This month’s vegan girl is Julia Coughlin, from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. While living in a small town with scarce-selection grocery stores and no specialty vegan restaurants can be challenging, it hasn’t stopped her from living a cruelty-free lifestyle and paving the road to moral success. Read her thoughts on the ease of going vegan and how everyone should be more knowledgeable about where their food come from.
Why did you decide to go vegan?
I had been a vegetarian since I was 12 and decided after all that time to make the change. After seeing a lot of what another friend was posting on her Facebook about how the dairy industry also contributes to the slaughter of cows, it seemed only to make sense to give that up as well. Ever since I went vegetarian I went without any sort of eggs in the form of say an omelet, but didn’t concern myself too much with it if it was an ingredient like in a cake or french toast. I also tried to steer clear of dairy milk. For instance in my cereal I’d use almond milk but again with baking, I’d still use dairy. I started becoming aware of animal testing about a year prior as well so most of my hair and body products were already cruelty free. It wasn’t really that difficult of a switch, it was more like just taking it a step further.
How long have you been vegan for and how quickly did you notice change?
It’s been 5 months now since I went vegan and I didn’t really notice much of a change. I found that giving up cheese and ice cream left me feeling a lot healthier. It’s a lot easier to say no to pizza when it’s for moral reasons rather than weight watching.
Did you find veganism challenging at first?
It was a little challenging to find the basic foods like tofu in local Wolfeboro grocery stores. There’s really a pretty limited selection, but I’ve made the best out of what I can get here and try to get out to a Hannaford or even Trader Joe’s once in awhile for more specialty items. I also order most of my hair and body products from a drug store website also due to the wide selection not offered here. It’s much easier just to type in “vegan shampoo” than to stand in the aisles reading bottles and googling ingredients in the middle of Rite Aid.
What is the most important aspect of veganism for you and the number one reason others should follow in your footsteps?
The most striking thing to me was how much factory farming hurts the environment. The numbers are absolutely horrific when considering that most of our population is paying every day to put beef on their plates when it’s doing harm not only to their bodies, but to the earth everyone has to live on. If anyone considered themselves a person who cared for the environment, they’d go vegan. It’s the easiest way to help the planet, and all the beings who live here, including yourself.
How does being vegan affect your body and what changes or improvements have you seen since switching your diet?
I find I have a lot of energy. I haven’t noticed any weight loss, but I feel healthier especially knowing where my food came from.
What are the daily challenges of living a plant-based lifestyle?
Simple things like packing my own lunch for school. Eating out can be a hassle sometimes, trying to get ingredients for everything. Many restaurants nowadays though are very accommodating, knowing what dishes can be made vegan & knowing what things contain eggs and milk that you wouldn’t expect.
Favorite foods or meals?
Veggie fried rice from Trader Joe’s and banana french toast.
What does veganism as a lifestyle mean to you?
As a lifestyle, veganism is living your life without doing harm to others. People will always insist that you need to kill to eat, but the truth of the matter is that you can live a healthy and successful life without hurting anything. If everyone tried to cut down on the amount of suffering they caused every day, the world would be much healthier and happier.
What do you think the future vegan community will look like?
I feel very hopeful that with the vegan community growing and many people sharing their knowledge, that we will continue to grow and educate people on the importance of living vegan. I’m very excited to continue living my vegan lifestyle & learning from other vegans to try and live a life without causing pain. As long as people are willing to share their stories and help others to make the change, we can make it easy and cut down on the challenges each vegan faces.
Your best advice for prospective vegans or what you want people to know about the vegan community
I always tell people who ask me that going vegan was not as hard as I expected. There’s always this stigma surrounding vegans that you have to be some kind of militant, disciplined robot to be vegan, but it’s so much simpler. Just start looking at ingredients and separating meat from animals. People will always tell me that they watch horrible videos of slaughter houses, yet there’s some disconnect when they go to the fridge to make themselves a sandwich. Meat is a dead animal, and you don’t need to eat it. A lot of it tastes the same as a Tofurkey sandwich, or a veggie burger. You don’t even need to sacrifice the taste of your food. You only have things to GAIN by going vegan. It helps everyone. You lose nothing. Go vegan.