I have been vegan for over six weeks now and although this doesn’t sound like a long time, I genuinely can’t remember what meat tastes like. Over my twenty-one years of being a carnivore, my appetite was particular, some may even use the term ‘fussy’; I just said I knew what I liked. But going vegan put a stop to this pretty promptly. I had to learn to cook new things which meant trying new things, something that I would have turned my nose up at in the past. Slowly but surely, my taste-buds started to adapt to my new way of living.
“I wanted to wake up and be in control of my body and the best way to do that was to control what I was putting into it”
Now, I know the predominant reason for going vegan is ethical, and although I wholly believe this to have somewhat contributed to my decision, the basis for mine was health. Suffering with endometriosis, an incurable disease in which the tissue found when the lining of the womb, the endometrium, is found outside of the womb (see Raising Awareness: The Hidden Disease), I decided to do my own research into what would benefit me.
For endometriosis sufferers we have something we like to term ‘endo belly’. This is where the abdomen bloats or swells and is paired with uncomfortable and sometimes even excruciating pain. I learnt that there are a few hidden factors for this such as pollution from chemicals, smoke and vehicles but one of the most interesting things, and possibly the one that we are able to control the most, is the food we are putting into our bodies.
Plenty of products that derive from animals, particularly red meats and dairy, can be having a detrimental effect on our health. After speaking to other endometriosis sufferers who have kept food logs to help them understand what is having a negative impact, the main flags were animal products. However, after adopting a vegan lifestyle, many noticed a lessening in their symptoms. For somebody who has eaten meat her entire life, this was something I had to carefully consider. It was going to be a huge step for me but the positives outweighed the negatives. I could live without my boiled eggs in the morning and my chicken nuggets in the evening (disclaimer: this wasn’t my daily diet). I was ready to stop waking up in fear of struggling to find an outfit to fit comfortably around my ‘endo belly’. I wanted to wake up and be in control of my body and the best way to do that was to control what I was putting into it.
“After assuring me that this dish was going to be made vegan, I was given something that was not and this could have been harmful to my health”
When I first mentioned to someone who had been vegan for a while that I was going vegan, they congratulated me on my choices and asked what had made me ‘take the leap’. I was honest with them and explained my medical situation. Their response was: “you’re doing it for your health and not for the animals?” I didn’t really know how to react to this. Of course I had taken into consideration the ethical reasons but this wasn’t what tipped me over the edge. They were very offended and made me feel like less of a vegan than them.
Surprisingly enough, this became a pattern among other vegans that I told and I learnt to adapt my answers to suit them. Although I realised that this shouldn’t be the case. I shouldn’t be absconded and disregarded because of my reasons for going vegan. I’m still vegan, so why should it matter? It wasn’t going to revert me back to eating meat so my reasons were just as valuable as everyone else’s.
As I began to feel comfortable in the tastes I enjoyed, I was able to venture out and eat at restaurants because I was more familiar with the options. This is where I realised people have a very clouded judgement about veganism. A lot of non-vegans that I have met don’t consider the medical reasons for cutting out animal products; their perception is that because I am vegan, I am going to preach about it to them until the cows come home (no pun intended).
At one restaurant that I visited in London, I ordered some pasta which I was assured they could make vegan. After finishing the pasta, I noticed melted butter at the bottom of the bowl. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it because I know there are dairy-free alternatives to butter but I was very poorly that night. After assuring me that this dish was going to be made vegan, I was given something that was not and this could have been harmful to my health. The restaurant did not know my reasons for going vegan and although I am not accusing them of doing it on purpose, it still hit a nerve after explicitly stating my requirements.
People’s judgement have not influenced my decision and if anything, it has made me more determined. Nevertheless, when some think that being vegan is the be all and end all, it does make you wonder why we have such a bad rep. Being a single woman in today’s society, I was on dating apps such as Bumble and Tinder to see who I could meet and was amazed at how many people had ‘if you are a vegan, do not swipe right’ in their bio. This is unnecessarily targeting people based on their personal choices and could be considered prejudice. Many non-meat eaters do not actually mind you eating meat in front of them but by painting everyone with the same brush, you are narrowing down your choices and it is making you look like a bigot, which is not attractive. But the positives for you having put this statement in your bio means that I have saved time in finding out you’re a bit of an idiot so, pros and cons.
Although there are some that don’t understand my reasons and turn their nose up at it, I have had extensive support from family and friends. Although repeated questions do occur such as, ‘don’t you miss meat?’ and ‘what do you even eat?’ This decision has already had a positive effect, and I am noticing changes for the better. So please, keep your opinions to yourself. We aren’t forcing you to stop eating meat with us so really it shouldn’t have an impact on your life.