“Few of us are aware that the act of eating can be a powerful statement of commitment to our own well-being, and at the same time the creation of a healthier habitat. Your health, happiness, and the future of life on earth are rarely so much in your own hands as when you sit down to eat.”
About 11 years ago, I decided to go vegan. Going vegan has been one of the best things I’ve done in my life and I’m really grateful that I came across truth about it at such a young age, and I’m so passionate about how it can impact the world in such a massive and positive way.
I’ve written lots about veganism on my other blog associated with my work as a vegan nutritionist, including a post last year for my 10-year “veganniversary” last year, which you can read here. So, I was thinking to myself, Well, how would I want to write about being vegan here on my Divine Truth blog? My work blog is primarily about vegan nutrition advice, juicing and recipes, so I thought it would be really great to talk in this post more about being vegan from the emotional, moral and ethical perspectives.
I’ve decided not to make this blog a list of facts and truths about animal agriculture, because there are so many fantastic resources already out there on that. I’ll mention some of my favorite books and other resources throughout the blog, and also a list at the end so you have plenty of options for looking into the details.
How I Went Vegan
Growing up, I was nowhere near vegan. As a competitive swimmer and water polo player throughout school, I ate lots of meat, eggs, dairy, and sea creatures, just as my teammates did and my family did. I had never considered any kind of deviation from eating lots of animal products, nor was I one of those people who “never really ate much growing up anyway.”
When I learned the truth about animal agriculture, through a book I read when I was 18 called The Food Revolution by John Robbins, my heart broke open. To this day I think it’s one of the best books on veganism out there. Mr. Robbins writes this book in a compassionate tone, meanwhile citing incredible amounts of studies and well-researched facts. He never downplays or shies away from the truth about animal agriculture, but he also is warm and understanding with the (likely not vegan yet) reader. His book is full of inspiring invitations to see moving into veganism as a part of personal growth, being loving to animals, loving to oneself, loving to the environment, and loving to other humans in the world, and indeed, even a potentially spiritual choice.
This book found me at a time when I felt like my life had no meaning at all, and I had no ability to do any good in the world. The truths cracked through my numbness, and deep amounts of sorrow–that I had never known all this and hadn’t known the damage these things caused in the world–surged through me. For the first time in my life, I connected with grief about the state of the world and the colossal amount of pain and destruction in it. At the same time, I felt more optimistic than I had in many, many years. Realizing the impact I personally could have on the world through just this one area was probably the first time since being a young child that I felt much inspiration about anything.
I realized self-love would dictate I be vegan for the health of my body. If that wasn’t enough, then I learned about what happens to animals in the animal agriculture industry and how awfully they are abused and tortured, and indeed, how no matter how they are treated, exploiting them and/or killing them is wrong. And if that wasn’t enough, then I learned that the single most environmentally destructive thing on our planet is the production of meat, dairy, eggs, seafood, leather, etc. They contribute to climate change, deforestation, water monopolization and contamination, and ocean destruction more any other factor. The consumerism of animal agriculture is absolutely annihilating our planet.
And if that wasn’t enough, I learned that my not being vegan directly affected the quality of life and dictated the very life or death of other people in the world–Oh. My. Goodness. I was blown away. No other industry, no other cause, has a bigger impact on malnutrition on this planet. No other factor contributes to deaths from malnutrition more than our choices to eat dairy, eggs, meat, etc. Animal agriculture robs thirsty populations of clean water, robs them of good land that could be used for crops to feed humans, destroys topsoil that’s essential for growing plants of any kind. It is an established fact, by the U.N. and other top organizations, that if the entire world were vegan, there could be no malnutrition nor deaths from malnutrition anywhere in the world. If we were all vegan, we could feed the world several times over. Think about that! People suffer and die because we don’t want to be vegan. They may be able to live if we make the choice to be vegan. It’s incredible to me.
“There is a great loneliness of spirit today. We’re trying to live, we’re trying to cope in the face of what seems to be overwhelming evidence that who we are doesn’t matter, that there is no real hope for enough change, that the environment and human experience is deteriorating so rapidly and increasingly and massively. This is the context, psychically and spiritually, in which we are working today. This is how our lives are reflected to us. Meanwhile, we’re yearning for connection with each other, with ourselves, with the powers of nature, the possibilities of being alive.
When that tension arises, we feel pain, we feel anguish at the very root of ourselves, and then we cover that over, that grief, that horror, with all kinds of distraction – with consumerism, with addictions, with anything that we can use to disconnect and to go away.
We’ve been opening ourselves to the grief, to the knowing of what’s taking place, the loss of species, the destruction of the natural world, the unimaginable levels of social injustice and economic injustice that deprive so many human beings of basic opportunities.
And as we open to the pain of that, there’s a possibility of embracing that pain and that grief in a way that it becomes a strength, a power to respond. There is the possibility that the energy that has been bound in the repression of it can now flow through us and energize us, make us clearer, more alive, more passionate, committed, courageous, determined people.”
― John Robbins
Needless to say, I cried all the way through this book, and felt like I’d taken the pill in The Matrix. It felt surreal, and like I’d been taught so wrongly all my life without having known it, by my parents, by the media, by the entire world. How did nobody know the truth? How can it be that nearly everyone on the planet believes in such huge lies? Why are we not aware of how much good we can do in this area?
It took me a month or so to give up all meat and fish, and then about another year to get to a place where I wasn’t willing to eat anything with even a small amount of dairy or eggs. At the same time as I gave up meat, I had stopped buying things with dairy or eggs, and was eating vegan the vast majority of the time, but I made compromises here and there for pre-made stuff that might have contained some, such as a non-vegan cookie.
I’m tempted to make this blog a big list of facts about animal agriculture and how powerful being vegan can be for world change because I find it so inspiring, but I’ll leave that for other books and documentaries. Now, I’d like to bring the discussion to the day-to-day in an individual’s life and heart, and about the biggest blocks I’ve seen over the years in people going vegan staying vegan.
Getting Adequate Nutrition As a Vegan
As I mentioned before, I won’t make this a nutritional blog, though I have lots of that info over on my other site. What I wanted to say here is that it is certainly possible to be a junk-food vegan these days, but it is important to be a healthy vegan. While I still have the draw to a vegan muffin or slice of pizza here and there myself, to be a healthy vegan you do need to have a varied, unprocessed, whole foods diet that is primarily raw food.
Additionally, Jesus has said that if a person has deficiencies or other issues going vegan, it is always due to emotions they haven’t released. This is discussed in more detail in this awesome email response from Jesus that has been published. The link to the entire response is below as well as an excerpt from his letter:
“Most people eat a heavy meat and carbohydrate based diet in order to suppress their emotions relating to how they feel about themselves.
When a person becomes a vegetarian, and then a vegan, this addiction to suppress these emotions is not met as easily through food. Since the addiction’s cause has not been addressed (which are the deeply held emotions of a lack of self-worth, and related similar feelings), the body begins to reject the food (because the emotions are demanding another food be consumed that will assist in the suppression of the terrible feeling of low self-worth).
The body is demanding what the emotion demands, and that is food that will assist in the suppression of the painful emotions of self worth, rather than feeling those emotions.”
If you find you have issues digesting a mostly-raw vegan diet, or any other issues, including deficiencies or not feeling good, it’s good to look at what emotions may be causing the body’s reactions to eating in a more loving way.
Family and Societal Judgments
I always tell people that I feel that going vegan and staying vegan is like taking an academic course in the subject of Not People-Pleasing. I see so many people willing to compromise their ethics in their eating or other consumer choices because of what other people think. And I don’t mean to make out that I’m very good at the not people-pleasing thing overall, because veganism is probably the only area that I’ve got that down and in other areas I have major problems with compromising for what others might think.
But back to veganism: There will probably always be some people who judge you for it. Granted, when you’ve worked through your own emotional holes that cause others to sense there is a chance for them to sway you, judgment happens significantly less. But the judgements don’t necessarily stop completely.
When I first went vegan, none of my family accepted it. One of my brothers said it was just a crazy, unhealthy diet I was going on that was no different than having an eating disorder. Some of my family were less judgmental but worried I wouldn’t be healthy if I was vegan. To this day, my dad thinks I’m only vegan because “food normal people eat isn’t good enough for me”and intentionally tries to make sure there is no vegan food available whenever I visit him (which I don’t anymore, for numerous other reasons than that). But positive things can happen too: my mom was one of the people worried about whether veganism was healthy at the beginning, but has gone vegetarian in the last couple years herself and aspires to be vegan.
Even though it hurt to see how unsupportive my family was at the beginning, I had already had such a huge emotional shift about the truth that veganism was the loving way to go and how much sin there was in eating and using animal products, that none of their projections swayed me into eating animal products. It really is true that when you’ve had a shift in your heart and soul about something, nothing will sway you and nothing will cause you to compromise. I think to be successfully vegan long-term, that is where you have to get to: you simply have to not care what people think about it.
To get there, that can be a very emotional process, and it requires us feeling the fear of and the pain about the projections that we receive from other people about going vegan. How does it feel when someone thinks you’re crazy? When they tell you you’re going to hurt yourself and create health problems for yourself? When you’ve lost their approval? When they’re condescending and critical? When they’re angry or even rageful? When they reject you from events or dinners now that you are?
“Vegan living, like love, is not about getting something for myself; it’s about giving: giving mercy and kindness to others who are vulnerable in our hands. Going vegan to get health is like getting married to get wealth: it’s typically not a lasting motivation and corrodes the integrity of our commitment.
If we don’t deepen our motivation beyond personal health, it’s easy to fall prey to the “cravings” fro an adverse affair of some kind – the bacon smells so enticing, the neighbor is so attractive. Motivation is at the heart of both love and veganism, as well as of our spiritual evolution.”
-Dr. Will Tuttle
Taking Personal Responsibility
While people-pleasing is one of the biggest blocks to being vegan, on the other hand, I feel there are a lot of lessons of self-responsibility we have to learn in going vegan.
When I went vegan, I realized just how easy things had been before to get food–in every scenario. I could go into any restaurant and order anything I liked, stop at any gas station on a road trip and find something quick and convenient to eat. When I went to visit family, food was often made for me and I could take my pick of many options. After going vegan, I quickly realized that things were not going to be that easy anymore.
I find that a great deal of demands, expectations, and lack of personal responsibility are revealed in a person when they try going vegan. People often get angry about the lack of availability of vegan options in restaurants where they live or mope about not being able to eat their aunt’s pudding at Christmas. They complain about not having the time or knowledge to make vegan food at home. It’s always worth getting back to what the emotional factors in childhood may have created this anger or demand or lack of responsibility as there are always reasons we have them–but we do need to resolve them.
Being vegan requires a great deal of self-responsibility. We have to learn how to prepare tasty vegan food, and that takes an investment of time and effort. And I have compassion for how much of a learning curve that can be: it can practically be like re-learning how to cook and re-learning how to eat. But it can also be a fun learning curve! The key though, is you have to take responsibility for your own meals and food. For some people, this means having come from a life of quick and convenient food options to now having to be a person who spends a fair amount of time in the kitchen. But in my opinion, spending time in the kitchen making yourself good food is a part of self-love and self-responsibility.
When it comes to friends and family: we cannot expect that others now adapt to our new vegan diet. People don’t have to make anything for us–even our parents. They don’t have to have groceries ready for us when we stay for an extended time. If they do, that’s a gift, but no one has to conform to how we are now eating. This was a big shift for me also. Before being vegan, when I visited family, I didn’t do much of my own grocery shopping or preparing my meals. When I was invited to a dinner party, I didn’t think twice about what food might be there for me to have. But after going vegan, I did a lot of my own grocery shopping and pretty much all my own meal preparation when I visited family. Now my mom and my other brother have learned a couple great vegan dishes and have gifted me with some of them, but that wasn’t the case for the first 9 or 10 years of my being vegan.
If you are invited to a dinner party, don’t expect the host to make food specially for you. While vegan inclusions are awesome, no one has to do it for us. When I’m invited to an event involving food, I always let the hosts know ahead of time I’m vegan and let them know I’ll take care of my own food and bring it along–even if it’s not a potluck. Many times, the host has offered to adapt something to being vegan for me, but it’s not an expectation I have of them and I consider it a cool surprise and a gift anytime a person makes or adapts anything vegan for me.
Vegetarianism and Every-Circumstance Veganism
I say this with the deepest understanding of how challenging it can be for some to go fully vegan: vegetarianism is not enough. While meat has a slightly larger impact on the environment and natural resources and on other humans, dairy and eggs and seafood etc. are not far behind meat in their impact on the environment, animals and populations of people in the world. Dairy, eggs, and seafood are massively destructive in their own right, and actually, the commercial industries of both dairy and eggs directly feed the meat industry. Most commercial egg and dairy farms are responsible for killing as many animals as meat operations are, so to many well-researched vegans, it feels no different morally and ethically to eat something with milk in it than to eat meat.
When we haven’t had a soul-based shift yet, we will try to do the bare minimum when it comes to the ethics about our diet and animal agriculture. Many people would like to go vegetarian and not any further, wanting to tell themselves meat is significantly worse than dairy and eggs and that being vegetarian is almost the same as being vegan, even though this is not true. There are also many who are staying in the mostly-vegan phase (just as I also went through), where they make exceptions for the occasional item that has dairy or eggs, and this will also stop when we’ve had a true emotional shift. We make exceptions for animal products–even small amounts–when we still have addictions to them, as well as other emotions driving us to not want to make the full shift into a loving way of eating and living. When there is a soul-based shift, there won’t be a desire to stay in the dark about any aspect of animal agriculture, and no matter how inconvenient it makes life to learn the truth, we’ll still want the truth.
“Until we are willing and able to make the connections between what we are eating and what was required to get it on our plate, and how it affects us to buy, serve, and eat it, we will be unable to make the connections that will allow us to live wisely and harmoniously on this earth. When we cannot make connections, we cannot understand, and we are less free, less intelligent, less loving, and less happy.”
― Will Tuttle, Ph.D.
Additionally, the traditional definition of veganism has never been only about diet. While diet is the daily and largest component in our participation and support of animal agriculture, there are numerous other areas of ethics to look at. We have to shift as many parts of our lifestyle and consumerism away from animal agriculture as we can. This means not buying new leather, suede or wool in our clothing, shoes, car seats, furniture, and household products. We have to read supplement and food labels to make sure they don’t have gelatin and whey and casein. We’ll check hair and body products for whether they are tested on lab animals, not buy hair brushes and artist’s painting brushes that require killing animals for their hair. Our awareness about it will extend to everything. And while there is simply no way at this point to live on earth and have zero negative impact on animals, the environment, and other people, we simply have to do our best. We have to choose the loving choice in every scenario that we have the opportunity to.
The Emotions of Lack and Deprivation
Many feel their life will be much more limited and that they’ll feel deprived if they go fully vegan in both their diets and in their other consumer choices. But I feel this goes back to the same principles Jesus teaches us about everything: that in the end, living in harmony with love always brings more freedom and joy, not restriction. That choosing the loving option will always be expansive for the soul. I feel that if we can identify the emotions that cause us to fear that living vegan will be limiting for us and work through those feelings, we’ll find being completely vegan to give more meaning to our lives and connect us to more love and joy. The soul-based knowledge of the positive and loving impact on the world that we’re now having will feel really good. To know we’re no longer contributing to destruction, death and no longer sinning in this particular way is an awesome thing.
“I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.”
Addictions and Soul Change
For us to feel, in our soul, a passionate desire to go vegan and a steadfast commitment to stay vegan in every circumstance, a big emotional shift has to take place. There has to be a major inner revolution, where you feel in your soul that going completely vegan is the moral, ethical, and loving thing to do–indeed, that it is the only option. In people who have had this shift, there is a feeling from them that no matter how hard it might be, they can’t not do it.
When the awakening to the truth about veganism happens in our soul, it feels like no matter the consequences, there is no other way forward. It becomes a shift we want to make, we are eager to make, and the desire for it outweighs the challenges that might come with doing it. We are willing to stay completely vegan in every circumstance without compromising for anything or anyone. And when we’re there, it will never once feel restrictive or difficult. It will feel like freedom, it will feel effortless and it will feel enjoyable.
“Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.”
Now I’d love to give you some resources for learning more about all this. I’m so passionate about how everyone going vegan would transform the world in so many ways!
Divine Truth videos on veganism:
Books on the ethics/scientific facts/emotions about veganism:
- The Food Revolution by John Robbins (and many of his other books)
- The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle, Ph.D.
Books on vegan nutrition (the physical side):
- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D and Thomas Campbell, M.D.
- How Not To Die by Michael Greger, M.D.
- Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
- Cowspiracy (environment-focused)
- Forks Over Knives (health-focused)
- Earthlings (online only; animal-focused)
- Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (health and juicing focused)
Raw Vegan & Vegan Recipe Books/Blogs:
- Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People by Jennifer Cornbleet
- Crazy Sexy Juice by Kris Carr
- Appetite For Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz