Undoubtedly, the most common question those of us following a vegan diet get asked, right after the classic “So what CAN you actually eat??”, is “What made you decide to become a vegan?”. The answer seldom presents itself as a quick-fire, succinct reply because for most of us the choice is a result of many interlinking factors involving anything from health and preference to faith, environmental reasons and animal rights concerns. There really is no one right answer and personally, the ‘why’ doesn’t bother me too much; rather, I rejoice in the fact that individuals have taken the step to change their lifestyles for the better. The motivation is interesting, but the positive outcomes both for the individual and those around them are more noteworthy.
Having said this, I can only speak for myself when it comes to why I chose to follow a vegan diet. It wasn’t due to any life-threatening health problems, or a keen interest in environmental or animal rights issues per se. For me it come down to one word – stewardship.
I am a Christian and my faith forms the basis of all my major life decisions as well as the way in which I carry out tasks in my day to day life*. The concept of stewardship – of us as God’s children being responsible to manage the time, talents and resources which he has given us well – is very important to me. I believe that as human beings, we have been entrusted with many good things and it is how we take care of those things that count. This isn’t just about physical and financial resources, but our bodies – one of our greatest resources – as well. In Corinthians the apostle Paul writes:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor 6v19-20.
Whilst Paul is addressing sexual immorality specifically in this context, I do believe it is a good principle that can be applied to all areas of our lives, especially in terms of what we put into our bodies on a daily basis. So this is my main motivation.
Our modern day lifestyle has encouraged a rise in the consumption of fast foods and calorie dense, nutrient-deficient meals. We snack on processed foods without thinking twice, and for most of us the concept of vegetables at every meal is foreign. Not only has this way of eating caused many health problems ranging from constipation, allergies and sluggishness to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease to name but a few, but the environmental and financial impact of such a lifestyle also cannot be ignored. We carelessly spend money on foods we do not need, foods that make us feel bad, and foods that, in the long run, cause us to end up on the operating table. Surely we cannot have so little self control as to willingly do such a thing to ourselves?
With this in mind, the beginning of 2012 marked a turning point in my life. Our church had just come out of a 3 week Daniel fast (consuming only fruits, vegetables and water), and with my newly ‘detoxed’ body, I decided it was time to make a permanent change. I had been speaking to a vegan friend of mine and did a lot of research on the vegan diet prior to my decision, and I just knew it was something I needed to do. I happily made the switch and I’ve never looked back since. Of course, after my main motivation got me to this point, my eyes started opening to the other problems that consuming a diet rich in meat and dairy products presents. I have posted some very informative links regarding the ethical and environmental reasons that justify following a vegan diet below.
I firmly believe that, whatever one’s reason for doing so, choosing to make the switch is only beneficial. Having said this, my top 10 reasons for for following a vegan diet, in no particular order, are:
- More energy – I feel lighter, more awake and healthier than ever before. My fitness has also improved.
- No more allergies – sinus problems and hay fever aggravated by dairy products are a thing of the past!
- Clear skin – consuming a diet based on whole foods and cutting out meat and dairy significantly improves the condition of one’s skin
- Weight loss and maintenance – it is so much easier to manage one’s weight, and this without worrying about consuming too many ‘carbs’ or controlling portions 24/7
- Saving money – let’s face it, meat and dairy products can be expensive. Medication to treat problems caused by these foods is pricey too.
- No more disgustingly dirty dishes – I used to despise scraping fatty meat remains off plates or cleaning pots coated with animal greases. Now dishes are so quick and easy, and there is seldom need for excessive scrubbing.
- Amazing food, without the guilt – the recipes I have discovered and meals I’ve tasted since becoming a vegan have often outshone some of the best ‘normal’ dishes I’ve ever eaten, and the vegan counterparts are often much healthier and kinder to the environment than the traditional dishes.
- Adventure – In SA especially, scouting out products and restaurants that cater to vegans is quite an adventure. You never quite know what you are going to find, and each experience is unique.
- Eating foods I once had to’avoid’ – following a traditional diet, many foods such as pasta, rice, nuts and nut butters, and bread had to be severely rationed, because they contain a lot of kilojoules and supposedly contribute to weight gain. True…if you are eating meat, eggs, and yoghurt or cheese along with generous helpings of those foods daily. This is no longer a problem.
- No more pills – I am free from the trap of cortisone nasal spray and little white antihistamine tablets I once had to consume on a daily basis.
So this is my reasoning and motivation. I would love to hear yours too!
- http://www.vegansociety.com/become-a-vegan/why.aspx (health, environmental and ethical benefits)
- http://drmcdougall.com/ (this website is a treasure trove of useful information!)
- http://www.healthyeatingstartshere.com/ (Heather does an amazing job of explaining why following a plant-based, WHOLE FOODS diet is important)
*Note: In no way do I advocate that following a certain diet leads to salvation, or that eating this way is a requirement of belonging to the Christian faith. This is just my personal choice and conviction.