Photo: Tofu, Vegetables and Rice

This month being World Vegetarian month, I decided to take some time to reflect on my journey from meat eater, to vegetarian, to vegan. It may seem like a daunting change at first, but the transition gets easier every step of the way.

For me, food was always a battle. From a young age my mother labeled me a “picky eater”. The reason I was so particular about what I ate was because most foods would leave me feeling sick. I did not really notice just how awful I constantly felt until I decided to make a healthy change. This too, was a battle. Through many diets I fought: gluten free, paleo, sugar-free. Still, I did not feel satisfied with what I was eating. Somewhere between paleo and sugar-free; something clicked. I realized I did not like eating meat. In my personal experience, I would feel bloated and unsatisfied after eating it. I also learned that I was lactose intolerant. I decided to drop meat completely and go vegetarian, while slowly giving up dairy. It was tough to give up fish at first, but sweet potato sushi rolls gave me the strength to power through. As I experimented with recipes, my meals became colorful and I finally had some variety in my diet. It seemed amazing that I could eat hearty, flavorful meals that left me satisfied and didn’t make me feel sick.

As I became vegetarian, I did quite a bit of research to ensure I was eating a well-rounded diet. I was shocked by what I found! I quickly realized that vegetarianism and veganism are so much more than just “diets”. As my research continued, I learned what life was like for animals on a factory farm. I was horrified by what they had to endure, and I couldn’t believe I had ever contributed to that kind of suffering. I watched movies like “Cowspiracy” and “Earthlings”. I found the environmental impact of animal agriculture incredibly alarming. Giving up animal products seemed like nothing in comparison to the cost of consuming them.

When friends and family learned about my decision to go vegan, I became the focus of much skepticism and the punchline of many jokes. Being from a fairly small town in Minnesota, giving up meat and dairy was considered a radical decision. Everyone told me veganism was not healthy, that I would not get enough protein or nutrients, and that I would starve living off tofu (to set the record straight – tofu is not the only vegan food in existence). In reality, I found that I was actually paying attention to how much protein I consumed. I started taking a multivitamin to make sure I was getting all the vitamins I needed. I started tracking my fiber and water intake. I made sure to eat the proper servings of fruits and vegetables. I made healthy choices that the meat eater in me never even thought to make. I also found that as my friends and family watched me transform into a happier, healthier person, the skepticism of my diet choice started to fade away.

As I reflect on my journey from meat eater, to vegetarian, to vegan, the only regret I have is that I did not start it sooner. If you are not already vegetarian, get into the spirit of World Vegetarian Month and give it a try!