Veganism

My Journey with Food

I went to Italy for two weeks the summer before my junior year of high school. A few days into the trip, I started having severe digestive issues and stomach pains. I had suffered from Acid Reflux Disease and GERD (Gastroesophogial Reflux Disease) since I was 6, but the added distress on my digestion took a toll on me emotionally and physically. I saw several doctors and cut out acidic foods and typical triggers for stomach pain- citrus fruit, fruit juice, tomato sauce, and spicy foods. Lactose intolerance was considered as was Celiac’s Disease, but neither of these were the culprits of my digestive issues.

The week after I graduated from high school, I decided to go vegetarian. Mark had been eating a vegetarian diet for about six months at this point, and the more I heard about the treatment of animals on factory farms, the more convinced I was that this was the way to go.

I immediately noticed a huge difference in how I felt. My digestive issues were improving and I didn’t miss meat at all. I had always been gung-ho anti veg; I always said that I would never in a million years be a vegetarian, but something about vegetarianism was really enticing to me.

I became a vegan in June of 2011. Originally, I challenged myself to go vegan just for the summer. I told myself that if I didn’t like it when September 1st hit, I would go back to my old eating habits. I cut out all dairy and eggs cold turkey.

First vegan dinner! Delicious home-made vegetable vegan pizza!

I really struggled with veganism over the summer. There were many points where I told myself that after the summer I would definitely, without question, be done with it. But slowly, the cravings disappeared and I gained a taste for healthy food. I also learned that vegan food doesn’t have to taste any differently than “regular” food.

My digestive issues have virtually disappeared. I have tons of energy, and about two months ago, a funny thing happened. For as long as I can remember, I have had a severe disdain for broccoli. And asparagus. And squash. Suddenly, all vegetables taste goodI crave healthy food, and I treat food as fuel.

Mint-Chocolate-Oreo Vegan Cupcake

Now, only eight months after starting my vegan journey, here I am. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with veganism. It has become a huge part of who I am, and makes me feel good in the process. It has completely changed the way I feel about food. I no longer eat out of boredom or habit. I eat to live. I am careful to always actually taste my food instead of inhaling it, and I enjoy meals so much more as a result. Going Vegan is the best thing that I have ever done for myself.

Many people think that veganism is all about giving up food. Personally, I have tried so many new foods that I had never even heard of before I went vegan. My breadth of knowledge about food has expanded exponentially.

Why go vegan?

I am vegan for two reasons. One, for the health benefits, and two, for animal welfare.

The health benefits of veganism are astounding. Not only do I have a hugely reduced risk of obesity, heart attack, stroke, and even cancer by eating a whole-foods vegan diet, but because I eat a plant-based diet, I get more naturally occuring nutrients than those eating the typical american diet.

Meat and dairy have both been shown to cause cancer. There is a strong correlation between animal products and heart disease. One of the first questions I’m asked as a vegan is how I get my calcium. Calcium is plentiful in dark leafy greens, and the calcium in plants is actually much better than the calcium in dairy– and here’s why. When dairy products are used in your body, they create an imbalance in the pH of your body– making it acidic. This acid actually draws calcium out of your bones. Almost all plant based foods are basic, keeping your pH at good levels and not creating acid in your body.

If you are interested in the health benefits of veganism, I suggest you watch Forks over Knives, an incredible documentary about the dangers of the typical American diet.

As for animal welfare, most of the meat in this country is produced in factory farms. Animals are confined in spaces so small that they have difficulty moving. Diseases are abundant, and various body parts are cut off to keep the animals from injuring one another.

Dairy cows are kept perpetually pregnant for years and are inseminated through metal rods. Once they are “spent”, they are turned into cheap meat that you find at various fast food chains. Their children are used to produce veal. The baby cows are stripped away from their mothers as soon as they are born and put into confinement so small that they can hardly move. This keeps their muscles weak to get the specialty meat that is so sought after. So even if you are a vegetarian, by buying dairy you are supporting the meat industry.

Pigs are smarter than dogs. They are extremely perceptive to what is going on around them, and to see (and hear) for yourself the trauma they endure before slaughter, simply google it. There are plenty of videos on the internet that detail the poor treatment of these intelligent animals.

The eggs found in a typical grocery store are from chickens that are confined to dark, cramped spaces. Even “free-range” chickens endure this, as the regulations on free range are laughable. While you may picture chickens grazing on a big grass field, in actuality they are given access to a tiny patch of land outside of their coop where there is usually no grass and hardly enough room for them to “range”.

This is a baby chick being "debeaked" so that once it is a laying hen, it won't be able to peck at itself or other hens.

To learn in depth about the treatment of animals on factory farms, watch Food Inc, or read Skinny Bitch.

Veganism is one easy solution to a ton of problems facing the world. Veganism significantly reduces risk of obesity, heart attack, cancer, and stroke. The cows raised in America produce more pollution than the cars in America. If you are at all interested in or curious about veganism, even in the slightest, I encourage you to just give it a try. If you eat a plant-based, whole-foods diet for two weeks, I promise you will notice a drastic difference in how you feel on a day-to-day basis.

Questions about veganism? Ask away!

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