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Being vegan or vegetarian is about more than just food

Founder/CEO of Women On It, a global media platform about Knowledge, Passion & Lifestyle for aspiring & established female executives & entrepreneurs in all industries.

If you decide to embark on becoming a vegan or vegetarian, I think you ought to take all aspects of your life into consideration.

Photo credit: PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Photo Also Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

I remember sitting around the dinner table when I was 12 after reading several different articles about why we should stop eating meat. Out of the blue, I declared to my parents that "from now on, I will not be eating meat." I think both my Mom and Dad almost fell off their chairs. My Mom asked, "What in God's name has made you come to this conclusion?" and I said, "Well first, meat is not the only way we get protein for our bodies and second, the way they kill the animals for our consumption is pretty cruel." My parents didn't say another word, except my Mom said, "I guess I'll just prepare dinner as usual and leave the meat off your plate." I said "Thanks, Mom," and that was the end of that.

Consider all aspects of your life

By the time I was 16, along with not eating meat, I wasn't using one shampoo, body wash, cleanser, etc. that was tested on animals or used animal by-products. I even went further to not wear any animal materials, such as leather shoes. My poor parents were begging as to when I was going to finish this phase in my life. However, I felt very empowered and really made sure that I was incorporating every aspect of my life following my "animal-free and eco-friendly" lifestyle. Then a year later, a young guy that I knew who lived behind me was in a major car accident and it was like a shock to my system. I thought to myself, I could be dead tomorrow so what's the worst that can happen if I have a burger and some chicken every now and again.

Until this day, I still do not eat a lot of red meat, mostly turkey, chicken or fish, and I try to find organic or hormone-free poultry and fish that's been raised wild. I recycle like crazy and still use as many bath and body, cosmetic and cleaning products as I can find that are eco-friendly and not tested on animals. So my question is, can you really call yourself vegan or vegetarian by only making a change with the food you consume? For me, I believe it really has to be a full lifestyle change.

For instance, isn't it kind of ironic when someone's a vegetarian, but then they are using products from, let's say, Dove, where they explicitly test on animals? Or let's take Michelle Pfeiffer, both a staunch vegan and not shy about keeping up her looks. "She admitted that while her health was a big factor in becoming a vegan, her desire to remain good looking was a big driving factor." Really? And how does one make that possible without using a lot of products that are animal-tested, chemical-laden and let's just throw in there as well some dermatologist assistance?

I truly admire the people that do live a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, because it cannot be easy. I mean, what do they do when they go to a restaurant or attend an event, like a wedding? It must be quite limiting and frustrating. And I wonder how the lifestyle changes in different countries around the world? For instance, in North America we have fabulous places to shop to buy anything and everything under the sun that is organic, vegan, meatless, cruelty-free, etc. like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and hundreds of great neighborhood health-food stores. When I was living in Brazil, it was such a struggle, particularly with cruelty-free cosmetics. Most of the grocery stores do have organic sections, but they pale in comparison to what I’m used to in the U.S. and Canada.

So if you decide to embark on becoming a vegan or vegetarian, I think you ought to take all aspects of your life into consideration. I understand that some people do it for health reasons and others do it for eco-conscious reasons. However, I would imagine upon learning about all the other products we use in our lives and how they are produced or what effects they can have on our health, you will think twice when buying them.

For more information about all the different bath/body, cosmetics and cleaning products that are or are not tested on animals, check out the extensive list PETA has put together.

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