(This post is part two of a 2-part series celebrating my Veganniversary. See part 1 here.)
As you remember, in my previous post I summed up a few changes in my health since I went vegan a little over a year ago. Today’s post is about the changes that I believe to be even more important than the physical ones – the changes in my mindset.
Why do I think that the mindset changes are so important? Because they show how far we’ve gone in our personal growth, and ultimately they can influence our decision to stick with something we chose to do, or abandon it. I am sure that everyone who’s ever decided to go vegan has experienced some changes in their mindset, but since they are not as noticeable as, say, the improvement in our energy levels or, ahem, better bowel movement frequency, we tend not to compare them with other vegans’ mindset changes.
The most important thing that going vegan has helped me realize is that all living creatures deserve to be respected, even if we don’t always understand their ways. In my case, my respect for living creatures goes beyond being kind to animals: it circles them and comes back to us humans, and makes me truly believe that we all deserve equal rights, regardless of our race, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation. As natural as it may sound, it’s still appalling to me that in this day and age, some groups of people around the world still have to fight to prove that they deserve the same rights everyone else has.
Okay, before I get into politics… back to the vegan mindset changes! I’m sure a lot of fellow plant-based people can attest to having similar changes in their outlook on things that we used to take for granted, or not paid a lot of thought to back in our meat-eating days. I’d love to hear how my changes compare to yours, so please share your thoughts below!
10 Changes in My Mindset
1. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of where my food comes from. Eating plants is more environmentally sustainable and makes us feel better, plus it’s good to know that no living being had to die or suffer in order for me to have a nice dinner.
2. I no longer think of a healthy meal as consisting of ‘a lean protein, a starch, and a vegetable’. All plants contain protein, so it’s not quite correct to diminish them to the status of ‘sides’ served along your main chunk of protein-heavy food. Plus, lots of nations around the world have been making one-pot meals where all ingredients are cooked and served together – think Asian stir-fries, Indian curries, etc. They simply don’t feel like it’s necessary to separate vegetables and the ‘designated’ protein source on the plate, and they’ve been eating that way for generations.
3. I have cravings for healthy foods! Fruit often seems more appealing to me than some heavily-processed (even vegan) commercial junk when I’m looking for a quick sweet fix. Okay, I’m not that squeaky-clean perfect all the time, of course – a girl’s gotta have her vegan cookie every now and then! – but at least making healthier choices comes more naturally to me now.
4. Interacting with animals brings me more joy now because I no longer have to fight a moral dilemma of why I enjoy watching cows in pasture and then go out to a restaurant and eat a steak. When I was a child, I was shocked when I found out that meat came from animals, so I’m glad that I finally don’t have to silence my conscience by doing ‘a normal thing that everybody else does.’
5. I am sometimes surprised for a split second when I see people buying or eating meat. Please don’t roll your eyes; it’s only a split second! For a moment, the thought sparks in my head and I have to remind to myself: ‘Oh, that’s right, people still do that…’ I wonder if other vegans have those moments too!
6. If some food is off limits, I no longer agonize and hate my life for not being able to eat it. Last October, I was checking out a West Seattle neighborhood with a friend, and we walked into this French bakery with showcases full of amazing-looking desserts. I asked the girl behind the counter if any of their stuff was vegan, and naturally none of it was. I was surprised how easy it was for me to just walk out of that place and never think twice of it. There are at least a couple amazing all-vegan bakeries in Seattle that compensate for all French bakeries put together!
7. In case some temptation does get to me, I now fully understand that in the grand scheme of things, I am the only person who I’ll have to answer to. This being said, I am my own biggest critic because I know that my beliefs in the idea of being vegan are much deeper than the possible enjoyment of eating some non-vegan cake. Will that 3-minute indulgence ever be worth going against my beliefs, suffering an upset stomach, and feeling guilty for days? Not at all.
8. I’m over preaching veganism and judging other people for eating meat. The truth is, I hardly ever talk about being vegan to other people in my day-to-day life. In my first few months of being vegan, however, I felt like I had to convince everyone I cared for to join me on this new journey to health and sustainability, but as time went on, I realized that we all have our different paths. I arrived at the idea of going vegan by myself, without any influence from someone I personally knew, so the most I can do for my close ones is to plant a seed of thought into their minds after they (hopefully) notice my progress. If we try to shame or harass somebody into going vegan, we may just turn them off instead.
9. I am more mindful when buying things other than food – clothing, cleaning supplies, etc. There’s still a lot to learn, and I’m nowhere near perfect with my shopping habits yet, but for the most part, I try to make a conscious effort to abstain from buying things that clearly made an animal suffer somewhere, or could add to damaging the environment.
10. Even as one person, I know that I can make a difference. Sooner or later, we all hear this opinion that it doesn’t matter when one person goes vegan because the meat and dairy industry are so big, they won’t ever notice the loss of just one customer. I am confident enough now to say: It does matter. First, each of us can save at least one hundred animals a year from being slaughtered by going vegan. Staying alive matters to those animals! Second, the meat consumption rates per person in America have been going down for a few years now – this is happening for the first time in history! Somewhere out there, people’s conscience is slowly awakening to embrace that all living creatures are worthy of respect, and that we humans can have a healthier, abundant existence without consuming animals.
To conclude today’s post, here’s a quote by Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist who worked in the middle of the 20th century:
“Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Question: What changes in your mindset have you experienced since going vegan? Do share!