Adopting a vegan lifestyle gives student new sense of belonging

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

ALYSSA DURANT, Channels Staff

Adapting to a healthier lifestyle improved my life for the better, and in more ways than I ever thought possible.

Switching to a vegan diet was beneficial and provided more than just the essential nutrients I was lacking in my meals. Veganism provided me with a sense of belonging to the lifestyle I obtained when taking on the challenging diet.

Last year on a boring fall day, my roommate and I had too much time on our hands. We decided to watch a documentary called Cowspiracy on Netflix. Filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn spread awareness through the film about how they believe that the main cause of climate change is the animal agriculture.

Breeding animals for the sole purpose of using them as food products produces unnecessary greenhouse gases, which harm our ozone layer. Livestock and their byproducts are held accountable for 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions. That is 32,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Cowspiracy claims these agriculture emissions are predicted to increase by 80% by the year 2050. This being said, the film preaches veganism.

The film has inspired my roommate and I to take on the challenge of switching to a vegan diet. I threw out all of the meat, dairy, and eggs from my refrigerator, and made the change overnight.

Never in a million years did I think I would go vegan.

I used to love meat, and in my eyes vegans were always in our meat-eating faces, preaching their hippie morals. I was initially a part of the stigma against the diet. I used to get a good giggle at the anti-vegan memes you see being shared all over Facebook, but still didn’t understand the impact that meat had on our environment.

I didn’t think I could last more than a week, meat was the main source of my diet and I’m a sucker for buttery foods and ice cream. Microwaveable “crap” was my specialty. I initially didn’t realize that veganism was going to require a lot of cooking, which I had no idea how to do.

I found myself wondering, how do I boil quinoa? And how on earth do you get the skin off a pineapple? I overall second-guessed myself, and wondered if it was even worth the effort to take on this diet.

I came to the realization that, the point of this diet was animal rights. It was hard to drop the stereotypical “college student diet,” but it was time I kissed my microwaveable tortellini’s goodbye. For the sake of our planet and the animals that live on it, I really did my fair share of research and learned how to cook vegan.

There were endless Pinterest binges searching for recipes, YouTube tutorial watching sessions, and the old fashioned way of learning through purchasing cookbooks. Anybody who is interested in going vegan will soon come to learn that these resources will be your best friends.

It took a while to learn what I really could and couldn’t eat. I became a master of reading the ingredient lists on packaged food.

The first few weeks were rough, but I learned so much about myself. I made an effort to genuinely adapt to something new that I was suspicious about even being possible in the first place.

I did something brave by going out of my comfort zone, subconsciously letting the diet become a part of me, and boy did it ever end up being worth it in the long run.

Before I knew it, veganism had suddenly began to feel less like a diet and more like a lifestyle. I quickly saw positive changes in many different areas of my life that I didn’t even realize needed improvement.

Plant-based foods are a great source of magnesium, which animal products completely lack. Magnesium helps regulate your mood and sleeping schedule, which put me in a better mood all the time. I genuinely feel like I have more energy than I did pre-vegan.

After noticing the changes in my life, I did my own fair share of research. A study posted in National Center for Biotechnology Information states that, the majority of vegans report their higher intake of fruits and vegetables lower their stress levels.

As if physical results weren’t enough to make the diet beyond worth it, going vegan gave me something bigger to feel like I am a part of.

In a way, there is a small community within the vegans of the world, and when I find out someone else shares the same diet, it’s like we instantly have something in common.

I’ve made a lot of friends throughout the diet, and got more involved in school by becoming the vice president of City College’s new Vegan Club.

After that boring fall day, I was strict about my vegan diet for a consecutive eight months. After eight months went by it became harder to stay on top of the diet. Every now and then I slip up by eating out.

But hey, nobody’s perfect!

Even though there is a stigma that comes with being vegan, since the majority of the population eats animal products, I wouldn’t change my diet for the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to convert anybody to vegan diet. I would hate to be that girl. I just enjoy appreciating my new healthier lifestyle that through the rewarding and healthy challenge, I’ve learned and grown to love.