Healthy Living, Healthy Lifestyle: One UCI Student Tells You Her Story of Transitioning to Becoming Vegan

by Resanna Li

Coming from a traditional Asian-American family, I grew up with many cultural customs and the constant pressure to be a well-behaved child. After leaving home for college and having plenty of dorm food, I lost sight of my health, and the freshman 15 became real. I felt heavier, lazier and more sluggish, and my family showed great concern for my well-being, simply because I looked and acted so different. I was always grumpy and often kept to myself because I felt so unhappy. Because of this shift in my attitude, my family constantly asked me if I was okay and gave me pitiful looks.

Due to this weight gain and the pressure from my family, I started to look into healthy options that would help me shed a few pounds. I was looking for different exercises and diet options that I could implement into my daily routine. Through a good amount of research from the internet and asking around, I decided to start a daily exercise routine and eat a pescatarian diet, which cuts out all meat except seafood. By simply cutting out meat, my body instantly felt better and I started to see a difference in my appearance. I was achieving my goal of losing a few pounds while also feeling lighter and less sluggish.

However, the standard diet for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders includes a lot of meat. Whenever I went back home and ate with my family, they would constantly try to feed me fish, since it was the only dish that they thought could give me a good amount of protein. Eventually, I got tired of consuming so much fish, so I decided to do some more research. That’s when I came across the concept of veganism.

Veganism, a lifestyle that excludes the consumption of meat, dairy, animal products (such as honey) and the wearing of animal skin and fur, is becoming more prominent in our society. I converted to veganism from vegetarianism overnight and don’t have any regrets.

Initially, it was hard, because my family couldn’t understand that what I was doing was good for the environment and my health. Due to the culture of always having a meat dish on the table, I was constantly questioned about not eating meat. The most common question they asked was “Where do you get your protein?” Before I did my research, I would also ask the same question to vegetarians. However, now that I have experienced this question enough and explored different sources like books, the internet and documentaries, I can easily answer it. By consuming nuts, tofu, oats, beans and more, vegans can easily consume an adequate amount of protein.

After educating myself, I was able to see the positive effects of veganism and how there aren’t many drawbacks. I eventually taught my mom and grandma about the alternatives to many of the animal-based things that they eat. Now that they are more educated, they cook plenty of traditional Asian-American dishes vegan style.

I learned that veganism reduces the risk of some chronic diseases, and that by being a vegan, I am helping to protect the environment. After watching “Cowspiracy,” one of the documentaries that inspired me to go vegan, I learned that in a day of being vegan I can help save 1,100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forest, 10 pounds of carbon dioxide and one animal’s life. By meeting more vegans, gaining more insight on the lifestyle and continuously educating myself, I quickly transformed my reasoning for staying vegan. Initially, it was primarily for my own health, but now I continue veganism for the sake of animals and environment. As I became more informed on the subject, I was easily able to explain to my family that veganism is not only better for me, it’s sustainable.

Now that I have been vegan for a year, my family and friends have grown accustomed to my lifestyle. They now always ask about vegan options before they choose a restaurant or buy me something. After a year of familiarizing themselves with what veganism is, many of them have even expressed their curiosity. Whether they tried out vegetarianism for a week, veganism for a week, or completely transitioned to being either a vegetarian or a vegan, I always get the response that they feel much healthier and less sluggish. My mom and grandma, who are used to cooking vegan meals for me, found the change in diet to be an easy transition. My roommates, however, found the transition to be a bit more difficult because they weren’t as familiar with cooking entirely vegan meals, but over time and through trial-and-error, they also agreed that the diet change wasn’t as hard as they expected. Knowing that I could positively influence those around me by simply showing them my lifestyle on a daily basis was how I decided to continue veganism and advocate for the vegan movement to the public.