OPINION: All the ways veganism changed my life, from weight loss to glowing skin

OPINION: By GINA FLORIO -- POPSUGAR on FEB 5, 2018 | The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia.

It can sometimes feel hard to keep up with all the health and diet fads out there. From Paleo to keto to carb cycling, we can't help but wonder how these differ from each other. You may have heard a lot about veganism lately, but before you just write it off as yet another trend, know that it's more of a lifestyle for many people than it is a diet.

I've been vegan for a while now, and it has truly changed my entire life. When people ask me what veganism is all about, I usually end up explaining what it is by telling them what the benefits are. But first, in a nutshell, veganism is when someone chooses to live their life without eating or using any animal products. You eat a plant-based diet, and you don't use leather, wear fur, or buy products that have been tested on animals.

Here are all the ways veganism has positively affected me.

It Helped Me Lose Weight

Veganism is all about living a life that's cruelty-free. First and foremost, that means abstaining from any food that comes from animals. That includes meat, eggs, fish, dairy, honey, collagen, etc. If it came from a living being in any way, it's not on the menu for vegans.

I had heard for a long time that this kind of plant-based diet was a great way to get healthy and lose weight. Before we got together, my husband lost nearly 60 pounds from transitioning to the vegan diet, so I wasn't surprised to see my own weight loss after switching to a plant-based diet. I didn't have to cut calories or count macros, and I never felt deprived. By cutting out animal products, I naturally started eating fewer calories and choosing healthier foods all around.

It Has Made Me Aware of How Our Diet Choices Affect the World

There's a big ethical component to veganism. Vegans believe that all living beings deserve kindness — whether it's a dog, a cat, a cow, or a pig. Although I do acknowledge the fact that our ancestors used to eat meat and that it played an important role in our evolution, the meat and dairy available to us today is not at all what was available to our ancestors. For example, cavemen used to hunt and kill animals in the wild, and they immediately cooked and ate that fresh meat. But today, more than 99 percent of our meat and dairy come from factory farms, where animals are kept in inhumane conditions and virtually tortured and slaughtered for our personal benefit.

Another common reason people choose veganism is because animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change and is responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions in the world (even more than all global transportation combined!), so there is an important environmental aspect to this lifestyle as well.

My Menstrual Health Improved Drastically

One of the great benefits of veganism is that you put way fewer hormones into your body than you would normally get from meat, milk, cheese, butter, etc. Nixing animal products from your diet also means less inflammation in the body, which leads to fewer menstrual cramps and pain in general.

"Many women who adopt a plant-based diet have touted the benefits when it comes to their monthly cycles," Dr. Jennifer Wider, women's health expert, told POPSUGAR. "[They] describe lighter periods, fewer PMS symptoms including, mood swings, cramps, and even bloating." I was fortunate enough to reap all these benefits, which was especially welcome after dealing with severe PMS for many years. But today, my period has never been easier to live with!

It Allowed Me to Reach Many More Fitness Goals

As I mentioned earlier, you experience much less inflammation in the body when you don't eat animal products. This allows your body to recover faster and more effectively in between workouts. I've been able to work out more than I ever have before, and I never feel tired or burnt out, even on the days when I happen to work out twice.

"One huge benefit of getting your protein from plant-based sources is that they are relatively nonacidic compared to animal-based sources," confirmed personal trainer and injury-prevention specialist Liz Letchford, MS, ATC. "Consumption of animal protein without consumption of adequate dietary fat may contribute to an acidic blood pH, resulting in inflammation, ultimately resulting in poor performance and delayed muscular repair."

My Skin Completely Cleared Up

I've always struggled with acne, even into my adult years. It was a huge challenge for me, and there were many times when I didn't even want to leave the house because my skin was so bad. But within a month of going vegan, I noticed a big difference in my skin. I had way fewer zits, and my skin was starting to literally glow in a way I had never experienced before.

"Besides the powerful health advantages illustrated in the scientific literature, there are also links to improved skin health," explained Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, plant-based dietitian, health and fitness expert, and author of Plant-Based Nutrition (Idiot's Guide), 2E.

It's no wonder my skin continued to get better and better as time went on, and I honestly haven't seen a zit on my face in over eight months! It's a small side effect, but truly one of my favorite benefits of veganism.

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