Veganism changed my relationship with food.
I was ten years old. My mother had locked up all of the chips, pretzels, gummies, and snacks in the pantry with a number pass-code. I couldn’t get any of the goodies unless I asked for them. While my friends ate all the cookies and chips they wanted, I stared at a locked pantry door hoping that I could somehow find a way to open it with my mind. I squinted; it didn’t open. I shook the handle; it didn’t open. I listened to the inside, as though the sweets would whisper what the pass-code was to free them; no answer.
Granted, I understand the intention of what my mom was doing. She simply wanted me to be healthier. I had previously gone to the nurse for my yearly school checkup and she told me that I was overweight for my age. I don’t remember crying or even caring, but I remember my mom getting angry that the school would tell me such a thing. She thought it made me feel bad, but I didn’t even realize. I was a kid, after all. My mind was on videos games and playing. Either way, she tried to restrict my eating habits which—in the long run—made me think about food in a very different way. I always thought that I was hungry when I was eating, and it felt like I couldn’t stop until I felt sick. It wasn’t extreme to the point of it being a binge eating disorder, but I did binge almost every day. I was just eating to eat, not because I was hungry. I gained, and gained, and gained more weight. Doctors told me I was overweight, but everyone in America seemed to be, so it became normalized to be unhealthy and binge eat. It became normalized to go out and eat fast food or go out to eat for dinner about three times a week to eat a cheeseburger. America normalized processed, sodium-high, greasy foods instead of the home-cooked, fresh, organic meals that America once stood for.
Now that I’ve changed my diet and have excluded animal products, I’ve taken myself out of the typical American-diet equation. I’ve gone in the opposite direction. Whenever I go out to eat, the only thing I can order is a small plant-based side or I have to customize it—ultimately eliminating a majority of the sodium, the calories, the sugar, and all of that bad stuff that plays into the obesity equation. I no longer binge because my stomach has gotten smaller. It’s not possible to binge because I get full very fast. Before, I was just eating to eat. I hardly even chewed or breathed when I ate. I didn’t embrace the flavors. I just binged until I was full because there were so many options.
The average American diet is like walking into a store like Forever 21, sometimes there are way too many options and you buy a bunch of things you don’t need or don’t really even like that much, just because you have the option to.
When you become vegan, your relationship with food changes.
You start to think about the food that you’re eating. You think about it all of the time. You constantly check the nutritional information on the back of whatever you’re purchasing. Some people say that’s a disorder—to care too much about your health—but I think that is the only way to live a sustainable, healthy, and long life. You start to put a face to your food. You start to imagine that burger on someone’s plate as a once living, breathing, feeling creature. You look at a glass of milk and wonder what tortured cow it was stolen from. The chicken sandwich is no longer a slab of meat; it becomes just as alive and feeling as your cat or dog. You form a level of compassion for people and creatures around you.
You learn how to cook instead of relying on highly processed, pre-cooked food. Of course, there is processed vegan food that is high in sodium and can be just as processed (vegan food companies usually understand how wary people are about their food, so their “processed” food is usually handled differently and a healthier version of processed opposed to processed meat or poultry.) At the end of the day, you learn to care about what you’re putting in your body and you control how much vegan junk food you eat. You learn control due to the fact that you have to. For example, when you’re out to eat, you usually only have a couple of vegan options, and 99.99% of the time that option does not include the desert menu. If there’s an option on the desert menu at a regular restaurant that you CAN eat, it’s usually just a plate of fruit or some sort of dark cacao. BONUS… YOU’RE EATING HEALTHY DESERT. Something people didn’t think was possible! That plate of fruit is healthier than the dairy chocolate pie that is full of sugar and poses a risk for high cholesterol. Yes, fruit has sugar, but it’s got the natural sugar that your body needs and craves.
You lower the risk of eating food that causes diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
You become more conscious about how your food is grown.
You eventually stop craving processed sugar, meats, seafood, and dairy as though you’re dying of hunger and you need it. That’s always how I felt after eating animal products. I would want to keep eating, even when I was full, and my stomach expanded in unhealthy ways.
You come to appreciate the natural sugar in fruit, the beauty of vegetables (I’ve never loved spinach in my life more than now,) and the wonder of nuts and beans. You also find out that soy doesn’t give you heartburn, but can give you the same type of taste as your recent favorite animal product dish, if you know how to season it and shape it. Add some curry or sriracha in that bad boy and you’re set!
You feel good about what you’re doing. Let’s be honest, no one feels good after binging on a meat-filled buffet. No one ever feels good binging on animal products because we all know they are bad for us in some way. We know they should be once-in-a-while treat, but we’re taught that we need them so we eat them unnecessarily in large quantities. No on ever felt bad eating spinach, broccoli, bananas, or cantaloupes. Fruits and vegetables are extremely easy products to digest and they provide you with energy. Eating vegan has never made me feel bad. I feel like I could conquer the world after eating an entire cantaloupe. I can eat an entire bag of spinach without feeling fatigued or weighed down by my food. I don’t feel sleepy or lethargic after I eat, I feel energized and ready to take on any task.
Becoming vegan has changed my perspective on so many things, and it’s completely changed how I feel about the food I’m eating. Through veganism, I’ve found a new love for food that doesn’t consist of simply eating just because. I’ve found a purpose for my food, I’ve personalized my meals, and I’ve taken back my life from the slaughter and abuse we call the food industry.