Being Vegan Doesn’t Look the Same for Everyone

Grotto graphic illustrates why people are vegan. The word "Vegan" is centered with three lines branching to illustrations of a cow, the earth, and a heart with a heartbeat line.

Three of us at Grotto are vegan. We’re all in our twenties and among a growing number of Millennials who choose a diet free of animal products. The reasons for our shared lifestyle vary — from environmental to health to animal rights. As we share our stories here, please know there’s no judgment if you choose to eat differently!

Why did you make the switch to veganism?

Three years ago, Emily, now 25, was compelled to adopt a plant-based diet after encountering Pope Francis’s call to care for our common home in his encyclical, Laudato sí. With the help of documentaries such as Cowspiracy, she continued to inform herself about animal agriculture’s environmental impact on the planet.

“I heard so much about climate change and knew that recycling wasn’t enough. I felt I needed to change my own lifestyle in an effort to make an impact.”

In 2012, Mariah became vegetarian. But in 2017, the now 25-year-old made it her New Year’s Resolution to cut animal products from her diet after learning the dangerous effects they can have on the body.

“My husband’s and my families have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and dementia, and we wanted to learn what we could do to prevent those from being a part of our later years.”

The couple decided on veganism “because of all the recent studies published on the high correlation between all animal products — including eggs and cheese — and cancer.”

Martha, 21, chose to go vegan after watching documentaries about the maltreatment of agricultural animals.

“I’ve seen videos of baby cows being separated from their mothers at birth so that the mom’s milk can go to humans. I’ve seen newborn calves being shoved into vans that drive away as the mom — who just gave birth — does all she can to chase after the truck and save her baby. They’ll never see each other again, and if the newborn is a boy, he will probably be killed right away for veal. If she’s a girl, she’ll be subjected to the same conditions as her mom: forcibly impregnated, malnourished as she gives birth, and immediately separated from her babies.”

How has your decision to go vegan affected your life?

Emily: “Eating more plants and less animal products instantly improved my physical health. I lost unnecessary weight and felt more energized. I strongly attribute this to my change in diet.”

The new lifestyle carried with it unexpected benefits, she says.

“If I was going to put so much effort into my eating choices, I also needed to be more intentional about my relationships, physical health, and even spiritual health,” she says. “I felt more in-tune with the world — more connected to nature and people around me.”

Mariah: “I grew up only eating foods that were white or beige in color, and now not only does my plate reflect the full color spectrum, but my life feels much more vibrant, too. To me, it’s such a small change compared to all the life I’ve gained from switching to plant-based eating.”

Martha: “Veganism changed the way I think. Realizing that horrors on the farm can so easily be passed off as a social norm scares me. You don’t have to settle for what you think is normal.”

How have others reacted to your choice?

Emily: “People usually tell me they could never give up cheese. I tell them it’s easier than you think. People expect me to try to convince them that they should make the same lifestyle choice — but I don’t, unless they ask.”

Mariah: “The number one thing people ask is, ‘Where do you get your protein from?’ I’ve really learned to love this question, because it’s a widespread misconception that protein can only be consumed by eating meat. When compared calorie-to-calorie, there’s more protein in 100 calories of broccoli than there is in 100 calories of steak,” Mariah says. “But in general, people have been really receptive to the fact that a vegan lifestyle just makes me feel so much healthier.”

Martha: “It’s a good teaching opportunity, because sometimes people will say things like, ‘Humans need meat to live!’ and I’ll say, ‘Well, here I am!’ It’s also an easy way for me to dispel misconceptions about veganism.”

What should people considering a vegan lifestyle know?

Emily:  “I was very surprised at how it transformed my health and body. And I feel good knowing that I’m not giving my money to questionable animal agriculture farms.”

She points out that veganism simultaneously helps the planet, animals, and herself, so although she chose to eat plant-based for environmental reasons, she reaps other benefits, too.

Mariah: “A vegan lifestyle has cured cancer, diabetes, and so many other autoimmune diseases in people. I feel like that should be more widely known. No one has to accept his or her genetic ‘fate.’

She wishes more people knew about the potential that vegan diets have to eradicate widespread illnesses, since they have healing properties and are comprised of far fewer carcinogens than animal products.

Martha: “It’s a crisis of passivity or action.”

Martha believes veganism is an effective way to care for others, since instances of crises such as world hunger and animal abuse would occur less frequently if more people were vegan.

Considering veganism?

If you are considering veganism for these reasons or others, the plant-based diet community welcomes you. Seeking new knowledge is the perfect place to start. There are lots of documentaries on the subject such as What the Health, Forks Over Knives, Fed Up, Hungry for Change, and Cowspiracy.

As far as the actual diet change, some find it easiest to stop eating animal products altogether, while others prefer to eliminate these foods more gradually. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seeds into your meals could be a helpful place to start, but you’ll know what’s best for you as you begin experimenting with this new lifestyle.

Taking this step can restore harmony and peace to the earth, its creatures, and your body. The decision is yours alone, but its effects are global.

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