Three years ago I knew that something had to change.
After leaving my corporate job earlier that year, I started to rethink a lot of things in my life. I went through a turbulent period as I got more and more insights on what needed to change. I suddenly realised that many things are weighing down on me, from my house full of stuff to personal choices that did not seem right anymore.
In the same time, as I started to carve out my own path after quitting, I also got happier. I started to see the light and felt the power of making my own choices. One of the steps was to take a close look at what I was eating and the results made a profound impact on my life.
It all comes together
I finally had the time and the space to immerse myself into one of my favourite subjects, animal welfare. I became more and more aware of the horrid things that happen with farm animals. It is called an ‘industry’ for a reason… the word itself reminds me of a machine-based, mass production-oriented system, rather than something that deals with living beings. The more I got to know about it, through watching documentaries such as Forks over Knives and Cowspiracy, the more rage, deep pain and sadness built up in me. I did not want to be a part of this.
Besides learning about the way animals are treated, I also got more knowledgeable about the environmental damage that is caused by keeping and breeding animals for food. My last job at the corporation has been in water management, so I knew quite a lot about the impact on our water systems. By watching the above-mentioned documentaries and following a couple of lectures, my eyes also opened to the impact of this industry on greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and land degradation.
The third piece fell into place as I learned about plant-based eating. My richest sources were Dr. Michael Greger’s talks and his fantastic Nutritionfacts.org website. I also read the works of other American doctors, like Neil Barnard and Caldwell Esselstyn. I realised that eating foods sourced from animals is likely causing or worsening health issues.
Three pieces came together in the end, all of which mattered a lot to me: the animals, the environment and my own health. After an initial period of vegetarianism, I decided to go vegan.
Taking the challenge
After that I came to this decision, I eagerly looked for ways to get started on plant-based eating. Cooking is one of my passions and I needed to unlearn a lot of ingrained habits and be open for a new world of ingredients and tastes.
I stumbled upon the Veganchallenge, an initiative of the Dutch Vegan Association, which was exactly what I was looking for: a guide to switch to plant-based eating. I received emails with recipes and cooking tips for a week and it was enough to get started. From then onwards I literally got the taste of it, and began to add new vegetables, meat substitutes and Asian spices to my meals. Within a few weeks, I noticed that my taste actually changed! Vegetables started to have more pronounced flavours and many things that I ate before started to feel too sugary or salty and I was refusing them. On top of this, my body felt lighter, I felt less full after a meal and had more energy.
The funny thing was, that after about five months of becoming vegan, I got the news that I was lactose intolerant. That I was BORN lactose intolerant and my body had actually never digested milk properly. I was wondering how I survived drinking milk most of my life… With this knowledge it made perfect sense that I stopped drinking milk about half a year before – after all, it turned out, I could not digest it anyway!
A change that lives on
I am eating plant-based to this day. I continue to learn and apply all the new knowledge about nutrition to what and how I eat. I continue to feel the benefits and see the impact around me as well.
My family and my partner have been supportive of my choice from the very beginning (for which I am very grateful) and they also got involved. My family has approached this change with a lot of interest, made plant-based meals when I was visiting and gave me vegan recipes. My partner has been open for the new flavours and his eating habits have also transformed into a flexitarian-vegetarian style.
The spin-off effect of me going plant-based is even larger than just my family circle. Friends and colleagues also took notice of my food choices in the cantine or in restaurants and it led to many conversations, challenges, curious questions and daring steps on their part. Going vegan has given a lot to me and has helped others on their giving journey as well.
Today is World Vegan Day and I mark this occasion by looking back to my three years of plant-based eating. And what I see, makes me proud. I am proud of this choice and its impact; happy for all the damage that has not been done because I decided not to eat animals or use their egg or milk. I believe that everyone should be able to make their own choices, and this is the one that makes me happy.
I have a deep conviction that this lifestyle gives life and eliminates suffering. For the environment, the animals and for me. For the people around me who see the health benefits, who try new things and take steps themselves. So with my veganism alive, kicking and going strong, I will celebrate this day with a tasty lentil soup tonight! If you have not yet, maybe one day you can also give it a try.