How Leo Became a Vegan

By Leo Babauta

My story of veganism is one of starts and stops. It wasn’t as simple as flipping a switch, and saying, “Today, I’m vegan.”

I faltered along the way … which I think is perfectly fine. There’s no one path.

But first … how did it start?

The Start

It started because I was looking for a healthier way. I was eating lots of meat and cheese and fried foods and sweets and fast foods and pizza and chips and so on. I was overweight and really unhealthy.

I knew I was on the wrong path, but tried a number of things, like the Atkins Diet and the Abs Diet, and none of them felt right. I decided to try out vegetarianism, because it seemed like a healthy choice.

While the ethics of killing animals wasn’t where I started, as you read about being a vegetarian, you can’t help but read a bit about animal cruelty. I read a little, watched some horrible videos, and was sold. I recommend you do the same.


So I became a vegetarian, probably in late 2005 or early 2006 (actually I’d done it earlier in life too, but quit after about a year or so). Anyway, it was great. Giving up meat wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be. After awhile, you get used to not eating meat, and there’s lots and lots of tasty vegetarian recipes.

I was sold, but my wife and kids weren’t. That’s OK. They continued to eat meat, while I ate my own vegetarian food and sometimes shared it with them.

I started to lose weight, and the more I read about animal cruelty, the more I believed in what I was doing. Eventually my wife decided to give up all meat except fish, and later joined me as a vegetarian (in 2010).

I lost about 70 lbs. altogether, as a vegetarian (and later vegan) combined with exercise.

The Move to Veganism

As you read about animal cruelty, as a vegetarian, you can’t help but see some articles/videos about the cruelty of dairy and eggs. At first, I thought, “Naw, I can’t give up my cheese! And anyway, milk isn’t cruel — isn’t it just taking the animals’ milk without hurting them?”

Of course, the reality is that milk cows are treated horribly, and eventually killed, and that the milk industry supports the dairy industry. It’s all cruel. Eggs are just as bad. We don’t know about this stuff because we’re led to believe that it’s all fine. Once you read about it, you realize that it’s far from fine. It’s horrible, and we all participate in it!

Milk and eggs (and fur and leather) are as bad as killing animals for meat. I became aware of this, but didn’t think I could actually go vegan right away. So I was vegan in principle, but slowly transitioned over a couple of years. For some periods of time I’d be 100% vegan, and others I’d eat some cheese or things with milk/eggs in it. I bought leather. It wasn’t great, but I didn’t think I could do it.

Then Eva & I (who were both vegetarian at the time) got a visit from two friends, Heena and Suraj, who were from London and fully vegan. They felt so strongly about it that their passion was contagious. While they were visiting us (12 days), we ate fully vegan with them, and took them to some great vegan restaurants in San Francisco. It was amazing.

During this time, Eva considered going fully vegan. Then we went to New York City together, and the two of us did a vegan tour of NYC, and it was also amazing. We decided to go vegan together, and it was easier than we thought.

Going fully vegan is way easier than most people think. Sure, you might miss cheese a little at first, but if you focus on the incredible vegan food that’s out there (and some incredible recipes to match), you won’t miss anything. It’s delicious. It’s wonderful. And it’s humane.

We went vegan in October 2012 (after a few years of me being almost vegan), and we have loved it every minute since then.