It all started in the summer of 2016 after I had eaten a very large serving of four-cheese lasagna. The nauseous feeling that overtook me had me wondering, what would it be like to live without dairy and meat? Would being vegan make me feel healthy all the time? Would I feel energized and have a more positive outlook on life? These were always the questions that roamed around in my head yet, the “no meat, no dairy” rule seemed like a taste palate death sentence, and the part of me that swears I was cheese bread in my past life was screaming, “Don’t do it!”

Reluctant, yet not intimidated enough to forfeit the challenge, I decided to try being vegan. This lasted for 31 days, only stopping once, after summer orientation, I realized veganism would be too difficult to maintain in college. Initially, I took an approach to veganism which seemed to make complete sense at the time, yet looking back, it was utterly incorrect. I had the logic that no meat and no dairy equaled only fruits and vegetables and with this philosophy, I created a dietary plan that would constitute only of fruit, vegetables and soy. Due to this uncompromising meal plan, I frequently found myself in a snacking mood and was constantly disappointed to find that 90 percent of the food that was in my refrigerator would cause me to break the rules. Now you can imagine, this often left me opening and closing the fridge repeatedly until I forced myself to walk back upstairs.

After the first week of being vegan, I found myself incessantly unhappy and hungry, and the only thing that I was thinking was, “The vegan methodology of feeling full by only drinking kale smoothies and eating bananas all day is a load of crap.” Consequential to the constant hunger and cravings, veganism started to feel like the daunting task that I always feared it to be. Furthermore, feeling unhappy and unsatisfied, I was at brink of throwing in the towel; yet, that’s when Instagram popped into the equation.

Hoping to find inspiration to complete my vegan journey, I decided to start following some vegan accounts on Instagram and little did I know, this one decision would be the solution to my quandary. Suddenly, I was staring at pictures of juicy meat-free burgers and golden dairy-free mac and cheese, perplexed by how vegan food could look so appetizing. From that moment on came researching, supermarket shopping and restaurant hunting. Instagram had introduced me to a whole new facet of the world of veganism, and now, this lifestyle was starting look like a whole lot of fun.

After a substantial amount of research, came frequent Whole Foods runs and adventures to LA in search of vegan restaurants. By this time, I started actually enjoying my time as a vegan. I explored soy chorizo and made wonderful dishes such as tacos, fried rice and lettuce wraps, and went to divine vegan restaurants such as CHLOE and Cafe Gratitude. The most exciting part of all of this was that I was eating burgers that tasted as good as the ones from In-N-Out, and was eating dairy-free donuts and chocolate cake which I had never even heard of before going vegan. I even found that being vegan was rewarding in a significantly superior way in comparison to going on a diet. This was due to the fact that as a vegan, I was going to restaurants and ordering food without calorie-counting, since most my food choices were classified as healthy without the taste being compromised.

Initially, I was so scared of the rules behind veganism that I made my food choices based around my fear of breaking them. Because of the strict ideologies that I believed belonged to veganism, I planned a diet that was impractical and boring, which led me to a multitude of problems. However, the moment I realized that there is more to the vegan life than what meets the eye, I started to explore all the intriguing facets of the lifestyle, in addition to the creativity behind it. With the experience and knowledge that I’ve gathered, I hope to relay to you that if you find yourself questioning your capability of handling veganism, know that there’s so much more than what you think there is. It’s not just fruit and vegetables, but it’s also burgers, fries, rice bowls, donuts and so much more. Veganism isn’t a chore, nor is it a diet, but a journey and a lifestyle.