How Veganism Healed My Body (+ Q&A!)

Man oh man, do I have a lot to talk about in this post.  This has been a long time coming, and it's probably my most highly-requested post ever. So many of you have reached out asking me to talk about my transition into veganism- why I did it, why I like it, how I did it, what I eat, etc.  I've been meaning to put all of this information together in a comprehensive post, and I can't believe I'm just now getting to it.  Better late than never, right? 

Before I jump into it, I do need to put a few disclaimers out: 1. If you have nothing nice to say, please don't say anything at all. I know the topic of veganism is highly controversial, but PLEASE do not use this post as an excuse to spread negativity.  2. This post is not a way of me pushing my lifestyle on you. Everyone is entitled to do whatever they want with their own bodies.  The purpose of this post is to simply inform those who want to know more about the lifestyle, and clear up any misconceptions there may be.  I find that education is more important than implementation, and I'd much rather you be educated on the subject and be able to make informed decisions about your health choices based on unbiased facts, rather than going vegan for the sake of going vegan.  Sound good? Okay, let's dive into it.  

Growing up, I lived on a solid diet of bread an cheese: grilled cheese, mac and cheese, quesadillas, cheese and crackers. If it had bread and cheese in it, I would be all over it. It was my biggest food group, right underneath chicken nuggets and fries. If I was lucky, my dinner would be a round of nuggets and fries, followed by Brie cheese and strawberries for dessert. 

For years upon years- until I hit high school, really- I ate like this, without a single care in the world. I've been perpetually petite and underweight my entire life, no matter how poorly I ate. Genetics, in that case, were on my side; my mom was the same way, and often shared in my poor dietary habits, though her vice was more in sweets than in cheese. 

I often found myself feeling "superior" to the food pyramid. In my head, I'd laugh at such "ridiculous" guidelines, thinking: who needs so many vegetables per day? I'm fine without them! I'm not overweight, my skin is clear, and I can still do all the ballet and gymnastics that I want! Not only that, but I naively believed that eating the recommended amount of fruits and veggies every day was impossible, and that nobody in their right mind could accomplish such a feat.  

It wasn't until my freshman year of high school that I really decided to kick my health into shape, but more due to outside factors than for the sake of my own personal health. There are two people I have to attribute my health kick/lifestyle change: first, was my high school best friend who was, at the time, a devout vegetarian, and began to educate me on the lifestyle. The second was YouTuber Morgan Joyce.  A video of hers popped up on my subscription feed called "Tips on Becoming a Vegetarian" and for some reason, I felt compelled to watch it. Not thinking much of it, I sat down and watch the entire video, only to be floored by the end of it. I couldn't believe that animals suffered so much to get from the farm to our plates, and not only that, but to get in our closets, too. One of the main things that sold me was the fact that many Nike sneakers used to be made of Kangaroo leather. I absolutely couldn't believe it, and couldn't believe how cruel this industry truly was.  I'd been a huge animal lover my entire life (in fact, my mom has joked my entire life that I love animals more than humans, which is true), and, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how absurd eating meat really was. If I loved animals as much as I did, then why was I contributing to their suffering? It was soon after that I made the conscious decision to go vegetarian; I quit "cold turkey", and have been meat free for nearly 5 years now. 

But still, my eating habits didn't change much. I was still the bread and cheese munching queen that I had been prior to the shift. The only thing I really noticed after the shift was my weight; though I was never big, I noticed myself "leveling out" a bit more, becoming more slender in certain areas, due to my meat elimination. This is a common response to vegetarianism, and it made me feel great. 

It was when I began training full-time in ballet that I really began to take things seriously. I learned that leafy greens not only made me feel great, but also tasted great too, if prepared in a certain way (crispy, in the oven, with olive oil and salt). Granted, this wasn't the most ideal way for me to be eating my veggies, but they were veggies nonetheless, and it was a sign of a huge improvement in my relationship with them. Though I do admit, I still do eat them that way sometimes (they're just so damn good!) 

When you're training in ballet full-time, you need to start treating your body like a machine. Though I'd trained on-and-off my entire life since I was 2, this was the most serious I'd ever been with it, and I needed the energy that only fruits and veggies could provide. I was an athlete, and I deserved to treat my body like it, if not for anyone else but myself. My dream was to go professional, and if I, a 5-ft tall brown girl, was going to make that happen, then I needed to work as hard as humanly possible. So, I downloaded a food journal app, createda food "routine" for myself, and stuck to it like glue. 

I remember this routine so clearly: breakfast was a cup of 90 calorie Greek yogurt with 5 (yes, 5) dark chocolate chips, a big scoop of granola, and either blueberries of strawberries. Lunch was almost always a Caesar salad, but if not, it was one of my favorite meals: cubed raw tofu over brown rice (yes, I realize how absurd eating raw tofu is, but it's my favorite). After school and pre-ballet class, it was a half a French baguette, sliced, dipped in olive oil, with a big side of Gouda or Brie cheese, and grapes or apples. Sometimes, if I wanted sweet, I'd allow myself a tablespoon of dark chocolate peanut butter spread on a rice cracker; that stuff was soooo gooood. This is what I referred to as the "First Dinner". 

Second dinner came late at night- usually around 9:30 at night- after two to three hours of ballet class. This was a meal that was constantly changing. Sometimes it would be a kale smoothie or protein shake- I'd recently discovered a love for kale, and wanted the leafy green in everything. Other times, it was toast with Brie, avocado, and tomato. Or, brown rice noodles cooked with butter and Parmesan. 

Overall, I was eating around 700-800 calories a day, and was heavily restricting. Every single thing that went in my mouth got documented in that food journal app, and if there was something I didn't want to enter in, I simply wouldn't eat it. There were so many times I'd be offered a cookie, or a bite of cheesecake, that I'd decline, worrying incessantly over how those 300-sometimes calories would look in my journal. 

Looking back now, I drove myself mad for absolutely no reason. My eating habits had come leaps and bounds from where they once were; I was exercising more than I had in my entire life, and was even starting to develop abs. I totally could've enjoyed a cookie now and then, or an entire slice of cheesecake, if I wanted. But instead, I restricted, because I felt the need to be as healthy as possible. I didn't want to get back to my old ways of eating. 

They say that too much of a good thing is never good, and that phrase came to fruition for me in early 2015, during the latter half of my sophomore year of high school. I was still sticking to my "routine" eating, but suddenly, I wasn't feeling as good as I used to. Every day, I'd go to ballet class in my pink tights and oversized men's sweater that covered my high-cut, skin-tight leotard. But I soon found that sweater wasn't just covering my Leo- it was covering my stomach, which had become so swollen and bloated and tight that I looked like I was five months pregnant. This wasn't normal; I couldn't understand why my stomach was now swollen every time after I ate. As if the swelling wasn't enough, it would also cramp (think: the worst period cramps you can imagine) and I constantly felt like I had to vomit. To make matters worse, I had to dance for hours at a time with my stomach like this, trying desperately to "suck it in" as much as possible. Now, I don't know if you've ever tried to suck in a bloated, crampy stomach, but it is not fun. I'd always felt comfortable in my otherwise-revealing leotard, but now, I hated being seen without my baggy sweater over it. 

Little did I know that this would be the beginning of mine and my family's roller coaster of allergies. 

A few months prior to this, my mom discovered she had a gluten allergy. My entire life, she would get horrible rashes across her face, and, after much research about diet, she figured out that the rashes were due to gluten intolerance. She advised me to try laying off the gluten, and see what happened. Sure enough, my stomach went back to "normal"after cutting out gluten. I say normal, because my stomach will never be normal, but more on that later. After cutting out gluten, I didn't feel the bloat anymore. I no longer felt like I had to vomit all the time, and there was no more of that horrible "sucking in". But a few months later, the bloat returned, and this time, it wasn't the gluten. I had been completely gluten-free, and cross-contamination wasn't an issue, we cooked and ate entirely gluten-free at home. 

I soon narrowed it down to dairy, after I experienced extreme, debilitating bloat one day at dance rehearsal after eating my normal greek yogurt. After this episode, I told my mom what happened, and she suggested I go fully vegan, and see what happens.  

Now, I'd toyed with the idea of veganism before. As I had done the inevitable research into the vegetarian lifestyle, I, in turn, learned quite a bit about veganism as well, and fully understood the benefits of living such a compassionate lifestyle (more on that below).  But, like I mentioned earlier, I had been a huge cheese lover my entire life, and couldn't imagine giving it up, as the dairy-free cheeses at the time all kind of sucked.  I had always hated eggs passionately, preferred soy milk to cow's milk, and didn't care enough about yogurt to mind giving it up, so cheese was truly the only think that has been holding me back. But with my dairy allergy now more than present, I had no choice but to give up cheese completely, and began eating as a vegan the next day. 

I say eating as a vegan because I soon realized that living as a vegan took a lot more work. In fact, I'll admit it was something that I didn't quite get the hang of until this year, my third year into veganism.  Living as a vegan includes so much more than just avoiding meat and dairy - it includes purchasing ethical clothing that avoids animal fabrics, buying products that aren't tested on animals, and trying to reduce your environmental impact as much as possible.  Now of course, this isn't a mandatory aspect of going vegan, but something that I believe is important to living the lifestyle as truly and fully as  you can. But it's important to note that this- just like the dietary aspect of veganism- is all a process.  It's a process that takes some people days to accomplish, and other people, years. 

But as much as veganism is a lifestyle, it's also a journey. And as that corny saying about journeys goes, " enjoy the process".  Enjoy the learning, the growing, and the trials and tribulations of going vegan. I know I did. I loved how much I've learned and grown within the past three years, and how much I still continue to learn every single day. All of this learning certainly hasn't been easy, but I can say with ease that it has been one of the best things to ever happen to me mentally, and the absolute best thing to ever happen to me physically. 

Living a vegan lifestyle is more than just not eating animals- it's about living a life of compassion, in all relevant forms.  While I may not have grown up living this lifestyle, I'm so blessed to have come into it at such a young age.  It has not only shaped my life, but it healed my body- I don't want to even think about the fate of my allergies had I decided to not give up animal products.  

While my journey into vegnaism may not have been the conventional one, it is certainly a decision that has shaped my life. I hope, through sharing this, it can show you just how healing a vegan diet can be for the body, or even inspire you to try this lifestyle out yourself. But whatever you decide, I hope it brings you happiness and healing, just as it has brought the same to me.  

Why Go Vegan?

For the next part of this post, I wanted to dive into a question I get/hear all the time: Why go vegan? 

And like I mentioned earlier, there are a plethora of reasons. One isn't really better than the other, and it really depends on your personal preference (i.e. what works for you and what aligns best with your ethical / moral beliefs).  I'm not going to dive in too much into each reason why you should go vegan (I'm not here to bore you to death with facts) but I'll go in just enough to give you the basic jist of things. And like always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment them down below.  

1. Your Health

"But wait, Hannah, veganism isn't healthy! Where do you get your protein?! Or Calcium?! Or {insert other vitamin here}" Okay, let's back up for a second.  

According to Naomi Imatome-Yun, a health and wellness writer for, "The average recommended intake of protein is 42 grams a day. Non-vegetarians eat way more than that (almost 80 grams), but so does everyone else. Vegetarians and vegans actually average 70% more protein than they need every day (over 70 grams)." Yes, the precious protein that people assume is a problem for vegans... isn't actually a problem at all! In fact, eating foods dense in insane amounts of protein (steak, fish, protein bars, etc.) can actually be bad for you.  Consuming too much protein has been found to lead to Kidney failure, Yeast Overgrowth, and possibly Cancer. Not to mention, that excess protein gets turned into sugar and fats- and not the good kinds. Americans consume waaaaaaaay more protein than is even needed, or that is even healthy, and it shows within our health scans.

And side note: there's no such thing as being protein deficient. It's literally a myth. Unless you are anorexic or otherwise extremely malnourished, chances are, you are getting all the protein you need, and you are just fine.  I hear all the time from people that I need to up my protein intake {because I'm vegan} so I don't become "protein deficient", which always makes me laugh. 

Also, back on the protein thing for one last minute, vegetables are full of protein! In fact, a lot of them have way more protein than their meat equivalent. Don't believe me? Check out this infographic: 



There are countless other examples of this, but hey, I don't want to spend the bulk of this post talking about protein.  

Aside from the fact that protein and other vitamins found in animals are found even more abundantly in plants (like Calcium), a vegan diet has been show to decrease your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and osteoperosis. According to the Huffington Post, "Vegan women, for example, had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. And this was compared to a group of healthy omnivores who ate substantially less meat than the general population (two servings a week or more), as well as after controlling for non-dietary factors such as smoking, alcohol, and a family history of cancer. Why do vegans have such lower cancer risk? Women placed on plant-based diets for just two weeks, for example, were found to suppress the growth of three different types of breast cancer. The same blood coursing through these womens’ bodies gained the power to significantly slow down and stop breast cancer cell growth thanks to just two weeks of eating a healthy plant-based diet! (Two weeks! Imagine what’s going on in your body after a year!)" And, according to Medical News Today, "the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in comparable non-vegetarians."

That was a lot of dense reading. I get it- I almost felt like I was writing an essay for a minute! But my point with including that dense material, was that there is so much scientific data on this! I don't know about you, but I believe in science and I believe scientists, so I believe the studies that have been done. Of course, if you want more information, there is sooooo much more- what I listed here isn't even the tip of the iceberg, and I could go on for hours about the health implications of veganism (did I mention weight loss, more energy, clear skin, and better poops? Yeah, because that's all fun stuff, too).  

2. The Environment

Okay, look, I get it- we're not all tree-hugging hippies.  For the longest time, I wasn't either. But if you're reading this right now, chances are, you're alive and breathing (I hope) and therefore you have every right to give a sh*t about the planet! Haha, unless you're a robot who has figured out how to sustain from breathing in Nitrous gas instead of oxygen, then this planet is your home, and it's the only one you've got. 

If I'm being honest, when I first went vegan, I didn't care at all about the planet. Personally, the environmental impact of the SAD didn't phase me one bit. But now that I've grown and learned so much more, the environmental factor resonates with me more. And this may be how it is for you, too. Maybe you skim through this part and move on to the next thing, or many it resonates with you more than anything else. 

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that the environment arguably endures more than our body does on the SAD.  The amount of water, land, and natural resources consumed to create animal-based products is monumental, and even, to me, unfathomable.  Take this for example: According to Cowspiracy, an amazingly breathtaking (yet explicit) documentary about the animal agriculture industry, over 1,000 gallons of water are needed to produce a 1 1lb burger. Let that sink in for a moment. For every Big Mac, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce that burger. That includes the water fed to the cow, and the water used to maintain the grass and alfalfa and other foods that a cow eats.  Not only that, but it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce a gallon of milk, and 477 gallons for a carton of eggs. The amount of water we are essentially wasting by consuming animal products is completely exorbitant.  

When California went through a massive drought a few years ago, many assumed it was from a lack of rainfall. But think of it this way: California is the largest producer of dairy and beef in the entire United States, and is one of the top suppliers in the world. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of California's water is being used every single day to produce animal products. Think of how much water we could potentially save if, hypothetically speaking, California was completely vegan! No matter how much (or little) rainfall we got, we'd still be saving so much more by eliminating these entire industries. While I completely understand the reality of the situation and how incredibly unlikely it is to ever become a reality, it is fun to speculate the effects our planet could have, sans animal agriculture. For starters, without animal agriculture, I will bet everything I own that a drought would be completely unheard of (again though, this is pure theory).  

There are, of course, so many other horrible, horrible detriments to the planet besides just this: an acre of rainforest is cleared every minute to create grazing room for cattle.  Methane, which comes from cow dung, releases greenhouse gasses that are destroying our ozone layer.  Again, this doesn't even begin to touch the tip of the iceberg, but there are hundreds of resources out there that go way more in-depth than I ever could. 

3. Ethical Implications

This was my personal push into veganism. After learning the horrors of factory farming, I couldn't stand to eat meat anymore. Once you're exposed to that type of cruelty, it sticks with you forever.  

I've heard people make the argument all the time that, "I'm not an animal lover", or "I don't care where my food comes from, as long as it tastes good." If that is you, then that is okay. Do what works for you. But also, become educated on the subject. To go off on a tangent for a minute, one of my biggest wishes is that we would have unbiased, dietary education within schools, so that people can make informed and educated decisions abut their health.  But since we don't have that handed to us, it's up to us to seek it out.  

I'm not going to preach about the animals. To be honest, I cannot physically describe the horrors of factory farming in words.  Instead, I'm going to leave a link to the documentary, "Earthlings", below. Watch it in full, watch it in stages, but I encourage everyone reading this post to watch it and judge for yourself.  A bit of a warning though: it is very graphic, so viewer discretion is advised.  


4. Humanitarian Efforts

It is often thought that veganism is purely for the animals and has no effect on humans, but that couldn't be further from the truth. While often overlooked, the humanitarian aspects of going vegan can be a huge push for some people to adapt the lifestyle.  Again, different things resonate with different people, and it's understandable if the ethical, environmental, and/or health aspects of veganism don't resonate with you. 

There is a quote from the documentary "Earthlings" (linked above) that says, "Livestock population in the U.S. consumes enough grain daily to feed five times the entire population of our country."  While you let that sink in, take note that this is not specific to the U.S.  In fact, this is a phenomena present in many third world countries.  In Africa, animal agriculture makes up nearly 30% of their entire economy. The poorest of the poor spend their days growing crops that are used to feed the livestock that is raised and slaughtered to feed the wealthiest people. In turn, the poor children go hungry, without any food, and eventually many die, as in the case with approximately 6 million children per year. Do you see a problem here?

If we are growing so much food- so many grains, fruits, and vegetables- then why are more than 870 million people world wide- including 50 million Americans- going hungry every day? The answer is both simple and more complex than I can even begin to explain. The simple answer, is that all the crops that are being produced that could be fed to these people are instead being fed to the cows, the chickens, and the pigs, who are born only to then be slaughtered and turned into food.  Essentially, more food is going in than is coming out, and hence there is significantly less food available to meet the demands of the growing population.  

The complex answer dives into socioeconomic inequality and the fact that billions of dollars every year are subsidized into the meat and dairy industry every year... but again, we're not going to go that in-depth into things in this post. The point of this, was to address how significant and complex of a humanitarian situation animal agriculture truly is. If we were to take the grains we're feeding to livestock and feed it to the 870 million people worldwide who go hungry every day... we would abolish world hunger in a handful of days.  It's that simple, yet again, that complex as well, which is why veganism is constituted as a humanitarian issue, on top of everything else.  


Frequently Asked Questions

Since I get so many questions about veganism all the time, I figured I'd answer some of the most common ones below. If I didn't answer your question, feel free to leave me a comment below, and I'd be more than happy to answer it for you! 

Q: What do you eat in a day? How do you find healthy, easy vegan recipes? 

- I'll do a full post one day about what I eat in a day, but to give you an idea: I always start my morning with a big mug of hot water. Then, depending on the day, I'll go for a juice or smoothie, and either a Larabar if I'm running out the door to class (my favorite flavors are the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cashew Cookie) or, if I have time, I'll make some breakfast potatoes. Since my allergies flared up a few years ago, my body craves starch like there's no tomorrow, so potatoes, in any form, are the most satisfying thing to me.  

Lunch is usually some form of salad. My favorite one to make is a very simple Asian inspired one. I take glass noodles, boil them, and put them in a bowl with lettuce and some crispy tofu (cut tofu into cubes, put on a baking sheet lined with parchment, then bake at 450 for 15-20ish minutes) and a little bit of miso vinaigrette. It's super simple, easy, fairly clean, and I probably eat it like four times a week, haha. 

Dinner is my one big meal of the day, and varies depending on the mood. I love looking to sites like Minimalist Baker, Sweet Simple Vegan, and Oh She Glows for easy, healthy recipe ideas. I also love Ellen Fisher and Bonny Rebecca's vegan cookbooks.  

Another great resource for recipes is Pinterest! Pinterest works similarly to a search engine, so if you just type in "healthy vegan recipes", chances are, you'll yield thousands of results.   

Q: How do you handle being vegan in social settings (e.g. while eating out)? 

- I'm often surprised by how frequently this question is asked, because going out and eating vegan is super easy.  While going out to vegan restaurants is always nice, I love to travel, and not everywhere has the abundance of vegan restaurants that San Francisco does.  So often, I'm a vegan navigating normal restaurants, which is surprisingly easier than people think.  

Almost every America / fusion restaurant has salad, fruit, and some form of potato.  Get creative with your options. Order a salad minus the meat and cheese, and just ask for veggies on it and a balsamic dressing. You could even get a side of fruit and throw it on your salad. A side of french fries is always my go-to, just make sure that they aren't fried in tallow (beef fat), lard, or duck fat.  Thankfully, most places fry their fries in oil, but places like McDonalds, Smashburger, and Outback Steakhouse are known for using tallow. Unfortunately mashed potatoes usually are full of butter and cream (so stay away if you're vegan), but a baked potato with just oil and salt can be another great potato option. You could even opt to get a burger if you want, just without the patty and cheese, and with extra fixings (lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, etc. etc.).  This works great not just for restaurants, but for BBQs and cookouts, parties, etc.  

And say none of the above are available? Worst comes to worst, just eat sides. The great thing about food is that, no matter where you go or what you eat, there's always some sort of vegetable side dish. When in doubt, order extra sides. Sides will be your best friend in many, many social situations.  

If you're eating a more Asian cuisine, the options open up even more. You can get sushi rolls with just vegetables (or, I love getting mine with avocado and inari). You can get vegan pho (as long as you get a veggie-based broth) or cold vermicelli noodle bowls. Indian food, like Japanese and Korean, can often be forgiving as well. South Indian dosas are completely vegan, as is sambar, idlies, naan, and saag, as long as you ask for it made without cream. Aloo saag (potato curry) is generally vegan, and, of course, rice is a great staple. 

I could go on and on but the point is- just be open to experimentation. And, be open to the fact that you're not going to have the best meal of your life. Remember, you're out to get fed, not to have the greatest vegan meal you could ever ask for. You just have to treat food as fuel and get used to the idea that eating out at a normal restaurant may not be as exciting or interesting as it was once before. But, with that said, that's not always the case, and that also doesn't mean it has to be bad. You can still find delicious, satisfying food, even if you're just eating salad and french fries.  And, when you're truly in doubt: call the restaurant ahead of time! If you have the luxury to, call and ask them what their vegan options are. Chances are, unless they're McDonalds, they'll have an option or two.  

Q: What are your favorite vegan restaurants?

- Oh man, I have so many restaurants I love! To take the guess work out of things, I'll limit this list to just 100% vegan restaurants, but there are so many great non-vegan restaurants with vegan options as well (if you'd like to see a list with those places on it, let me know in the comments!) My favorite, by far, is Millennium in Oakland, CA.  My family and I go there every chance we get. It's the best upscale vegan dining, in my opinion. Souley Vegan in the Jack London Square neighborhood of Oakland is a famous spot for vegan southern soul food, and CORE kitchen in downtown is the best raw vegan food I've ever had.  I also love Flacos in South Berkeley, Sanctuary Bistro in Northwest Berkeley (near Gilman St.), and The Butcher's Son (also in South Berkeley), which is an incredible vegan deli full of the most realistic slabs of vegan meat you'll ever see.  

Moving across the Bay, the flying falafel is my favorite hole-in-the-wall vegan spot, on Market st. in SF.  Think: warm, thick pita bread full of rich tahini, falafel, and spicy french fries. oof. It's so good. Gracias Madre in the Mission District of SF is great vegan Mexican food, and Golden Era in the Tenderloin is some of the best vegan Vietnamese food I've had.  

Outside of the Bay Area, I love By Chloe in LA (and NYC), and Pomegranate Cafe in DTLA.  Shojin in Japantown is the most incredible, upscale Japanese food I've ever had (and I'm a big Japanese food snob, so that says a lot) and I also have been absolutely dying to try Crossroads Kitchen.  

When it comes to chains, Veggie Grill is my favorite. Unfortunately it's only a West Coast chain as of right now, but it's a must if you're out here. I'm kind of spoiled to have one where I live, in Walnut Creek, and I'm there way too much.  Their mac and cheese and sweet potato fries are out of this world. 

Q: Do you miss meat? Do you crave it when you smell it? 

- Nope and nope! I've been meat free for nearly five years now, and at this point, eating meat appeals to me as much as eating dirt does (translation: it doesn't).  I just don't care for it any more.  To be completely honest, I stopped caring for it a few months after I gave it up. Perhaps this isn't how it is for everyone (like I said above, I was never really a big meat eater to begin with) but once you cut it out completely, your body stops craving it (because it truly doesn't need it!) 

Q: What was the final straw for you? What made you say, "I'm done being a carnivore?"

- I touched on this above, but ultimately what was the "final straw" for me was seeing the utter cruelty that innocent animals suffer to become our dinner. For me, being such a huge animal lover, I couldn't live with myself knowing that I was contributing to this suffering every time I made the conscious decision to eat a piece of meat.  I know it's such a cliche vegan answer, but for me, that's truly what did it! But I'm sure if you asked someone else, they'd have a different answer. Ellen Fisher and Jasmine of Sweet Simple Vegan transitioned for health reasons. Bonny Rebecca went vegan for the animals.  So there's a multitude of different reasons why people go vegan, but the ethical impact just happened to be mine.  

Q: If you're vegan, why do you still have leather bags and shoes you wear in posts?

- The simple answer: I bought them before I was vegan! It would be wasteful for me to just toss out perfectly good items. While I don't purchase new leather items, I will still continue to use the ones I have, as throwing them out would not only be completely wasteful, but would create more unwanted waste on our planet (and isn't one aspect of veganism to try to save the planet?) While I don't wear these items often, and have started buying exclusively faux leather products for a while now, I still do own genuine leather items that may creep up in photos every now and then.

Q: "A lot of foods traditionally made in my household do contain animal products.  And since I'm largely dependent upon my parents as I'm still in college, I'm really hesitant to even try to become vegan because I don't want my parents ({my} mom especially) to judge me. And as  POC, I don't want to not be able to eat the foods that I love. What would you do?"

I loved this question, because I related to the same thing. When I first went vegetarian (and vegan) I was in high school, and still very much dependent on my then-meat-eating parents.  Keep in mind, although my family is all vegan now, they weren't for a long time.  So they would cook meals that, unfortunately, would contain meat and dairy products.  

The first step, I would say, would be to have a talk with your parents.  Sit them down and tell them that you want to go vegan/vegetarian.  But also, the important thing is to explain why. Why are you going vegan? What benefit is it going to bring to you? Educate them on your personal motives, as well as the benefits for following such lifestyle. Show them documentaries such as Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and Food Inc.  Show them YouTube videos from happy, healthy vegans such as Ellen Fisher, Bonny Rebecca, Caitlin Shoemaker, and Annie Tarasova.  Talk to them about why this will be a great thing for you. Ultimately, parents want what's best for their children, and if you can show them that this will be what's best for you, chances are, they'll understand you. Maybe they won't support you at first (and that's okay), but that'll just be up to you to prove it to them that 1. It's not just a phase, and you're truly dedicated to this lifestyle, and 2. It's something that is positively impacting your life. If you can do that, then I'm sure they will come to support you. 

But, with that said, one other thing that would be important to note- both to yourself and your parents- is that you will be responsible for this lifestyle change, not them. If you are old enough to make this decision, then you are old enough to see it out.  Here's what I mean by that- if your parents are okay with you being vegan, but refuse to cook something else for you (which, they shouldn't have to), them cook something yourself.  You can learn to make all the same culture-specific dishes that you love, but veganized. A great place to look is Pinterest. Just search "vegan ______ (insert dish name here)" and dozens of options will come up.  Whether you decide to make the dish completely veggie or replace the meat with faux meat (and trust me, there are some great faux meat options), the opportunities are truly endless, and it is possible to make modified, vegan versions of all your favorite traditional dishes.  No matter how crazy it may seem, if you look it up, I'll bet someone out there has done it before (bonus points if they've shared a recipe, too!)

But say, you don't want to cook something entirely new (which, hey, I get it).  If you can, try to eat what they cooked, while avoiding the meat. For example, I came from a family of big seafood eaters, but when I went veg, I was no longer eating fish. However, my parents still ate it a ton. But, in a lot of cultures, when you cook a meat dish, you often cook sides with it. So, I'd ask my mom to set aside some extra sides for me and just eat that. We'd often do fish with rice and a veggie, so while everyone was munching on that, I'd just go for the rice and veggie sans fish.  

Talking to your parents can be hard, and explaining such a drastic lifestyle change to them can be hard, too. But just know that you're not alone, and you're certainly not the first to do it! Many successful vegans have dealt with this same thing before, and chances are, it'll work out even better than you think- just stay calm, go in with a positive mindset and a plan, and everything will work out fine. But if you don't believe me, here's a take on this from some of my favorite vegan YouTubers: 

Also remember that it is not their body, and therefore not their choice to tell you what to do with it, especially if you're an adult.  If being vegan is what makes you feel good, or what makes you happy, or what helps you to thrive, then who are they to tell you otherwise? Granted, of course they are your parents and of course you have to respect their opinion, but at the end of the day, it's your life, and you have to live with what is going to make you happiest and make you feel the best.  If that includes you cooking all your meals for yourself, then so be it. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the things that we want, but I can tell you for certain that in the end, it'll all be worth it.  

Q: "What is the best way to start going vegan? I have many food allergies and want to see if being vegan will help. Where do I start?" 

- The first place to start is determining why you want to go vegan. Remember, it's a lifestyle, not a diet, and without a root cause or a driving force, it won't stick.  It seems as if you've found yours (your health) which is great! You are on the right track. 

The next step is determining, essentially, what steps do you need to take do become vegan? What are you still consuming that is animal related- meat, dairy, eggs, etc? Determine what that is and begin cutting it out. Personally, I think the easiest way to go about this is to start with the biggest one first- meat.  Figure out what meat is your least favorite, and begin to eliminate it. I'm a bad example of this, because I essentially went vegetarian "cold turkey", but here's an example of what you could do:

Say you decide you want to start with red meat. You enjoy it, and eat it three times a week. Begin to slowly decrease the amount of times you eat it per week, so instead of eating it three times, try eating it only twice per week. Try that for a few weeks, until you feel comfortable reducing it down to once a week. Again, repeat the process. Once that feels comfortable, try having it twice a month. Then once a month. Then, once that feels good, try eliminating it completely.  Repeat this step with meat, until it's gone completely. You can repeat this process with dairy products too- cheese, yogurt, milk, ice cream, etc.- and with eggs.  

I recommend leaving at least a six-month gap between when you go fully vegetarian and when you go vegan. This gives your body a chance to fully adjust to the lifestyle. While this process seems slow, keep in mind that slow and steady wins the race. It's better to go slow and stick to it than to go fast and "relapse".  By going slow, it gives your mind time to adjust to the conditioning and beliefs we often have about needing to consume animal products, and it gives you time to experiment with foods and figure out what you really like and what you really don't like.  

The most important thing to remember though is that with elimination comes substitution. You cannot, and I repeat, you cannot just cut out meat and expect to eat as your normally do and remain healthy. Unless you're eating heavy servings of vegetables, fruit, and grains with every meal, chances are, you're going to need to learn how to substitute other things in place of meat. This all comes with trial and error, and figuring out what gives you the satiation of meat, without actually eating meat. It's also important to remember that vegetables have less calories than meat, so you'll need to eat more to feel full- that's okay. One of the brilliant things about veganism is that, if you're eating the right foods, you can eat as much as you want, whenever you want, in abundance. Some nice, hearty things you can substitute in place of meat include pasta (as long as the noodles are egg-free!), brown rice and broccoli (a favorite combination of mine when I first went veg), or even beans of rice. Of course, the opportunities span much further than just this, but if you're craving the heartiness of meat, these can help satiate you while still remaining vegan/vegetarian friendly. :)

I hope this helps answer the question! Just remember that elimination is a process- start slowly, eliminating one item at a time until it's comfy, and then move on to the next one.  Eventually, you'll get to the point where eating vegan (or vegetarian) feels natural, but it takes conscious effort and a dedication to change to get there.  

Whew, that was a LOT! If you've made it this far, I seriously applaud you, because this is probably the longest post i've ever written on here.  I hope you all loved this post, and I sincerely hope I didn't leave anything out... haha. But like mentioned earlier, if you still have questions after this, please feel free to drop them in the comments below and I'll answer as much as I can! :) 

I'm so happy I've finally gotten to share my vegan journey with all of you. Lots of peace, love, and light to you all, and remember: "May our hearts be large enough to include those who don't look, sound, or emote like we do." ~ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau 

Photography by: Julia O Test (edited by me)

Location: Pacific Heights, San Francisco, CA

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