My journey with the vegan (plant-based) lifestyle began in February 2016. After years of struggling with weight gain as a college freshman, I was searching on YouTube for ways to lose weight when I came across quite a few videos about veganism. At this point, I still had an unhealthy mindset in regards to food and health, so I was searching for a method to lose weight quickly with minimal effort. After seeing the massive weight loss that many people had experienced due to their plant-based diets, I decided to give it a try.
Although my initial desire to embrace a plant-based lifestyle was inspired by my desperation to lose weight, I began to develop compassion for the living things that are harmed in order for us to consume meat and dairy products. Furthermore, as a member of a family with a history of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia, I became more concerned about the impact that consuming dairy and meat can have on my overall health.
Throughout my journey, I have gone back and forth between veganism, vegetarianism, and briefly, pescatarianism; however, my long term goal is to eat a completely plant-based diet 100% of the time.
My Challenges with Going Vegan/Plant-Based
One of my main challenges with diet in general, whether I was eating meat and dairy or not, was portion control. I used to eat a lot. This problem came from my unhealthy relationship with food and problems with binge eating. When I discovered the vegan diet through YouTube, many of the people whose videos I viewed held the belief that as a vegan, you could eat as much food as you wanted, as long as it was vegan, and still lose weight. While I can’t speak for everyone, this was definitely not the case for me. During my first couple of weeks as a vegan, I lost about 2-3 pounds of water weight, and then my weight stagnated for a few months. I have lost over twenty pounds since February 2016, but it was due to reducing my overall calorie intake and becoming more physically active and not the plant-based diet alone.
Another challenge that I have faced while attempting to go vegan is my addiction to dairy. Eliminating meat from my diet was quite easy for me, which is why I was able to stick to the vegetarian diet more than any other one throughout the past year; however, eliminating dairy, especially cheese, has been the true challenge. Giving up dairy milk, ice cream, and yogurt has been easy for me because I have been able to find replacements for these products that I enjoy. Giving up cheese has been harder for me because after trying numerous brands of vegan cheeses, I have yet to find one that I like. Giving up cheese is also hard for me when eating out with friends. At many restaurants the vegetarian options almost always include cheese or butter, and the fact that I am a picky eater narrows my options even further.
Benefits of the Vegan/Plant-Based Diet
Despite the challenges that I have faced with going vegan, there are many benefits to this lifestyle that motivate me to keep trying to commit to it full time. Even though I have deviated from the plant-based diet more than a few times, my journey with veganism has greatly improved my relationship with food and overall physical health. I now consume food for its intended purpose, to provide fuel for my body, rather than partaking in eating as something to do out of boredom or for emotional reasons. This changed relationship has helped me to overcome my main obstacle in regards to weight loss and has helped me to lose over twenty pounds.
Going vegan also broadened my palette when it comes to the foods I eat. There are many new foods that I have added to my diet that I would not have tried had it not been for my attempts at going vegan. I now eat many more fruits and vegetables than I used to. Even during periods in which I am consuming cheese and other animal products, I continue to allow fruits and vegetables to make up the majority of my diet.
I find that reducing my intake of animal products and increasing my intake of whole, fresh foods in any capacity provides me with more energy, better mental health, better digestion, and many more benefits.