Going vegan at the age of thirteen is definitely cause for concern. At least, that’s what everyone thought… including myself at the time. Actually, everyone I know still believes it to be negative. Not the age of thirteen (even though pre-puberty would say otherwise), but veganism, especially at such an early age. Throughout my journey with food, I’ve learned that veganism is not just about omitting animal products from your diet, it is about omitting the use of animal products from your life and understanding why. I am no scientist, but I am someone who has experienced the effects of veganism in all aspects of my life, rather than just in a textbook or blog. Veganism for me has been the most intimidating yet rewarding roller-coaster I have ever decided to ride. Except this one is for the rest of my life, and it all began in elementary school.
I lost my father at a very young age so when I turned to food as a coping mechanism, it didn’t raise much of an alarm to me or my mother since it was all due to our states of mind. After going on like that for close to two years, it was no wonder that the unknown sickness that caused me to be bedridden for two months straight was simply because I was unhealthy. I was told, after being in and out of the hospital, that I was intolerant to a plethora of everyday fruits and veggies. I can now say that I most definitely am not, which has caused some mistrust between me and modern medicine. However, above all else, this traumatizing experience was a wakeup call; I needed to get it together… at the age of twelve. That is far too young an age to take on the pressure of learning to be healthy but coming in last place when we ran the mile at school and refusing to look at photos of myself (thank you, society, for the countless body image issues you have placed into every adolescents’ head), gave me the motivation I needed.
After that, it was as if a switch had been flipped. I began running the track at my school every single day. It started as two laps and turned into twenty, preparing me to come in the top five for the last mile we would run in P.E. that year. However, as they say, “Abs are made in the kitchen”, and that is where my now years of research on healthy eating blossomed. Thanks to society yet again, my research was bombarded with things like Kim Kardashian’s latest diet. Sadly, this resulted in me confusing my body, due to the new diet I was trying out every week. I was losing weight, but that was only because I was restricting calories, which is the most concerning aspect about the typical American diet – it not only results in binge-eating or unhealthy weight loss, but also the mindset of, “eating will make me happy, but being skinny is more important”. After dealing with this for over a year, I discovered plant-based eating; it was a savior to my body and mind. I learned very quickly that there is a strong difference between being vegan and simply not consuming animal products, and that there is a way to eat all your fruits and veggies but still never deprive yourself of a cookie. As I became healthier, my energy increased, and I was happier with my body in general, so I began to research how to delve into the plant-based lifestyle even more. I was exposed to the wonderful impacts that such a diet has on our environment and the great ethics behind it. After that, I felt I truly understood what being vegan was, and after making the gradual switch to things like purchasing cruelty-free products and using the smallest amount of plastic in my daily life as possible, I could confidently claim that I was happy, healthy, and vegan. However, this research and lifestyle has not stopped. In fact, it has developed far beyond what I could have ever imagined.
I am now in what some may call the purgatory that is high school. In this place, every teen is suffering with not knowing who they are, in every sense, including how they look. The good news is that I can truly say that after being vegan for so long, I understand the difference between being healthy and being what society wants me to be. I may not be the weight that every female at my height should be, but frankly, I feel that if we all were, that’d be quite boring. Veganism has gifted me a healthy relationship with food, which is something I wish every teenager who is suffering with their uniqueness could have. Now that I’ve been researching the beautiful impacts of a vegan lifestyle for four years, I am well educated on things ranging from perceptive morals to animal agriculture and how the human body digests different types of bananas. While some of it may be a bit amusing, I use the knowledge I have acquired over the years multiple times a day. For example, I am a participant in Speech and Debate. I wrote an entire speech on veganism, and in fierce competition, I placed first; while the debate side may frighten me, the storage of facts regarding anything related to veganism in my brain has saved me time and time again (not to mention given me many shiny trophies).
Personally, however, the lesson I value most from veganism is the idea of equality. Us humans have this idea in our heads that since we have technology and medicine, we are superior. However, that is simply not how the world works. We are animals, just like the ones we choose to torture and/or domesticate. We may be smarter, but that doesn’t make us better, and thanks to veganism and the world it has opened up to me, those morals have affected every part of my life. Thanks to simply learning how to be healthy, I truly understand the fact that animals, humans of different skin colors, different beliefs, even different looks, are all equal (take that, society).
Veganism is a personal choice, but it is one that people dismiss simply because of a negative connotation with that word. As a young vegan, I make it my duty to be a good example because I truly believe that if I can show that a teen girl can be vegan and healthy, people may not reply with, “but I never could… and I never would”. Educate yourself, find what works for you, what makes you healthy, and what makes you happy. Remember we are all one, and our Earth is not limitless. For all that facts have shown, we only live this life once. Make it count – go vegan.