Today’s post is about my transition and adoption of a new diet and lifestyle. Call it what you want – plant-based, vegan…whatever. It’s not about the name you give it, it’s about the meaning you credit to it.
Without any further ado… How did I become vegan?
One day I woke up and thought it’d be a good idea to be vegan, cause you know, it was in and as my sister likes to mock me: ‘You’re only vegan because you want to use that vegan hashtag on Instagram’.
Here’s the full story…
I was never into junk food and always tried to eat healthily. Of course, what’s considered healthy changes over time.
I’ve always been into sports and I’ve always been slim. However, during my first year at uni, I wasn’t satisfied with where I was with my body. I worked out a lot, but couldn’t see any huge improvements. There was no difference between me, who did exercise at least 4 times a week, and a girl who goes out partying 4 times a week. I was stuck. I felt angry. It just wasn’t fair. I knew it couldn’t be due to lack of training, so I started experimenting with my diet and educating myself about nutrition.
Diet number 1 – The Ketogenic Diet
This was the very first diet I tried. During Christmas, I got inspired by my sister who was on the diet and got incredible results. You know, the things girls want, a thigh gap, skinny legs, flat stomach etc.
When I arrived back in Scotland after Christmas, I wanted to give it a try. I was only eating low-carb foods, because that’s what the diet’s all about. High-fat, high-protein and almost no carbs. This means I was eating yoghurt, cottage cheese, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, cream, whey protein powder all the time (the exact opposite of what I eat now). Was I eating veggies? Yes, but only green vegetables, because believe it or not, even veggies contain a lot of carbs. Was I eating fruit? Only forest fruits – due to their low-carb feature. Imagine eating plain yoghurt, kale salad with chicken and high-fat cream all the time. A nightmare. I felt sick, without energy. It was sucking the life out of me. My taste-buds and stomach weren’t happy either. I was in a bad mood because I couldn’t eat what I craved. And when you’re craving something you know you can’t have… you crave it even more.
So, after 10 long days on this diet, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t good for my body. It made me feel weak when I realised I wasn’t able to stick to it like my sister had.
Diet number 2 – A Meal-plan (Restrictive Diet)
I didn’t let the previous failure discourage me and after some time, I tried another diet. I received a meal-plan from a friend who’s a nutritional advisor. Did I follow the plan? Of course. For about 2 days. I prepared all the food in the morning, put it in the boxes and left it in the fridge. I ate my breakfast and began to think about my next meal. I wasn’t hungry, but I was literally counting the minutes till my next feast. I tried to keep myself busy to forget my cravings. Guess what happened? I ate all the food I had prepared for the day. All at once. Woops.
Did I feel sick? Yes. Was it worth it? I’d probably do it again. #breaktherules
Another failure, another disappointment. I thought ‘Where’s my willpower? Am I that powerless?’ I stopped dieting for a while and just ate whatever I regarded healthy.
Diet number 3 – The Vegan Diet
That spring I became curious about a plant-based diet. Although my family blames my best friend, who’s been vegan for about 5 years now, she wasn’t the reason. I was in Scotland, she was in the Czech Republic… and at that time, we weren’t in touch that much anyway.
The turning point was my chicken incident. I was preparing the standard fitness meal – chicken and rice, protein gaaaainz. I was too lazy to make anything special, so I just put the chicken in the oven for an hour. You’d think an hour is enough to roast chicken legs thoroughly, right? However, it’s not quite enough when the chicken has been frozen. I cut the roast chicken and there it was. Blood. Ew, it was disgusting. I’ve never been more repulsed. What on earth was I about to eat?
Therefore, I wanted to give a vegan diet a go and even became enthusiastic about it. However, I knew you need a good deal of protein to maintain and grow muscles. That’s the first thing everyone’s worried about when they hear the word ‘vegan’. I was no exception. I was frightened I wouldn’t get enough protein and therefore ate a lot of legumes….too much. I didn’t know how to substitute meat. Yoghurt? Cheese? I felt bloated and sick most of the time. When I told my family, they were worried about my health. Feeling sick and unsupported by those closest to me, I eventually gave up.
I started eating animal products again. Although I knew veganism was the right thing to do, I just couldn’t continue. Everyone kept telling me ‘this is not healthy, you should value yourself more than animals, one person won’t make a difference’ blablabla. Besides, I was tempted by all the food – especially cakes – containing animal products (back then I had no idea how tasty vegan desserts are). It’s not easy to go against the flow and have contrary beliefs, especially when you’re the only one in your family. I didn’t like being an outsider in my family.
Check out these mouth-watering desserts. Who says vegan food can’t be delish?
Luckily, in September I began my second year at uni. I was convinced that the vegan diet must be healthy and beneficial. It was like common sense to me. What could be detrimental about fruits and veggies? I felt strong enough to start from scratch. I was fortunate to be in Scotland at that time because people in Glasgow are not judgemental at all. Whether you’re gay, black or refuse to eat animals, they don’t look down on you. Being far away from everyone who didn’t accept my views, I could finally do what I thought was right. I read loads of articles about veganism, its benefits and probable issues. Doing the research, I also came across plenty of environmental articles discussing how we’re destroying our planet. It wasn’t about a diet and having a firm booty anymore. I became more aware and considerate of the environment. It opened my eyes and I started thinking about where all the meat and animal products come from. How do they get to supermarkets? Is the cheesy taste worth the slaughter? How come I’d never thought about these issues before?
Your family is significant and shapes you in many ways. Kids have an amazing ability to mirror their surroundings. Unfortunately, they mimic everything, even bad things. If your family abuses each other and you grow up in that environment, you’ll probably think it’s normal and abuse someone in the future too. If your family keeps swearing, your vocabulary will be similar. So since my family (as most families do) fed me dead animals and their products, it’s natural I didn’t question it… until 2017.
After immersing myself in the controversial environmental aspects, food stopped being the only issue. Plastic, animal abuse, trash in the oceans, children labour, excessive amount of…everything. Obviously, you can’t rescue the planet all by yourself. But you can start with yourself.
As you can see, my journey wasn’t straightforward. I wanted to change my diet but couldn’t settle on any. In the beginning, my only concern was my health and my appearance. I was being narcissistic and superficial. I’m not saying I don’t give a damn about how I look now, but I’m definitely more considerate about the Earth and my impact on it. I enjoy vegan dishes as much as I used to enjoy non-vegan dishes, and knowing I don’t harm anyone is priceless. I know it may sound cliché, but what started as a diet, has ended up being a lifestyle. I couldn’t diet for a long time anyway….and now it’s been more than a year! Yaaay.
Disclaimer: Becoming vegan doesn’t change you the day you announce ‘I’m vegan!’. It’s a process which takes time. Great things don’t happen overnight (James’s essays don’t count), so be patient.
I was still worried the second time I went vegan that I wouldn’t get enough protein etc. so I started counting calories, which I did for about half a year ‘on and off’ (and I can tell you, I did eat enough protein). However, in the end I realised it’s not about counting calories, having abs or a thigh gap. It’s about accepting yourself as a human being, living peacefully and symbiotically with the Earth. But that’s a story for another day.
Is it easy being vegan now? Definitely easier than at the beginning. My family and friends respect me and my grandma is the only one who keeps questioning my decision every time I go home. ‘Are you sure you don’t want some cake? I won’t tell anyone you ate it.’
More about veganism and counting calories next time!