When I made the switch to the vegan life a little over a year ago, I thought just my diet would change. Yes, I was hopeful that it would lead to more energy, less sick days, and a ‘fitter’ me, but little did I know that there were so many other hidden consequences to going vegan.
1. It made me mindful of more than just food.
Once I got the food part of veganism down, I started thinking about the way I was consuming non-food related items like clothing, soap, shampoo/conditioner, and makeup. Then I also started thinking about the amount of plastic and packaging I use, and made more of an effort to increase consumption of reusable products. I have to admit that I’m not nearly as good about buying ethical products as I am about eating vegan, but I’m getting there, slowly but surely. For clothes, I’ve made an effort to buy from secondhand stores because it’s cheaper, it’s recycled, and also I just love thrift shopping. Some clothes may not be ethically produced, but I justify it by the fact that I’m reusing the product. I just can’t afford to spend $100 on every article of clothing. Or maybe I could if I cut back on other expenses, and I’m just making up excuses.
For products other than clothes (makeup, soap, shampoo, etc.), I’ve decided to use up the products I have, and then as I go out to buy more I’ll buy the ethical equivalent. I’ve found it a little difficult to find motivation to do this since the products are expensive and I’m not as passionate about animal testing as I am about human conditions, but I’m trying to make the switch slowly. In a way, it has made me more selective and careful about my purchases so I don’t just blow a bunch of money on a mediocre product. And since ethical products tend to be of higher quality, they last longer– so I could actually be saving money in the long run (maybe… hopefully…). I’m still in the early stages of being more than just mindful and actually acting upon this awareness, but I’m trying not to put so much pressure on myself to be ethical in every single aspect of my life; that only causes anxiety and stress and I’d rather go at my own pace.
2. It brought out a creative side I didn’t know I had.
From cooking to blogging, being vegan has made me way more creative than I’ve ever been. Growing up, I never thought of myself as creative– that was always my sister’s strength. I was the realist, the practical one with no artistic talents. I never thought about how I could be creative beyond the traditional sense. However, being vegan means cooking… a lot. And cooking has made me experiment on the daily. I now make my own sauces and dressings, recreate and veganize favorite childhood dishes (e.g. mapo tofu, curry, sushi, gyoza, okonomiyaki), and cook with items I probably wouldn’t bother attempting if I wasn’t vegan (e.g. beets, artichoke, black bean pasta).
It’s also led me to this blog. I had this blog before I went vegan, but now I have a whole new niche and loads of content to cover. I have so many more thoughts and experiences to share, and I’m constantly writing down new post ideas in my journal.
3. I found a community I didn’t know existed.
I never knew how many vegans and vegan enthusiasts were out there! I’ve found the biggest community through Instagram (there are THOUSANDS of amazing vegan accounts), but I’ve also been exposed to fellow vegans through meet ups, vegan shop ups (shout out to Pine Box Rock Shop in Bushwick), and podcasts (No Meat Athlete Radio, The Rich Roll Podcast). It’s incredible how supportive, creative, passionate, and dedicated the vegan community is. Even if you have no intention of ever going vegan, I think it’s worthwhile to follow some vegan accounts or go to a vegan event, just to see what happens when like-minded individuals come together to try to create a better world. If anything, it’ll expose you to a different way of thinking and you’ll learn something new.
4. It had a domino effect on improving many other aspects of my life.
I don’t know if this can be attributed directly to going vegan, or if I coincidentally went vegan at the same point in my life that self-improvement became important to me, but ever since I changed my diet I’ve been more focused on becoming a better me. I’ve always had an interest in self-help books, documentaries, and health, but self-development was more something that I observed and not something I acted on.
However, I’ve found that I actively try to live with more intention and purpose since going vegan. I read to relax and learn, meditate to be more productive and rest my mind, exercise to relieve stress and push myself, and stretch to maintain flexibility and be in tune with my body’s weak points. I experiment more and try things recommended by thought leaders, like seasoning with turmeric (an anti-inflammatory), incorporating more fermented food in my diet, or making my bed every morning. Like the consequence of being more mindful, going vegan has made me want to be more, and do more.
5. It made me realize I really can do what I set my mind to.
I was a hardcore omnivore up until December 29, 2015, the day I decided to stop eating animal products. Before then, I ate meat at almost every meal, had yogurt every morning, and ate a lot of cheese. I never considered becoming a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, until I watched Vegucated (a documentary about the farming industry) on December 28. How could I possibly survive without greek yogurt?
In hindsight, I wish I had looked for resources for newly transitioning vegans, but I didn’t know they existed. I decided if I was going to be vegan, there’s no better time than now and did it cold turkey. I somehow stuck to my guns through the first week, then the second, then the third… and here we are today. I want everyone out there to know that if I could do it, you can too. And it doesn’t just pertain to cutting out meat. Anything that you could never see yourself doing, whether it’s running a half marathon, starting a blog, or traveling alone, you just have to force yourself to do it. You hold all the power.
6. It’s had a positive impact on close friends and family.
I went into veganism pretty myopically. I had to tackle the day-to-day anxieties– what products to buy at the grocery store, how to eat out as a vegan, how to adequately express myself when people questioned my decision. My brain didn’t have the capacity to think beyond myself and the daily struggles I faced as a new vegan. As the difficulties faded and the threat of it being just a phase in my life passed, I’ve noticed how it has influenced others too. The initial reaction I got from friends and family was mostly positive and encouraging, but came with a hint of skepticism (especially from my mother, who I’m pretty sure didn’t even know what veganism was before I explained it to her).
Now I’m surrounded by complete acceptance and respect, and have even influenced others to consume less meat or eat more healthfully. Although I have yet to convert anyone to full veganism (not that I have any intention to, although if it happened that would be great), seeing how my behavior has made a positive impact on others is truly rewarding. Even small things, like getting my friends to try a vegan restaurant with me, or seeing my coworkers get the veggie option at the office cafeteria, make me happy. I’d like to think that my being vegan makes those around me think a little more critically about the way we eat and live as a society, and maybe, just maybe, I have inspired them in some small way at one point or another.