Since yesterday was World Vegan Day (I really wanted to post this yesterday, I promise), I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about how and why I became a vegan almost two years ago. Ever since I was little, I was uncomfortable with eating animals. My early attempts to become a vegetarian failed, however, because my grandmother was very upset about me not appreciating the Schnitzel she lovingly prepared every Sunday. We were never a meat-eating family, but on Sundays, we always had a “special meal,” Schnitzel, meatloaf or turkey breast, for example. Apparently, I always stole knackwurst from my grandfather’s bread rolls because I wasn’t allowed to have any when I was a few years old, but I never understood why most of my friends and classmates wanted to eat meat products every day.
As soon as I moved out of the house and went to college, I became a proper vegetarian. Because I wasn’t particularly well-informed, I ate a lot of meat replacement products and cheese. My digestion started suffering and I developed a slight lactose intolerance. It was very unpredictable because sometimes, I could drink milk and didn’t have “side-effects” and another time, I had the most awful cramps and just wanted to die. I wish I had known more about nutrition back then. Even though I’ve always eaten a lot of fruits and vegetables, I feel like I know more about the nutritional profile of all kinds of foods now and am more willing to experiment. Anyway, as soon as I met my husband, I started eating meat and fish occasionally because he was used to eating meat almost every day and I was in love (I still am very much in love, but am more informed about the meat industry and the ethics of eating animals that even if I accidentally ate meat, I would have a nervous breakdown). As a compromise, so to say, we had meat or fish once or twice a week, but also used meat replacement products whenever possible.
Two years ago, however, I didn’t feel very comfortable in my skin at all. After studying and working in a very toxic environment at university for almost three years, I was suffering from a terrible burn-out. It took me a very long time to get over it and I am probably still not my old self-confident driven self, but veganism gave me a new purpose in life. Because I was feeling so bad, I tried all kinds of cleanses: Ayurvedic, mung bean soup and vegan. After doing the vegan cleanse, I started feeling so much more energetic and my digestion improved incredibly. At first, I didn’t know if I wanted to become a vegan because it was a bit overwhelming at first. It seemed very difficult not being “allowed” to eat certain foods, but after a short while, my attitude changed and I didn’t see it so much as a sacrifice. I became a member of the Austrian Vegan Society and learned more about the ethical aspects of veganism. With every new piece of information I learned about animal suffering, the harder it got for me to even consider making an exception and eating milk products, for example. Out of necessity, I started experimenting with all kinds of foods that hadn’t been part of my diet before, and loved the challenge of veganizing my favorite dishes. While I never seemed to have anything I could eat at home at first, I learned how to be prepared, especially to satisfy my snack attacks.
The best part about being vegan is that I really enjoy eating now. I love the taste of fresh vegetables and have become a little bit of a gourmet. Yes, being a vegan gourmet is not a contradiction. I also enjoy my food even more because I know I am not harming any living beings, am not wasting resources, am doing my best to save the environment and am staying really healthy. I am also proud to have inspired many people around me to give vegetarianism or veganism a try. My mother is now a vegetarian, and my husband only eats meat when he really craves it. I am extremely happy about every single animal that is saved from a life of misery. Even though sometimes I am overwhelmed by all the suffering in the world, I am positive that people are slowly becoming more aware of how their dietary choices affect the world and other living beings. Change is in the air!