BY ELIZABETH SCHMITT
While my friends stroll up to the cashier at Phil’s and order a cheeseburger and fries, hand over their card and briskly walk away, I cautiously approach and preemptively apologize. “I have kind of a complicated order,” I say, “So sorry in advance!”
Being a vegan means I do not eat animal products. I do not eat any meat or dairy. I also do not eat products derived from animals, like fruit snacks with gelatin in them or honey. I am a vegan for health reasons primarily, animal rights concerns second. Though I find the treatment of animals in this country deplorable, I practice veganism for my health.
Certainly a lack of data exists on the true effects of veganism on cancer, disease and other illnesses veganism is touted to reduce the risk of. I am a vegan for health reasons in that it limits the junk you can eat. I cannot eat cookies or desserts unless I know they are vegan or I make them myself. I cannot eat many types of chips, snack foods and comfort foods, like mac and cheese or pizza. It’s easier to say no to junk food on the principle that you are a vegan than it is to say, “I’m trying to eat healthier.”
When I say I practice veganism, I mean it. It isn’t a perfect science, and it is certainly not without mistakes, conscious or unconscious. Going out to eat as a vegan is always a fairly demoralizing process. I must locate the vegetarian section of the menu (if there is one), and pray that there is something that sounds like it may be vegan. I confirm that no cheese is in the item, and order. If nothing else, I order a salad. The truth is, there is probably dairy in everything that you could order at a restaurant, except for a salad. Chinese food likely has milk or eggs in it, Mexican food probably has milk in the tortillas, and if not, the beans might be cooked in animal fat. Really, you cannot win.
So I throw my hands up. Sure, I might accidentally eat dairy at a restaurant, or might purposefully pull the cheese off of pizza because I’m really craving carbs or don’t want to spoil a friend’s party by being high maintenance.
Ultimately, veganism is a choice. It’s one that I make for my health, and one that I have to live with and not anyone else. I may not live any longer than my peers. But I feel better, and can still run as many miles and as fast as I could in my carnivore days. I get a lot of crap from family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but when my mom makes vegan stuffing particularly for me, I grin because not only is it all mine, but everyone is too afraid to touch it because it’s “vegan.” Little do they know it’s delicious and almost identical to theirs.
This article is not an attempt to convert people. If anything, it is an attempt to give a face to veganism. I am not its poster child, certainly, but I work hard to educate people on the myths of veganism and its true benefits. Veganism is my personal attempt to be a healthier, more conscious eater. A year and a half later (minus two months of eating ethically-sourced eggs in there somewhere), I still love being a vegan, and I encourage others to try “practicing” veganism.