Dietician student
My name is Katie Abbott and I am curently studying dietetics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, while also attending Tulsi Holistic Living of Washington D.C. and studying holistic nutrition. For most of my life, my diet consisted of things like pepperoni pizza, bologna and cheese sandwiches, ground beef, chicken tenders, hot dogs, fried shrimp, and hot wings.

When I was 19 I decided to become a lacto-ovo vegetarian because I read some startling facts about the effect that the meat industry has on the environment. Apparently, the meat industry is responsible for more water pollution in the U.S. than all other industries combined. It also consumes more than one-third of all the fossil fuels used in America. So I changed my diet to consist of a lot of dairy and eggs; dishes like macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, egg white omelets, grilled cheese, and fettuccini alfredo.

Then, in January of 2007, I became a vegan, mostly for health reasons. I had awful cystic acne, and I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. The doctors that I saw continually prescribed harsh medications for me that had negative effects on other aspects of my life such as my mental health. After becoming vegan my skin cleared up and I’ve reversed the effects of PCOS. I have more energy and am finally free of the many toxins (hormones, antibiotics, steroids, chemicals) that my body was harboring from dairy and medicine. I have learned a lot about health and all the detrimental effects that meat, dairy, and eggs can have on one’s body. The vegan lifestyle that I am living feels right in my body and mind, and I am passionate about this way of life.

I made my transition by first giving up eggs. It was easy to not buy and cook with eggs considering that there are many substitutes to use instead of eggs (a few are flax meal, applesauce, and bananas). I started reading food labels for everything I bought to make sure I wasn’t buying foods with eggs in them as well. The second step I made was conquering dairy. I did this by first letting go of milk and then cheese. It was easy to switch to soy milk and I liked the taste of it. I couldn’t taste much of a difference when cooking with soy milk either. The hardest part was giving up cheese, but this was the best thing I could have done for myself because this is when I started to see significant differences in my skin and health. At first it was really hard to eat without cheese and I would constantly crave it, but after about three weeks the cravings stopped. My outlook on meat, dairy, and eggs underwent a complete transformation and I now realize that these food groups are toxic to my body.

From the social aspect, it was hard for my friends to accept the fact I was vegan and that I was sticking to this lifestyle. I live in a house with nine girls and two of them are vegetarian. We have house dinner every Sunday and they have started to make healthier, vegan options so that I can eat with them. For example they will make vegetable enchiladas and make a pan without cheese for me. Going out with my friends is difficult as well because there aren’t many restaurants in my town that have vegan-friendly options. I feel like I am constantly asking questions about restaurants’ menu items and asking for no cheese on everything. And when I go over to a friend’s house for dinner or a dinner party, I have to call and remind them that I am vegan a couple days in advance so they can cater to my dietary needs. I do feel bad sometimes since they have to spend extra time on me, but I am never embarrassed and it always makes for interesting dinner conversations.

When I first became vegetarian, my parents, who are both in the medical field, were upset with me because we ate meat at every meal when I was growing up. Then, when I became vegan they were really afraid that I would not get enough protein or B vitamins. Once they saw that my transition went well and my ailments were cured, they became more accepting and realized that it wasn’t just a fad. Recently, I’ve been teaching my mom and sister how to cook vegan meals and whenever my family goes out to eat, they make sure that it is a place where I can get a solid, nutritious, vegan meal.

I have helped my boyfriend, Nick, become a vegetarian and then a vegan. I have also helped a handful of other friends become vegetarian. It is a blessing that Nick is vegan as well because it is fun to learn about vegan cooking and nutrition together. We know that we will have each other to rely on in the vegan lifestyle.

At school is where I feel the most alienated. Just recently one of my professors asked me what being vegan is?! This was appalling considering that I am in a program that teaches about nutrition and diets! In my cooking labs, my professors get frustrated with me because I don’t like handling eggs, meat, and milk, sometimes this even causes my grades to suffer. My classmates think my way of life is too extreme since we are all taught by the USDA that one needs meat, dairy, and eggs in order to reach optimum health. I have found this to be untrue since you can find the nutrients those foods contain from other non-animal sources. When I graduate, I will have a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and go through a dietetic internship. I also hope to get my masters in holistic nutrition and maybe go on to naturopathy school.

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