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Intense Emotions After Choosing a Vegan Lifestyle

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Since deciding to take a 30 day vegan challenge, I have experienced a wide array of emotions and shifts in thinking ranging from excitement to sadness to guilt. The decision to try a vegan diet was initiated by the emotions I felt after viewing the horrible ways that animals are treated in the factory farming industry. So I think it’s safe to say that my journey through a sea of emotions began with disgust and sadness.

In the documentary Vegucated, there are videos of the way animals are mistreated in the factory farming system. These images were so sickening that I had to look away. I stopped eating meat over a year ago and I was under the impression that I was no longer contributing to these kinds of occurrences. But then the scene came that changed my view on everything. In this scene, one of the participants of the 6 week vegan challenge that the film is following was given a list of questions to call and ask her local “humane” farmer.

Some of the answers completely shocked me as they essentially proved that the labels “free range” and “organic” really don’t mean much when it comes to the ethical treatment of animals. And I’m not just talking about chickens being cramped in a tiny cage, which is bad enough in my opinion. I’m talking about something called Chick Culling, where baby male chicks, who are not valuable to an industry that exploits the female chickens’ reproductive system, are either suffocated in plastic bags or ground up alive for pet food or fertilizer ?!?!?  Even when we buy eggs from organic and “humane” farms, we are contributing to the death of millions of male chicks every year, because almost all chickens come from regular hatcheries where chick culling takes place. 

I found it very difficult to even process this information which led to my next emotion, anxiety.

I began to feel very anxious of the way I had been eating my whole life and almost fearful to continue eating any animal products at all because of where it may have been sourced. The feelings haunted me all day and into the evening and I could barely sleep that night. It didn’t take me long to come the conclusion that I wanted to be vegan. My first thought was to “try it out” for an allotted period of time, perhaps a 30 day challenge, to see if I could even pull it off. Honestly, I do feel like it’s a bit of a cop-out to do a challenge because it gives me an out if I don’t end up sticking with it. Especially after having such strong emotions about wanting to go vegan, and why.

So it was a pleasant surprise when I began downloading some vegan podcasts and stumbled across Food For Thought, The Joys and Benefits Of Living Compassionately and Healthfully. The very first episode I listened to was called What Happens When You Stop Eating Animals – Stage One: Validation and the Voracious Consumption of Information. I couldn’t have asked for a more apropos discovery!

In the podcast, the host Colleen Patrick Goudreau discusses stages that people go through in their transition to veganism. Stages, which she repeatedly mentions, are not necessarily linear but that she hears about from many readers/listeners. Hearing her talk about so many of the feelings I was experiencing made me feel like I was not so alone in this discovery and that many people had walked this road to “awakening.”

After listening to this podcast in which she mentions a TON of resources, I set off on a journey and into another phase of intense emotion, this time in the form of excitement.

Plant based ingredients I picked up to try some vegan recipes!
Plant based ingredients I picked up to try some vegan recipes!

Just as Colleen discussed in her podcast, I am in search of information and answers. I’ve always had questions about being vegan and now I really want to know everything I can. In addition to putting my best friend google to work, I’ve been scouring vegan recipe blogs and I also put a lot of books on hold at the library. My excitement comes mostly from the idea of discovering how to prepare a whole new variety of foods and getting creative with converted my favorite meals to be vegan. As a result of this, my most recent emotion of mourning has begun to kick in.

Let me explain. This doesn’t necessarily mean mourning for the animals, whose tortured faces I cannot seem to shake from my mind. This emotion is seeping into my heart in a different way. I’ve always loved cooking(hence this website!) and ever since my fiance and I have known each other I always prepared meals for the two of us. After moving in together we established a great routine where I did the cooking and he did the clean-up.

Once I became a vegetarian, I would prepare vegetarian versions of the same meals I always made and would still prepare meat versions of the meals for him. This has always struck me as being a little conflict of interest but I wanted to try and keep things the same as they’ve always been and not shake things up too much. At this point however, I no longer feel like I will be comfortable with that arrangement.

Before discussing these changes with my fiance I felt a lot of anxiety because I was nervous of how he would react. At first, he seemed sort of nonchalant about it and that was a relief. But then he began asking questions and realizing the depth to which these changes will affect both of us. I explained that I would continue to prep meals but they would be vegan and he would have the option of buying and cooking his own animal products if he chooses.

I could see that the idea of no longer eating the meals I would previously prepare bummed him out. And witnessing that disappointment in him really struck me emotionally. And so I’ve been feeling a bit of mourning in the loss of a comforting ritual we had developed since the very beginning of our lives together. That being said, in trying to see the bright side of things, I do have faith and hope that these changes can inspire a new type of routine where we can spend more time together – in the kitchen!

Over the past few days, as my mind wanders from thought to thought and randomly lands on this whole new part of life which is veganism, my heart skips a beat. I get a rush of all of the aforementioned emotions all at once and racing thoughts along with them. “Am I really never going to eat cheese again?” “How will this choice affect my relationships with family and friends?” “Will I be able to stick with it?” “What will people say?” And then a whole new emotion emerged….anger.

Anger at the world for allowing such evils to thrive. Anger at the factory farming industry for allowing such cruelty to animals and treating them as a commodity instead of living, breathing, feeling beings. Anger that we as humans have grown so detached from the foods that we eat that we can allow animals to be so horribly mistreated for our pleasure. Anger that I cannot do much to change these facts and that all I can do is change my own behavior. Anger that because of this I have to upset my whole lifestyle just to be able to live in alignment with my values.

And then I try to remember the excitement phase and hop back on that bandwagon because it doesn’t help anyone to wallow in anger. All I can do is create positive change in my own life and see where that takes me. I’m one week into my challenge and I feel great. I feel better about myself as a human for finally allowing myself to listen, to be aware, to learn and to make critical decisions that let me live the kind of life I can be proud of.

 
Update – read all about my adventures since going vegan:

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  • Janet Combs

    Thank you so much for this article. I made the transition from vegatarian to vegan several months back and I am still going through all the emotions described. I am haunted and sadden by what is going on and cannot understand how anyone can ignore it. I feel disconnect from friends who do not practice vegan ism. My situation with my husband was identical to yours. At first I felt it was not fair to try to change him so I made him meat. I quickly reached the point that I did not want to purchase it or handle it. The good news is that as I slowly shared information with him, especially a biblical perspective as we are strong Christains, he began to feel convicted about it. He finally said to me “okay I’m in, get rid of any meat we have in the house, go give it to my sister”. We have been together, very happily, for fifteen years now we share an even deeper bond. I will ride these emotions but more than anything I want to try to affect a change. Thanks for letting me know this is part of my journey.

    • Thanks for sharing, Janet! This is why I feel it is so important to share our stories with one another. So we know that we are not alone and there are others out there who are going through the same emotions. I wish you the best of luck on your journeys and I hope you will check back in and let me know how it goes 🙂

  • Pingback: Choosing Love: My One Year Vegan Anniversary()

  • Are you still vegan? I’m doing a radio show tonight on VEGAN WORLD RADIO and I am discussing the intense emotions one feels once they go vegan – I stumbled upon your blog and would like to share some excerpts from it – I will give you credit.

  • Thank you so much for writing this. It definitely spoke to me today. Speaking truth to power is not easy, and certainly does not make one a popular person. I’m sixty-six years old and have been vegan for about two months. Physically, I certainly feel better. Spiritually, I feel a LOT better. I’ve been through all the stages, and continue to cycle through them. Coming across posts like yours help me a lot, just knowing that other people have gone, or are going through, the same feelings. Thanks again.

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