Journey to Veganism
Author: Katherine Downham
I don't believe there is ever one reason to becoming vegan, or one reason alone. Its usually a mixture of reasons (well at least for me it is), because being vegan is more than just a label.
It all started when I was very young. At the tender age of 2 or 3, I was already a fussy eater. My parents told me I wasn't ever too keen on meat and I used to only really have jam sandwiches for my packed lunch. As I grew, so did my love for animals. I also had the amazing opportunity to live abroad (China & Germany) from the ages of 5-17, so I was exposed to completely different food cultures! While the food cultures led me to experience so many different beautiful flavours, I was also exposed to the gruesome truths behind meat. Some rural markets in China opened my eyes but made me shut my mouth to meat for as long as possible when I was 10 years old. With the lack of knowledge at that age, I unfortunately didn't manage to stick to a vegetarian life. However, I certainly cut down on my meat consumption.
During the latter half of my childhood years (ages 15-17), I began consuming alternative milks simply out of taste preference and due to the fact it was labelled a 'healthier' option. I started to find a huge passion for health & fitness and constantly went out of my way to find ways to keep my body healthy. I didn't eat pork and I limited the amount of red meat I consumed as well; whilst also consuming the milk alternatives. At the time, I had no idea I was slowly transitioning myself to consuming a future vegan diet because I was so ignorant and didn't even know veganism was a thing! Until one day, I stumbled upon a video on YouTube about veganism. This intrigued me and I challenged myself to be vegan for a month. With the lack of knowledge and resources, I unfortunately didn't complete the challenge yet again. I truly believe I didn't complete the challenge, because my mind was warped, and I honestly believed veganism was about only eating fruit and vegetables...oh how wrong I was.
Once I started studying Sport and Exercise Science with Nutrition at University, I was a health and fitness addict and all the new research I was reading gave me so much knowledge and power I previously didn't have. Additionally, I had many positive influences come my way; one being my older brother's girlfriend. She has been vegan for a long time and always inspired me. Another was the research I was doing during my dissertation. I came across SO many research papers reporting the benefits of a vegan diet on the body AND the environment. My mind was constantly moving more towards the vegan diet...I thought "I can kill (not kill) two birds with one stone... keep myself healthier and make a positive impact on the environment too...its a no brainer".
Although those two reasons are very valid, there was still something I worried about. Vegans still have a bad reputation and are constantly looked down on…made fun of. I didn’t want to be made fun of. However, I also took a good look at myself and thought my concerns about being judged, are no-where near as much as a problem as the meat and dairy industry. I can be judged a million times if it means the animals and the environment are saved.
This was the new Katherine. If I must have a purpose, then maybe this was the start to it? Creating change in the world. Even if I was just one small person doing it, I was still contributing to a healthier world. Of course, I still had to learn as I continued through my vegan journey. Things are constantly changing, new research is always emerging and you must stay on top of it. However, if I learnt anything about myself, its that I'm adaptable (we all are). I had to adapt to a brand new culture when I moved abroad, I had to adapt to new language and I had to adapt to saying goodbye to old friends and then making new ones again. Therefore, having to adapt to a new way of eating... ah, that's a piece of cake pal.