Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Why I Choose To Be Vegan

The word vegan tends to terrify some people and send them running for the cow-filled hills. I get it: it's scary to make such a drastic lifestyle change, especially if you're the kind of person that's become accustomed to meat and/or dairy in every meal. I was like that, not long ago. If you would had asked 20 year-old me if I would ever be a vegan, I would have laughed in your face, fully convinced the world would end before I gave up Manchego cheese and Serrano ham.

You're probably wondering, how can I make this change to help myself and the planet? Won't everyone make fun of me all the time? How am I going to get enough protein? Being vegan can't be natural, or can it be?

These and many more questions raced through my head when I first began making the change to a plant-based lifestyle. Ironically, I was living in Spain at the time, the land where bars and restaurants display ham legs in windows, where bull fights are a cultural tradition passed down through the generations and where you'd be hard pressed to find a meal that does not include meat, cheese or eggs in one way or another. Spaniards love to indulge, whether it's food or drinks. So how did I make this huge change in such an unlikely place?

Well for one, it's probably my innate ability to rebel and do the exact opposite of everyone else. I also met another fellow vegan, who enjoyed the lifestyle so much, she simply radiated. It was impossible not to want to experience those same feelings. We would visit a local fruteria, a store devoted entirely to selling fruit, stock up on blueberries, oranges and apples, and head down to the river to relax by the water and practice a few yoga moves. The experience is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, not a self-sacrifice.

All I can say is don't worry. Take baby steps and never get down on yourself for not being perfect. Quitting cold turkey can be rough so the experience is made a little easier by slowly incorporating more and more vegan meals to your weekly schedule. If you're still not convinced, here are a few more reasons to make the change.

1. I save animals and the environment.

calculated that each vegan saves about 200 animals a year, which means you can feel good about doing your part to ensure innocent animals aren't slaughtered for the sake of our protein consumption. So really that's 200 reasons to be a vegan right there. As for the environment, it's a lot more sustainable and feasible to grow plants for human consumption, rather than feed those plants to animals and then those animals to us. Animal food production actually produces the most greenhouse gasses in the world, more than both the transportation industry and electricity industry. In other words, if Americans cut back on eating animal foods by half, it would be the same if all U.S. motor vehicles and vessels were taken off the road.

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2. I save money.

Did you know that meat and cheese are expensive? Go figure. My vegan journey began with my weekly trips to the grocery store. Now I head straight for the produce area and get most of my shopping done there. Vegetables and fruit are relatively inexpensive, especially if you buy in-season products. Avoid the meat replacements or anything processed that is technically vegan because the whole point isn't to buy vegan frozen mac and cheese; the point is to make your own pasta with vegetables and coconut oil perhaps. Becoming a vegan means you have to rely on yourself more to eat and cook. You can't expect a restaurant or a party to have something you can eat, so planning ahead and cooking at home saves you both money and headaches. For more budgeting tips on a vegan diet, check this out.

3. I'm healthier.

I'm more fit with more muscle and less fat, have more energy, clearer skin, more luscious hair, longer and stronger nails, a clearer conscious and no belly issues including regular bowel movements everyday. I just look and feel sexier than I ever have before and I can attribute that to a vegan diet and daily, moderate exercise.

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4. I can eat however much I want, whenever I want.

Since becoming vegan, I haven't had to count calories once. I simply eat until I'm full, and I am never scared that I might have overindulged. Vegetables take up a lot of space on a plate but they have relatively low calories. I used to be scared of food, terrified every little thing I ate would make me gain weight. That fear is gone and so I can eat, snack and munch without guilt.

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