What I Learned From Being Vegan For A Year

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What I Learned From Being Vegan For A Year

Last year I announced to the world that I was going vegan. I had a lot of trepidations, but also a lot of excitement for finally doing something I had been wanting to for years. I had questions and concerns…

How hard would it be?

What would I eat?

Would people accept and support me?

Could I really stay committed to it?

And the never-ending age-old question, “Where would I get my protein?”

Fast-forward a year later, and I kind of chuckle at my initial worries. In truth, most of the worries and fears were unfounded, but I did learn quite a bit not only about food but also myself and others.

All dressed up for Spring and the #DogwoodFestival #ATL #nofilter

A photo posted by Crystal Collins (@crystalecollins) on

 

#1 It is not a diet. It is a belief system and lifestyle. 

A lot of people think that Veganism is just about what you eat. I know I did. But once I fully immersed myself into the community, I realized that it is akin to a religion of sorts. It’s why the community is so passionate.

Veganism in and of itself is a belief system that all living beings deserve to live, and not have anything taken from them by humans. Vegans use no animal products or products that come from animals – ie. Honey is considered an animal product because it comes from bees.

This was probably the most interesting part to me, because for the longest time I thought it was just about not eating dairy or meat. Vegans won’t wear leather, and are aware of every single item they use, purchase, and consume. 

Carbs, proteins, healthy fats, and immune-boosting goodness all in one bowl! A photo posted by Crystal Collins (@crystalecollins) on

#2 It was extremely easy to find things to eat!

This was true for both making meals at home and eating out. My food choices became extremely simple. Instead of having a billion choices to choose from, my options reduced greatly which made for easy and fast choices.

If I went out to eat at all, I already knew I couldn’t do meats, butter, milk, sour cream, cheese… so eliminate those and you’ve got something simple like veggie fajitas without cheese or sour cream.

I quickly became the fastest one to order or go grocery shopping.

#3 It was an incredible way to save money!

Just think… you’re eliminating meat, milk, butter, eggs, etc… These things count for a huge portion of most people’s grocery budgets. Instead I was using things like coconut oil, quinoa, rice, vegetables, almond milk, and fruits. My spending ended up being a fraction of what I had been spending before.

#4 It was never “boring” or bland food. While the options did become limited, I was never bored. I got to try so many amazing and unique things. It was like a fun adventure of daily experimenting. Some of my favorite things:

 

This is my favorite thing to pick up at Life Grocery Cafe in Marietta. Isn’t it gorgeous?

A photo posted by Crystal Collins (@crystalecollins) on

#5 Vegans are not all a bunch of screaming, yelling, hate-filled people.

Just like with all human beings, you’re going to deal with various types of people. When you look specifically at religions (which I think most closely describes Veganism), you’ll have those willing to “die for their beliefs” and also those that are pacifists.

#6 Losing friends was going to be unavoidable. 

I still recall the hate-filled words I received after casually mentioning that I had become vegan to a “friend.” I was immediately dragged into a hate-filled debate, and told that all vegans are a bunch of “Nazis.”

This was an eye-opening moment to me, when I realized I had joined a minority belief-system. It was akin to an experience I received when I was younger, when some bullies in school made fun of me for believing in God.

Several non-vegans instantly became combative with me, and this was not a pleasant experience. I felt very ostracized. 

  Carbs, proteins, healthy fats, and immune-boosting goodness all in one bowl!   A photo posted by Crystal Collins (@crystalecollins) on

#7 I became the brunt of jokes at most dinner tables. 

It was very rare for people to accept me right out of the gate. While I always made it my goal to be accepting and loving despite sitting across from a plate of meat, I found myself becoming the brunt of the jokes. I was often mocked, made fun of, or others would try to drag me into a debate when I had no desire to do such.

And then I realized why a lot of vegans only hang out together.

#8 Plants have protein!

This has been the most humorous part to me. I always chuckle inwardly a little when I get the question “where do you get your protein.” Believe it or not, we don’t need as much protein as we think we do and plants have plenty of protein! Quinoa, hemp seed, nuts, leafy greens – just a few of the sources of protein in my diet.

#9 Plant-based eating is amazing for the body!

I dropped down to a size 2, had amazing energy, my skin glowed, my breast size increased, and food tasted AMAZING!

Every time I ate, it was like a party in my mouth! Once you go completely plant-based, you begin to experience tastes like never before.  Your body craves the goodness.

Because of all the toxic foods we put into your bodies, our body’s instincts are off and we don’t crave things that are good for us. We become addicted to the bad things.

But once we get off of the junk and properly cleanse, our instincts and tastes come to life! This is why I can enjoy kale so much while meat eaters usually do not (if you’ve followed me on Instagram at all then you know I’m a KALE ADDICT!).

Happy pie day! #piday #31415

A photo posted by Crystal Collins (@crystalecollins) on

#10 Being “Vegan” doesn’t mean being healthy. 

There are a lot of unhealthy vegans, and I actually had a time of not being so healthy myself. At one point I ended up trying some of the “mock” meats and became obsessed with them. This quickly made me put on weight, and I could tell a difference in my body from when I had been sticking to more raw plant eating.

This. A photo posted by Crystal Collins (@crystalecollins) on

#11 I can’t really call myself “Vegan.”

What I can say is that I’ve been on a plant-based diet. To be “Vegan” is to immerse yourself into the entire belief system, and I still had many doubts. While I do not wish to eat meat (it’s become nauseating to me to even see it), I still had doubts as to the benefits of raw dairy from good sources.

This is not something I ever wished to debate with Vegans, so I haven’t brought up. I understand the passion of the Vegan community, and respect what it is they want to achieve.

I also know how dairy makes me feel, as I did have some at a point. I felt terrible, and sickly afterwards.

But, who’s to say that the raw milk from my local farmer is bad for my son who always shows massive improvement while drinking it?

This alone, means I cannot call myself a vegan as it would be both dishonest and also diminish what it is that Vegans represent.

I do not wish to disrespect the Vegan community in such a way.

I’m sure many have heard the saying of “don’t be against something, but stand for something.” I stand for love, acceptance, and being as healthy as we possibly can while honoring our planet and other beings.

So while I can’t really call myself a Vegan, I do say that I am passionate for plant-based eating and hope to impact as many lives as possible with my message of “everyone deserves to live well, eat well, and thrive!”

It was a great year, and I hope for many more years of plant-based living, growing in my knowledge, and being as healthy as possible while making the world a better place. That, to me, is what it’s all about.

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By | 2016-01-27T11:16:45+00:00 January 27th, 2016|Health and Wellness, Healthy Eating, Organic and Green Living|7 Comments

About the Author:

I'm a former sweet-tooth turned health-nut. After a difficult loss of a first pregnancy and having a second child with a heart condition, I became obsessed with health and wellness. I revamped our entire family's lifestyle, dropped seven pant sizes, and created a website where I could share our story and help support people wanting to make small changes day by day in order to live well. I also support my family by the work that I do here through advertising content, affiliates, and partnership/consultant links within content. When you click and/or order, it puts food on our table. Thanks for all your support, and may you live well and thrive!

7 Comments

  1. Andrea January 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    It amazes me how much people *invest* in the eating habits of others. I’m glad you had a good experience. I’m glad you’re eating the way you want to and feel you need to for your body. I have always had certain meats I don’t eat – it’s been decades – and recently started eating more whole foods, clean eats, etc. and it’s often looked at as a “well, what CAN you eat?” sort of thing. Lots! Whatever I want! And just not whatever I don’t want during this timeframe, etc. So, good for you and I’m happy for you. Thank you for sharing your experience and story.

    • Crystal Collins January 27, 2016 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your thought, and I’m glad you benefited from my story! 🙂

  2. Christopher January 28, 2016 at 3:23 am - Reply

    Hi Crystal,

    I really enjoyed your post. I appreciate your thoughtfulness as you describe your experiences while acknowledging the vegan ethos as beyond just the diet. Also, I applaud your bravery to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.

    In adding to your comment about negative reactions from people… It used to really bother me when people would be hyper critical, combative, or just downright nasty about my deeply held worldview, similar to how you described. In my experience, it just revealed the other person’s insecurities or fear of something different than themselves. My view is that you can’t go wrong if you stick with your conscious and accept people for who they ar 🙂

    Also, the enimty might stem from people’s reactions to the vegan label; be it misinformation about veganism or a bad experience from a loud mouth sanctimonious vegan. I personally self identify as vegan, but mostly because it is easier for other people to label me to kinda get what I’m about. What’s most important to me is reducing animal suffering, reducing environmental impacts, and gaining some resultant health gains.

    My parting words of encouragement… Despite what others think, I hope you are able to keep doing the things you feel that are best for your health and conscious. And remember, balance is key. Aside from going off the grid and developing one’s own tools and food, it is virtually impossible to use zero animal products in our post-industrial society. So my view is there needs to be some flexibility. The main question I ask is whether it will really help animals/your ethical worldview ethos if being vegan just sounds scary and impossible to others. Examples include: going to dinner with non-vegan friends and grilling the poor server on whether my bread has egg, dairy, or honey; making a big deal at friends dinner party by not eating any food when I could easily let them know in advance that I’m glad to bring a vegan side dish (so it doesn’t stress them out to cook a whole vegan meal just for me).

    p.s. I love your blog!

    • Crystal Collins January 28, 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      This was great! You and I share a similar mindset on it – if you’re stressed out or stressing others out, then it’s not beneficial. Thanks for your insight and encouragement!

  3. Mara January 28, 2016 at 6:18 am - Reply

    Great story – thanks for sharing those points, Crystal. Your plates full of vegetables looked so mouth-watering.

  4. MJ April 22, 2016 at 11:28 am - Reply

    BRAVO! I went vegetarian in the early 90’s for 2 years (while living in the heart of dairyland USA (WI)) I understand what you went through. I applaud your strength in going vegan. Doing anything different from “the mainstream”, or being different is never easy. Even if the reason for doing so is because of medical reasons. I have 3 adult children, I will be 60 on my next birthday, 2 of my kids have severe food allergies, so I truly understand living your life differently when others don’t get it. Stay the course and live your life the way you do. Best wishes! MJ

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