I grew up in a small town in Northern Wisconsin. There wasn’t much diversity up there or much going on at all. We lived rather simply out in the country on twenty acres of land with a huge garden, chickens, and rabbits. My dad was old fashioned and my mom a strong independent woman, hence why they are divorced. I was a shy and quiet child in the beginning and never really spoke up for myself. One evening, when I was six years old, Dateline came on (we didn’t have cable), they were airing a special on slaughterhouses and my mom let me watch. She stood in the kitchen making dinner and doing dishes and finding a small amount of sick humor in how grossed out I was. She never hid the truth about things from my brother and I, and she always encouraged education and free thinking. What she didn’t know was, that evening would change my life and who I was.
Absolutely horrified by what I had seen, I got up the next morning and announced I was not going to eat meat for a week. That week flew by and I was still couldn’t get those images out of my head and announced that it would now be two weeks that I wouldn’t be eating meat. After two weeks passed I was still traumatized and announced I was extending it to a month. Shortly after that we were visiting my grandparents and I overheard someone tell my mom it was just a phase and I’d get over it any time now. As soon as I heard that I proudly walked into the room and announced I was never going to eat meat again.
I spent my childhood as the weird kid who ate weird things. I made strange requests in the lunch line at school and I would often order cheeseburgers without the burger. I learned at a very young age how to read ingredients labels and then how to speed read them three more times just to be safe. I found my voice and was soon no longer the shy and quiet one. I wrote letters to companies about their products or the prices, I started arguments with hunters, I would debate with anyone, and I researched statistics and placed information in mailboxes. I even volunteered at the animal shelter. I advocated greatly against the consumption of meat and harming animals. As I grew into my teens I continued to advocate, but despite my great compassion, I was naive. I consumed dairy products, I told myself no one dies for cheese so who cares, I wore leather, and even though I spoke out against animal testing I wasn’t buying cruelty free products.
I was vegetarian for twenty-one years. I was often tired and sluggish. I gained nearly one hundred pounds over a six year period due to my degenerative disc disease. Discs in my lumbar spine crumbled into my spinal column and were crushing my sciatic nerve causing constant excruciating pain. My lack of movement due to extreme pain and my diet filled with animal products caused the large amount of weight gain. In 2012 I had a spinal fusion, which removed my crumbled discs relieving the pressure from my sciatic nerve and then fused the lower third of my spine. The spinal fusion was a life saver, it allowed me to function fairly normally again. Being able to move normally again helped me to lose around forty-five pounds, but then the weight loss stopped. I was still almost sixty pounds heavier than before.
In September 2014, I began thinking about my lifestyle choices and it prompted me to do some research. While online I came across a video documenting abuse on a dairy farm and I was absolutely disgusted. I continued my research and what I found was very upsetting. I had been lying to myself all along, there most certainly is death involved with the dairy industry. The more I thought about it the more I realized I was a hypocrite, I eat dairy products, I wear leather, and my shampoo was probably tested on animals. I was horrified, I was an ethical hypocrite. I kept thinking and researching…what about health? I was even more disgusted by what I found. What about the environment? I knew at that moment that I was a vegan starting that very second.
What was I supposed to eat? I had a hard enough time being meat free as a kid in a small town, I lived off grilled cheese. If I can’t have cheese what now? I assumed being in a larger city now that it wouldn’t be as difficult, but honestly what do I eat? So I turned to trusty old Google, and what did I find? I found that there was a whole world out there that I was unaware of. I found that I was sheltered and living in a bubble. I found that there is an insane amount of vegan food options and so much amazing food out there that I would never run out of ideas. What about personal products and household products? It’s going to be so expensive and hippie deodorant won’t work. WRONG. There are so many brands out there ranging from cheap to expensive, from scented to unscented, from hippie to chic, there is something for everyone.
So how exactly did veganism change my life?
- I began losing weight again immediately after going vegan. I lost 40+ pounds.
- My skin cleared up.
- I have ten times more energy.
- No stomach issues anymore!
- Less pain and inflammation.
- I eat twice as much as I use to and don’t gain weight.
- All my personal care products are cruelty free and my hair still smells amazing.
- I sleep better.
- I’m happier.
- I feel better and healthier overall.
- I am more informed and no longer turn a blind.
- I advocate against all forms of oppression.
- My mom switched to a vegan lifestyle and has lost 96 pounds and lowered her cholesterol 65 points!
I could go on and on about the positive impact this has had on my life. It has been a journey of self discovery and it has been a learning experience. It has changed my life and I will never look back. How has it changed yours? Share in the comments.