For years, my younger sister suffered from extreme pain after eating. Doctor visit after doctor visit, no one could give us any answers to what was causing it.

In January 2013, the pain and other ethical reasons led to my sister’s decision to become vegetarian. At first, I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t think it would last long. But here we are 3 years later and she is now a proud gluten free vegan.

I know what you’re thinking, “What on earth does a gluten free vegan eat?”

As she explains to the many people who question her lifestyle, she eats numerous small meals each day instead of the normal 3 meals per day diet.


Photo by Danielle Cahoon

She lives on smoothie bowls, freshly-squeezed juice, protein bars and baked potatoes. In addition, she eats a lot of fruit, vegetables, and simple carbs such as rice and pasta. One of her favorite meals is gluten free pasta with organic marinara sauce and a side of roasted veggies. So yes, it is possible to eat fulfilling meals without gluten or animal products.


Photo by Hannah Morse

I’ve always been supportive of my sister, but I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t genuinely worried about her in the beginning, because I was. I kept imagining her skipping meals because she couldn’t find something that fit in her diet. But it’s been the exact opposite. She has discovered countless ways to enjoy her lifestyle.

I don’t remember her ever being happier than she is now. And to see her loving life again puts all the original worries out of my mind.


Photo by Christin Urso

As someone who loves food, I couldn’t imagine giving up things like pizza, bread, steak, mac ‘n cheese and so on. When my sister started her journey, I realized that I started mine.

Her struggles with food and being able to live a healthy and happy life have affected my life greatly. I no longer take for granted the fact that I am able to enjoy the simple pleasures of my favorite foods. And I have also become more aware of the different types of dietary lifestyles that are out there.


Photo by Cayla Przygoda

Last February, I decided to go vegetarian temporarily. The main reason behind my decision was to get a better understanding of what day-to-day life looked like without animal protein.

The first few days were pretty easy. But as the weeks went by, my craving for meat grew stronger and stronger. It became difficult and I found myself envious of my friends who didn’t have dietary restrictions.

I desperately desired the taste of steak, chicken, and pulled pork. I couldn’t do it any longer. The protein I was getting from beans and salads just wasn’t enough for me. And after 6 long weeks, I gave up.

But many others, like my sister, don’t have that option. For health and ethical reasons, they battle with cravings every day. Where I used to have judgment, I now have respect for those whose dietary lifestyles limit them from food.

After my brief time as a vegetarian, I realized I had a lot to be thankful for. From my access to clean and safe food, to my health that allows me to enjoy almost any cuisine; I no longer take for granted my ability to dine without worry. My sister’s journey and my own have led me to live a more appreciative life around food.


Photo by Santina Renzi

But let me be straight, these journeys have not come without hardship. My sister and I are often expected to justify her own life choices. It is frustrating when someone judges you based on your inability to eat certain foods. We are constantly reminding people that she’s not doing this to be “cool” or “unique.” She is doing it simply because it makes her happier both physically and emotionally.

Even though the judgment and not being able to find food at some restaurants can be a harsh reality, my sister maintains the fact that she loves her lifestyle.

I can’t promise that I will ever go full vegan, but her passion and happiness is something to consider. I’m proud of my sister for making decisions that have led to bettering herself and creating positivity in her life. She is truly an inspiration to me.