When I first sat down to write this post, I titled it “my vegan story.” However, as I got to writing, I realized it’s less of a story and truly more of a journey. My progression into a plant-based lifestyle has had many ups and downs, highs and lows, and sometimes I even fell off track and stopped the journey all together. However, I tackled every obstacle and am now (almost) 2 years vegan. With all that being said, let’s start from the beginning.
I was not raised vegan or vegetarian. I grew up in the Midwest where meat, potatoes, and corn are considered the three main food groups. When I entered high school, I was still eating this way, until one day the little bubble I lived in was popped: I saw a video of a slaughterhouse. To preface, I grew up in a small farming town, so seeing cattle, smelling manure, and staring into endless rows of corn was normal on the way to and from school. After I saw this video, however, I could no longer make the trip to and from school without feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness when I saw the farms, pushing me to make a change within myself.
When I turned 16, I was ready to switch up my diet for animal cruelty reasons: I went vegetarian. Every adult in my life was immediately telling me “It’s just a phase!” or questioning “how will you get your protein?” Thankfully, it wasn’t just a phase. However, I did not go about cutting out meat correctly; I had no substitutes! So, as much as I hate to admit it, the adults were right to be curious about where my protein intake would now come from.
For months, I stuck to this vegetarian lifestyle, but I could tell I was lacking protein. I had never tried tofu, seitan, or any plant-based meat alternatives, so my diet was essentially dairy and carbs. If any of you have ever done this, you would know it’s not sustainable (especially not for a teenage athlete.) So, here is where I fell off my journey to becoming plant-based and resorted back to eating meat (a chicken strip basket with extra ranch from Dairy Queen to be exact.)
I carried out eating this way for the rest of my highschool career. I was super interested in food and nutrition, so when I graduated high school and got accepted into my dream college, I chose to study nutrition in hopes of becoming a dietician. In one of my first college courses, Food Safety, my professor kept preaching about the benefits of drinking milk and consuming dairy products. Although I myself was consuming them at the time, I did not think they were good for me as milkshakes made my stomach turn, and cheese inflamed my acne like no other. This sparked me into doing my own research of dairy consumption, which then led me to researching meat consumption, and soon I was deep into researching everything regarding animal agriculture. I went vegetarian (again) the next day.
I was truly passionate about being a nutrition major, but after I struggled through a few chemistry courses, I realized I was not learning something that would help me make a difference in the animal agriculture industry. So, one below-freezing winter night, I dragged myself to the library and looked over all the majors my college had to offer, and I found the one for me: Agricultural and Food Business Management. I consider myself business minded, and I had a new found passion for agricultural systems, so this was a match; I dropped nutrition and joined this major beginning my second semester of college.
In my courses, I got to learn about how farming is done in America, the rates at which we consume crops and animals, and how unsustainable our farming practices truly are. I no longer felt comfortable studying farm animal cruelty cases and continuing to consume dairy. Throughout the next week, I consumed what was left in my fridge for dairy products, and that was the end of it. I went plant-based.
Again, I did not make this transition effectively. I did not have any substitutes for eggs, cheese, or meat (besides vegan frozen “chicken” nuggets.) It was HARD. One thing many people aren’t aware of is that cheese actually has an addicting factor to it. I had learned about it in a food chemistry course, but I did not realize I was affected. Essentially, the protein casein, which is found in cheese, breaks down into a compound that attaches to dopamine receptors, making you crave cheese over, and over, and over again.
I know I have a bad track record of quitting my plant-based journey, but surprisingly, I toughed it out and broke my cheese “addiction” cold turkey. I did, however, still suck at finding meat replacements, so I was again eating 90% carbs (and not feeling that well.)
In time, I got more adventurous. I started making tofu (something I was afraid of), sampling vegan cheese brands (shoutout to Violife and Daiya), and soon my tastebuds adjusted. My digestion got so much better within a few months. My skin started clearing up. I felt amazing.
I felt so great that I started a low-key Tik Tok account called Lazycollegekitchen where I shared my recipes, what I eat in a day, my favorite vegan swaps, etc., and somehow I ended up with 30,000 followers and multiple brand deals. This is when I knew there was a demand for learning how to be plant-based. Being a full time college student and working 30 hours a week kind of took over, and I ended up deleting my account. However, now that I am graduated, settled, and ready to help others adopt a plant-based lifestyle, I am rebranding and starting over with The Plant Based Pristine.
Now that I am almost two years into being fully-plant based, I am excited to find ways to be more sustainable with my lifestyle, and more importantly, to help others do the same.