Today is World Vegan Day and it also just happens to be my vegan birthday too! I had no idea that November 1st was World Vegan Day when I made the choice to go vegan. I also did not realize that one simple choice would have such a profound impact on my life trajectory. I don't believe coincidences - on some level synchronicity was at play and things lined up in the best possible way for me to discover veganism. Everything in life happens in the perfect time/space sequence. For me, going vegan was the catalyst that I needed to raise my level of consciousness and live the best version of my life.
I was a vegetarian for a long time before going vegan. A major factor that held me back from going 100% vegan was the fact that "I loved cheese". Early on, I didn't completely understand the truth behind the production of animal based products. Once I learned about the cruelty, abuse and torture that goes into making products that I thought I loved (at the time it was cheese), I realized that I really didn't love them after all.
I am a firm believer that in order to be successful in going vegan you must first identify “why” you are choosing to be vegan. In my experience, making this connection made it easy to stay committed. The sad reality is that animal-based "foods" come from innocent animals that are incredibly loving beings. They are intelligent, conscious and aware of what happens in their lives. Even if an animal-based product is "organic" or "humane" it does not matter, there is no such thing as "happy" exploitation. If I had made the connection earlier on I probably would have gone vegan much sooner.
Veganism is not just a diet or a quick weight-loss fad. Instead, it is a moral-baseline that describes living from a place of compassion, by excluding all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty towards non-human animals. This means excluding the bodies and secretions of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. This also extends to cosmetic products that we put on our bodies and lifestyle products that are made with animal parts, like skin (leather), feathers (down), fur, silk and wool.
Going Vegan was the BEST decision I have ever made.
Our bodies are literally made up of the food we eat. According to Swedish molecular biologist Dr. Jonas Frisen, our cells die and are replaced all the time. The body's cells largely replace themselves every 7 to 10 years.* In order for this process to occur, our cells require a constant supply of energy. This energy is derived from the chemical bond energy in food molecules, which serve as fuel for our cells.**
Knowing that our bodies are made up of the foods that we consume, the next logical step is to think about the source of these foods. After learning the truth behind the animal agriculture industry and the environmental impact of these practices, the thought of having rotting corpses and the secretions of animals (like eggs which are literally chicken periods and dairy products) inside my body was a complete turn off. Energetically, I know that I do not want my body to be made from food that is the result of rape, pain and suffering. Instead, I choose to eat plant-based foods that do not involve any of these negative energies.
We are often quick to blame "bad genes" for health problems, but after conducting extensive research I have come to conclude that the role that our genes play when it comes to our health is rooted in nurture not nature. Dr. Dean Ornish (founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute) contends that "our genes are not our destiny". In fact, the relatively new science of epigenetics proves that the daily choices that we make (i.e. non-genetic factors of diet, lifestyle and environmental stressors) change the way that our genes express themselves, without changing our DNA. In other words, our diet has a role to play in how our genes express themselves.*** Personally, there is a history of cancer and other diseases in my family and I feel at ease knowing that I can take responsibility with my health, by making dietary choices that will have an impact on the way in which my genes express themselves.
I have also noticed that my body has physically changed since going vegan. I have slimmed down and find that it is easier to maintain my weight. One of the best parts about being vegan is that as long as I am eating healthy, whole foods (not vegan junk food), I can really eat as much as I want without restricting calories or carbs. I do not suffer from congestion like I used to, and have less skin problems like breakouts. Growing up, I believed that my skin breakouts were attributed to hormonal changes, but really it was just the foods that I was eating. My stomach also feels "lighter". Even when I eat a large meal, I usually don't get a sick feeling compared to when I was eating meals with dairy and meat.
In addition to the health benefits of choosing to fuel my body with vegan foods, I have noticed that my level of consciousness has significantly improved. By taking off my blinders and learning the truth behind animal agriculture I am now able to make informed choices as a consumer. I can fully operate from a place of compassion by leaving death, pain and suffering out of my diet and lifestyle choices. For the first time in my life, I am able to truly live in a way that reflects my morals and ethical beliefs. By eating strictly plant-based foods I have found that I am able to think clearer and perform tasks more efficiently.
Do you think that you're only one person who can't possibly make a difference?
I am committed to showing the world that a plant-based diet is possible for anyone, on any budget. I have done this publicly by sharing my journey thorough my blog and on social media. This has allowed me to make meaningful connections and form incredible friendships within the vegan community within my city and world-wide. But, you don't have to take this journey publicly to make a difference. Choosing vegan means that you're saving the lives of hundreds of animals, if not thousands if you make this a life-long commitment.
In the last couple of years I've watched family members who were initially opposed to the lifestyle go completely vegan. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by vegans in my immediate family, including my 2 brothers, one of their girl friends and my dad (who is "99% vegan"), as well as my dog who eats a vegan diet. I have also seen long-time friends cut out a significant amount of meat, dairy and eggs from their diet largely as a result of my example. This is proof that one person can make a meaningful impact.
Plan for success!
We live in a world with so much abundance - especially in Western society. There is absolutely no shortage of plant-based foods and vegan alternatives. If you think that going vegan is difficult, that's a lazy cop out. You just need to do your homework and make a game plan. It will take a little effort and some planning, but it will feel like second nature in no time at all! There are so many options when it comes to delicious foods in the plant world. You just may fall in love with fruits, and vegetables that you've never tried before!
Start by incorporating a couple of plant-based meals into your diet by finding recipes with familiar ingredients that are easy to make. There are many free resources online with recipes and meal ideas like on my Recipe page, on my Instagram feed and across YouTube, for instance on the Edgy Veg, hot for food and Fully Raw Kristina channels. You can also try to swap in one vegan alternative each week. For example, swap a plant-based milk for dairy milk or try a new veggie burger recipe instead of making meat patties.
Vegan alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs have come a long way in recent years. These alternatives can make the transition easier, because you can simply substitute them in to your favourite recipes. Craving a juicy burger? Try the FieldBurger from Field Roast. Still addicted to cheese (yes, that is an actual thing)? Try cultured cashew-based cheese from Wood and Water Foods, meltable cheese from Gusta and cheese slices and shreds from Follow Your Heart ("Earth Island" in Canada). Want a creamy salad dressing or dip for your veggies? Try RawFoodz products which mimic traditional dairy-based dressings, dips and sauces. The vegan food options are virtually endless!
And if you're trying to budget, whole plant-based foods tend to be more affordable compared to meat, dairy and eggs. Rice and beans will always be cheaper than a steak. Moreover, if you eat a healthy, balanced plant-based diet, chances are that you'll save money in the long run with fewer sick-days and less medical costs associated to illness and disease. And if you want to be a cheap date or save money dining out, vegan menu items are usually the less expensive choice at restaurants. For tips on dining out as a vegan check out my blog post on the topic here.
To learn more check out some of my favourite resources:
The Best Speech You'll Ever Hear by Gary Yourofsky
HOW NOT TO DIE - an instant New York Times Best Seller by Dr. Michael Greger, MD
Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
And as a self proclaimed podcast-junkie, I've complied a list of all of the podcasts that helped me along my vegan journey. Click here to check them out.
There is no greater choice that you can make, with anywhere near the level of a positive impact on the animals, our planet and your own health. It feels so incredibly empowering to vote with your dollar. So what are you waiting for?
Happy World Vegan Day!
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Now you can get all of the ingredients for a selection of my recipes pre-portioned, delivered to your door and ready to cook with Let's Nom! As always, my recipes are 100% vegan, simple to make for home cooks at any skill level, and most importantly, delicious. Click here to learn more!
*Opfer, Chris. "Does Your Body Really Replace Itself Every Seven Years?" HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks.com, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016.
**Alberts, Bruce. "How Cells Obtain Energy from Food - Molecular Biology of the Cell - NCBI Bookshelf." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2016
*** Carr, Kris. Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live like You Mean It! Guilford, Ct: Skirt!, 2011. Print.