.
1st photo: me in October of 2013. I weighed the same as I did when I reached my highest weight. 2nd photo: Right before going plant-based. Even though I look much smaller, I actually only weighed about 7 pounds less.
In the first month or two, Matthew and I definitely felt lost. It took awhile to learn to appreciate the food. Going from processed, fatty, and sugary foods to whole foods isn’t always easy. We depended on mock meats and processed vegan products to help us transition, and honestly, I would recommend this to vegan beginners (vegan beginner tip guide coming soon!). Mock meats are a great way to transition because they make it seem like you don’t have to give anything up. Some of the vegan products are really good (another post coming soon on favorite products), but I knew that for long-term health, we wouldn’t be dependent on them forever.
We ended up buying cookbooks, trying new recipes, and planned out our meals in advanced. Suddenly, being Vegan got SO much easier!
After a month, I felt that my life was changing for the better.
In September, I was down 15 pounds from my starting weight. I went to the doctor, and I told her all about my new lifestyle. Her response was, “Great! Keep it up because it is working”. My weight and high blood pressure had gone down already! Getting the OK from my physician made me feel even better about my decision. I was embracing whole foods, and while we still had so much to learn about nutrition, we were making steady progress. Matthew dropped 20 pounds so quickly. Everyone around him was telling him how much smaller he was. He was feeling amazing and loved our lifestyle.
Also, initially I did not feel that the ethical side was important to me because I was uneducated. I wanted to continue purchasing MAC makeup and leather shoes. That all changed when I watched Earthlings and Cowspiracy. I realized then that there is so much more to Veganism than health. I felt that I had so much more to fight for, and knowing how my decisions affect others, animals, and the environment have helped me stay vegan.
In October, I was down over 20 pounds. I joined the gym, and found it easy to be active, even though I had not seriously worked out in so long. At this point, I was really getting into trying new vegan recipes, which has made me realize that I wanted to one day start a blog to talk about my journey and share recipes and lifestyle tips (took 7 months, but I did it!).
November was such a big month for me! I became certified in Beliraq Dance Fitness and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. I was down 25 pounds, and had this new sense of confidence in my health and fitness.
I did not want the holidays to be an excuse for eating unhealthy. I decided to work out consistently and stay on track. I was still 100% vegan, but I did still indulge a bit. I was down 33 pounds and was finally realizing that it is ok to eat something unhealthy-as long as it’s vegan and in moderation. BTW, yes, my bag is real leather. Post coming about that may be coming soon.
I was so ready to start the new year! I felt so happy with 2015, and was so ready to just keep going. I had lost 38 pounds, and Matthew was down 30 pounds as well. We were looking different and feeling better.
After 6 months as a vegan, I felt like making a side-by-side comparison. Some days, even though I had lost 42 pounds, I thought I looked the same. This photo really proved me wrong and really shocked me and my friends. I realized that long-term results were possible, and I felt so proud of myself.
December 2014 vs. March 2016.
In March, Matthew and I had the pleasure of going to Las Vegas. Normally, vacations stressed me out because I had nothing to wear. For the first time, I felt so comfortable and confident in my dresses. I was able to enjoy good vegan food and have fun.
I was down 45 pounds, and my weight loss was starting to slow down. This was intentional. I wanted to avoid lose skin and gaining the weight back. I realized that if I am patient, the weight will go off more slowly, but will be more maintainable. I currently eat 1800-2000 calories, and I refuse to eat less than that.
I was now down 47 pounds, and I felt frustrated initially. I wanted my weight to go down a little more quickly, but some unhealthy eating during Las Vegas, Finals Week, and Easter made that difficult.
Ultimately, I decided not to give up, and really stuck to clean eating and exercise. I also hit a small bump in my fitness-I felt a bit uninspired, but after really pushing myself, I have developed a routine that I love and that I look forward to. I have started loving fitness more and more, and am now really into running, yoga, dance fitness, and am starting to get into spinning and swimming.
I was overjoyed to step on the scale and see that I have lost 50 pounds. It is such a milestone that I am extremely proud of. I am feeling great, and am starting to like my body. I like what I am becoming and I can’t wait to see how it continues to transform before my eyes. I have lost 50 pounds after 9 months on the vegan lifestyle, and I have gained confidence, happiness, and a purpose: to share the importance of a healthy and compassionate life. I am still learning so much, and I hope that we can learn together. I am still trying to be my happiest, and I still struggle sometimes with my body image. However, I have come such a long way that I am truly proud of. My accomplishments have shown me that I am capable of so much more than I ever knew, and that I have no reason to ever doubt myself.
One year! I lost 54 pounds and was healthier than ever!
Unfortunately, stress of school, losing both my grandparents within two months, and not really caring about my health, I gained 19 pounds. As of March 9, 2017, I have lost 2 of the 19 pounds, so taking the setback in mind, I have lost a total of 37 pounds, not 54. I hope to get back on track and lose all the extra weight and more. I am back to eating better, working out, and caring about myself. A bump in the road does not and will not define my entire life or the efforts I have made. In my mind, it’s all up from here.
I love this lifestyle, and I swear by it. I love being vegan, and I love how much I have grown just by making one life decision-little did I know it would end up being such a big, significant decision that has influenced my entire life. My one goal is to show that plant-based living doesn’t have to be restrictive, and that it can change lives for the better (like it did mine!).
I can’t wait to see where I’ll be in 3 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years. Time will tell!
I will continue adding to this as my life continues to change for the better. I want to thank everyone who has supported me thus far, this is just the start!