My Transition to Veganism (Part Two)
When I decided to transition to veganism a couple of months ago, I had no idea what impact it would have on my life or, more importantly, my recovery. When I told my parents (who have since been very supportive) that I wanted to make this change, I could tell they had reservations. There’s an assumption in society—and especially in the eating disorder community—that veganism is a “restrictive diet” and, among ED sufferers in particular, is often done with the intention of cutting out foods and losing weight.
I knew this was a genuine concern of my parents. To be honest, it was a concern of mine as well. But I also knew why I was making this transition, and that it had nothing to do with an aversion towards food or a number on a scale. When I explained my motivations to my parents—and reassured them I’d work with my nutritionist to ensure I got enough proteins and fats—they seemed to ease up. Every day for the past few years, they’ve seen me work hard in my recovery to ditch anorexia once and for all. They’ve seen this, and they know that the last thing I want to do is to put myself in a position where I’m at risk of relapse.
My transition to veganism wasn’t all-or-nothing—at least in the beginning. I started by gradually replacing animal products with affordable and accessible plant-based products: cow’s milk with soy milk, cow’s yogurt with coconut milk yogurt, ONE Bars with Lärabars, and so on. I quickly realized that the plant-based products often didn’t contain as much protein so I increased my intake of tofu, lentils, beans, nuts, and nut butters and began adding nutritional yeast, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and wheat germ where I could. I switched my usual weekend breakfast of scrambled eggs with scrambled tofu, which is actually much tastier. I also take an iron supplement every day and a B-12 supplement once a week, in addition to my multi-vitamin.
Then I started cooking for myself, something I’d never done in the past due to fear and disinterest. The first vegan recipe I attempted was chocolate chip cookies, which, to my pleasant surprise, turned out great! Both my vegetarian parents and my omnivore brother gobbled them up within days. From there on, it was one tasty dish after another: spicy red lentils, buffalo cauliflower wings, sweet and sour tofu, banana bread, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, ranch dressing, egg salad. The list goes on.
My ability to create quality and wholesome homemade food for myself was empowering. As a result, I began to appreciate and enjoy food in an entirely new way. A few years ago, I dreaded every occasion when I’d be forced to eat. Now, I can’t wait to fuel my body and mind with food that’s equally delicious, nutritious, and ethical. I look forward to joining my mom in the kitchen forty-five minutes before dinner to simmer lentils or pan-fry tofu or blend cashews for a creamy sauce. (It turns out cashews are a vegan cook’s best friend.) It’s been nice over the past month to watch her, as well, try out new vegan recipes or transform old family favorites into plant-based versions that I can eat and enjoy.
Overall, I’d give my transition to veganism a 2/10 for difficulty and a 10/10 recommendation. Health-wise, I have more energy and endurance, I sleep better at night, I get stomach aches less often, my joints aren’t as sore, and even my breathing has noticeably improved since eliminating animal products from my diet.
In fact, the hardest thing about becoming a vegan for me has been the social and emotional aspects. Most people simply don’t understand the importance—the necessity—of veganism, which is okay, because up until recently, I didn’t understand either. The challenge comes when you explain to family or friends, people who you’re close to and love and respect, why eating animal products is immoral and unjustified, and they don’t care. Or maybe they do care but the fact that innocent animals are brutally murdered every day to produce their favorite foods isn’t enough for them to make a very simple change in their diet. And neither is the fact that the animal agriculture industry is significantly harming the planet; the same planet we must protect and preserve for our own lifetime and the lifetimes of future generations.
Standing up to a social construct like meat consumption isn’t easy, especially when those closest to you oppose it every day, but significant change only ever happens when people aren’t afraid to defy the status quo. That’s why veganism is more than just a diet; it’s a lifestyle and a movement. In the short time I’ve been a vegan, my life has changed for the better. In addition to my newfound interest in cooking, I’m able to eat a wide variety of foods in moderation without experiencing urges to restrict, and it just so happens that those foods are better for my body, the environment, and, most of all, the animals, who deserve so much better than a life of enslavement, exploitation, and slaughter.