10 Things Veganism Gave Back To Me

My journey to veganism has been one hell of a ride. In the throes of a volatile online landscape, vegans have gotten an incredibly bad rap. It’s terrible to watch such an important movement get overrun by extremist and narcissistic rhetoric. I’d like to speak openly and honestly about my struggles as a vegan in 2017—but we’ll save that for a later post.

For now, I’d like to focus on the positives.

Disclaimer: I am not a perfect person, nor a perfect vegan. Even now, years into my decision to change, I slip up much to my chagrin. Also, I’m not a doctor. This is my personal experience.

Here are 10 things veganism has given back to me.

1. Health

As a young girl (yes, even before I was sexually active) I suffered from chronic UTI. I’m sure many females can identify with the intense pain and discomfort of that dreaded burn between the thighs. And after years of struggling, countless perscriptions, gallons of cranberry juice and a kidney infection, I was fed up.

I’ve always been someone who hated taking medicine. I consider it a counterintuitive, quick-fix complete with side effects and little true healing. Walking past the butcher shop in my Chicago neighborhood in the heat of summer 2014, I had a thought. Rather than adding something to my daily routine, I must eliminate something. I wanted to heal myself from the inside.

As any good child of the Internet would do, I Googled “eating meat and UTIs.” The doors of the vegan web flew open—YouTube videos, case studies, news articles, blogs—and I knew then that if I was truly going to find my health again, I had to eliminate meat from my diet. A few days later, my lingering fiery friend and I said goodbye—for good.

Turns out, animal protein is incredibly difficult for your organs to filter—go figure.

I didn’t go vegan (or even vegetarian) straightaway. I fell off. Plates full of dead animal flesh, cheese and eggs only made me feel shitty again. It wasn’t until I made a commitment to eliminate ALL animal products my senior year of college, that I truly began to see results.

My UTIs were forever gone, my hair, skin and nails were given new life and my energy level was through the roof. All of the extra weight (water and fat) that I had hung onto from all of those nights of beer and pizza fell off. I truly felt like myself again.

2. Energy

In addition to chronic UTI, pre-vegan me was addicted to caffeine and still experienced that three o’clock wall all Americans seem to collectively hit. It took every ounce of my being to get out of bed in the morning, until noon to have anything worthy to offer the world and copious cups of coffee to avoid napping.

Now, I literally eat rabbit food and I have as much energy as one. I don’t nap, I don’t rely on caffeine and I’m alert all day.

In addition to other terrible things, meat, dairy and eggs are so difficult to digest they literally suck all of your energy in order to pass them through your gut. Personally, I’d rather spend that energy elsewhere—like living.

3. Clarity

Brain fog was real. Eliminating animal products and introducing unlimited whole plant foods helped me to see, hear, think and act more clearly. I’m not a doctor, trial and error has shown me this time and time again.

4. Compassion

Health played a large role in why I went vegan but ethics keep me vegan. Even now, I continue to watch footage of slaughterhouses, dairy farms and poultry pens to remind myself how rotting flesh and calf sustenance ends up on plates around the world. However cliché it may sound, I am disgusted by meat when I see it. Number one, it doesn’t really taste that great unless it’s heavily breaded or seasoned. Number two, I could never bring myself to kill an animal with my own bare hands, so why pay someone else to do it?

Compassion towards the most innocent beings on this plant isn’t an extreme idea. What is extreme is the amount of brainwashing the meat and dairy industry pushes on consumers, normalizing an industry that 1) kills something that doesn’t want to be killed and 2) damages our bodies, contributing to our epidemic of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. From the “Got Milk” campaign to the food pyramid—it’s all propaganda.

And it isn’t just pigs, chickens, cows and our bodies that are suffering. Our planet is dying a rapid rate. In an article for Forbes Jeff McMahon outlined “9 Things You Can Do About Climate Change.” Number one on his list? Follow a vegan diet:

“The share of greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture is usually pegged at 14.5 percent to 18 percent, but the Worldwatch Institute found lots of oversights in those calculations that, when properly counted, bring the ag contribution all the way up to 51 percent. That, you’ll notice, is more than half. Which means that after we clean up all the transportation, energy, industry and commerce in the world, we’ve done less than half the job. The other half is meat and dairy. Refuse to eat it. If this seems too challenging, consider giving it up one day a week. It will still be the most important action you can take.”

The bottom line is, you love you dog or cat, but you think the lives of equally intelligent and sentient beings are expendable or you ignore how that bacon you “can’t live without” is literally killing our planet, please WAKE UP.

5. Peace

I’m a damn hippie ya’ll. I wear the title proudly. Veganism has brought me total peace of mind, soul, body and spirit. Peace of mind about my health. Peace of mind about saving innocent lives. Peace of mind about the impact I’m making on the environment. Peace of mind about the future.

6. Hope

The more open I am about my choice to be vegan, the more I find opportunities to educate. I find those willing to think for themselves and digest new information that contradicts what they’ve believed their entire lives. I, too, went through the same fight within myself as I went vegan. Those that truly listen and consider give me hope for the future of our planet and all earthlings.

7. Creativity

I’ve never had more fun in the kitchen than as a vegan home cook. Sometimes I just sit back and stare at my wire rack full of bananas, tomatoes, oranges, pears, apples, potatoes and dates and I feel thankful. If I want to, I can just pick something up and eat it and it will be incredibly satisfying.

Since going vegan, however, I’ve thought up some wild recipes. We all have comfort foods we enjoyed as a child and it’s an adventure trying to recreate cruelty-free versions of those things I “miss.” The truth is, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I like challenging the misconception that vegan food is boring or gross. I’ve made incredible cruelty-free baked goods, mac and Gary and wraps—sometimes better than the original.

And yes, my recipes often flop, but it remains a creative outlet. There’s no feeling more satisfying than a positive review from a bleeding heart omnivore.

8. Confidence

I alluded to it before and I won’t get too deep here, but it’s hard out here for a vegan. Naysayers, however, just give me more confidence in my decision. More often than not, they have no concrete reasoning for the way that they eat other than “that’s the way I was raised” or “it tastes good.” I know exactly why I eat the way I eat and that makes me all the more confident.

And let’s not forget, since going vegan I feel lighter, healthier and stronger than ever before—that sure does a lot for your confidence.

9. Forgiveness

Being a vegan in 2017 requires a lot of forgiveness. Everyone you love is NOT going to become a vegan. I can’t blame my parents, my boyfriend or my friends for living the way a majority of the world lives. All I can do is offer forgiveness and education. I try to meet people where they are at a given time. I share my thoughts, my food, my love and sometimes that’s all you can do.

10. Passion

Passion about veganism can be entirely misconstrued (especially on the Internet). But just like any human who goes through a life changing experience, I want to share what I’ve found. Veganism is something I’m passionate about. I love discovering more, loving more and eating more. It’s a daily decision and a big part of my life. Like anything else, it may be met with criticism or taken the wrong way but I will always be a voice for the voiceless.

~ Veganism isn’t the loss of anything—it’s the gain of everything. ~

Stay compassionate,
Erin

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