Thursday, 25 August 2016

How do you know if someone is vegan?

Don't worry they'll tell you!

Yeah, I've never heard that one before.. 

Before I went vegan last year, I didn't really have a lot going on in my life, nothing interesting. I didn't really care that much about what I ate, or my environmental impact, I never really thought about it. When I finally started researching and watched Earthlings which made me vegan overnight (read my vegan story here) I found a new passion, finally something I can invest my time and energy into! I had realised I need to be more respectful to my own body as well as the environment and I didn't want to contribute to animal cruelty and injustice. Its almost as if I found a purpose, and something that people recognize me for, its given me a new lease on life. 

Because of all that, it is who I am, it is what I do, and it is my identity. I am incredibly proud of who I have become, because I decided to ditch animal products and reduce my carbon footprint, I decided to take a step back and open my eyes to what is really going on in the world. Before, I ate all kinds of food, but a lot of processed foods or foods that had a lot of ingredients which I can't even pronounce. I worked on a pizza counter for 2 years and I created a little thing called "pizza Wednesdays" where I'd have pizza almost every Wednesday, and to be honest, having a whole 10 inch pizza to yourself every week is far from healthy. The craziest thing is that all of the toppings I had were meat, I never had vegetables on my pizza. I thought that by having it only once a week it meant my diet was balanced, how wrong I was! I started getting really bad acid reflux and indigestion, I was in discomfort and found it hard to sleep, and I wasn't in very good shape overall. I had a very bland, boring, almost non-existent relationship with food and I didn't love and care about my body the way I should have. I'd get home from work and throw chips and chicken breast into the oven, or have macaroni cheese from a tin and think I was healthy if I had a salad alongside it. I rarely ate fruit, I'd buy a punnet of grapes and a week or two later I'd find them in the back of the fridge, mouldy! 

I never really checked labels, I'd just put things into the shopping trolley if they seemed healthy or looked nice, and if I had a roast dinner with my family I'd more often than not drown the vegetables in cheese sauce. Even when I thought I was eating healthily, I really wasn't. My last non vegan meal from what I remember, was a salad made up of cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce, with new potatoes (covered in butter!) & a Bernard Matthews (!) chicken escalope. It turns out the chicken was a couple of days past its use by date, and I was up all night being violently ill. 

The first time I went shopping for vegan food, I was so excited. I'd never been so excited to get groceries before, because it used to be a chore, and it was one of those things I had to do, now, its like an adventure. Every time I go shopping I find something new, whether its a vegetable I haven't tried, a dairy free yoghurt alternative, a vegan cheese or even baked goods. I have a great relationship with food, I know more about nutrition now than I ever did before, I don't think I even knew about any essential acids or vitamins when I was a meat eater, I just knew we needed protein and calcium, I didn't really care. I was putting myself at risk of deficiencies and all sorts of health problems. I was definitely not getting enough back then. The most amazing change is that  I now absolutely love cooking, creating new flavours and meals, making alternatives to classic meat dishes such as shepherds pie, spaghetti bolognese and carbonara, and realising how diverse plant based foods are, I never would've known you can make pulled "pork" with mushrooms or jackfruit, I don't think I'd even heard of jackfruit back then! I now eat a lot of healthy, raw, organic & nutrient dense meals. I make sure I'm getting enough of what I need, something I never did before.

People seem to forget that anyone is capable of becoming sick or deficient on any diet. I don't know anyone that checks labels as much as vegans do, how bad is that? People just throw anything into their shopping baskets without checking the ingredients, they have no idea what they are putting into their bodies. Most people will argue with me about how vegans don't get enough protein, without actually knowing anything about nutrition, they're just conditioned to believe that protein is something we need a lot of and the best source is meat. 

Not only has my health improved and my relationship with food, but my mental health has improved a lot. Sometimes I don't feel that good, or I feel a bit down, and all I have to do is remind myself that I am standing up for something, I'm causing the least harm I possibly can to animals and the environment & I actually have something to focus my energy on, that makes me feel so good, I feel so much better almost instantly when I remind myself what it is I am doing. Before I had veganism I honestly don't even know what I was doing. It's not even that I tell people I am vegan out of nowhere, sometimes I'll just say I am an animal lover, or I'll say "no thanks I don't eat meat" and people will ask me if I am vegetarian or vegan. If I meet new people and they decide we're going to go out for food, of course I'm going to tell them I am vegan. This whole how do you know if someone is vegan joke is really weird, because it makes it sound like vegans just tell people they are vegan for no reason? Or out of nowhere? No one does that! If the subject comes up, of COURSE I will take the opportunity to talk about how happy it makes me and how much positive impact it has had on my life. If I could inspire someone to change even a little bit, for themselves, the animals and or the environment, that's incredible.

All of this positive impact has made me who I am today, and I feel like I actually have something worth fighting for. My life changed in so many ways, for the better when I made that transition. I would love more than anything for it to inspire someone else, someone that could be like me, who needs something to pick them up and make them feel like they have a purpose. Even if its only in a small way. I know that by talking about it, it makes people think, and it influences people. My mum, has given up red meats, she only ever takes plant based milk in her coffee, she doesn't eat eggs anymore and she has lost weight. She looks and feels much healthier than before, to me, that is amazing. I'd never expect her to go vegan, I'd never expect anyone to go vegan by me talking to them, I'm not trying to force people or make them feel bad. I merely want to educate and inspire. The things I talk about when it comes to animals and environment are real facts, there's real things happening that I believe people should know, and then they can make that choice for themselves. Whether its now or in years to come. I will never stop speaking out for animals and the environment, I will always remind people that I am a happier, healthier, motivated person in comparison to my old self since going vegan. If that's not something to rave about then I don't know what is.

I know that people often think vegans can be "in your face" and honestly I can understand where people come from, because I was once a meat eater and I had a vegan on Facebook and I remember getting really annoyed when she shared videos on Facebook of animal cruelty. Now I'm so glad she did that, because she was one of the people that influenced me, and I never even realised it at the time. The reason the videos annoyed me, is because I hated what was happening to those poor animals and I was not ready to stop eating meat so I was battling with my own morals. Vegans do not expect the whole world to suddenly turn vegan, in fact we don't expect the whole world to turn vegan at all, because realistically its probably not going to happen and certainly not straight away, but we will never stop speaking out & educating. Put it this way, if you saw someone being mistreated, and it kept happening every day, and no one said anything about it, but you thought it was wrong & needed to change, would you just sit back and let it happen, or would you take action?  And, if you discovered an amazing way to live life, that made you feel good on the inside and the outside and could literally save lives, would you want to shout about it from the rooftops? Or would you just keep it to yourself and watch the world go by not knowing?

I know what I choose. 

If you are thinking of going vegan or want to know more, here's a few useful links :)


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