I went vegan in 2013, right after I moved to NYC. It took a couple months until I was 100% plant-based, but my transition was smooth. The truth is that I started this transition way earlier, probably as early as when I was four years old and started wondering why we eat certain bunnies and pet others. Going vegan came with a couple other unexpected changes.
1. I got rid of my stomach issues.
I remember being in high school and dealing with stomach issues. Cramps, acids reflux, all kinds of messiness. For the longest time, I was convinced that this was all stress related. I took tons of Tums (or their European equivalent), which only brought momentary relief. The day I cut out dairy, though, the whole thing changed. No more acid, no more cramps. I also noticed that this almost nauseated feeling of fullness that I used to experience after eating Greek yogurt totally disappeared.
2. I found inner peace.
There is something profoundly gratifying about not creating or perpetuating harm in the world. It’s not arrogant or self-righteous. I’m not on a high horse or speaking down from a moral pedestal. I’m truly just referring to the feeling of profound happiness and inner peace that comes with abstaining from eating animal products. I often find myself reflecting that every day I go without eating meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, I am able to actively chose to make a positive impact and save an animal’s life. It’s gratifying and leads to a feeling of inner peace.
3. I became an athlete.
I hated working out before I became vegan. I never liked running or sports. I never felt attracted to being sweaty and smelly, and I thought a nice, fast-paced walk through the woods was enough to get my heart rate up. Today, I truly believe that part of my lack of desire to work out came from the fact that I was lacking energy. I wasn’t fueling my body with nutritious plants but instead with dairy, occasional fish and meat and lots of eggs. The year I became vegan, I bought my first real running shoes and I ran my first 5 k–followed by an adventure trail race, a couple 10ks and 3 half marathons in the last 3 years. I think that my new diet actually helped me energize my body and open my mind to the possibility of being an athlete.
4. I became a more mindful human being.
Most of us eat at least three times a day, and for most of us, it’s something that is not the center of our attention. It’s often a passive act, driven by habit and convenience. When I became vegan and decided not to consider certain things as food anymore, I also stepped away from this passivity and made every meal a conscious choice. It meant that I had to give it more thought, every single time and evaluate each time if the act of eating was in line with my moral values. This mindfulness translated–and still translates–to other parts of my lifestyle: it defines what beauty products I use, what clothes I wear, and what detergent I buy. One mindful act guides the next one and then the next and so on until your entire mindset is reprogrammed to making conscious choices in all areas of your life.
5. I started hosting dinners and sharing meals.
I remember being a 21-year-old (vegetarian) living by myself in Paris and hating the concept of cooking. At the time, I thought cooking was anti-feminist and it would reduce me to just being able to manage a kitchen, and nothing more. I felt like independent, emancipated, educated women don’t cook. But things changed when I decided to fully transition to a vegan diet. I had just moved in with my now husband and found myself in a situation where I just had to cook. One, because I felt the need to show Noah how amazing eating and living vegan could be and two, because with eating mindfully also came the deep desire to be mindful about taking care of myself. And part of that is feeding my body and soul. Cooking became more and more a part of my life to the point that I love sharing meals with others, hosting 30 people in my tiny Brooklyn apartment and feeding my friends and family with nourishing meals.
Have you transitioned to a vegan lifestyle? What major changes did you experience?
Also by Isabelle: 6 Bulletproof Steps For Transitioning Into a Plant-Based Diet
More about going vegan: What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming Vegan
How I Overcame Depression by Becoming a Mindful Vegan
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