“There’s no way you could do it,” my friend said. We were watching a Snapchat story about a bodybuilder preaching about the health and environmental benefits of going vegan.
“Of course I could,” I responded, not wanting to shy away from the challenge, but still running through all the foods I was going to miss for the week in my head.
“Fine. There are five days ’till the end of the term. If you stay vegan, I owe you Chipotle. If you fail, vice versa.”
“Deal!” I shook her hand, both excited and nervous. Winter term of my Junior year was going by quick and I had no reason not to try new things. But based on how picky I already was, how difficult could it really be? As the week went on, I discovered how easy it was to be vegan at Andover. If there was a greater awareness about the simplicity of veganism, I think many more people would be willing to adopt the lifestyle. Andover gives everyone the option to be vegan, and taking this opportunity is a step we should all take to improve both the health of our bodies and our planet.
The amount of food options is honestly overwhelming. The expectation of veganism is salad, beans, and water, but after just one day, I discovered options such as tofu, soups, pasta, and sandwiches. Veganism increased the variation in my diet from stir fry and whatever was being served upstairs to a colorful plate of healthy vegetables and unprocessed foods. I’m not saying it was a breeze—there will always be temptations due to how normalized animal products are in an average diet. It’s easy to miss cheese and cake but, on a vegan diet, our bodies have a much easier time digesting what we ingest, making us feel better as a result. Minus a few slip ups, due to simply forgetting about the dare for the first day, I stuck with it all week! After five days, not only was my friend impressed, I couldn’t come up with a reason to stop. I felt great and I was making contributions to save the planet. According to PETA, veganism is the most effective way to reduce your water usage, carbon emmisons, and role in animal cruelty. For example, while it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of steak, it only requires 180 gallons to produce one pound of whole wheat flour. When starting this dare, I hadn’t realized that shifting to vegan can actually help to combat the most drastic effects of climate change.
So I committed to myself that even though the dare was done, I’d stay vegan until Christmas. Why not? I thought. Throughout my journey I got to try so many new amazing foods I’d never heard of before, like jackfruit, tempeh, and pea protein. After just a short while I began to forget how meat, ice cream, and desserts tasted. The substitutes I was handed were just as good, if not better. Eventually, Christmas came and instead of the usual chocolates and candies in my stocking my mom stuffed it with oranges, vegan peanut butter cups, and Oreos. That was the moment I decided to fully commit to being vegan. I knew that, at that point, going back to an omnivorous diet would make me feel sick and there was no reason to when I was content, healthy, and feeling good with what I was eating. My friend was flabbergasted when I returned to campus still a vegan. Little did she know her silly dare would have such an impact on my lifestyle. Now, coming up on one year later, I’m happy with my diet, how I feel, and the environmental impacts I’ve made. Though it may seem unfathomable, going vegan does not mean losing many of your favorite foods. Awareness about dairy and meat substitutes has been growing in recent years and, personally, I haven’t noticed any of my favorite foods missing from my diet, I simply replace them. Companies like Beyond Beef, Daiya, and Earth’s Balance, whose products can be found in most grocery stores nationwide, allow you to continue eating foods like cheese, butter, and burgers without the animal cruelty and environmental implications of the normalized options.
More recently, I’ve been daring my friends to try veganism for a week. I offer this challenge to anyone and everyone—what harm could come from it? More often than not, they come to me excited about the new foods they found. After a week of veganism, there is a noticeable increase in the body’s energy level, a benefit that many enjoy. Vegans experience higher energy levels and reduced stress and anxiety. This can be attributed to the reduced amount of fats and sugars found in a vegan diet. More often than not, my friends end up vegan for a couple of weeks and then, after eventually switching back to their normal diet, find themselves eating smaller quantities of these animal products thanks to their new understanding of the amount of options and substitutes available to them. Even this slight, unconscious change to their diets ripples out to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, save water, animal lives, and forest land. Any efforts we can make as a society to reduce our destruction will help conserve the planet for ourselves and future generations. Many people are unaware of how detrimental the current status of climate change is. According to the United Nations, we only have 11 years until the effects of climate change are irreversible.
So I challenge you. Next time you enter Paresky Commons, check to see if there’s a vegan soup offering, put tofu instead of chicken in your stir fry, or choose rice and beans over tacos with beef. If you’re willing, try veganism! The rewards your body provides you with are more worth it than sticking to your omnivorous diet, simply because it’s habitual. A herbivorous diet makes you feel less drowsy, more active, and even happier, thanks to the reduced amount of fatty acids in your system. Moreover, the long term benefits include decreased risk of cancers and heart disease, improved kidney function, and even weight loss. Since the benefits of veganism so clearly outweigh the downfalls, based on human health and the current status of our planet, why not make the switch?