I contemplated a plant-based diet for years before I committed. I watched many documentaries, read health reports, and considered commentary from vegan YouTubers. I understood what was being presented to me and I even felt bad, but I couldn’t make any significant change. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a doubt sat, and made me wonder why just so many people continued to eat meat, dairy, and eggs, if it was so wrong to do.
The Documentary Junkie
I LOVE documentaries. From lifestyle pieces to conspiracy theories, learning about the world through the eyes of other people has always fascinated me. After graduating college, I started to take a particular interest in food documentaries. The exploration of the farm to table intrigued me, since it was the basis for creating so many societal norms. I filled my Netflix que with Food, Inc., Fast Food Nation, Food Matters, and Hungry For Change.
From Binge-Watching to Legitimate Research
During my second year of law school, I started my research for a legal paper to submit to a scholarly publication, The Journal of Race, Gender, and Poverty. Injustice in our society can show its face in many forms, but often overlooked is the injustice of food inequality our nation’s nutritional system stands on. During my research, I found numerous legal arguments for the push of providing accessible, healthy food to our nation’s food deserts. I decided to focus my attention on the costs of healthy food, making the argument that even if we filled the food deserts with healthy, accessible food, it wouldn’t matter because the people living in the food deserts would not be able to afford it. In support of my conclusion, I studied the U.S. Agricultural system and its controlling legislation, the U.S. Agriculture Act of 2014, also known as the U.S. Farm Bill.
Access to my research paper here.
My research on our country’s agriculture system eventually led me to more and more information promoting plant-based diets. I started to watch documentaries focusing on the plant-based movement, such as Plant Pure Nation, Forks Over Knives, and Vegucated.
At the same time, I watched the trial coverage for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Like the rest of the nation, I watched a man walk free and unscathed after murdering a child who was walking home in his own neighborhood.
And there it was: the ethical connection. Not just an ethical connection to the animals and their suffering, but the connection to the injustice as a whole. The injustice of killing, beating, and exploiting a sentient being based on a simple difference in their immutable traits. An injustice that didn’t only occur in the meat and dairy industry. This is the same injustice was recreated every day in the lives of oppressed people. The same injustice that forces a mother of another countless victim of police brutality to have to bury her son.
Our systems are built on privilege. A privilege that entitles one being to the power to decide the fate of another being. Who are we to say that the only “beings” who fell victim to this privilege are “human beings?” I felt the contradiction. How can I sit and cry out about the injustice my people faced every day, when I stood in full support of systemic injustice that costs the lives of millions? In my eyes, the support of one meant the justification of another.
All the evidence was in front of me, and I believed it, but I still didn’t think, I could fully make the change. None of my friends were vegan. I had a couple of extended family members who at vegetarian diets, but they never talked about it nor explained their reasons for eating plant-based. Not to their own fault, because as I look back, I never think I even thought to ask. In hindsight, I can now see why they may not have openly shared their views. Living a vegetarian lifestyle, especially in such a meat-based culture can be difficult and often times, alienating.
The World Has Gone Crazy
Fast forward to 2015, my brother tells me he wants to give up meat. MY BROTHER! Now, I understand that you may not know my brother. But, if I had to pinpoint the last person in my family that would give up meat, it would definitely be him. So, again I say, my brother tells me he wants to give up meat, I knew I had to really consider living plant-based. This is why I am a firm believer that even when you have the all the facts and you know vegetarian eating is a better choice, you may still need support of others to make the change.
So, my brother and I decided stop eating meat as a new year’s resolution. I know… so cliché. I planned to become vegetarian, since I was convinced I would not give up cheese or eggs. He decided to become a pescatarian (he still consumes fish, dairy, eggs, and honey.) Once we made that decision, I started re-watch the documentaries and Google search “becoming vegetarian,” until I couldn’t search any longer. I wanted to be prepared. By the time Christmas Day came, I was ready to give up the meat. December 25, 2016 is the last day I ate meat and December 26th is the day I became a vegetarian.
My Easy Vegetarian Life
Being a vegetarian was pretty easy for me. Most restaurants serve vegetarian options or could easily take meats out of the dish. Though I felt limited in regards to a lot of the old foods I loved, I was excited to learn how to cook new foods. I started visiting the various veg-friendly restaurants in my city. I even convinced my mom to make all the sides for our New Year’s Day dinner vegetarian, by using veggie broth instead of chicken broth, and by foregoing the meat.
Vegetarian New Year’s Day Dinner: Black-Eyed Peas, Butternut Squash and Spinach Bread Pudding, Sweet Potato Mash w/ Walnuts, and collard greens.
My contribution to dinner: Butternut Squash and Spinach Bread Pudding (Recipe from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen)
Hardcore VEGAN – No Transition
I was a vegetarian for three weeks. During those three weeks, I kept up my Google search for more information on plant-based diets. The more research I did, the more and more disgusted I became with the idea of consuming dairy and eggs. Hen’s period and cow pus? No thanks. I dropped both things out of my diet almost overnight. As crazy as it sounds, I woke up one morning and said no more. I thought to myself that vegan wasn’t a huge leap and it would be as easy to cut dairy and eggs.
I was wrong
I STRUGGLED my first three months. Yes, this is why most people suggest transitioning slowly. But, I had jumped in head first. The “limitations” hit me smack in the face. I suddenly felt that I had no options for food and I was ready to curse the world for basing our food on cruelty and slaughter! I still kept on, though. As limited as I felt, I just knew I couldn’t support the suffering of another innocent animal, simply for my comfort and taste preferences.
There were a few times I messed up – I misread labels and drank my latte when the barista forgot to use soy milk instead of cow’s milk. But, I kept going. I kept researching. I kept finding new recipes. I kept learning about new substitute ingredients. I picked up new resources to help me find the vegan options no matter where I went.
My body started to change. And not the great, energy high, skin-glowing change all vegans boast about resulting from their plant-based diet. The detox phase. The new acne, the horrible gas, and the weak feeling from not eating enough. Read more about how a vegan diet changed my body here.
It got better
After a while, I got into the hang of things. I started to find my favorite meals and I frequented my favorite vegan restaurants. I LEARNED TO COOK. Before, I had always been able to create a few signature dishes, ONLY if I had all the right ingredients. But NOW, I could pull together meals from whatever was in the pantry. Healthy, delicious, plant-based meals! My body continued to change, but for the better. I started to eat more and have more energy. My taste buds started to crave plant foods. Others around me started to notice the weight I was losing. Okay, so this is what everybody is talking about!
The past 5 months
Over the past 5 months, I’ve finally learned to fit in with my vegan lifestyle. Physically, I feel stronger and energetic. I am still losing weight at a healthy rate, without a serious exercise regiment. Emotionally, I feel much more connected to life and nature around me. That probably sounds ridiculous, but knowing that you are not causing unnecessary harm to other sentient beings or your own body, for a craving, just makes you feel at peace. Though I haven’t officially turned anyone vegan yet, I have definitely inspired change in my family and friends. If anything, I have proven to them that plant-based food can taste delicious!
Transition in another form
Now that I have fully implemented a vegan diet, I am working to transition other things in my life, such as make-up, health and skin care products, clothing, and shoes. Instead of just throwing everything out that isn’t vegan and cruelty-free, I have made a committed decision to not buy any more of these products. As I run out, I will replace them with vegan products.
Best Decision of My Life
Through all the challenges I have faced through implementing a plant-based diet, this has been one of the best decisions of my life.
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