Any time I'm speaking -- whether it's at a conference or I'm on a podcast/radio show -- someone invariably asks me what made me go vegan or what motivated me to follow a plant-based diet.
The truth is what motivated me to adopt a vegan/plant-based diet isn't nearly as compelling as why I've maintained a vegan/plant-based diet for almost 6 years.
I'm not embarrassed to admit that my initial reason for adopting a vegan diet was rooted in vanity: I wanted to be thin and have clear skin. Of course, I was also motivated by the plight of animals, and it was my health that primarily motivated my initial steps to a vegetarian diet the year before, but the leap from "vegetarian" to "vegan" was intimately tied with my own selfish desires.
Nevertheless, as the years have gone by, I've found far more compelling reasons that make me glad I live and eat this way. Reasons that reinforced my decision. Sealed it so I would never waiver. Some of those reasons are still rooted in vanity. Some are rooted in health. Some deal with animal welfare and the planet. Some are financial, and so on.
The point is, the reason "why" I started living this way pales in comparison to the many reasons that I've continued and although I'm only sharing my "top 10" reasons, know this is just the tip of the iceberg and that I believe, with all my heart, that adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet is by far the best, and most profound, decision I will ever make.
(1) I am healthier than I previously thought possible. If you had told me six years ago that I would have ran a marathon, taken up snowboarding, hiking and mountain biking, and otherwise lived an "athletic" life--I would have laughed you out of the room. Things that once seemed impossible, are not only possible--but a part of my life now. I find so much joy and excitement in challenging myself now -- seeing what my physical limits are.
(2)I have no temptation. In the years prior to adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet I struggled with saying "no." I was tempted by everything: that snickers in the checkout line, that cupcake in the bakery window, that bag of cookies in the snack machine--but not anymore. Those foods aren't vegan, and while I might be willing to compromise my nutrition goals in a weak moment, I'm not willing to compromise my ethics or compassion, so if it's not vegan, I walk by without any problem-- something I was not able to do before. As time as gone on, I've also stopped seeing those things as "food" and started seeing them more like a poison. I get excited and drool over fresh fruits and vegetables, not junk.
(3) My weight is under control. I lost the weight I needed to, and as long as I continue to make good choices,I don't put the weight back on, even during periods of inactivity. I am no-longer tied to the stair master--I have found a way to be "naturally thin" despite my belief that my genetics had other plans. I'm also no-longer susceptible to mainstream noise. I used to buy into every magazine article, news feed, latest "fad" about diet, exercise and nutrition. I was always stressed about my nutrition and confused by it. I finally see how simple it all really is: eat real food. Eat plants.
(4) Warm Fuzzies. I find great joy and satisfaction in knowing that my choices extend beyond me in both positive and profound ways. By eating a plant-based diet I know that I'm helping myself, helping the planet, helping animals--and helping humanity.
(5) Friendship. So many of my closest friends are those I met through Happy Herbivore and the online community that surrounds this lifestyle. I feel so, so blessed.
(6) Awareness. I am much more aware and conscious. Right after I switched my diet a friend observed, "so you really think about what you eat. Gosh! If I thought this hamburger used to be a cow I couldn't eat it!" That really stuck with me--I'm so thankful that I no-longer blindly shove food inside of me, without taking a moment to think about what it is, what I might do once it's in there, and what it went through to get on my plate in the first place. Although some people might find scanning labels to be annoying--I find this a great gift of consideration; I never eat something that I don't know precisely what it is. I really like that.
(7)I don't get sick anymore. In the last 6 years I can only think of one instance where I was ill and by ill I mean feeling crappy for 3 days with the sniffles. I haven't been really sick in a really long time. If I feel a sore throat or sniffles or a cough coming on, I go to bed early and am recovered 100% within 24 hours. Even in germ-filled New York City I didn't "pick up" colds or the flu. I travel all the time too, and you'd think all that recirculated air and contact with people would get me, but it doesn't. The plants have supercharged my immune system. (and for a girl who works 70 hrs a week, 52 weeks a year, there is no time to be sick!)
(8) I reversed or eliminated all my medical issues -- no more GI problems (I had chronic upset stomach among other issues), acne, migraines or depression which I didn't even know I had until I was plant-based. Within a few weeks of eating plant-based I noticed I was much happier, more upbeat and optimistic. Friends and colleagues started to notice my new sunny disposition and out-of-character happy demeanor and asked questions. I never realized how sad and weighed down I felt until I wasn't sad or feeling weighed down anymore.
(9)I broke all my nasty addictions. No more 10 cups of coffee (per day!), no more severe cravings, sugar crashes and the like. This is due, in part, because I no-longer eat junk food--but I lost the desire to eat junk foods when I adopted a whole foods plant-based diet. I may not be 100% perfect all the time (I have a vegan cupcake from time to time) but I don't long for crap anymore. I can't believe I used to eat cheetos. There, I said it.
(10) I like food! I was a horribly "picky eater" as an omnivore. I rarely enjoyed food. I would sit at a table in a restaurant, frustrated, because nothing appealed to me. I have such a voracious appetite now it's ridiculous, but most importantly I really enjoy food. I love cooking (obviously!) and I love eating. I have open myself up to and tried so many cuisines and foods I would have never tried as an omni. Even though people might thing a plant-based diet is "limited" I actually enjoy a wider variety of foods now than I ever did as an omnivore or even a vegetarian.
My only regret is that I wish I'd found out this big secret sooner which is probably why I scream it from the rooftops now.