To Be or Not to Be Vegan?

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by Claire Kyllonen, Staff Writer

The questions I’m always asked when people find out I’m a vegan are: how and why? Well, it’s a complex answer.

Growing up, my meals were never complete unless meat was on the table, and thanks to my Finnish father, there were always dairy products in the house. I loved bacon, and I loved cheese, but not as much as eating them together on a burger. I even thought vegans and vegetarians were weird. Until I started doing my own research.

I watched a thought-changing documentary this summer called Vegucated, which chronicled the lives of three meat lovers and their switch to veganism. Not only did this documentary show the excellent health benefits that veganism offers, but it also showed what happens behind closed doors to the animals that eventually become our main courses. I won’t go into the specific details of it, but I will say it definitely made me rethink ordering a bacon cheeseburger.

So when I started trying to do it on my own, I wasn’t surprised to come across people who opposed the idea. Fortunately, I was lucky to have a mom who was willing to help and make sure I did it in a healthy way.

Here are just some of the health benefits that I noticed when I made the switch.

  • I slimmed down an entire jean size. But in all seriousness, there are so many diets out there that employ drastic measures to shed the unwanted pounds. A plus side with veganism is that I can maintain a healthy weight just by eating; none of that carb or calorie counting that drives us crazy. Just make sure to get your daily nutritional requirements. Situations vary, so it’s always good to check with a doctor or nutritionist first.
  • I was a lot more energetic. I’m talking a major difference here for me. Instead of feeling like I wanted to sleep all the time, I was jogging regularly and waking up ready to tackle the day. A balanced vegan diet is naturally free of “cholesterol-laden, artery clogging” animal proteins that physically slowed me down. It was wonderful being able to eat a satisfying meal and not feeling like I needed to take a 4-hour nap afterwards.
  • My mood improved. I mean, who wouldn’t be happy knowing they were getting to eat all they wanted AND help the environment? Scientifically speaking though, the brain requires good nutrition just as much as the body does. With a balanced vegan diet, an increased amount of antioxidants reduces inflammation and prevents toxins from building up all throughout the body, including the brain! So veganism can help keep moods even and the mind sharp.

These are just some of the major factors I noticed in my switch. It was great being able to see results almost right away because it helped to keep me on the right track (for those first few weeks, I thought I was going to die every time I passed a hamburger joint).

One of the major problems about veganism, unfortunately, is that most people don’t understand it, so they tend to see it in a negative way. I’ve had people look at me funny, put me down, even ridicule me for my food choices. I even stopped going out to eat in groups because I worried I’d make someone mad if I told them I was a vegan when they wanted to go to Logan’s Roadhouse.

Outright ignorance has led the world to believe that you don’t want to get involved with vegans because they’re “psychos” that will only lecture you about being a vegan. All I have to say to that is: don’t comment on my food, and I won’t comment on yours. People need to realize that being vegan is an individual choice, a choice that we make just like people who choose to eat meat. Not all vegans think self-righteously about themselves. Our society shouldn’t make it to where vegans have to explain themselves.

It’s time something was done about it. Let’s work to show society that vegans aren’t just weirdo tree-huggers; they’re people, too.