Catherine is a 22-year-old from Philly. She is a great photographer, has a twin sister and a cute Pitbull named Brooke. If you followed her on Twitter, you would know these things. You would also know that she is a vegan. A few months ago I saw a shift in what Catherine was posting, she started to upload some recipes that were fully vegan. It intrigued me to think about the transition, from eating meat to becoming fully vegan. Not that all of us have the willpower to make this lifestyle change, we usually have questions that we might be afraid to ask.
The vegan stereotype is one where people think if they ask questions, people who are vegan will judge and try to push their beliefs on them. This is definitely a falsehood, and I decided to interview Catherine to set the record straight on some myths and rumors about veganism.
So, without further ado, let's all....
Nicole: When did you realize you wanted to be vegan?
Catherine: I tried being a vegetarian on & off during high school but always ended up eating meat again. About 4 months ago, a few of my close friends began tweeting about how amazing they felt being vegan & it sparked an interest in me. I didn't know how long I'd actually stay with it but I wanted to give it a try.
What do you think the most positive result of veganism is?
There are so many positive results of veganism, for the planet and myself. I guess the most noticeable result would be how much weight I've lost since being vegan. I still eat vegan junk food but I just feel so much lighter and energized after eating, which I never did before.
There is a stigma that comes with being vegan, people often say that people who are vegan are always trying to guilt those around them into becoming vegan. What would you say to people who poke fun at veganism?
A lot of the jokes and teasing come from a place of misunderstanding, in my opinion. To people who eat meat and animal based products daily, veganism can be scary and threatening to them. Once you become vegan, you feel like you've gained this whole new insight on the world and you want to share it with everyone, which can often come across as preachy. The longer you're vegan, the more you realize you can't take it to heart and just have to let it roll of your back.
I myself am not vegan but still wanted to educate myself in how vegan's adjust their lifestyle from the way majority of America eats. What is one thing you wish people would know about being vegan?
I wish people knew it's not as hard as you might expect it to be. Yes, it's inconvenient at times and a lot more planning ahead is involved but once you get the hang of it, it's quite simple. One more thing is you don't have to live off salads and fresh fruit as a vegan. There are plenty of ways to make vegan versions of your favorite meals and tons of accidentally vegan junk foods you're probably already eating, like Oreos and sour patch kids.
There are a lot of rumors out there that vegans often do not get enough nutrients or protein because of all the foods they exclude from their diets, there are obviously studies for and against this. Based on personal experience, do you feel it is easy to keep yourself on track health-wise more so as a vegan?
Before I went vegan, I didn't care about what nutrients or vitamins I was getting. Now as a vegan, I'm more aware of what's in the food I'm eating. Protein is the first thing people seem to mention when you're vegan but so many foods have it, not just meat. The same applies to calcium, it's not only in dairy products. You just have to do a little research to find out what foods have the vitamins & nutrients you need.
You're always posting different vegan meals on social media, and they all look really good! What is your go-to meal that you think even people who aren't 100% vegan should try out if they are looking to go vegan?
Tacos are my go-to meal for dinner! Most tortillas are vegan so then I just throw in some rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, even tofu if I have it, and it's delicious! Making vegan version of meals I already enjoyed cooking and eating has kept me going as a vegan because I don't feel like I missing out on anything. You can still have sushi, pizza and Chipotle, it's just a little different than before.
Another myth about being vegan is that you spend much more on groceries as a vegan than you do if you buy animal-based products. Without going into too much personal detail, do you think this is true? Do you think it's possible to be vegan on a budget?
Absolutely! Veganism can be extremely expensive if your grocery list consists of vegan alternatives, such as faux meat, vegan cheese, or any specialty vegan products. I view those things as a treat. I might pick up one new thing like that at a time to try when I go shopping but most of my groceries consist of rice, beans, canned vegetable, pasta, etc. With items like that, you can make a variety of meals without buying tons of different ingredients.
What is people's general reaction to you being vegan? Have there been times when it was difficult for you to explain it to someone because they were so against it?
Most people are confused why I would choose to not eat meat, dairy and eggs because they're so delicious. I agree that they taste good but I can list just as many vegan foods that taste as good. I have been surprised at how many people are genuinely curious about it and want to know more. I don't mind answering questions or having conversations with people who want to learn about veganism because I love sharing my experience and knowledge I've gained over the last four months. Of course there are people who try to argue with you about how veganism isn't good for your health long term or how you're not actually making a difference in the world but once it gets to that point in the conversation, you know nothing you say is going to change their mind so I usually just let it go. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing regardless.
Obviously the top reason for most people to become vegan is the animals being harmed in the food industry. What are some other reasons to go vegan?
The environment is a huge reason I went vegan. After watching the documentary, Cowspiracy, my eyes were opened to the impact animal agriculture has on the planet. Just recently there was a news story about a wolf pack being killed because they were attacking cattle. The fact that we destroy the land and wild animals to protect farm animals we're going to eventually kill anyway blows my mind. Animal agriculture is such a huge industry and the government does everything it can to keep it thriving, despite its negative impact. Health is also another reason to go vegan. After eating a meat based meal with dairy or eggs, most people feel lethargic or in need of a nap. Our food should be fueling us, not weighing us down. Since going vegan, I actually feel energized after eating a big meal. There are a million reasons to go vegan but you just have to find the reasons that matter most to you and use them to motivate you.
Do you think there will ever be a period of time where we see a majority of people going vegan?
- The number of people going vegan has skyrocketed with the growth of social media and I don't see that slowing down anytime soon. There are also more vegan products available now than ever before. It's becoming easier to make the switch. Everything has a vegan alternative. Stores now carry multiple plant-based milk alternatives, a variety of soy-based meat that tastes just like the real thing, and more products are being clearly labeled as vegan on the package. Fast food chains are hopping on board too because they know it's becoming profitable. Chipotle and Moe's have tofu options, Wendy's is unrolling a black bean burger and some 7/11 stores have pre-packaged vegan sandwiches in their refrigerated sections. It will be interesting to see how many more vegan options we'll have in the future.