Okay, we’ve all heard it. “I’m vegan now,” surrounding eyes roll and people respond with sarcastic comments about going green and being an animal lover. I even used to be one of the eye-rolling complainers about vegans. It wasn’t until I visited my dad’s wedding, and his vegan friend talked to me about his personal experience, that I was interested.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge animal lover, and I knew that if anything was going to motivate me enough it would be a cute fuzzy animal. Talking to someone who lives a particular lifestyle and strongly believes in it can be heavily influential. So I told myself after the wedding I would go vegan. Yes, it would be a commitment, but the truth is, I have had stomach issues since I was born and trying a vegan lifestyle didn’t seem like such a bad idea. So, I said my farewells to animal products.

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The first week was the most fun… I was buying all these new groceries, and my fridge was overflowing with every color of the rainbow. I felt like a vegetable goddess.

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My second week was difficult. I started feeling my body go through withdrawals from salty, fatty foods. Most of us are addicted to fatty foods because they affect the pleasure centers in our brain, similar to drugs. It leads to compulsive eating habits, and with all my late night munchies, I knew I needed to commit and really try avoiding those foods. Then it was… cheese. All I could think about was cheese. Morning, day and night, this is no joke. I thought I was slowly turning into a cheese wheel. I struggled to stay away from it.

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I did successfully avoid my usual “night cheese” (sorry Tina Fey). But my taste buds were taking over and I needed more inspiration. So I started watching videos about dairy farming and dug deep into the meat industry to help keep my cheese cravings away. Let’s just say, by the end of it, I was crying like I had personally given birth to the baby chicks I saw being harmed.

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Around this time I was ending my first month and very committed, though I had my days. Sometimes I would daze off and think about pizza, topped with chicken wings covered in ranch sauce, but then I would try a piece of meat or cheese and be legitimately disgusted by the flavor.

The most interesting part after the first month was all the crazy benefits that were coming true before my eyes. I was having zero cravings. I could eat a meal and be completely satisfied. Not only that, my skin and hair felt amazing and so did my stomach. I have never had a single day in my life without feeling bloated but I had been bloat-free for weeks. Most people would ask if I was missing my old lifestyle, “How can you make it through a month with no meat or dairy though?” I knew they were convinced I was some starving individual dreaming of meats and cheeses, but I was walking around like….

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The truth is, once you commit, the easier it gets, and the less your body continues to crave all of those fatty foods. I knew more needed to be done, my fridge wasn’t the only thing that needed a cleaning. I was astonished, to say the least, after watching documentaries and reading up on exactly how much we buy that is not cruelty-free.

By the second month, I was trying my best to change other products in my house like my body wash, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner. Yes, all of those products can have animal products in them, and they aren’t the only ones, the list is endless: plastic bags, fabric softener, juice, perfume, condoms (wtf?) and even tampons.

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By the end of the second month, I was as vegan as possible. I’m sure my dad’s friend, from the wedding, could come in my apartment and find some non-vegan products, but hey, I was doing the best I could living with an Italian chef (he was not a fan of this vegan journey).

Ultimately, I felt fantastic. I had absolutely no stomach aches, my nails and hair were stronger than ever. My skin glowed as if I lived on a tropical island, my energy was higher than ever before and I was getting compliments left and right, but the best part, I had hurt zero animals to get there.

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Though today I am not 100% vegan, I try my best to keep any unnecessary product vegan. I’m pretty sure I don’t need animal-tested perfume or condoms (thank you very much). I firmly believe the most important part of trying a vegan lifestyle is learning about how many items we all use on a daily basis that have been made with animal testing, or animal products. I honestly can’t walk into a grocery store and buy anything that is not cruelty-free (at least to my knowledge).

I challenge any non-vegan to watch Earthlings, or the hundreds of the other documentaries dedicated to exploiting animal cruelty, and not consider increasing their vegan intake. On a serious note, it’s far more than just another diet, and it’s up to us to save the environment. To be able to eat vegan even half the week would make a tremendous effort towards helping the environment. But hey, if the clear skin and no bloat benefits are enough to bring you to the vegan side, we welcome you.

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All in all, the biggest lesson I learned from this journey was knowing that I refuse to support a company that allows animal cruelty. Instead, I try to support the humane care of animals, as much as possible. Yes, I would love a rack of ribs, but at what cost? If you can ask yourself the same, then we could be headed in the right direction towards ending animal cruelty. And let’s be honest, we all could use a little less BBQ and a little more fresh food anyways. So give the cruelty-free diet a try, it can’t hurt.

P.S. Thank goodness fries are vegan.

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