Over the summer, I received the unfortunate diagnosis of IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is defined by abdominal cramps, bloating, gas and irregular bowel movements, making it an extremely fun illness to live with for the rest of your life (major sarcasm there). Immediately after being diagnosed, I asked my doctor "So, what medicine do I take for this to go away?" and he laughed. He told me all I had to do was change my diet.

coffee, tea
Hana Brannigan

Now, as a foodie, I was extremely offended. Change my diet? My diet consisted of (and still does, unfortunately) over-priced Mexican food, pizza, anything involving cheese, halal food, Shake Shack burgers, and Nutella-filled donuts. He handed me a sheet of paper listing all of the foods that I was no longer allowed to eat—which was everything I named above and then some. On the back of the sheet, there was a much shorter list of what I was allowed to eat. Basically, I was only allowed to eat some grass and organic cereal. It was called the FODMAP diet. My doctor told me that if I follow this diet, I will never experience any annoying stomach pain ever again.

After crying a little, I realized that the FODMAP diet was basically a vegan diet with the exception that you were allowed to consume fish. As a motivator, I watched "What the Health" and announced to the whole world (my mother and my three friends) that I was now a vegan. I took my first field trip to Trader Joe's right away. When I got there, I found less vegan options than expected. It was nearly impossible to find vegan butter and cream cheese and as I searched for some vegan meals to prepare, I found myself stuck with rice and two vegan burritos. I left Trader Joe's with a bunch of rice, hummus, vegan cheese, yogurt, Oreos (fun fact: OREOS ARE VEGAN), and a bottle of tamari sauce

For eight days, I survived solely on yogurt with granola for breakfast and rice for lunch and dinner. In between meals, I had hummus on pita bread. The vegan cheese I bought tasted nothing like regular cheese and I couldn't convince myself to eat it so I threw it out. For dessert, I would stuff my face with Oreos and wallow in my suffering.

During these eight days, I was extremely hungry and irritated. I saw all of my friends eating cheesy pepperoni pizzas and ice cream in waffle cones and experienced major FOMO. I had some vegan food in New York City from BY.CHLOE, but I live more than an hour away from the nearest one and didn't have seventeen dollars to spend every day on a guacamole burger and kale chips (10/10 would recommend).

On the eighth day, I cracked. I didn't realize how much your diet affects your mood. I betrayed my bowel and returned to my foodie diet of meat and dairy. My stomach didn't feel any better but my overall well-being did. I thought going vegan would make me feel lighter and healthier instead, I was constantly bloated because of the amount of rice I consumed in a day and my mental health was in shambles. 

However, I later learned veganism isn't a bad thing. I have a lot of vegan friends and they're all doing great! There are many reasons why my personal experience goign vegan was trash—here's why. 

1. Going cold turkey is a BAD idea.

I went from eating loads of meat and dairy to becoming a full-blown vegan in the span of five hours. I didn't give my body time to adjust to my new diet to I experienced withdrawal. For a successful transition to veganism, you must ease into it. First, slowly cut out meat from your diet so you can become a pescetarian, then you can slowly ease into vegetarianism. Sometimes, vegetarianism is as far as some people can go and that's okay! But, if you're ready to move on to the next step of veganism, you must be ready to cut out all dairy and egg products.

2. I didn't do my research.

Research is key when it comes to becoming a successful vegan. I didn't research any vegan recipes or products. Instead, I dove head first into Trader Joe's and spent an hour and a half searching for food I didn't even know existed. If I had done my research, I would've known what substitutions to buy and I would've been aware of popular vegan foods that other vegans enjoy. 

3. I was too lazy to cook. 

As a college student, quick and easy meals, such as frozen pizza and hot pockets, are ideal for my busy schedule. However, most successful vegans learn how to prepare food on their own. Planning your meals throughout the day will curb your anxiety about not having anything to eat and keep your stomach full. There's a lot of quick and easy vegan recipes out there, so instead of waiting twenty minutes for your pigs in a blanket, you can try making vegan mac and cheese. Additionally, smoothies are a great way to get your vital nutrients and energy for the day. Just replace whole milk with almond milk, soy milk, or my personal favorite–coconut milk. 

4. I didn't use my vegan friends as resources.

If you're lucky enough to have at least one friend who is an experienced vegan, use them as a resource. They can give you excellent advice on what to eat and help you cope with any hardships you are going through while changing your diet. They can supply you with their favorite recipes and go on vegan restaurant excursions with you! Most of all, they'll remind you why veganism is so important. Save the animals while being healthy, man.

Currently, my diet is very unhealthy and my stomach tends to act up while I am away at college. Though it may be hard to maintain a healthy diet at school, I want to try changing my diet again soon. As an exercise science major, I should avoid eating greasy, fatty foods every day in order to maintain my physique. Eventually, I will cut out all meat from my diet as it completely obliterates my stomach. I don't know if I will ever commit to being vegan but I can see myself becoming a pescetarian or vegetarian. If you think the lifestyle change is for you, going vegan is an excellent way to fight against animal cruelty while improving your well-being.