By: Gwyneth Allen
I have pretty much grown up being vegetarian/vegan. My mom always hated the idea of meat, so from the very beginning there was no meat in our house. When my twin sister and I were three, our mom discovered that our little sister, who she was nursing at the time, reacted badly to the milk my mom would drink. This prompted my mom to become vegan, and our household became free of dairy and cheese. We have also always eaten really healthy, with very little processed foods. Snacks in our house consist of bananas or apples.
The surprise when people find out I have been vegan for most of my life is normally followed up with, “But don’t you want bacon?” Well, Morning Star makes some dang good vegan sausages so that pretty much fills my bacon void!
Before middle school, and really up until high school, I never appreciated the way we ate. I ate a whole food, plant-based diet because it was the way I had always eaten. In high school I consistently began to work out and started swimming year round for the varsity swim team. I realized the way I ate impacted how I felt and how well I was able to compete. On the days when I had dairy, I felt sluggish in the water and not prepared to swim. I also discovered that when I ate dairy, I would feel sick and get headaches. On the other hand, when I ate healthy and had lots of fruits and vegetables, I felt strong and had more energy. For me, living a whole food, plant-based lifestyle is the best option because it allows my body to function at its highest capacity.
For my first three years of high school, I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In some ways living in Southeast Asia was accommodating to a vegan lifestyle. Indian and Thai food were readily available when we wanted to go out to eat. However, the lack of Costco really put a damper on how much fresh fruit and vegetables we had. Malaysia has plenty of fruits and vegetables, but not always the kinds we wanted to buy, and we had to bleach the produce before eating it.
The hardest part about being vegan in Southeast Asia was going on school trips to other countries. On those trips my diet mainly consisted of bread, rice, watermelon, and steamed vegetables. Sometimes there would not be a meat and dairy free option available, and I would have to get by the best I could. Every time I went on a school trip I was worried about the adverse effects the food would have on my body, but I knew that as long as I tried my best to eat plant based, Heavenly Father would ensure that I was healthy. I have always found comfort in the scripture “and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89:20). I saw that promise come true on all my school trips, and I see the blessings that following the Word of Wisdom has brought in my everyday life.
Now that I am heading off to college, I always get asked if I will continue being vegan. In an effort to not gain the “Freshmen 15” and to continue to have the blessings that come with following the Word of Wisdom, my answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Gwyneth Allen is 17 years old and lives in Leesburg, Virginia. She has five siblings, including an identical twin, Liesel. She has lived all over the US and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she went to the International School of Kuala Lumpur for her first three years of high school. This year, her family moved to Virginia where she attends Loudoun County High School for her senior year. She hopes to go to BYU next year in the fall. She enjoys swimming, reading, working out, playing the piano, and just hanging out with friends.