Are you going vegan for your health?
There are so many arguments going around on what it means to be vegan, what it means to eat plant-based and what all of it “should” mean. It seems that the word vegan on its own is misused – even I often misuse it on this blog because old habits die hard. The ‘plant-based’ diet should be used more commonly when referring to people who eat a plant-based diet while the word “vegan” implies that one not only eats plant-based but also does not use any products that may have harmed an animal in some way or come from animal origin. That could mean that some people on a plant-based diet may still be consuming food such as honey or not checking what ingredients their soap have, while a ‘vegan’ would not do that.
Going vegan for my health
Like many others, I began my journey a long time ago (around 3 years ago), when after a few documentaries I decided that animal products can in no way be good for my health and wanted to see what I would feel like if I cut them all off, all at once. I was never the one to try doing things gradually so I went cold turkey.
At first, it was very easy for me. I was never one to enjoy eating meat, I simply never liked the taste much (unless it was a super processed hot dog). The first few weeks, I felt amazing, I was so glad to be putting good things into my body, avoiding most processed food and filling up on fruits and vegetables as much as possible. I could tell my body had needed all the nutrients. I was also sleeping like 4 hours a night and felt fantastic but I believe that had nothing to do with my plant-based diet but rather came from other sources of happiness and excitement.
One month on a plant-based diet
After my first month (during which I was eating honey and jam*, because I had no idea they were not vegan), I got the blues, started feeling bad during my exam periods, craving food, watching those around me eat pizzas and enjoy their life, spending less money than me but getting quick tasty food. At that time I was also a student and had very limited income so I gave into those 2 dollar hot dogs just a month into the diet.
Since then my diet shifted. It shifted to “I will be vegan most of the time, but once in a while I will eat other things too“. If that’s your diet – that’s ok! It isn’t about being perfect and just doing your best counts for a lot. Remember to go at your own pace and do your best because if you are doing your best, then there is nothing left to do.
The reason it was so easy to shift my diet like that was that I was responsible only for myself. My reason was health and affected nobody else, BUT ME. That is why it was so easy to decide on certain moments that I did not care for my health anymore or what food I consumed. Like a smoker who knows the risks but smokes anyway, I was consuming animal products when the mood hit me, forgetting that it isn’t all about me.
*Some jam may be vegan but remember to check the ingredients. Gelatin is processed from animal parts. Thus, it isn’t vegan.
I did feel disgusted
Even though I enjoyed those slips when they happened, I always felt disgusted right after, especially if I had eaten meat. The images in my head of what eating dead animals is doing to my body were strong and made me feel uncomfortable each and every time.
Eating meat was rare, but it happened occasionally. I used to think to myself that I was being good to the environment and animals most of the time, that I was being good to myself most of the time and that should count for something, right? Even though I loved animals very much, they were never the focus of my reasoning. It was somehow imprinted in me that eating animals was just… normal.
One year later
One year later (not sure about the exact timing), I started thinking a bit harder about what it meant not to eat animal products. I wondered why so many people find it so important to stop consuming those things. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer that I started realizing that I was looking at the wrong things and forgetting one of the biggest and most important reasons to go vegan – to free living beings from unnecessary suffering.
It wasn’t until I started browsing the vegan threads on Twitter, and seeing the discussions that vegans lead until I found out something new…
You are only vegan if you do it for the animals
The most powerful way to be vegan (and possibly the only way) is to do it for the animals!
If you ever meet a real vegan, they will tell you they do it for the animals (possibly not all of them but a good bunch). It’s pretty much what the word “vegan” means. In its essence, it is more than just a diet, it is a way of understanding that animals deserve to live as much as we do, they deserve a life free of suffering and they deserve it now. It is a way of understanding that by eating vegan you are capable of reducing harm upon animals, the environment and yourself in an enormous way.
Being vegan for any other reason isn’t really vegan, because it is incredibly easy to slip.
Vegans know that – they know that being vegan for your health, or the environment is not going to work because you are not thinking about others, you are the only one in those scenarios. That is why you will pretty much never hear a vegan who says that they do it for their health and don’t care about the animals.
When you are vegan for the animals, it isn’t just about you.
It is about other beings, beings similar to us, who deserve a life just as much as we do. It is that understanding of how unfair it is to exploit other beings that will make you really stick with a plant-based diet. Because once you understand what animals go through to end up on your plate, or fill up your glass with me, you will never get the same cravings as before. Every time you see a piece of cheese, it will not just be cheese – it will be a representation of the exploitation that humans find so normal, it will be a reminder for what you are fighting for.
This is why vegans seem pushy to you
If vegans ever seemed pushy to you, like they want to push through you some agenda, that is why. It is because they know that once a person understands the wrong we are doing, they will not have a way to go back to their previous life.
Vegans know that this isn’t about pushing an agenda but facing a truth.
They know that once you have seen the truth, you will never want to be a part of this ever again, they don’t want to push you, they just want you to see with an open mind and make your own conclusions.
Once you have the power to change the world for the better, to do less harm and to go to sleep every night knowing you did no harm to animals, then you truly understand what being vegan is all about. Even the cheesiest slice of pizza can’t make you go back.
Because if you lose your values, then what is there worth living for?