The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Transitioning to Vegan: Why I Became Vegan and My Family’s Reactions

Posted on June 11, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Navaal Mahdi

I became vegan about 5 months ago when I got food poisoning after eating chicken at a fast food place one evening. If you have never had food poisoning before, consider yourself lucky; it is absolutely the worst pain I have ever been in. Looking back now though, I can say that experience was one of the most important experiences I’ve had thus far. In a way, I’m glad that I suffered through this event when I did because it was essentially what made me find the courage to make the change that I wanted to make for so long.

Let me first give you a little more background about where I was regarding what I thought about consuming animal products leading up to the food poisoning incident. My parents are really big advocates for eating locally-grown, organic items and have been very health conscious for years. I finally started wondering why they were so interested in where their food came from last year when I graduated high school and found that I had time around the hours I worked to research topics that interested me. One of the first subjects I read up on was food since it’s such an integral part of everyone’s life, and as soon as I got into reading up on the meat industry, I remember feeling uneasy right away.

In my opinion, once you learn about animal cruelty and how prevalent related horrific practices are in our world, there’s no way you can go back to supporting the industry that promotes it. I immediately cut down the amount of meat I was eating and started eating more fruits and vegetables, but when I started my first semester of university, it became difficult for me to control what I was eating due to the sudden workload increase I had. Because the food I was eating wasn’t on my mind at all, not only did I gain some weight but I also wasn’t able to watch what I was eating all the time. I was, however, luckily able to continue using makeup, skincare, and personal hygiene products that are not tested on animals because I bought those things in the summer while researching veganism, and I didn’t have to worry about replenishing my stock of those items for months on end.

When I had time off of school in December, I was finally able to take some time to think about topics that didn’t relate to my classes. One of the first thoughts I had did, of course, relate to food, seeing as what I was eating was probably the most consistent piece of my life at the time. While searching for food-related documentaries on Netflix, I came across Food, Inc., a documentary made to expose the industrialized American food system. Actually seeing the horrors of the meat industry shocked me because the reality was much worse than what I expected. With that being said, it’s beyond me how, after a week of only eating meatless meals following watching that documentary, I decided to eat chicken at the fast food place my friends wanted to eat at. All I know was that I learned my lesson there: after getting so severely sick because of the meat I ate, I knew that my body was trying to tell me that I was not meant to consume it.

Adjusting to a life without animal products was honestly not as difficult as I thought it would be. I realized that if I was strict with myself from the beginning, if I always kept the reason for living this lifestyle on my mind, it would have been easier for me to maintain a vegetarian diet months earlier. Though I do regret not doing that before, I realize now that the fact that I took such a big step at all is pretty great; it really doesn’t matter when you become vegan, it’s just the fact that you’re aware and willing to make a change that’s the big deal.

Because I was raised in a household where my extended family was always a big part of my life, I was very curious as to what their reactions would be once they found out I had become vegan. On the weekend before Memorial Day, I took a short trip to Canada, where the majority of my family lives. I didn’t tell anyone that I was vegan beforehand because I knew that if they found out about my diet change, they would be worried about my health; I wanted them to see firsthand how much better I was doing health-wise, and I wanted to explain to them why I chose to pursue this lifestyle.

My family is big on having tea together with a variety of snacks, so naturally the first question I got was when one of my aunts noticed that I was reading the ingredients on the back of multiple snack boxes intently. She assumed that I was counting calories, so hearing that I was concerned about what ingredients were present in the cookies or spring rolls was a surprise for her. Many others turned their heads to hear why I was being so cautious, and when I explained that I avoided dairy and meat products, I saw a look of realization come across her face.

I had gotten a lot of comments about weight loss upon arriving, and when I was asked about my secret, I tried to change the topic because I didn’t want people to assume I went vegan to lose weight. When I finally confirmed that I’m vegan and explained what it means to live such a lifestyle, the first words out of most people’s mouths had them asking me about how safe such a dramatic change is. It takes a while to address the concerns that people who love you have, and it’s important to remember that they question you because they care. If you’re strong in what you believe, their beliefs about your choices shouldn’t affect you; after all, you’re not doing anything wrong!

Of course, if you want to help people understand why you’re pursuing the vegan life, there are hundreds of sources available online, including on The Vegetarian Resource Group website, that will help you show those who are concerned for you that what you’re doing is safe. On this trip, I learned that knowing parts of these sources off the top of your head will not only show others that there’s a legitimate reason for you being vegan, but it will persuade them to give your lifestyle a try, or at least support your cause. I’m not saying that everyone will be willing to completely change their diet after talking to you, but people will definitely be curious to try a life with more vegetables than meat in their meals. Honestly, even convincing someone to incorporate more vegetables in their diet is a good start because at least they are open to seeing how tasty and healthful their meals can be with vegetables instead of meat!

I think that it’s so important to stay true to what you believe, and I know firsthand how difficult it is to commit one-hundred percent to this way of life. It is possible though, and it’s really easy to maintain once you set yourself some boundaries and actually get going. If you’re thinking about becoming vegan, definitely try it before you decide whether or not it’s for you. Similarly, if you’re trying to understand why a family member or a friend of yours has decided to go vegan, it’s important for you to remember that they have legitimate reasons for living the way they do. There’s nothing that has helped me on this journey more than seeing that my family supports me, accepts me, and has at least tried to understand where I’m coming from, even if they don’t necessarily agree with me.

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