Today's guest post on What Vegan Means is by Jared. Lindsay and I met Jared in DC during her short East coast book tour. We had so much fun hanging out with him, he even tested for Everyday Happy Herbivore...I think he made almost all of the recipes! Jared blogs at The Laughing Vegan and he's also on Twitter.
My name is Jared and I've been following a plant-based diet for over two years now. I stumbled upon veganism by way of the weight loss book Skinny Bastard and it stuck. Why? I don't know exactly...I guess I needed a hobby, haha. But really, it had a lot to do with coming to the realization that I don't require animal products to survive.
If you're not familiar with the diet, it phases all animal products out. Eating and living this way became a complete transformation for me. I cleaned out my refrigerator, gave the food away, declared myself a vegan, and started anew. I'd dieted before, but this was probably the most significant and drastic form -- and it stuck. I don't know exactly how or why I never really wanted to cheat. The book describes details of factory farming, a lot of the adverse health affects of meat consumption, as well as the atrocities that the USDA and FDA commit, and I think the combination of those was what captivated me.
I've come to realize that because of my background, I do not automatically identify with most vegans. I didn't directly ditch animal products because I "cared about the animals" but it was more of a collaborative occurrence as a result of many different factors. I was also never a vegetarian. Because I went "cold turkey" (literally, I gave the turkey away!) I feel as though I can relate to omnivores that imagine how difficult it would be to minimize cruelty. While it was sometimes difficult, namely eating out at restaurants, I've learned so much since then that I wouldn't trade my choice.
I've really enjoyed living life free of animal products for some time now. I didn't intend on my post to discuss too much with regards to weight-loss, but after reading JL's inspiring post I have a few thoughts. I lost over 35lbs. initially when transitioning to a vegan diet, and I credit it to ditching lots of prepackaged and over-processed foods in exchange for hearty low-fat grains, new vegetables, and getting more creative. I've always been passionate about cooking since I was much younger and veganism encouraged me to explore the kitchen and grocery store more. My lifestyle now does not focus on weight loss, rather I attempt to eat a lot of food I imagine is better for me and some that may not be. I always have room for dessert, even if it is something small and sweet like fruit, because it makes me happy.
So what exactly does vegan mean to me? I think it involves living a lifestyle that minimizes cruelty. The atrocities that exist within factory farming just aren't something I want to contribute to or enable. Knowing what I know now about everything that happens between animal to plate, I don't need to "feel guilty" about what I consume because I make the conscious choice not to.
I've considered myself more compassionate as a result of identifying with veganism. The obvious reason would be that I care more about animals and don't want to contribute to their demise, and while I believe that to be true, I think there's more. I want to show people about my lifestyle. I want to encourage others to decrease their contribution to cruelty. I want to share my story, my experiences, and help other people learn more about what it means to enjoy life, eat great food, and not use animals or anything associated with them.
Do I think most people will go vegan? Nope. Do I think I can help people make smarter choices about what they consume, use more alternatives, and feel better about the way they live? Yes. That's what keeps me going and makes me proud to be vegan.