In today’s foodie world, mouthwatering animal products flash in your eyes wherever you turn. It’s not easy to resist the temptation of that perfectly seared steak or golden crispy fried chicken, but some people manage to withstand the urge by choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet. But why do they make that choice?
Meet Henoc Erku from Chicago, IL. Henoc first flirted with vegetarianism although he ultimately made the choice to adopt a vegan diet. We recently talked to Henoc to gain a glimpse of the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle. Below is the Q&A.
Question 1: When did you decide to become a vegan?
Henoc: That was in 2005. When it all started, however, I was a vegetarian which was in my second semester of my freshman year of college in the spring of 1994. In 1999, I moved away from being vegetarian, and it wasn’t until 2005 that I settled as a vegan.
Question 2: Why did you decide to become a vegan?
Henoc: Well, initially in 1994, I was part of a reading club, where we would read different books or articles and have discussions. One session we talked about discipline and how we lacked the ability to curtail certain things in our lives and how we wished we could exercise more control over certain things in our lives. So we decided that we all would give up something we loved for two weeks. Some people gave up watching sports, swearing, TV, etc. I gave up eating meat, and there were quite a few of my close friends that also gave up meat.
At the end of that two-week mark, we met again, and everyone had such a positive experience about exercising control over something they did not think they could control, so we decided as a group to do it again for another two weeks. After another two weeks, we congratulated each other on being able to accomplish a little self-restraint over things in our lives that we felt we needed to do a better job of controlling.
That night, I went back to my dorm and ordered some Hot Wings from a popular campus spot. After eating this late night meal, I didn’t feel right. I will spare you the details but let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Whereas, the previous month where I had given up meat, I went out of my way to eat as healthy as I possibly could. During that time, I had increased energy, and things felt good both mentally and physically. I enjoyed that experience which is why I decided to try to live a more vegetarian lifestyle. Discussing this with other friends, they too shared the same sentiments. Eventually, we became vegetarians, but we also began reading and bringing speakers to campus to talk about food and its impact on health.
As time progressed, I became fascinated with not only eating right but controlling my appetite. Meaning, teaching my body to do more with less. Back then, becoming vegetarian in a small Midwestern town meant that you had to plan ahead for such diet. I began packing apples, oranges, nuts and other things to keep me satiated, in case I could not find something adequate to eat.
Question 3: What was the reaction of friends and family when you decided to become a vegetarian or vegan? Were they supportive?
Henoc: Most friends were super supportive. In fact, many of us became vegetarian and vegan together, and most of us still follow a strict diet today. Family, not so much but they have learned to live with it.
Question 4: How did becoming a vegetarian or vegan impact your life positively?
Henoc: I feel I have a deeper appreciation for food and how it can be a means to nourish our body as well as our soul.
Question 5: Since you became a vegan, have you noticed any improvement in your health?
Henoc: Overall, I feel stronger and healthier. However, just being vegetarian or vegan does not mean you eat healthily. I have discovered that I need to make healthy choices, even as a vegan, in order to get the nutrition needed to live a healthy life.
In fact, I think as a vegan, you need to be more cognizant of the nutrients you get from the food you eat to remain healthy.
Question 6: What are some challenges you faced as a vegan and/or vegetarian? How did you overcome those challenges?
Henoc: When I started, I think I had limited selections at restaurants and even going grocery shopping. I think today, as long as you plan and try to eat healthy choices, there are plenty of options for someone interested in becoming either a vegan or vegetarian.
What I did when I started that can still be a good technique is to carry healthy options with you so that you don’t make unhealthy choices out of necessity.
Henoc’s story is just one of many. We understand that people choose to be vegan or vegetarian for different reasons. What was yours?