Early in 2012 I started reaching out to vegan friends on twitter to ask them to share their testimonials. My hope was that by getting vegans to share their stories we could educate and inspire others and give people first hand accounts to replace perceptions or stereotypes. I’m incredibly grateful to those that have participated. Their stories speak for themselves! If you enjoy the series please let us know!
Hi! I’m Nikki. I’m 27, and I live in Toronto, Ontario, with my awesome dog Buddy. My passions include food, fitness, and art. After working in office administration for five years, I quit my job and went back to school. This coming April, I’ll have a diploma in Advertising, and will be lucky enough to be working in a field I truly enjoy. But enough about that, and more about this vegan stuff!
Being a vegan is something that is very new to me. One thing that I should admit to is that my initial urge to become a vegan was purely for selfish reasons, and not just for animals and the environment. (Although, these are also huge factors in my decision! I also have the most respect imaginable for people who make the decision to become vegan solely for moral and ethical reasons; these people are great!)
I should also be fully honest, and admit to the fact that I became a vegan by accident. Yes, you read correctly: by accident. When speaking with some friends about how I had given up meat completely after not really eating it for a while, I made a comment about how I had also given up eggs, dairy, fish, and that I don’t really eat anything with animal products in it. I was caught off guard when someone walking behind us chimed in and said, “Well that’s called a vegan, not a vegetarian,” and continued on her way. I laughed it off at the moment, and made a joke about being an “accidental vegan,” but what that stranger said to me remained in my mind.
I realized that for months, I was making different decisions while grocery shopping. Coconut yogurt, vegan cheese, almond milk (which has been a long-time favourite of mine), and seeking out recipes that were “vegetarian” only to be disappointed by the fact that they had eggs or dairy involved. (I was constantly using flax meal and water as an egg replacement in any recipe I made.) I’ve always been a foodie and heavily obsessed with cooking/baking, and realized that the types of dishes I would make were changing.
These decisions weren’t quite conscious ones, but they were attempts at making healthier foods to fuel my body with. I can’t stress how much it amuses me, now when I look back, that all of my healthier options ended up being vegan.
For a quick history: I grew up in a family where nutrition was literally meat, potatoes, frozen peas, white pasta in a can, pastries, chocolate, pop, chips, and white bread. I was overweight between the ages of 15-18 (weighing 175 lbs at my heaviest, and I stand 5’8″ tall, with a body fat percent of 34). After having a personal trainer and a nutritionist, I went back and forth from being a vegetarian and an omnivore during my late teens and early twenties. At 27, I’m now between 120-125 lbs, with a body fat percent of somewhere less than 16 (I don’t know the exact number).
When I was eating meat, I had to tell myself it was never really an animal. I also couldn’t eat any piece of meat that even remotely resembled the shape of the live animal. Turkey dinners freaked me out unless the meat was already sliced. So, I obviously had some deep rooted issues with eating animals, but I was in denial. Several years ago, I was a vegetarian for just under three years. When I met my (now ex) husband, I started eating meat again because it seemed easier than being, “that picky vegetarian chick”. I gave it another attempt while dating him, being able to last about eight months before the pressure to eat meat at family dinners got the best of me. Also, being the chef of the household, I was cooking dinner for both of us. And what did he like for dinner? Meat. So that’s what was in the house nightly.
Fast-forward a few years later: From the early marriage until the separation, I had pretty much cut out all dairy except for yogurt and some cheese from my diet. I had also cut out all red meat, eating only chicken and fish for a while. As time was passing, I was cooking for just myself, so I was able to have 100 percent control over the foods I was buying, cooking, and eating. I know it sounds like a weird excuse for not committing to being a vegetarian or vegan sooner, but it definitely makes things difficult when you’re not in a supportive environment.
I was also very interested in nutrition and fitness, so during these years, I was finding ways to make my diet healthier. Cutting out meat just made sense, because eating it made me feel lethargic, resulting in my fitness routines lacking the energy that was required. It also helped that my body simply doesn’t digest dairy properly. (I also believe that my dog, Buddy, loves me more now than he did when I was eating meat. But maybe that’s just my imagination…)
One thing I learned is that you should never compromise what you believe is best for your body. When I look back, I feel as though I was slowly destroying my body by feeding it meat and animal products. The difference between how I felt back then, and how I feel now, is night and day.
Thankfully, my passion for food and social media proved to be something that would really help pave the way for me! Twitter, oddly enough, has been the biggest help when it comes to making that transition from omnivore/vegetarian to vegan. It opened up so many windows in regards to communicating with other vegans, and opened my mind to how many amazing food options/ideas are out there! Finding and connecting with other vegans online also proved to me that there are people out there who are not only supportive of someone entering the vegan lifestyle, but who are also ready and willing to offer a plethora of knowledge and information on all things vegan. (Recipe ideas? Oh yeah! Blogs? You know it! Advice on great books to read to gain some good nuggets of knowledge? Look no further than your friendly Internet vegans!).
I’ve spoken with people who are involved in food preparation/food industry, fitness, nutrition, and new vegans like myself who share similar struggles in the shift to a vegan lifestyle. I’ve even learned that there are many awesome athletes and people heavily involved in fitness who are vegan. The combination of all of this has made such a huge impact on my life, because it gave me the motivation to do this amazing thing for my body. One of my biggest worries was that if I gave up meat, my body would be lacking key nutrients, and I would become weaker. I cannot believe how wrong that train of thought was. In fact, I’ve even lost a few pounds – of fat – since ditching animal products, and my skin is more clear! Consider my mind: blown.
I’ve had more energy to push through workouts than I’ve ever had in previous years, and my appetite is always satisfied with the insane amount of tasty food options that are out there. I’ve learned about, and devoured, so many foods in the past month that I had never even known existed. It’s amazing, the variety! I love it when people make comments such as, “Aren’t you bored of beans and veggies?” Yeah, sorry, I’m definitely NOT bored of fresh, amazing, nutrient dense foods!
I can’t even begin to list all of the benefits I’ve felt physically in the past month or so, but I will say that my mind has felt more clear, and I have had more energy than I know what to do with. I’ve even lost my dependency on coffee, which is something I never thought would happen. I’m still new to this whole vegan thing, and there’s still so much that I have to learn about environmental impact, nutrition, clothing and personal care products that are vegan, but I don’t have a doubt in my mind that going vegan has been the best decision I could have ever made for my health.
You can follow Nikki on twitter @cookwithnikki. Be sure to let her know you enjoyed her testimonial! You can also follow her cooking blog Cook with Nikki, and her fitness blog Vegan Fitness with Nikki.
If you’re feeling inspired and want to submit your own vegan testimonial please read this post. You can also read the interview Kasey Minnis (@veggiemightee) did with me about this project on This Dish is Veg.