Discovering the unexpected benefits of veganism

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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

The Co-op in the UK's vegan jam and custard doughnutsI 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!

Elena may reject the 'cat person' label but she doesn't reject cats!

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

If you or someone you know wishes to experience these unexpected benefits too, you can ease into veganism with our 30 Day Vegan Pledge; sign up here for daily support, information and advice.

Comments

Being a veganism person I have lots benefits since I become a vegan person. Except Im a vegan person, I want also to spread to my family and friends that being a vegan, it's a lot of benefits you can get, your health, the animals to stop cruelty, stop buying meat industry and many more like environment.

It's the treasure hunts for accidentally vegan foods I love, and passing that knowledge onto other people. I thought that Jammy Dodgers being vegan was common knowledge until I mentioned them to a friend who didn't know, and he'd been vegan for years. The look on his face made my day and he instantly went out and bought a mountain of them to make up for lost time! He also didn't know about Starburst. He's put on a lot of weight since we had that conversation.

Tonight is day 3 of a vegan diet. I went from eating a normal western diet, to vegan overnight. I've always been very open to trying new foods, and new concepts, so when I woke up 3 days ago to the most horrifying, disturbing video on halal meat production (which is apparently being sold unlabelled all over Europe now), that was the absolute end straw for me! I knew how the video would make me feel, because I've seen videos like it before, but I wanted to watch it. Low and behold, I was in inconsolable tears. Tears because I felt so bad for these animals, but also of absolute frustration that videos like that make me feel this way, but to that day, I hadn't done anything about it! I guess I had an "out of sight, out of mind" look on eating meat and meat products. It was that morning, that I packed up the meat that was in my fridge into groceries bags, and went and delivered it to a few homeless people in my area, then headed to a vegan cafe. It's only been 3 days, but I'm beginning to experience a whole new outlook already! I'm not only feeling well hydrated, and fresh, but I honestly feel happy! Happy on the inside, but also happy with my new decision. I'm proud of myself! I want to be vegan not only to take my own personal stand (finally) against cruelty to animals, but also for the health benefits, and to decrease my carbon footprint by 60%! This is such a positive change that I've made, and I'm so excited to know more about it, share thoughts with like-minded people, and be exposed to all these new foods! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on becoming vegan Elena. This is the first thing I've publicly said about my change. I don't want to make a big deal of it to the people I know, so I appreciate saying it on here somewhat anonymously.

Hi I am very new to this infact today is my 5th day of being a vegan, i have been a vegetarian for approx 25 years, hopefully i will keep learning of new ways to cook food without using dairy, i will give it my best

Well said, and inspirational. I too have been "a cat person" and uncomfortable with dogs. I will aim to change that.

I can so relate to this article. I am at a place now where I don't apologise, or beg people to understand, or try and push my views on people. I will live my life as I feel is right and hope that others will be inspired.

I've been a very strict vegan for 3 years. I am 62 years old. I didn't do it for my health which is good. I did it because my conscience no longer could allow me to complain about slaughterhouses, factory farms and feedlots and animal torture if I was complicit in them all by eating animal products. I am a good cook and have learned a lot, but the greatest difficulty still is eating out. It used to be so fun for me and my husband, but it is really not fun now. Most restaurants in my city don't cater to vegans and the others offer one only vegan meal on their menus and it gets really old! My dream is someday to have as many vegan restaurants as conventional ones! I am now working on being aware of the clothing and accessories I buy so leather is out! I can't deny it has been a big sacrifice for me as I'd become a fantastic conventional cook, so it was changing my recipes one at a time and throwing a lot of them out that I used to love! But being guilt-free has been worth it!

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