No Animals Allowed

How a hardcore foodie went vegan and never turned back.

The Impossible Burger is the most realistic burger out there.

One day in the spring of 2016, I was sitting in my philosophy class, not knowing that my beliefs would forever be changed that day. My philosophy professor, who is vegan, was teaching a lesson on ethics and challenged his students to go vegan for a week for extra credit. To help us get in the spirit, he showed us gruesome videos of animals in slaughterhouses and I hated every second of it. Chicks were being ground up, chickens were having their throats slit, cows were being torn from their families and pigs were being abused. I was uncomfortable and I didn’t want to look. I was also angry that my professor was pushing his beliefs on us, but then I had an epiphany. These videos were not his beliefs; they were facts.

I decided to do the extra credit assignment. I wanted to do it right, so I did my research. I looked up how to get the proper nutrients, how to get protein, how to stay full, meal ideas and every other question you might get when making a huge change in your life.

I did the week of veganism and I thrived. My skin cleared up, I had more energy and I even lost some weight. I had never felt better, yet I had every intention of going back to my normal diet after the week was up. I stayed vegan for two more weeks after that, and then I tried to go back to my normal diet and I struggled. The only non-vegan things I ate that week were a chicken-teriyaki bowl and a lobster breakfast hash. The only thing I got out of those two meals was guilt. I couldn’t get over the fact that I ate chicken and lobster and it didn’t leave my mind for a long time. The following week, I unintentionally ate vegan without even trying to. That was the very beginning of my journey into veganism.

Before going vegan, I thought veganism was simply a diet. I was one of those people who cracked jokes about how ridiculous vegans were. I wondered why vegans always talked about being vegan. I thought they only ate salad. I contributed to every misconception about vegans because I didn’t understand anything about the lifestyle. When I went vegan, I had to learn how to deal with everyone who was like me before I went vegan.

At the beginning of my vegan journey, all I thought about was veganism. It consumed my mind to no end. It had to consume my mind in order for me to go against the societal “norm” and make this huge change. I finally understood why vegans talked about veganism so much. I was constantly questioning whether I wanted to stay vegan or not. Also, I constantly had to think about what I was going to eat for my next meal, what I could eat, what I couldn’t eat, and if the restaurant my parents chose for dinner had vegan options. When I couldn’t keep things to myself anymore, and I needed to vent, I went to my mom or my sister because I knew no one else would care. I started developing these strong opinions and beliefs and I felt so connected with the cause.

Since I started feeling so strongly about the issue, I thought it was really insensitive for others to make fun of vegans and how we talk about veganism so much. Pretty much everyone likes to talk about things they are passionate about, whether it’s sports, music, films, etc. Vegans just happen to be passionate about veganism. Whether it’s because of health, the environment, or the animals, people typically go vegan because they feel strongly about these issues. So, for all those people who have wondered why vegans talk about veganism so much, that is why. After all, we are just trying to spread a positive message.

For about four months, my mind and my taste buds were still deciding whether I wanted to stay vegan or not. I have always been a huge foodie. Almost all of my social interactions are going on food adventures with my family and friends. I used to find great comfort in finding the sushi place with the freshest salmon or the brunch place with the tastiest eggs benedict. I struggled with the fact that I would never eat a double double from In-N-Out again. Although I had strong feelings about veganism for about four months, I had been eating these foods my whole life. As a foodie, it was hard to give up these foods even though I knew about all of the corruption and cruelty that goes on in the food industry.

I can remember the exact moment when I decided I would stay vegan for the rest of my life. I was grocery shopping with my mom at Sam’s Club and we had reached the meat section of the store. While my mom was shopping for ground turkey to make for our family that night, I was walking down this aisle, looking at the meat. When I reached the steaks, I stopped for a moment, and immediately felt chills throughout my body. Not because this aisle was cold, but because I made the connection that this piece of meat, was once a living animal. It’s a pretty obvious connection that I had been making ever since I first learned where meat came from, but this was the first time I truly felt this connection. In that moment, I felt so sad for all the animals and angry that no one else in the store felt the way I did.

Once I accepted I was going to stay vegan, I decided veganism wasn’t going to get in the way of being a foodie. I still go on frequent food adventures, and my life still revolves around finding the best restaurants. I learned that I can basically eat a vegan version of all the foods I loved as a non-vegan. I still eat burgers, sushi, ice cream, and donuts, and the only difference is that all of the ingredients are derived from plants. Nowadays, there are so many great alternatives to animal products. So many brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, and Halo Top have released non-dairy versions of their ice cream that taste like their normal versions of their ice cream. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have created vegan burger patties so realistic that it feels wrong to eat them. So many restaurants, fast food places, and grocery stores have vegan options, which makes veganism so accessible.

Some of those products can be a bit pricey, but that’s why I don’t buy them all the time. I remember when I was preparing for my first week of veganism, my grocery bill basically told me that I couldn’t afford to be vegan. Once I got the hang of veganism, I learned how to shop for myself and what I needed for my everyday life. It was only expensive at the beginning because I was buying so many unnecessary foods and vegan alternatives because I was a new vegan and I didn’t know what I needed. Now, I realize that being vegan is actually cheaper than being non-vegan for me. Rice, beans, potatoes, fruits, and vegetables are the staples of my diet, and they actually are some of the cheapest foods out there. My chipotle order is always cheaper than the people around me because I don’t get meat, and the guacamole is free for veggie bowls. Vegan restaurants can also be pretty pricey, but I usually only go to them on my “treat yo self” days.

Now, I have been vegan for a year and a half and I can say it is the best decision I have ever made for myself. I know how to order at restaurants. I know how to get proper nutrition. I know how to eat intuitively. I know what my body needs. I am no longer embarrassed to ask questions at restaurants about what’s vegan. Right now, I am prouder than ever to be vegan. Being vegan has made me a more compassionate person. I am now more empathetic to people and animals. It has made me a better person. I try to live a more eco-friendly life and be kinder to people because I know this earth can be a cruel place.