When I was young, I hated vegetables and fruits*, and my mom used to love telling me that one day, I would grow up and marry a vegan, at which point I would have to learn to eat vegetables. Well, the tables have turned.
I didn’t start eating vegetables until my freshman year in college, and since I started, I’ve been expanding my palette. I spent about a year trying new combos and learning what I liked and didn’t like, at which point I had to do a food production research project for a class. Having to spend time actually learning how much waste goes into meat, poultry and fish was heartbreaking, and slightly disgusting, so I decided to go vegetarian.
Being vegetarian was fine – I lasted about ten months, having to stop in order to redefine and fix my relationship with food, but I didn’t hate it. I had plenty of options, and got to keep my ice creams. However, once I stepped out of it, I had time and space to change the way I understood and viewed food, which was essential for my mental health.
Once 2019 rolled around, I knew I wanted to challenge myself and try to grow, as well as make my life more environmentally friendly. I sat down, wrote a list of goals, and quickly came across the very real problem that food poses. In its creation, its distribution and if not eaten, the way it’s disposed of. So I knew that was an area of my life in which I would have to make major changes.
Coupled with this desire to be more green, I also discovered, much to my dismay, I am lactose intolerant. And from there, I realized it was time to begin my journey towards one of my biggest, and longest-awaited, goals – going vegan.
I started small in January – trying to cut out all the dairy in my life, and find ways to replace it with something else. At the beginning, this was tough – I desperately missed ice cream, and wanted to eat the chocolate chip cookies in our communal cookie jar. It took about two months, but eventually, I figured it out. I found the substitutes I needed, but turning down buttery biscuits or double chocolate muffins was still pretty hard.
As I worked on turning down milk-filled and buttery goods, I worked on stopping eating eggs. This also took about two more months, and turning down baked goods started becoming easier. It wasn’t exactly second nature yet, but it was certainly no longer a drag and pain like it used to be. Actually, by this point (end of April/May), no dairy and no eggs felt like second nature. I knew what all my alternatives were, and I started ensuring they were always within reach.
Once I got to school in late May, I sort of accidentally went full into vegan mode. I was planning on just cutting red meat, but I ended up just not buying any fish or chicken in the first week or so, and after a week of that, I decided, what the hell? Might as well make this the next step – and so, full vegan mode began.
It’s only been about three weeks since that change, but I’ve eaten at home, gotten take out and cooked for myself, and in every scenario, I’ve been able to make #vegancertified decisions. Yes, it is always sad when there are cookies in the office and I can’t grab them, but I always have some kind of backup with me, whether it’s oreos (trying to cut back because, well, palm oil) or glazed pecans (love, love, love – Trader Joe’s is truly amazing).
Here are some changes I have personally felt during this time:
- Increased energy – no, it’s not a lie or rip-off. I seriously have so much more energy throughout the day, especially when I have to run or lift after work, and trust me, it’s not because I’ve been sleeping a ton more.
- More happiness – sometimes, after work, I’m tired, and as I get tired, I end up slipping into a sad loll, in which I lay on my bed and binge watch the latest on Netflix. However, since I went completely vegan, I get back to my room, change and then start trekking to my workout. Sure, when I’m tired, I take a bit more time to get workout-ready, but I have yet to miss a workout due to tiredness.
- Less focus on ‘health’ – as a baby vegan, I am simply concentrating on keeping animal products out of my diet. Whilst this can get difficult at times (I am headed to a fish restaurant soon, so I’ll have to update you on that one), it tends to cut out the focus I used to have on making sure I am keeping my food ‘clean’. It sort of streamlines the process, and has removed all stress from food actually.
I know not everyone is ready to switch to an all vegan diet. That would be ridiculous. But I do think that slowly, you can cut the most environmentally harmful parts of your diet out. I went from no vegetables and fruits to full on vegan, in three and a half years. It’s not an overnight thing, but a long term process. I continue to learn every single day, more about the food I’m buying, how to make more sustainable choices, and I highly doubt I’ll ever have it perfect. But hopefully, if we all start making small changes, the bigger impact will be felt sooner rather than later.
*I still cannot eat fruits alone, and can only eat them in a smoothie or candy form. I know, weird – but better than complete avoidance. As I like to say, this is #growth
Love, xx Giorgia