I am what most people today call vegan. This means I do not consume any animal products or animal by-products; no meat, fish, eggs or dairy. But, I am not just a vegan. I am a vegan athlete – a collegiate distance runner at Seton Hall.
Being vegan for just over 13 months, I can confidently say it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. After being unable to run for more than a year due to knee (iliotibial band syndrome) and ankle/foot pain (a bone bruise), I decided to give the diet a shot. I was first introduced to veganism through the internet, really. Social media outlets were what sparked my curiosity.
I decided to do further research on my own, and quickly read through a few of my favorite books: “How Not to Die” by Michael Greger, “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, and “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” by Melanie Joy. After learning about benefits like less inflammation, faster recovery time – resulting in less fatigue and fewer sore muscles – and more fiber to help the digestive system, my decision to transition overnight came easy.
What started as a health investment for me soon turned into a passion that now includes animal liberation and protecting the world we live in. Following a vegan diet improves health, but it also goes beyond food. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of many environmental issues. “Cowspiracy,” a documentary that also influenced my decision, talks about how it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef. As far as animal liberation, the conditions in slaughterhouses and places that mass produce animal products are horrific in their cleanliness and preparation.
Many people claim that they could never transition, but I too thought it would be impossible to give up double bacon cheeseburgers, entire pizzas, giant egg omelets and other animal product dishes. To be honest, it wasn’t hard sticking to a vegan lifestyle once I learned all the details behind it.
Of course, I did experience skepticism and criticism from some of my peers and family, but once I explained to them my reasoning behind my choice, some of their beliefs started to shift as well. I believe that a big reason why many people brush off the vegan lifestyle is because not of what we know, but what we don’t know.
I strongly urge all individuals to look into the benefits of the vegan lifestyle – it is so much more than just “not eating meat.” Many health ailments I was facing at the time vanished within a week of giving up all animal products. I don’t believe this to be a coincidence.
Diet impacts so much more than just the physique. Diet and food have immense power over our attitudes, moods, energy, motivation, concentration, sleep, overall health, the longevity of our lives, how our body responds to certain demands, and how we view life as a whole.
We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” but have we ever truly thought long and hard about what is on our plate, why we are eating it, or where it came from?
As I learned, it is never too late to start.
Editor’s Note: Christiana Rutkowski, a junior psychology major and cross country runner from Middletown, N.J., contributed this piece. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christianajean.