Veganism is a Piece of Cake

If you are like me, you’ve told yourself or someone you know, “I could never go vegan. It’s too extreme.”

You may have watched some YouTuber eating 50 bananas a day, or 12 heads of lettuce, or 2 697 mangoes in one sitting, and you thought, vegans must be out of their freaking minds. There’s no shame in it. We’ve all seen those people that take “trendy” diets too far.

When I was introduced to veganism seven years ago by two of my close friends, I had no other real influences. I tried to be respectful of them, but it seemed totally unrealistic to drop my favorite foods just to spare a few cows and chickens. To me, I was already doing my part by not eating red meat. I’d been a pescatarian for almost 4 years and that was enough.

It seemed too difficult to let go of dairy and eggs because let’s face it: Milk and eggs are in all of our favorite snacks, cookies, candies, traditions, and recipes.

To this day, I have uttered the phrase: “why is there even milk in this?” so many times, you could engrave it on my tombstone.

So what lead me to veganism?

Well, it happened gradually, and this is my advice to anyone who is interested. First, I went pescatarian. My conviction to cut meat from my diet came from a simple moment at a music festival when I was sixteen:

I saw a poster with two faces — one of a dog, one of a pig, and the simple question, “What’s the difference?”

I think I even had a hot dog in my hand at the time, and it just hit me. It just bore a hole into me because I’ve always considered myself an animal lover. I think we are all animal lovers in a sense. We all feel that innate oneness when we look at a chimpanzee, or a dolphin, or an elephant… But a pig? maybe… A fish? no.

Until that day, I’d never had anything to do with pigs, or cows, or chickens, or fish. So making that connection was a serious challenge.

I saw a poster with two faces — one of a dog, one of a pig, and the simple question, “What’s the difference?”

The switch to eating only fish was in many ways more difficult than switching to veganism later on. I’d smell chicken and I’d salivate. I’d eat more fish just to make up for the meat I was missing.

Over time however, my taste buds changed and my gut changed. I was less and less drawn to meat and I only ate fish that was prepared for me. I thought that I would suffer if I ate fewer animal products, but actually I was thriving.

When my personal tipping point came, I was more than ready to go full Veg.

Now, I want to give you some emotional story about how watching Cowspiracy truly affected me (it did), or how the footage from slaughterhouses scarred me (it did). But the truth is, I became vegan because I am lactose-intolerant.

It started out as mild bloating, painful eczema, and unmanageable cramps. Once my nasty farts started affecting my social life, I knew I had to change. So I cut out milk, and with it eggs. It was around the time I was on a three month climbing trip, and it made zero sense to pack cartons of milk and eggs in the desert anyway, so it just happened naturally.

Eventually, my cramps were non-existent, my eczema and acne cleared, and only a truly epic burrito could bloat me. Veganism made sense in my life because I saw immediate relief to my personal troubles, flatulence included.

That is the hardest part about veganism right there: finding acceptance and compassion from your loved ones.

What is more, veganism has been easy because I have access to alternatives, like thirty different kinds of milks, fifty types of ice cream, cheeses, faux meats, frozen meals, burgers, baked goods, pastas, pizzas etc.

Most importantly, I have a partner who feels the same way I do. By the time we were both committed to vegan with a capital “V”, we were already experts at finding unintentionally vegan snacks and treats. Obviously, my favorite will always be birthday cake Oreos.

That is the hardest part about veganism right there: finding acceptance and compassion from your loved ones. I have to say, I have the best parents ever, but when I told them I was going vegan, it felt like coming out of the closet. Veganism was not popular in 2014, especially not in Alberta. It was misunderstood and scary for a lot of people, my family included.

I have discriminated against vegans myself. I have said and thought hurtful things about people because of the way they eat, yet… I have also become enraged by the way people enslave and slaughter animals. I was living with cognitive dissonance — the belief in two opposing ideals.

Now my reasoning has nothing to do with how easy veganism is for me. I knew my purpose, but I knew nothing about nutrition, so I researched.

I knew my impact on the animals, but not on the planet, so I researched.

I knew where I got my protein from, but I didn’t know how to talk to haters, so I — you guessed it — researched.

Each piece of information about sustainability, about health, about ethics pointed me to my own inconvenient truth. My diet affects more than just myself.

I have gained a greater sense of self-understanding, now that I have something to stand for. Not everyone can stand up for animals. Everyone has to find their own movement. Since I am the kind of person who cannot slaughter an animal, cannot skin a rabbit, cannot even gut a fish, I cannot be a part of animal agriculture. I feel more at peace with myself because of this understanding and I offer that to anyone struggling with their own cognitive dissonance.

I’ve seen a lot of change in these five years of being vegan. I learned how to read blood tests to ensure my vitamin/mineral levels are what they should be. I learned when to speak and when not to speak at dinner parties. I learned how to trick children and adults into eating their vegetables with tasty pastas and heaping pizza.

Now, I have made some pretty nasty food since going vegan, like the time I followed a dill pickle soup recipe… or the time I tried to make tapenade, but had none of the ingredients (pro tip, you cannot substitute capers with pickles). Or the time my gracious sister let me help make Christmas dinner… What I mess. I apologize to her and to my entire family.

Even though there are some nasty foods out there, 90% of the time, I’ve convinced my peers that vegan food is nothing to fear.

So why not go vegan?

One thing I recommend before you jump in is to follow in my footsteps and research.

For nutrition, watch everything by Dr. Michael Greger, and Dr. Neal Bernard. For ethics and sustainability, watch Colleen Pratrick-Goudreau, Mic the Vegan, and Bite-Sized Vegan. You need to read a lot of anti-vegan sentiment just to keep yourself neutral and watch all the debunk videos for Cowspiracy, What the Health, and Game Changers, but be prepared because then you have to watch the debunks of those debunks…

You will be left with that decision again.

What kind of diet best represents me?

I am privileged to say veganism works for my lifestyle and my bank account. Since I have financial security, I can choose what I want to eat. Since I have a supportive family, I don’t feel pressured to eat meat again. Since I have internet access, I have all the information I need to stay healthy, I have options for amazing products, and I have way, way too many recipes to choose from.

It just makes sense not to pay for other people to harm animals because I sure as hell couldn’t do it myself. I recognize those who have killed their own food and I solute them. If we were stranded on a deserted island, I would not stop you killing a boar, so long as you don’t try to stop me harvesting the seaweed.

See, we all have different images of extreme.

I know so many people who have been limited by that idea that veganism is this cult waiting for you to show weakness, so it can snatch you up, but it’s not. Vegans are people like you and me.

We all want a lifestyle that is easy, healthy, and beneficial. If you are drawn to veganism, but you still think it’s too extreme, let me leave you with the advice of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau,

Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Do something, anything.

Kassandra is a Canadian freelance writer and soon-to-be author. Her debut thriller, Habit, comes out this spring. Poetry/Prose:

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