DISCLAIMER: I’m not a licensed nutritionist. All of this information is based off personal opinion and experience. In no way, shape, or form am I advising you to switch to my diet regimen.
What You Need To Know
Throughout my life I’ve had the experience of the “American” based diet but for the past 3 years I’ve chosen to be a dietary vegan. In this post, I’ll discuss why I went vegan and possibly blow your mind with some things you didn’t know about veganism. First, we need to set the record straight. There are two definitions of the word diet. Diet could mean the kinds of food that a person, animal or a community habitually eats. It could also mean a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons. Be aware of the difference in meaning. In this post, I’m referring to diet as what I habitually eat. I am NOT a vegan to lose weight or for medical reasons.
My Relationship with Food
Growing up in Texas with a single parent who worked full time in the military didn’t always provide the best meal plan for a growing child. Granted, my dad cooked and provided when necessary. However, parents aren’t always the most healthiest of people to learn from when it comes to diet. School also isn’t a huge influential educator when it comes to food in America. As of matter fact, the types of food that’s available in public schools isn’t necessarily the most healthiest. Sadly, it can be what’s the most easiest to mass produce at a low cost. Health is not the first priority when it comes to school food in America. Actually, health in general is not the first priority in America.
Having somewhat of a larger family was still relevant whenever I was a child. Companies like Sam’s Club, Costco, and huge grocery stores that offered items in bulk with low pricing were extremely popular. If you’re reading this and around my age (25), you know what I’m talking about. Your parents probably bought sodas, cookies, chips, frozen dinners, and more in packs of 10+ to keep cost low. It was wild how much you could buy if you bought in bulk! No one was really buying vegetables in bulk and cooking large meals around the early 2000’s. Barbecues, taco night, and instant pancakes were popular but most of the ingredients were heavily processed and easily ready to make. No one thought twice about what they were putting into their bodies because of how convenient everything was made!
My dad also wasn’t very strict on making sure I was getting every aspect of the “food pyramid” that was commonly being advertised as ‘healthy’. Going to the grocery story as a child felt like going to an amusement park. I enjoyed riding in and on the cart as my dad would roll it around grabbing things off shelves. He’d say “Get whatever you want, just put it in the basket!”, with a huge smile as if he was giving me the highest form of power possible. Little did he know how horrible this actually is for a child’s relationship with food. I was spoiled but very observant and curious as a child when it came to food.
Of course, I would only choose sugary things such as PopTarts, Captain Crunch, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, and the list goes on. My diet as a child was basically sugar and anything I could easily microwave and make for myself. One of my favorite meals was 4 slices of white toasted bread, buttered soggy, each slice with 2 tablespoons of cane sugar, and 1 tsp of cinnamon. I’d finished that off with a creme soda and thought that was the breakfast or dinner of champions! Sometimes my dad would make lasagna, hamburger helper, or something with meat , a starch, and a side vegetable. Whatever he made, I at least had to finish my plate. That was the deal. Meatloaf night was the worst for me. Since I lived off sugar, I became a very picky eater. I hated vegetables as a child and I also hated the idea of certain meats. For example, I wouldn’t ever eat steak. There was no defining reason as to why I wouldn’t eat it, I just didn’t like the word steak.
This diet of sugary foods and picky eating went all the way up until I got to high school. High school was when health started to become trendy. Also, my tastebuds changed and puberty hit. What a perfect timing!
Being Vegetarian at 14
It was 2007, my Myspace page was poppin’, and I was entering the 9th grade at the age of 14. The scene phase was still lingering around and during that time many musicians of that subculture were advocating for vegetarianism and veganism. If you’re not familiar with what ‘scene subculture’ is, it was a community of people known for listening to multiple genres of music that involved post hardcore, metalcore, crunkcore, electronic music, and pop punk. Most importantly scene people were known for their elaborate fashion style. Scene ‘kids’ were notoriously known for wearing skinny jeans, band shirts, having wildly teased hair, and also wearing extravagantly dyed hair extensions. This was during the early stages of the internet revolution dating from early 2000’s all the way up until 2010. How the hell does this have any influence on me becoming a vegetarian?
Seeing that I considered myself a scene kid and would attend music events based around this subculture, I was influenced by the movement. Around this time PETA was heavily marketing to this community of young people at music concerts with high shock value imagery. For those that don’t know what PETA is, it’s a non profit organization. PETA is an organization that stands for ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with high shock value advertising on terms that the images are unaltered. It can be extremely graphic and daunting but it shows people the truth. Our society likes to hide raw truth and look at the not so real bright side. With marketing, censorship is used to ‘protect’ people. PETA went the opposite route and used graphic imagery to get people to pay more attention. This imagery influenced a large young community of people and made an impact.
Developing Anemia from Vegetarianism
The people I looked up to such as myspace famous models, artist, and musicians were all advocating and working with PETA. They were pushing an agenda. I had already been a picky eater and decided that I could easily give up meat for the sake of being trendy and the animals. That’s horrible of me to admit but I was 14 and it’s the truth! I wanted to fit in with the subculture and became a vegetarian. At one point in my high school years, my aol instant messenger (AIM) username was raven noodles because I basically lived off noodles. Wow, being vegetarian was so healthy… (This is sarcasm!) My family thought I was insane for being vegetarian and on top of that I had no idea how to cook or sustain a healthy vegetarian diet. Living off sugar and hating vegetables was not a good combination. Also, having no know education on what I should be including in my diet to uphold certain standards of health as vegetarian led me to develop anemia! In high school, I was very active in dance. I felt extremely tired and constantly weak and I never knew why. Low and behold it was my because of my uneducated vegetarian diet. I eventually stopped being trendy and slowly introduced meat back into my diet.
Eating Meat Again
After re-introducing meat back into my diet I started to pay more attention to how all food was physically affecting my body. This was something I hadn’t ever given attention to but my body was telling me something. My junior year of high school, I began to notice after eating a bowl of cereal each morning I would experience extreme cramping. This was not menstrual cramping. One morning specifically, I remember having a bowl of Captain Crunch with 2% milk. As I was packing my school bag, I began to experience very painful cramps. I laid on the couch writhing in pain and was wondering why this was happening to me. I knew it wasn’t because of menstrual cramps and thought it had to have been something I ate. The pain lasted for about 20-30 minutes and I was able to get up and attend school. This pain happened only when I consumed 2% milk. Other foods that contained dairy had a similar effect but not to that extreme. I think the level of pain and symptoms depended on what type of dairy, how the dairy was processed, additives such as artificial ingredients, and etc.
Ice cream, Starbucks frappuccino’s, cheese pizza, and more all had a different affects on my body. Levels of pain and symptoms varied after eating each of these foods. Heavy cramping, bloating, gas, and diarrhea are not healthy signs! It wasn’t setting in that these were signs of lactose intolerance. These symptoms were all normal amongst my family and friends. No one knew these were signs. I continued to consume 2% milk and eat various of type dairy although it was hurting me.
Hamburger Lover Tries Vegan Food
Fast forward to college and my eating habits hadn’t really changed. My favorite food at the time was hamburgers. My diet included fried chicken, pepperoni pizza, ribs, and foods that included heavy amounts of sugar. Although I was eating meat, at times it consciously made me feel weird while eating it. I tried my best to ignore those feelings. Around this meat consumption time, I was working out often because I was planning on moving to Los Angeles and becoming a model. Even though I was working out regularly, I didn’t always feel my best. During my second visit to California, my life changed. I met an internet friend who was vegan and he took me to my first vegan restaurant! I had forgotten what the term vegan meant and didn’t care where we ate. He was cute and taking me out on a date so I took his word for it. Lmao!
The term vegan means a person who does not eat or use animal products. This is different from the term vegetarian. Vegetarian means a person who does not eat meat. A vegetarian can still eat other parts of animals such as dairy. Vegetarians and vegans are not the same!
When I was looking at the menu, I was shocked. The menu had everything I was used to eating. Pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken, pasta, and more but the only catch was it was vegan! The food was delicious and didn’t taste bad at all. I was surprised that none of the food came from an animal and was just as tasty! Long story short, I ended up moving to California and dating a vegan.
Being new to Los Angeles, I wasn’t very picky about going out on dinner dates with my new vegan boyfriend. However, if I ever wanted a snack while we were netflixing and chilling.. I knew we’d have a discussion about what I was choosing to eat. It was never a judgmental and forced discussion. He always made sure to educate about what was in the item I was eating and how it could affect my body. I remember one night specifically, he asked if I wanted something from the store. I told him Ben and Jerry’s ice cream the coffee kind! (Side-note: They have vegan flavors now!!) He looked at me and rolled his eyes but came back with my ice cream. Of course we had a discussion about the animals and I remember feeling so guilty after eating the ice cream. I also felt extremely bloated and unsexy on our date night because I was lactose intolerant. Haha! From that moment, I knew I was going to eventually become vegan. I had to start putting my health first. (Notice how I said health and not animals..)
Whenever I began to eat more vegan food, I saw positive benefits in how it affected my body. I felt as if I had more energy, less stomach bloating issues, less cramping, and overall saw a general improvement in physical wellbeing. However, being a vegan doesn’t mean you’re healthy! You can be an overweight vegan, have diabetes as a vegan, and plenty of other health issues! My choice for going vegan was to improve my general health and knowledge about food consumption. In the beginning of my transition to veganism, I consumed a lot of readily made processed vegan food. I didn’t know how to cook in the beginning! Luckily there’s frozen dinners, pizzas, and a variety of choices that helped guide me to where I am today. Processed foods are not always the healthiest option! If they are processed, you have the ability to learn how to make them yourself! It’s so much healthier. It just takes time to learn and practice how to maintain a healthy vegan diet.
Plant Based Diet vs Vegan Diet
Honestly, in my opinion a plant based diet is the healthiest form of diets. A plant based diet can be considered vegan but it’s not the same diet. For example, oreos can be considered vegan. Depending on where you are in the world some manufactures don’t use milk in their ingredients. Always check the ingredients! It’s required by law in America to list if a item has dairy in it. If you’re one of the lucky ones where oreos don’t contain milk, they’re vegan. Oreos are so artificial that they aren’t made with any animal products! However, that doesn’t mean they are made from plants. Oreos are vegan but not plant based. Plant based is what I personally believe is the healthiest form of diet. I don’t particularly stick to plant based but I do try to Monday through Thursday. Friday through Saturday I’m a bit more lenient when it comes to selecting my food.
Don’t Be A Fake Vegan
Now that I’m 3 years into being a vegan, I’m more aware and educated of the ethical side of this lifestyle. Earlier I mentioned the definition and I’m not sure if you caught the entirety of it. A real vegan is someone who goes beyond the dietary choices of being vegan. Besides not eating anything with animals, a real vegan also does not use animal products in their daily lives. This means not buying from companies that are not vegan based. This means not using items that are not vegan such as clothing, makeup, toiletries, and more. This lifestyle takes a lot of practice and research. I’m vegan and am still learning on my journey.
With that being said, no one’s perfect when it comes to their diet! Everyone is learning what works best for them and I think it’s important to know your own standard of health. Hold yourself accountable to live the best life you possibly can. Being a vegan doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Choose to be vegan to learn more about your health and contribute to a greater good for society. Being vegan is not a fad diet to lose weight. Please don’t go vegan for that reason! I’ll have more posts about veganism in the future. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about my journey. Let me know if you have any questions!
Love & Light