Why We’re Vegan, Chapter 2: Danny, Cleo, and Chloe

Welcome to Chapter 2 of “Veggie Tales: Why We’re Vegan”. This post-series is the cultivation of a a conversation about veganism; a display of the diverse journeys, intentions, and identities of plant-based people. There will be 9 stories total, including two special-feature stories. There’s no such thing as the “average vegan”. Meet Danny, Cleo, and Chloe.

Danny Kochanowski, 23 years old, vegan(ish)* for 2 years

danny

What inspired you to go vegan? (Animal rights, health, environment, etc.)

My main motivators were environmental factors. I was initially astonished by the Goodland study that stated 51% of greenhouse gas emissions were due to animal agriculture. This study was proven inaccurate by peer review, but studies on the topic consistently show that 15-20% of greenhouse gases are due to the industry. At the time, I was driving a lot for my job, and I wanted to make a change in my life that would impact the environment.  A plant-based diet was a logical decision for me in this light.

What physical, emotional, or otherwise related changes have you experienced since your transition to veganism?

Initially, I did feel more tired after cutting out animal products, but this was simply because I did not transition correctly. Any dietary change should be gradual, but I transitioned much too quickly, without the proper research on how to supplement all of the necessary nutrients. Once I did my research and adjusted my diet, I felt great physically. The emotional change was even more significant, as I felt fantastic about myself that I was contributing positively to the environment.

What’s your favorite go-to vegan food, recipe, or snack?

I love making anything with chickpeas! And yes, this certainly includes hummus. Give me anything and I will put hummus on it.

What was the most difficult aspect of your transition to veganism?

My most difficult part of the transition was the aforementioned fatigue due to my lack of research. It was also certainly difficult to give up pizza, but this was counteracted by finding my favorite non-dairy cheeses.

Were any parts of your transition surprisingly easy?

Giving up red meat was actually very easy. I had eaten a lot of it growing up, but once I stopped eating it, I lost an appetite for it completely.

What myths or rumors about veganism have you debunked through your own experience?

The protein myth! I have a feeling this will be the common answer. Most folks seem to think meat is the only source of amino-acid rich proteins, but that’s certainly untrue. I have maintained my muscle mass with high concentrations of plant-based protein in each meal.

A lot of people don’t understand why anyone would switch to a plant-based diet. Many of these people make jokes- or are downright mean- about veganism. Have you experienced this opposition before? If so, what do you say/do in those situations?

I think I’ve experienced more jokes than malevolence. I get everything from “You’re not going to make a difference, so I’m going to eat double my normal amount of meat for you” to “Don’t the plants have feelings, too?” I take it all very lightly. I think for the few times I have gotten nasty responses, it’s been from folks who think a plant-based diet comes from a place of pretentious privilege. While coming off as pretentious is never my intention, I do recognize that it does take privilege to maintain a plant-based diet, given the amount of resources I do have as a middle class citizen in a first-world country. I’m always willing to have conversations about this.

Where would you direct friends and family who are looking for more information about veganism?

I really don’t have a direct referral source – I simply just discuss with them what I know, and then tell them to search more in general terms if they have additional questions.

Do you see yourself going back to a diet including meat and/or dairy in the future? Why or why not?

There’s an asterisk at the beginning of this post because as of around a month ago, I did begin to incorporate chicken and fish into my diet. My diet, if I had to say, is probably still 85% plant based. The way I see it, if you have 400 animal-based products in your diet (hypothetically, of course), and you change that to 399, then you’re making a difference on animal rights and the environment. I wanted to eat small amounts of healthy, lean meats after almost two years of veganism because incorporating 2 items back in my diet was something I felt appropriate. I am still mindfully acknowledging the majority of my diet is based around environmental ethics.

What shocked you most about a plant-based diet, that you think the pubic should be aware of?

I just never thought I could do it. Like many folks, I thought I could never give steak or pizza up. But I did because I felt it was something positive I wanted to bring to the world. I think if you want something badly enough, you can certainly do it, despite any self-perceived obstacles that may seem insurmountable.

Have other areas of your life improved or been enhanced by your veganism? If so, what areas, and how?

I still continue to be in good physical health. I feel that veganism has not affected this too drastically. Honestly, it can be very easy to go carbohydrate-heavy when changing to veganism, so it’s more about eating proteins and healthy fats in balance with healthy carbs. You can do this with any type of diet. For me, the biggest improvement was emotional, as I felt I was making a positive change.


 

Cleo Alberts, 19 years old, vegan for almost 1 month

Cleo runs an Instagram account posting delicious vegan food inspiration and recipes with her 3 vegan best friends: @bestveganfriends

Cleo Alberts

What inspired you to go vegan? (Animal rights, health, environment, etc.)

The biggest inspiration I had was the environment. It was hard for me to call myself an environmentalist yet still eat meat.

What physical, emotional, or otherwise related changes have you experienced since your transition to veganism?  

Since my transition, I have experienced more physical energy! I attribute that partly to my constant consumption of water, but also, going vegan has helped my metabolism and energy levels in general. Though, I must say, I have found that I am eating more carbohydrates and I did not eat as much of them as I did before – thus, my skin is seeing these changes in ways of acne. Emotionally, I feel wonderful.

What’s your favorite go-to vegan food, recipe, or snack?

My favorite go-to snack is always bean salad. Mix black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and corn with red onions, olive oil, vinegar, and spices. Voila! It’s delicious in wraps with rice, or just eat them with veggie chips. I also love peanut butter protein balls – combine rolled oats, natural peanut butter, vegan chocolate chips and your sweetener of choice (I use maple syrup) and roll them into little balls. Refrigerate them and they are so delicious!

What was the most difficult aspect of your transition to veganism?

My most difficult aspect had to be my giving up of honey and cheese. I surprisingly use honey a lot in my daily life, and I have switched over to maple syrup in baking and agave in normal use. Also, I love cheese. I don’t necessarily have cravings for it but sometimes I wish I had some!

Were any parts of your transition surprisingly easy?

The easiest part for me was cutting out meat and eggs. I never really craved meat and eggs to begin with, so leaving them behind wasn’t a problem. Not eating yogurt, which I always ate before, has been easy as well. Also, it has been easy for me to switch to vegan-friendly salad dressings as opposed to the almighty bleu cheese dressing! I love Italian now.

What myths or rumors about veganism have you debunked through your own experience?  

The myth I’ve debunked is that veganism is expensive. It definitely can get expensive, don’t get me wrong. If I spend money on meat and cheese substitutes a lot of the time it gets pricey. However, buying my grains in bulk and in-season vegetables has been surprisingly low cost.

A lot of people don’t understand why anyone would switch to a plant-based diet. Many of these people make jokes- or are downright mean- about veganism. Have you experienced this opposition before? If so, what do you say/do in those situations?

There have definitely been people to laugh or assume or make jokes. I think it all just comes down to having a sense of understanding and peace with others and the decisions they make, as they are out of your own control. Someone can poke fun at the way I live and that is their decision – I stick to focusing on my own choices that make me happy and at peace with myself.

Where would you direct friends and family who are looking for more information about veganism?

I highly recommend r/vegan on reddit! The reddit community can be overwhelming at first but once you find your niche you fit right in. I love it there. r/vegangifrecipes is a good one too, for quick and delicious vegan meals in gif form.

Do you see yourself going back to a diet including meat and/or dairy in the future? Why or why not?

As of right now, I don’t see myself going back to my old diet. Maybe I will feel differently in the future, but the environment is always going to come first. The problems facing our world won’t just go away. My conscience decision to avoid supporting the meat/dairy industry will always be impactful. I plan to stick with it.

What shocked you most about a plant-based diet, that you think the public should be aware of?  

What shocked me the most about this diet is the health benefits! It feels like my body loves me a lot more. It feels like I am nourishing my body with foods that it was meant to eat and I find myself having an easier time digesting the foods I eat as they are not animal products. Veganism does so much for one’s body – and also one’s peace of mind. I find myself more confident in me and my habits knowing the choices I am making when it comes to food.

Have other areas of your life improved or been enhanced by your veganism? If so, what areas, and how?  

Since it’s been such a short amount of time thus far, I can’t say for sure. I’ll get back to you on that! 😉

Anything you’d like to add?

Go vegan! Rethink what you eat. For yourself, for our mother earth, and for the generations to come.


 

Chloe Birney, 18 years old, vegan for 3 months

(Chloe chose not to include a photo)

What inspired you to go vegan? (Animal rights, health, environment, etc.)

I fell for a vegan trap: I watched a documentary called What The Health late one night last summer. I literally switched from a traditional, white American diet in a day. The film forced me to consider the health costs of what I thought was a healthy enough diet, and I decided that eating plant-based was something I needed, and had the capacity, to do.

What physical, emotional, or otherwise related changes have you experienced since your transition to veganism?

The first week, I had a really bad acne breakout. Once my body settled in to the new diet, I started (TMI) pooping waaay more frequently. Emotionally, I remember it being really tough to not add cheese to tacos or to have to opt out of the pizza my friends got. I don’t know if I’ve lost weight since going plant-based, but I’ve noticed that my body shape is generally nicer now, even without changing my exercise habits.

What’s your favorite go-to vegan food, recipe, or snack?

I hoard pretzels and peanut butter in my room. An assortment of Lara bars, too.

What was the most difficult aspect of your transition to veganism?

I think the hardest part of my experience so far was the decision to become A Vegan. I felt so much shame for not wanting to continue being a meat-eater, and my mom certainly didn’t help. Food is culture, and it’s difficult to stray from the things you’ve been raised with.

Were any parts of your transition surprisingly easy?

I can still eat chocolate!!!!

What myths or rumors about veganism have you debunked through your own experience?

I think I assumed that being vegan would automatically make me healthy… too bad oreos and french fries are vegan. 🙂

A lot of people don’t understand why anyone would switch to a plant-based diet. Many of these people make jokes- or are downright mean- about veganism. Have you experienced this opposition before? If so, what do you say/do in those situations?

I’ve definitely felt this toward other vegans before I made the switch—a lot of it has to do with the way we see people different than us, and how central diet is to our identities. I don’t have a good way to deflect the H8erz now, but I like to make a conversation out of it.

Where would you direct friends and family who are looking for more information about veganism?

If people want to be vegan but need a push to get there, I would direct them to What The Health and Cowspiracy on Netflix. If someone wanted to know why I was vegan, I would have a nice conversation with them. Otherwise, I don’t talk too much about my diet to other people.

Do you see yourself going back to a diet including meat and/or dairy in the future? Why or why not?

There was a point when I thought it could be healthy to maybe go back to eating meat—never dairy—but the environmental repercussions of raising animals for meat are just too great for me to consider going back.

What shocked you most about a plant-based diet, that you think the public should be aware of?

There are so many. The most shocking thing I learned was the lengths the meat, dairy, and egg industries have gone to continue capitalizing on their products at the expense of the health of American consumers.

 Have other areas of your life improved or been enhanced by your veganism? If so, what areas, and how?

I’m planning to go into engineering, and food consumption and other environmental problems are beginning to become my focus for my studies. It’s a really good feeling, because I have this new passion and a way I can channel it.

 

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