Why and How I went Vegan at 16 Years Old

why and how i went vegan at 16 years old, fruits and vegetables in grocery cart

Many people that personally know me still do not know the specifics of my journey of becoming vegan, or even that I eat this way! I’m usually hesitant to talk about eating less animal products because I feel like it comes across as judgmental to others. Only two years ago, I was in the same boat of not knowing why anyone would want to live vegan, and can simply share why I do it now. No matter your beliefs, I kindly request that you keep an open mind and approach this topic with respect for others' opinions, knowing that I do not judge how anyone eats or chooses to live their life. I simply seek to make you more aware of how reducing your animal product consumption benefits you, others, and our planet.


Just a few weeks before this change in my junior year of high school, I sat in the Dairy Queen parking lot eating my favorite blizzard on one of my family’s usual DQ trips. Somehow we got on the topic of people being dairy-free and vegan and I distinctly remember saying, “I could never be vegan; I mean, everything in moderation, but why would you want to be that strict?!” How ironic that soon my whole idea of “moderation” and food got flipped upside down. 


At 16 years old, my family and I decided to start eating vegan, and have never looked back since! In October 2018, we made the change after watching documentaries like “Forks Over Knives,”  “What the Health,” and later, “Cowspiracy” on Netflix. After the first one I watched, I immediately wanted to change the way I ate. I know a lot of people can’t go that drastically, but I did NOT want to eat another animal product after learning how they were procured in awful factory farming settings, what they can do to our health, and how big of an impact the whole system has on our planet.


I felt like I had been brainwashed my whole life, and now I was finally awakened by the numerous doctors, scientists, and researchers in the films. 


Within a month, my younger brother and sister were also on board. My brother, only 11 years old at the time, asked of his own volition to watch the documentaries we had, and was similarly completely floored by the facts they presented. My sister followed suit, and by November, nearly all the food in our house had completely shifted to vegan, plant-based options. While my dad is not vegan, he enjoys all the vegan meals and food we have at our house, which still makes a difference!


Breaking Down WHY:


1. Health


Plant-based diets have been scientifically proven to increase longevity, vitality, stamina, and even mood. The buzz-worthy documentary “The Game Changers” demonstrates how the world’s most elite athletes thrive on a vegan, plant-based diet.


Numerous studies within documentaries like “What the Health,” “Cowspiracy,” “Forks Over Knives” and beyond have shown that eliminating animal products greatly reduces risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, and can even reverse these conditions in people who already have them. A plant-based diet can also alleviate eczema, acne, and other skin conditions, arthritis, and even depression. (See end of article for links and resources.)


2. Animal Suffering


It’s not natural to take baby cows away from their mothers so that we can have copious amounts of foods we don't even need, like cheeses, ice creams, and milk. We don’t crave giraffe, pig, or donkey milk, so why do we think we need cow’s milk? There are so many options for plant-based protein, yet many believe we can only get it from animals. These documentaries and many other resources break down how factory farming industries have become incredibly tied-in with the government and other major organizations, which sways how we view animal products and our "need" for them.


Not only this, but opening your eyes to the awful factory farming techniques completely changes your view on where food comes from. Images of diseased animals stuffed into cages evokes something within any humane person. Even “free-range” animals can endure similar circumstances. Countless videos, documentaries, websites, and more showcase the horrors involved in the raising and slaughtering of animals in most factory farms today.


This leads me to mention another eye-opening resource, “Animal Kill Clock,” which is especially helpful for anyone who thinks that animals can be eaten “in moderation.” You can check out their website here, which displays the unimaginable number of animals being slaughtered every second to keep up with our greedy demands for meat in the United States alone. When we choose not to buy animal products, we alleviate mass, unnecessary animal suffering.


3. Environmental Sustainability


These documentaries and websites also compile the scientific findings behind methane production due to mass factory farming. They demonstrate how eating plant-based substantially reduces your carbon footprint and freshwater consumption. Think about it-- the amount of land, water, and plants it takes to feed an animal so that you can eat that animal is much greater than if you just ate the plants! Not to mention the unimaginable amount of manure that is produced by the billions of animals per year in factory farming. 


Check out the following short clip from the “Cowspiracy” documentary to see how much reducing or eliminating animal product consumption completely changes our environmental footprint. With nearly eight billion human beings on the planet, we cannot continue to eat animal products at nearly every meal, oblivious to the complete lack of sustainability of current animal agriculture practices.


4. Sharing with Others


If the whole world tried eating like most first-world countries, with animal products in nearly every meal, we wouldn’t have enough food to sustain even half the current world population.* With less of a demand on animal agriculture, we could be using the extra land, fresh water, and crops to alleviate world hunger.


We waste so much time, money, and resources on industries that hurt us and our world when we could be choosing a world that operates for our benefit. Giving up animal products allows for us as humans to share our limited freshwater and land resources, and create a more sustainable future. We should be investing in a future that serves everyone, rather than perpetuating a culture where only a few can greedily consume without any thought as to what wider repercussions might be hurting others now or later.


5. Being Better Stewards of Our Planet


It is not natural for us to breed and slaughter billions of animals every year without any thought as to how it impacts our health and the planet that God has blessed us with. In fact, it’s incredibly selfish and irresponsible for us as human beings to be using our God-given resources like this. Any humane person cannot watch the unnatural, disgusting, painful circumstances these animals live in and think that was how God would want us to treat His Creation. I could talk a lot about this, but check out my article on Christianity and Veganism to learn more here. 


Breaking Down HOW


Many people figure out I’m vegan and remark that they could “NEVER” be vegan, and don’t know HOW I am. This shows our lack of willpower as a human society-- that, like many other things in life, we know something is bad for us, but lack the determination to actually stay away from it. Here’s what I’ve found about willpower:


1. Remember it’s not about you. Some people are able to do incredible things simply because they do it for someone they love. This can be as simple as losing weight for kids or grandkids, or as amazing as lifting a burning car off a child with superhuman strength! Imagine being able to spend more time with your grandkids at the end of your life, remaining healthy and agile even when you're old. You significantly increase your chances of living longer and stronger whenever you commit to a plant-based, vegan lifestyle.


2. Remember WHY you want to do this. A plant-based, vegan lifestyle is about so much more than a “diet.” It’s not some resolution you keep for a month, break with some junk, non-vegan food, and inevitably quit. It is a daily choice you know is benefiting you, animals, the environment, and future generations.


3. Don’t think it’s all-or-nothing. People get scared away because they think “going vegan” requires an entire life overhaul. Going vegan can be like that, but you can also just choose to make swaps in your diet. It doesn’t have to be overnight, but I highly suggest you try adding life into what you eat by replacing animal products for vegan, plant-based products. The more you do this, you’ll feel better, but you’re also making a difference in the world. Every little decision we make either benefits or detracts from the fullness of our lives and the state of our world.


4. Keep educating yourself. It’s like faith-- if I just decide to be Christian, but never pick up my Bible or try to pray, I’m not going to get very far! Once you make the decision to opt for more plant foods and eliminate animal products, you must continue to educate yourself if you truly want to succeed. Look for recipes that fit your time availability and preferences. Continue to watch documentaries, read books, and listen to podcasts. When you do this, you’ll be better equipped to tell others about why you have made such a lifestyle change, without doubting yourself.


5. Know that social situations may be tricky, but navigate them with humor, positivity, and ease. Your family and friends may question you, which causes doubts to arise that chip away at your resolve. So, explain calmly even if they fail to be open-minded or accepting. 



6. The goal is not to be perfect. Another Christian analogy— Not a single Christian is “perfect.” We all sin and make mistakes, but that doesn’t make us any less of believers. We continue to strive to do better, though. Similarly, in becoming vegan, it’s easy to get discouraged by how “perfect” some people eat, but take it one step at a time and choose something that works for you. All the information can seem overwhelming at first, but it’s about trying to replace some products you use right now and incorporate new things as well.


7. Find foods that are actually filling and satisfying. Most vegans don’t just eat leaves and fruit! There’s tons of plant foods filled with healthy fats, fiber, and protein so you don’t just feel like you’re eating “rabbit food.” If you’ve got a sweet tooth (who doesn’t?!) find some vegan sweets and treats, too. You may also transition more easily with mock meats and cheeses. These are not always the healthiest options, but at least you’re still doing something for the environment and animals!


What I’ve Learned and Going Forward


Since I’ve been vegan and plant-based, I’ve already seen the movement and awareness grow so much. This is more than just a fad diet— it’s a lifestyle that brings awareness to how our choices impact our own lives and the world around us. The social buzz and following is only growing. Restaurants and big brands are adding vegan options to their menus, people and news networks are talking about eating more plant-based, and more success stories and further research are continuing to support this lifestyle.


Some people see being vegan as "restrictive," when it actually opens your life! I eat more delicious food now than before I was vegan, and that food is fuel for the long haul. Not only this, but veganism opened up my worldview. I now possess a greater understanding of where my food actually comes from, and an increased awareness of how I can live more sustainably. I no longer see my choices as only affecting me, but I now grasp how each decision maintains the power to positively or negatively impact the world. 


I encourage you to look into the resources I’ve mentioned, but know there is so much more out there to learn. Incorporate fueling plant foods wherever you can, and know that you will be making a difference in your own life and in the bigger picture of our world. 


Further Reading and Resources:


* Youtube video about human population (The video is almost 11 minutes long, so start watching at 6 minutes and 45 seconds for the difference in a plant-based consumer versus a meat-eaters' ecological footprint.)

“The Game Changers” website

“Cowspiracy” website

Forks Over Knives” website 

“What the Health” website

Comments

  1. Hey! It's Savannah. You commented on my vegan teen blog. Yours is really cool! It's great to know that there are other vegan teens out there. I just turned 17 myself. Thanks for helping to make the world a better place! -Savannah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much!!! So grateful for you reaching out! You're definitely making the world a better place too; keep shining:)

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