On my quest to live the vegan lifestyle, Google became my best friend. Whenever I was unsure about a food item I would ask Google if it was vegan. Every other day I asked questions like, “are Cocoa Puffs vegan,” and “what cereals are vegan.” Believe it or not many cereals are not vegan and contain animal derived supplements. My beloved Frosted Flakes for instance are not vegan. I do not know if they were trying to hurt me but mission accomplished. I can only imagine the board meeting for cereal committees, everyone takes a sample and one member says, “this is good but if we add animal derived supplements it could be GRREEAAT!”

My initial approach to pursuing the vegan lifestyle was centered around the level of ease in which I could do it. I attempted to slowly phase out all non-vegan foods. I thought if I slowly let it go I would not realize I was losing anything. Although I was careful in my approach I failed to count the cost of what exactly I was giving up. Food was more than food to me, it was a lifestyle.

It was not uncommon before I decided to change my lifestyle for me to eat the occasional cheeseburger (Disclaimer: occasional sometimes means daily). The amount of cheeseburgers I ate I am sure would concern both vegans and non-vegans alike. After talking with friends I realized I needed to make life changes. I had done a lot of research on the vegan lifestyle and it made sense to me. However, I could not see myself walking it out long term but I could commit to the short term. In January I committed to eating vegetarian for a month and in February decided to eat vegan.

I often question how I got to the place that I am right now. I did not, contrary to what some might think, wake up and decide to be vegan. So many of the foods I used to eat are tied with memories. I can remember when I was young, being outside playing with my friends and entering my home being greeted by yellow lights from the lamps. I remember incense burning and the sound of popping grease in the background. The smell of fried chicken filled my nose. My wide eyes entered the kitchen yearning to get closer to the heavenly smell. My mother smiled at me in the warm way that she does and I was happy.

Living vegan had not created the same happy memories. Throughout the month of February, I remember frustratingly eating salads and smoothies. I never missed meals and did not go hungry but food was not as enjoyable as it once had been for me. It was difficult for me to enter a room and know the good smell that filled my nose was not the veggies cooking. In short I was healthy but miserable.

I was quite vocal with those around me about how frustrating living vegan was and planned to abandon it within the coming months. Before I gave up I began spending time with some vegan friends. They cooked vegan spaghetti and vegan tacos, that were amazing. I began exploring local restaurants in my city that provided vegan options. I learned that food could still taste good and the love I had for food did not have to go away. I also developed an understanding that being vegan did not always mean being healthy. I could still binge eat french fries and Oreos (I really shouldn’t but I can). There were also vegan ice creams and cakes that I could have. I had options…

It became clear to me later that not everything I loved would transfer over the same. Part of my love for Oreos was dunking them in milk. I tried almond milk and quickly decided I hated it, cashew milk was tolerable but still did not have the flavor I yearned for. I tried vegan pizza and although I enjoyed it I missed the texture of non-vegan cheese and the way it pulled when I bit into it. I miss going to Steak n’ Shake with my friends and ordering something other than just fries.

My heart was unsettled and there was no way of reconciling it. For the first time I had to admit to myself that I was giving up something. I could not remember what motivated me to change everything I knew. Why was I doing this? I believe it is important for anyone seeking to make changes in their life to ask themselves this question. If we are not working for a purpose then what are we doing? I believe going vegan is the best thing for my health. I believe going vegan is the best thing for the environment. I believe that animals should be treated better and for these reason I choose to make sacrifices.

I believe in the path that I am on and understand that there is a certain level of difficulty. I think we sometimes live under the notion that if something is difficult that it is not worth it. However, I am inclined to believe that it is through trial that we see triumph. My body feels greater and stronger than it ever has before and I feel I am part of cause that is greater than myself. I can’t have everything. Cocoa Puffs are not vegan but Cocoa Pebbles are. Change comes with challenges but the reward outweighs the pain.

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