People become vegans for many different reasons; whether it’s for animal rights, environmentalism, health reasons, or the simple fact you don’t like the taste of dairy or meat products. Today, I would like to share my journey into veganism and why I chose this path for myself and my children.

Like most, I grew up on the standard American diet: meat, eggs and dairy. Milk every night with dinner and every morning in my cereal. Egg-salad sandwiches were my favorite and I would never turn down a hamburger. I continued with this animal product-consuming life through college without giving it a second thought. I thought this is what we were suppose eat. Meat is so delicious why would’t someone eat it?

How I Became a Vegetarian

In my senior year of college I took this class on global environmental issues. This was a life-changing class, it has been the fuel behind my desire to change the world. I was devastated to learn about all of the irreversible damage we, as humans, were doing to our planet, especially given the magnitude of our overpopulation problems.

I learned about the tremendous environmental damage we cause by raising animals for human consumption. My “American diet” now seemed selfish because I discovered we could feed so many more people on this planet if we ate lower on the food chain. It takes 96 calories of grain to produce 1 calorie of meat; talk about inefficiency! If we took all of the land we use to raise and feed animals for consumption and reallocated it for organic farming to grow vegan produce, legumes and grains for human consumption, we could feed so many more people on this planet.

So I decided during the fall semester of senior year; I was going to do my part to save the world and become a vegetarian. This reasoning is still true, especially if you live in California. Everyone is well aware of the severe drought issues the state of California is facing, but really where is all of the water going? You guessed it. It’s being used to produce meat, dairy, and eggs. It take 100 times more water to produce one pound of animal protein than producing one pound of grain protein. Humans drink less than one gallon of water per day, but a cow can drink up to 23 gallons of water a day. In short, my choice to impact the world through the food choices I make was not just being a naive college student it is still impacting the world and state I currently live in. So overall, I started down this plant-based lifestyle as an environmentalist.

From Vegetarian to Vegan

It didn’t take long for my body to feel the physical benefits of eliminating meat from my diet. I lost 10 pounds and my energy levels skyrocketed! It’s amazing how good you feel when you start to eliminate all the extra hormones and chemicals from your body that you find in meat, especially in USDA beef.

As I continued down the path of my plant-based lifestyle, my research continued. A book I love and recommend to everyone is “Eating Animals,” by Jonathon Safran Foer. This book is so powerful because it is written from an unbiased perspective; a man becoming a father who wants to learn more about food he will put into his child. My husband Paul and I shared similar experiences and concerns about food for Sage. The results the author found are powerful. We learned the meat consumed within the U.S. is hardly meat at all, but more a science experiment gone wrong.

I value my body and ask it to do a lot for me. I choose not to poison it with factory farm products that have been biochemically altered. In addition, every dollar you spend on these products is a way to exercise your vote about our environment. By buying animal byproducts you are saying you support their product and their methods. I will not support the meat industry, they will not get one of my dollars.

As for dairy products, the more and more you learn, it becomes more difficult to justify a maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle. Once I stopped eating meat, I also learned more about the dairy industry and other animal products. Even though animals aren’t necessarily dying in order to produce milk and eggs for human consumption, they are enslaved just the same. And all of those nasty hormones, chemicals and antibiotics I am trying to avoid in meat are found in other animal products.

It is with this realization that my vegetarian lifestyle morphed into a vegan lifestyle. Change is all fueled by knowledge.

Paul joined me on this plant-based lifestyle because we felt it was the optimal diet for us and our active lifestyle. What dietary choices will best fuel our bodies to thrive? However, vegan diet does not mean you are simply “healthy.” Paul and I have a deep understanding of nutrition, so we can make well-balanced meals for our family. A great resource to help us discover the optimal diet for performance is: “The Athlete’s Simple Guide to a Plant-Based Lifestyle: How to Easily Improve Your Health, Performance, and Longevity.” This works for non-athletes, too! It’s by Suzanna McGee.

In our search of the optimal diet, we explored the raw vegan lifestyle. To date, we have found when we commit to an all raw diet our bodies thrive like no other.  However, as a result of feasibility and convenience, we are not completely raw vegans, but we try to eat as much unprocessed food as possible. These are the values I want to instill in Sage; to be aware of his impact on the planet, to value his body and know how to fuel it to thrive.