Sophia Rommel discusses her transition to veganism over a 3 month period, and describes in detail how it affected her health and wellbeing. She also provides some excellent tips and advice on how to transition into such a lifestyle without feeling overwhelmed by the process.
Veganism. People’s misperceptions and criticisms of the vegan community are growing just as fast as the community itself! With the media often labelling it as a “trend”, veganism as a movement and a lifestyle is frequently reduced to nothing more than a brief phase which many “young naïve people” go through, in order to feel as though they are changing a system (which is apparently already doomed). However, I think that veganism - or even just cutting down on the amount of meat one eats - is way more than a simple “trend”. Veganism can lead to fundamental, positive, long-term change, especially if more people decide to give veganism a go.
I became vegan three months ago, after a year of reducing my intake of meat, eggs and dairy, and increasing my use of cruelty-free products. For me, becoming vegan has been a great experience, and stemmed from two main areas: my health, as well as ethical and environmental reasons.
Transitioning to veganism was a pretty easy, enjoyable process for me because I had a close vegan friend who told me more about veganism, dispelled popular myths, and taught me how to eat well on a vegan diet. I also did not immediately transition – very slowly, I cut eggs, dairy, chicken, red meat, and, eventually, even my beloved Scottish salmon from my diet. So, my top tip for anyone thinking about going vegetarian or vegan is to take your time! Do not force yourself to go from eating meat regularly to abstaining from it instantly. Such a radical dietary change can upset your body: causing (temporary) health issues, general discomfort, and uncontrollable cravings, which might make you question whether or not you actually made a smart decision. Figuring out how your body adapts to changes gives you a good indication of how fast you should transition into veganism. Over time, you might realize that going vegan actually increases your ability to understand your body’s signals and, as an added bonus, also to eat more intuitively.
Aside from listening to your body, I would find a supportive and well-informed vegan buddy or a community (either online or in person), whom you can turn to if you have any questions or difficulties during your transition. Additionally, starting open and honest discussions with non-vegans about the environmental impact of eating meat, nutrition (yes, vegans actually eat enough protein! Many plant proteins benefit your body more than meats proteins do), and related topics can foster greater social awareness about veganism. Whilst you should not force others to go vegan or degrade them because of their decision to eat a lamb rack or a burger, talking with others about key topics surrounding veganism can help build bridges between many different perspectives. Who knows, you might even make some real changes; for example, your curious non-vegan friend might try a yummy “Meatless Monday”.
So… did you actually notice any changes in your health?
Before going vegan, I suffered from hormonal imbalances, acne, bloating, hair loss, and extreme stress (and, worst of all, these symptoms were mutually reinforcing). About three weeks into reducing my meat and dairy intake to once a month, my acne began clearing up, my bloating stopped, and my stress-levels massively decreased. ‘Awesome,’ I thought, ‘this is a good start!’ As I continued transitioning, my energy-levels shot up; something which I had often read about but had not expected to happen so quickly and seamlessly. Within months, I went from being a very tired and stressed individual, to possessing tons of energy and increased happiness levels. On top of these fantastic changes, my appreciation for the world and wildlife around me also rose.
A final, major change which I have noticed since going vegan is that all my cravings, especially for those super sweet post-dinner treats, have disappeared. Please do still treat yourself and indulge every once in a while, go for it – life is short! However, you might notice that you will no longer equate eating junk food to “treating yourself”, and your body might no longer long for that delicious tub of Ben & Jerry’s. Instead, you might find yourself wanting a green smoothie or a fruity banana “nice-cream”.
(Need some inspiration? Check out these vegan meals: Almond-Milk Oatmeal, Hummus and Chickpea Flatbread with Mixed Greens, and Banana-Oat Cupcakes!)
Over time, my friends and family began commenting on how happy I had become and, aside from veganism, I thank yoga for that. Combining yoga and veganism is like a wellness formula to me. It has increased my ability to connect my mind with my body and has helped me understand which sources of food I actually require and enjoy, leaving me energized and nourished.
Every “body” is different
Of course, every “body” is different and some people’s bodies cannot thrive on a vegan diet. However, everybody is capable of reducing how much meat they eat (unless someone is suffering from a specific health condition). Through veganism’s growing reach online, socially and in academic research, more information has been published regarding going vegan and some of the requirements this might entail (for example, I take a B12 supplement, which is essential for most vegans).
Overall, as long as you feel ready to transition, read reliable sources, ensure that you maintain a high enough daily caloric intake (with plenty of healthy fats and whole grains), and listen to your body every step of the way, I would totally recommend that you start your vegan journey today! Again, take it one step at a time and consult yourself throughout – you do not have to go from 0 to 100 straight away.
Saving the Planet
Although being vegan has vastly improved both my mental and physical health, the movement has also heightened my awareness of the ethical and environmental factors at play when we make our dietary choices. For example, prior to my time at university, I was often shown videos of slaughterhouses and confronted with activists’ campaigns. However, the animals’ suffering and the wider issues (such as land and food shortages, environmental destruction, and the ozone layer’s depletion) all seemed so far removed from my everyday life. I cared about these issues, but I did not care enough to make concrete, sustainable changes. I did not stop to ask myself what I would truly be willing to give up, in order to help the animals and the environment.
Once I started university, however, I read up on our reality: namely, just how terrible climate change, factory farming/slaughtering innocent animals and the land issues are. I began to care more. So, I decided that it was time to make a defining choice, both for my health and the planet’s: I went vegan. I realized that I did not mind if my changes’ effects were small, so long as I could make a difference, somehow, to my health and the globe’s benefit. With veganism’s growth and the expanding options available for vegans (in stores, restaurants, and supermarkets), I also knew that I was not alone in this. Therefore, being vegan for me is fundamentally about something much larger than myself, much larger than you, and much larger than humanity. Veganism is about saving, improving and sustaining something which we all rely upon: the Earth.
It’s time to take care of our home.
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