Besides all the awesome food
A little over a year ago, in late 2018, despite studying a Master’s Degree in marketing (and should know better than to take the media to heart) I found myself gripped by moral panic over the impact we’re having on the planet. I was still in awe over the Blue Planet 2 series from the year before and was trying my best to reduce, reuse and recycle but it wasn’t enough.
I needed to find more and better ways of helping the environment.
That was around the time there was a lot of debate around the environmental impact of our diet and how becoming more plant-based can help to fight climate change, in particular, I remember reading this article headlined:
Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth
I was hooked.
I started doing more research into veganism, starting with the movie favourites; Earthlings, Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy and What The Health. Then looking at opposing arguments because I knew that they would, of course, be quite biased on either side of the debate.
I then looked at my circumstances, I found myself to be in a privileged position where I don’t seem to suffer from dietary intolerances or allergies. I was also in what I thought to be relatively good health, I went to the gym regularly though I never paid much attention to the nutritional value of the food I was eating as long as it hit the macros (chicken and rice, all the time).
Though perhaps most importantly, I live in the capital city of my country. That meant I had easy access to a wide variety of food resources that aren’t as available everywhere else. I’m talking alternative meat-free/dairy-free products if I wanted them, a nice big market full of local (though also not so local) grown foods as well as loads of vegan catering options in the city centre. I’m also lucky enough to have a garden to grow some of the most used vegetables myself, though I’m still learning about that.
I also came across Veganuary, a charity that uses our penchant for New Years Revolutions to encourage people to try being vegan for January. I figured this would be my chance to be non-committal to the cause. I did, after all, love the taste of dairy and I felt that dishes without meat were incomplete, something I learned from my parents. I later unlearned that when I completed the Veganuary challenge and then decided to just keep it going.
I won’t go into too many details about all the changes that happened since you’re here for the unexpected changes. Though for the shortened version of the normal stuff you hear about: my health hasn’t declined, I generally have more energy and the only non-vegan thing that I occasionally crave is KFC gravy, not bacon.
Without further ado, here are 3 things that I did not expect to happen when I became vegan:
#1 I learned to be more independent
This might sound a bit odd coming from a 24-year-old postgraduate, but I still live with my mum. Though I do contribute to the rent like any other lodger. Housing in my city is a big problem, private rentals are sky-high and unless you live with roommates or have a top paying job (neither of which I have yet) you’re very unlikely to live comfortably.
That being said, I’m still ashamed that before last year, my mum still did everything for me; bought and cooked most of the food, washed my clothes and did the housework on top of her job while I was working and studying.
Becoming vegan meant that I had to learn to cook a much wider variety of food, all of which I had to budget and shop for myself. This also meant cleaning up after myself every day so that my mum could use the kitchen to cook her food, and since I was cleaning up I threw in laundry to the mix too.
This might seem quite trivial, as it’s a part of life for most people, but for me, it felt so good to function independently from my mother and to help lift some of the burdens from her shoulders that came with having a grown-up child living with her.
#2 I always question what’s in my food if I don’t make it
I don’t know about you, but I never used to look at food labels to see what was actually in the stuff I was eating. It’s pretty crazy. While I try my best to make my food from scratch as often as possible, sometimes life gets in the way and you just need something on the go. Even vegan prepackaged food is full of mad scientist ingredients that can’t be good for you.
I’ll admit though, the main reason that I scan food labels now is to find animal derivatives if they’re there since I do care about the animals now as well. The other reason is generally to check the nutrition label since I do still go to the gym and have fitness goals.
The reason I didn’t expect this to happen was that I had this romantic idea of going to the grocery market every other day and cooking wholesome meals from scratch every day, I know, a bit naive of me.
#3 I gained a sense of spirituality
This one hit me by surprise.
I’ve always considered myself an atheist, a man of science. I have never believed in a divine being, the wrath or blessings of God and I never gave stock to what anyone said about the afterlife (apart from some pretty cool ghost stories).
While I still don’t believe in a personified deity, I have come to ask myself a lot of big questions about sentience, consciousness and the soul. I think this is a direct result of becoming more compassionate towards living beings and being generally more aware of suffering.
I have this sense of connection to something much bigger and ancient when I think about the meaning of life and where things like the consciousness of living things could come from.
I’m still trying to understand this aspect of my life and I feel I’m only just getting started, though this wouldn’t have come about if I didn’t change my dietary habits last year. I intend to explore this a lot deeper and maybe even write about it in more detail as time goes on.
I hope I’ve satisfied some curiosity, or even drawn you in further! I went into the idea of going plant-based straight out of an omnivorous diet overnight, with a focus on the environment and not much care for animal life. There was no transition period to speak of, which would account for the sheer amount of change I have seen within myself.
Though I’m still keenly aware that having this experience is a privilege that not everyone can afford to make, be that because of life-dependant dietary needs (an allergy to soy would be unfortunate, but nuts are also really common in vegan food) or availability of resources.