Vegan expert Elena Orde blogs on veganism’s unexpected benefits, and how these helped her gain a greater appreciation of herself, non-human animals – and food!
When I first began to consider veganism, I didn’t think much further than the fact that I wanted to stop supporting industries which are cruel to animals. I don’t remember predicting any benefits that I, personally, would expect to get from the lifestyle - instead I thought that it would involve countless awkward conversations, tasteless food and martyrdom. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Here are three unexpected benefits which I have found as a direct result of going vegan.
1) Self belief
Veganism is now natural and easy for me, but getting to that stage involved getting through some trickier weeks. Making it through that time, and learning how to adapt along the way, showed me that I’m capable of more than I thought. When other people find out I’m vegan, so many of them respond with "I couldn’t do that". For a long time, that was the way I thought too. Personal change is possible, which means that wider change is too.
Holding my own in conversations with people who aren’t open to vegan ideas, as well having the confidence to close down conversations which aren’t going anywhere, has shown me a lot about myself. Gradually learning to stop being apologetic about my choices has been empowering too. It’s so easy to preface a restaurant order with "sorry to be so awkward", but that just makes others think you’re less secure in your choices than you really are.
2) Enjoying food more
I have an uncle who likes to point at nearby objects (like cardboard or furniture) and say "That probably tastes better than your food!" It was sort of funny the first time. I get it though - I’m also guilty of having absorbed stereotypical views of vegan food in the past.
But again, once I got through those initial "aargh what can lunch be" few weeks, a whole new world of food opened up to me. Each day brought a new question which I needed to address creatively – is it possible to make these chocolate brownies without egg? Can I make a vegan stir-fry in fifteen minutes? How do I make this curry creamy? (Answers: yes; yes; coconut cream!)
And the best news – I can still enjoy all my old favourites. I still eat chocolate, sweets, doughnuts, ice cream, and if I want I know where I can buy all of those things without making them myself (UK dwellers, check out this blog and this one if you want to know too!). But the fact that at times it can be a bit more of a treasure hunt means that I value these kinds of foods more than I ever did before. And finding out about these new and exciting treats is actually really fun!
3) Connection to other animals
Prior to going vegan, I had always thought of myself as a ‘cat person’. We’ve never had a dog as part of the household, and I didn’t feel particularly close to them. When visiting friends with dogs I felt like I didn’t know how to interact with them. I wasn’t a fan of them jumping up, the slobber, the smelly hands.
That all changed quite quickly. I’ve long ago abandoned the ‘cat person’ label. Now I treasure all interactions I have with different species. Any such instance is a highlight of my day, whether it’s saying hello to a pony while on a walk (I live in the countryside, if you couldn’t tell), or meeting a new dog, even if I get smelly hands and fluffy jeans. I feel connection to each animal I see, now that veganism has helped me to see them as they really are - equals.
I didn’t know veganism would be a pathway towards a happier, more creative, more fulfilling way of living. Those first few tricky weeks were the time in which I learned the most about the vegan lifestyle and how I could make it work. If you’re on the brink of choosing a vegan lifestyle then embrace that learning curve; the repercussions of choosing veganism are further-reaching than you would ever expect.
By Elena Orde
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.