For years I struggled with my body and how I felt about myself.
Many days I was too embarrassed to go to school because I thought I was overweight.
I struggled with disordered eating patterns, switching from binging and eating large amounts of food and not eating much at all.
Before I went vegan, I weighed 163 lbs. I was eating unhealthy food all the time.
Even when I thought I was eating healthy, I wasn’t. I ate a lot of cheese, chicken and turkey, eggs, and protein shakes.
I was obsessed with protein and I was completely convinced that I would lose weight if I avoided fats and carbohydrates.
I had gone back and forth with eating meat several times because it made me feel guilty to say that I loved animals while also eating them.
I finally quit meat for good when I learned about the dairy industry and realized how many animals get lost in this system.
After that, I became a vegan for ethical reasons. I got rid of any products I owned that were tested on animals as well any leather. It broke my heart to see how animals are mistreated for human consumption.
Little did I know that once I stopped fearing carbohydrates, the weight was going to fall off.
When I was at my highest weight, I had also conveniently just moved to a new school. I went into high school angry and afraid to be myself because I didn’t exactly get a warm welcome.
Boys tormented me for my size and made fun of my appearance. I isolated myself from everyone because I was too sensitive to handle being teased. I was the kid in the back of the class that refused to answer questions and despised presentations.
I used to be teased for the dark circles under my eyes caused by the lack of vital nutrients that were impossible to conceal.
People laughed at me when I said I enjoyed fitness and didn’t take me seriously because my anxiety caused me to not want to participate in P.E. and because I was almost 170 lbs. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t lose weight.
I was working out and planning meals based on macros, with a ridiculously high protein goal percentage. With a diet that consisted of mainly animal products, I couldn’t make much progress.
When I first went vegan, my diet wasn’t so great. I was very picky and didn’t have a lot of options, usually repeating meals and constantly eating either a baked potato, a serving of rice, or a few oreos.
I hadn’t learned how to cook much yet besides a pizza using daiya shreds. French fries were on the menu every single day. Despite me eating poorly, I still began to slowly lose weight. I didn’t work out and I only got exercise from daily walks.
There were many times in the beginning where I slipped up because I wasn’t educated about my options and convenient vegan food, but it is important not to get discouraged when this happens. It is normal for this to happen when you are transitioning to a new way of eating, thinking, and living.
Buying cookbooks or borrowing them out from a public library and finding recipes online makes an incredible difference. You may even find a recipe that inspires you to make your own unique meal.
Many vegan organizations have resources online available for people looking for vegan recipes. With a variety of vegan substitutions available for many meat and dairy products, it is easy to recreate many dishes that would typically include animal products.
Once I started trying more vegan food and finding things that I liked, my options opened up. I started developing more skills in the kitchen and making dinners more often.
After losing a little bit of weight, I was motivated to add more exercise into my daily routine. I signed up for a women’s conditioning class at my high school that met every other school day for one semester.
During the time that I took this class, I was getting involved in a lot of vegan activism with my best friend. We would often make meals together, plan dinners together, and bring lunch to each other at school. After a couple of months, I shrunk down to 124 lbs.
I was surprised because my conditioning class only consisted of a warm up, running a few laps, and a basic work out in a weight room. I knew my diet change had to be a huge factor in my weight loss because I quickly noticed after transitioning that my body, skin, and mind felt so much healthier.
My best friend Endora and I sharing information about going vegan in a high school cafeteria. I was more talkative and less timid in social situations. I wasn’t constantly afraid of what other people thought of me.
I started setting up tables with my friend every day at lunch so we could talk to students about veganism. I even found myself flagging down the football team to give them pamphlets about vegan protein, which caused several different reactions.
I was pleasantly surprised by how many people who I was afraid to be myself around actually were open to listening to what I had to say and taking it in besides immediately shutting me down with a rebuttal about bacon.
Cutting out meat and dairy products changed my life in more ways than I could’ve imagined when I first received a leaflet about the industries I was buying into.
Since changing my lifestyle, I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been. I wake up ready to spread compassion and love and I feel better everyday knowing that I am working toward something that is so important to me.
The mental growth that came with adopting a vegan lifestyle was unbelievable to myself and everyone around me.
With a past of disordered eating, I feared that going vegan would mean restriction that would cause me to return to starving myself.
To my surprise, I found it much easier to eat anything that I wanted. I learned from Pinterest that literally anything can be veganized. I began baking and making things I would normally fear eating because it felt good to eat it knowing that it was vegan.
In fact, I eat more food now than I ever did before and I am maintaining a healthy weight of 127.
According to the Obesity Society, plant-based diets show more weight loss without calorie restriction.
Yesterday, during the course of the day I had 3 meals and 2 snacks. For breakfast, I had aquafaba french toast and a cup of fruit.
For lunch, I ate quinoa with kale and chickpeas in hot sauce with dairy free ranch. For dinner, I made seasoned red potatoes and buffalo cauliflower wings. I also snacked on veggie chips and trail mix during the day.
Monday through Friday I use my elliptical for 15 minutes and then go on a mile walk outside to get some fresh air. I do daily yoga and often do exercises like wall-sits, planks, crunches, and squats.
I don’t have a gym membership and only do exercises at home. If I don’t feel like working out, I’m not very hard on myself anymore for skipping. Since I have cut animal products from my diet, I have realized that diet is the main factor when it comes to losing weight.
People all over the world have used veganism to change their life. It is a change that seems hard until you do it, and then you’ll wish you had sooner once you notice the difference in your health.
I wish that I could tell my past self what I know now.
Before I went vegan, I couldn’t even enjoy things like my high school prom because I was so uncomfortable in my own body. It made me feel ashamed to be seen and it was not a good way to live at all.
I have completely come out of my shell since I changed how I live.
My family is very thankful for me going vegan and they have been very supportive every step of the way. They are not vegan themselves, but they are making efforts to eat more consciously and they will eat just about any vegan meal that I make – and they usually end up really enjoying it!
My parents are really proud of my transformation and how I have found something that brings me joy and fulfillment when it seemed like I would never find my silver lining.
The people who have seen me everyday since my freshman year of high school noticed these differences too. The weight loss question is one that I have gotten very familiar with and it comes up very frequently.
I received two different awards on my senior night, one for Most Improved Nutrition & Wellness at a senior award night, for my dietary concerns and how frequently I speak on them, and one for completing four years of journalism classes.
Looking back on how unhappy I was before I changed my lifestyle, I am so thankful for the growth that has come with it.
I am now pursuing a career writing about veganism and animals. I am a photographer at a doggy daycare and my job consists of playing with pups and taking photos of them.
I am also an Indiana state Concert Representative for Peta2, which gives me the opportunity to go to shows and talk to concert-goers about the benefits of veganism and being an advocate for animals.
Not only am I no longer afraid of being seen, but I am also unafraid of being heard.
Compassion for animals is something that is extremely important to me and it inspires me to fight for a better world for them every day.
Although not everyone sees eye to eye with me or agrees with what I believe, I am content with myself knowing that I am doing something that promotes my own happiness as well as happiness for others.