Ten Benefits of Going Vegan
Now that I've told you my vegan story, it's time for me to share the many beautiful changes that veganism brought into my life, and will likely bring into yours, too. In terms of my health and wellbeing, going vegan is the single best decision I've ever made. Without further ado, the following are ten benefits that I experienced when I became vegan:
1. Improved Mental Health
Mental health is incredibly important to me, and you'll know if you read my last post that it was my primary concern when I was considering going vegan. As an eating disorder survivor, I worried that veganism would feel restrictive and trigger unhealthy eating behaviors. That fear couldn't be further from the truth. Veganism, in fact, significantly improved my mental health in two ways. The first is that eating vegan removed the cognitive dissonance I used to experience when I ate dairy or eggs. As an ethical vegetarian, I knew that these industries were inextricably linked to the meat industry, and I often found myself trying to justify consuming some animal products while eschewing others. The knowledge that dairy and eggs are also cruel to animals created cognitive dissonance whenever I ate them; I felt a distinct uneasiness that contributed to my already damaged relationship to food. This brings me to the second mental health benefit of veganism, which is that it healed my relationship with food. While I had already worked hard to heal this relationship in my eating disorder recovery, I still worried frequently about eating "too much." Not so when I went vegan. Overhauling my diet meant that I was way more concerned about getting in enough nutrients than minimizing my food intake. Eating plant foods helped me approach food with a mindset of abundance rather than restriction.
2. Greater Capacity for Empathy
If you think you love animals now, just wait until you go vegan. I felt like I removed all the barriers to compassion I used to carry with me, and developed a much deeper sense of empathy with not only animals, but also people. Opening my eyes to farmed animals' suffering attuned me to others' well-being in a way I could never have anticipated. I have heard many other vegans describe sensations of increased empathy and compassion, so this seems to be a universal benefit. Imagine your love for your cat, the bird outside, or your obnoxious coworker increasing tenfold. Who wouldn't want that?
3. Better Digestion
Many vegans credit plant foods with improving their digestion, and I'm no different. While my digestion wasn't particularly poor before my transition, I would get bloated and sluggish at least a couple times a week after a large or dairy-heavy meal. Not anymore. I experienced a little discomfort during the first few weeks of eating vegan as my body adjusted to the influx of fiber from more fruits and vegetables, but my digestion is now close to perfect. I almost never get stomachaches, diarrhea, or that feeling of being weighed down after a meal.
After a year of cooking and eating vegan, I'm fairly confident that I can make any food I want from scratch. I became a much, much better home cook as a result of the transition, and am familiar with a massive variety of foods. Jackfruit? I've got a recipe for that. Chia seeds? I know exactly what to do with 'em. Cashews? They make an amazing cheese substitute. I also learned how to make most of my favorite staple foods at home, from almond milk to dill pickles to crackers to pesto sauce. Drop me on a desert island, I dare you.
5. Feeling Inspired
I've implemented more lifestyle changes in the year since going vegan than I did in all my other years combined. I'm not sure if it's the increased energy from eating a plant-based diet, or the feeling of connection with the world around me, but becoming vegan has inspired a number of other positive life changes, including: eating healthy, exercising five times a week, prioritizing sleep, starting a blog, going zero-waste, and deciding to travel around the world with my partner at the end of 2017. Veganism created a domino effect of positivity in my life.
6. More Creativity
Similar to becoming more self-sufficient and inspired, I have also become more creative since going vegan. Living an alternative lifestyle boosts creativity in a million ways, from the meals I put together in my kitchen to the leather-free shoes I find in a thrift store to the photos I take for The Feminist Vegan Instagram account. I was an artistic child and need to make things in order to be happy, so I was delighted to find that being vegan sparks my creativity on a daily basis.
7. Authentic Connections
Going vegan required me to be much more vulnerable in my interpersonal relationships. When anyone asks me about the hardest part of going vegan, I always respond that I find the social aspect the toughest. In general, the people in my life have been supportive of my veganism, but I've found myself in difficult social situations significantly more often since going vegan. I've explained my veganism to defensive dinner companions, annoyed party hosts, confused friends, worried family members, and a curious partner. This has meant that I've needed to get really honest and vulnerable about why I'm vegan, which a surprising amount of the time encourages others to be similarly authentic with me. Furthermore, I feel like the truest version of myself as a vegan, which allows me to be one hundred percent genuine with everyone from best friends to total strangers.
8. Fitter Body
I can't say whether or not I lost weight on a vegan diet, because I don't own a scale and ask my doctors not to show me my weight when I go in for a physical. This is paramount to my mental health and my eating disorder recovery. Furthermore, weight loss doesn't equate to health, which I learned firsthand when I was nearly hospitalized for being dangerously underweight when I was nineteen. What I do know, however, is that I feel more energetic, eat much more healthily, drink less alcohol and more water, and exercise more often since going vegan, and those are the building blocks of physical fitness.
Before becoming vegan, I would never have called myself an environmentalist. Sure, I recycled and thought about global warming on occasion, but I didn't care about the environment more than the next person. Environmentalism wasn't a primary motivator for going vegan, either; it came in a distant third behind animal rights and my health. Fast forward one year and I'm going zero-waste, cutting out my consumption of chemicals, and participating in the People's Climate March. I've realized that if I'm vegan for the animals and my health, I also need to be vegan for the environment, since the three are deeply connected.
10. Stronger Activism
Simply put, going vegan turned me into an activist. This may sound strange given that I engage in relatively little animal rights activism; however, the true value of my veganism is that it catalyzed practices of self-reflection and skepticism of mainstream society that radicalized me in other ways. It wasn't until I went vegan that I started volunteering at a local organization that combats street harassment, engaging in nonviolent direct actions, buying from eco-friendly and Black-owned business, and writing about the issues I discuss on this blog. My veganism supports my fight for justice in other areas of life, and though I am a very new activist, I would never have become one at all without veganism.