I know, the word "veganism" seems daunting.
It sounds like all of your food freedom is being stripped away from you.
When you hear the word, all of the great memories you have had with pizza, ice cream and big bowls of mac and cheese come to mind. You think, "Why on Earth would I give this up?"
To be honest, I thought the same exact thing before I made this lifestyle change. I thought anyone who decided to go vegan was being a bit dramatic.
I mean, how could you possibly enjoy your food if it's made purely out of vegetables?
But in reality, most people don't make lifestyle changes until they need to.
Maybe you watched a close family member suffer from heart disease and you decided to make sure you would never suffer from the same illness.
Maybe you were forced to watch one of those horrifying films in health class that actually showed how animals go from the "farm" to your dinner table, and you just couldn't understand how it could possibly be ethical.
I decided to make this lifestyle change for a combination of those reasons. I saw some family members experience health issues I never wanted to experience myself, and I saw a video on my Facebook News Feed about how chickens are gassed, decapitated and tortured by living on top of one another in "farms" before they are killed. In my opinion, that's just not something I want to take part in.
But as I said before, I was not always this way. I loved a good chicken Parmesan, the occasional filet mignon and definitely some chocolate ice cream.
But as I continued to do my research on where our food comes from, I slowly started to drop different food groups from my diet. Before I knew it, I was vegan.
It was never a goal of mine to identify "vegan," but I quickly realized how much healthier I felt, both physically and mentally.
I knew I was okay with labeling myself.
I have never had more energy, and I have never had more confidence about my physical appearance since I made this decision.
But better yet, I have never felt better about being able to actually take a stand for something I truly believe in.
Naturally, after feeling so good about this life change, I can't help but want to share it with others.
Here are my five favorite facts about why being vegan is actually pretty incredible:
1. Veganism produces an amazing body transformation.
Okay, I get it. This is the most vain reason to become a vegan.
(Note: This is not completely why I became a vegan, but it's not a bad side effect, right?)
If you have tried the Paleo diet, Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig without gaining the results you wanted, then trust me: Veganism is where it's at.
This is not because you are eating less food. I actually eat more as a vegan because I can afford to with plant-based, low-calorie foods.
A body transformation occurs when you become vegan because you are allowing your body to detox from all of the chemicals, processed ingredients, antibiotics and hormones that come with eating meat.
It is a known fact, not an opinion, that animals from non-organic, natural farms are being fed antibiotics.
In the US alone, animals are fed 17.8 million pounds combined, and 80 percent of food poisoning cases are caused by eating these contaminated meats.
If this information comes as a surprise to you, I suggest doing a quick Google search on how your meat is made.
It's not a pretty sight. These chemicals are why meat leaves us feeling bloated after meals.
Another reason why veganism will transform your body is because a "plant-based diet increases the body’s metabolism, causing the body to burn calories up to 16 percent faster than the body would on a meat-based diet for at least the first three hours after meals."
Our bodies process fruits and vegetables more easily and those don't contain saturated fats, which is exactly what you want to avoid before beach season.
Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables also means you are eating a diet that is high in antioxidants, vitamin E and folate, which is a sure trick to have healthy, glowing skin.
Additionally, consuming healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado, is what makes your hair and nails grow thick and strong.
2. Vegans are making an environmental difference.
In the US, 500,000 animals are killed every hour for their meat. Each vegan saves about 200 animals a year. Therefore, if you're vegan for 15 years, you have saved 3,000 animals. That is a serious difference.
Besides the obvious "saving animals" reason to be vegan, it is actually much more effective for the environment.
It helps with pollution because "almost 20 percent of pollution that is man-made originates from the meat industry."
In addition, it's more effective when it comes to avoiding deforestation. For example, about "20,000 pounds of potatoes can be grown on one acre of land. Comparatively, only around 165 pounds of beef can be produced on 1 acre of land."
Veganism also aids in saving water. For example, 25 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of wheat, where 2,500 gallons are needed to produce 1 pound of meat.
3. It's just flat-out better for you.
Studies show on average, vegetarians and vegans live longer than those who consume meat on a regular basis.
Eating a plant-based diet prevents cardiovascular disease, diabetes and macular degeneration due to the abundant amount of nutrients consumed daily.
One reason why I decided to start eating less meat was for cancer prevention. It has been clinically proven that countries that consume less meat have lower rates of breast cancer.
Additionally, the chances of having prostate and colon cancer can also be reduced by eating a plant-based diet that is high in grains, fruits and vegetables.
Specifically, "a major study showed that men in the early stages of prostate cancer who switched to a vegan diet either stopped the progress of the cancer or may have even reversed the illness."
It can also reduce the amount of unhealthy metals that enter your body. Each time you eat fish, you're ingesting mercury. (I'd rather have a side of sweet potato fries.)
4. You don't have to give up your favorite foods.
So, all of this information sounds cool and all, but what if you don't want to give up chicken, chocolate and ice cream?
Well, neither do I.
In fact, I have actually had all of these foods today.
The key to eventually becoming vegan is to not to do it all at once. Pick a food group you would like to eliminate from your diet and try it for a few weeks to see how you feel.
The first food group I eliminated was dairy. Our bodies are not made to digest cows' milk, which is why 75 percent of people are lactose intolerant.
Cheese, ice cream and chocolate were always my favorite foods growing up, so I was a little nervous about this one. But all I did was find replacement foods.
For example, I now eat coconut and almond based ice creams, and my cheese is made out of pea protein.
Of course, it tastes slightly different at first because the food is different. But different doesn't mean worse; it just means different.
My favorite vegan ice cream flavor is chocolate hazelnut fudge, and I eat it daily.
Veganism is about learning how to make your foods in a healthier manner, not dropping all of the foods you grew up with and replacing them with carrots.
5. You still need to make healthy choices, even on a vegan diet.
Just because you are vegan does not mean you are healthy. If you're not careful, you can become what is called a "junk food vegan": You consume too many sweets and think it's okay just because you are vegan.
Becoming a vegan is an awesome decision, but it's something you should really research. Make the decision that is best for you with the guidance of a doctor.
It is important to know you can get just as much protein as someone who eats steak on the daily if you consume enough plant-based protein (quinoa, beans, nuts, grains, seitan, tofu, etc.).
The biggest misconception about vegans is we all suffer from a protein deficiency. This is not true at all. We get the same amount of protein, minus the fatty component.
Once you decide to have a plant-based diet, you will quickly learn how there are thousands of different plant species you have haven't tried yet. You will realize how easy it is to vary up your meals each day.
If you are searching for a positive, physical and mental change in your body, I would definitely give this a try. I am so glad this lifestyle accidentally fell upon me, and I have no intention of changing it.
For the sake of my body, my health and the environment, I have decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle, and I have truly never felt better.