Transitioning to a Vegan Lifestyle: An Interview with Katie Hachiya

What is your name?

Katie Hachiya

Where do you live? 

Saint Louis Park, MN

What do you do? 

I’m a sr. site merchandiser for target.com & I support the website experience for the Electronics category.

What is your go-to life quote? 

Oh man, I have so many. One that never fails me is “be still,” which comes from all over in the bible (most popularly Psalms), but I’ve recently read it in the story in Exodus 14:14. This chapter talks about Moses, who’s been asked by God to lead his people, who had been slaves of the Egyptians for over 400 years, into freedom. As they’re leaving Egypt, the Egyptians try to stop them & the people become afraid & get mad at Moses because they think they’re going to die now for trying to leave. Moses explains to them that God has their back & says “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” LOVE THAT. 

I love that too! Now, on to the juicy stuff. You have started to transition to a vegan lifestyle. Tell us about it!

It all happened super unexpectedly. Let me start by saying I’m not currently 100% vegan & I don’t have a goal date for when I want to be fully transitioned to that lifestyle. For me, the goal is to keep educating myself & understand what it means to ME to choose this lifestyle of “ethical consumption,” not just from a food standpoint, but in the everyday household & beauty products that I buy & the entertainment events that I engage in. Education leads to change, so I have faith as I continue to learn & discover more info & options, becoming 100% vegan will happen pretty naturally over time. For now I continue to ask myself, how can I hold myself accountable for making more ethical decisions every day? It’s important to recognize how many different facets there are to this topic too; environmental impacts, world hunger, animal rights, the list goes on. My focus for this interview will be on animal ethics - this topic has tugged the most ferociously on my heart strings since I began this journey.

What prompted the change?

For the past 6+ months, I’ve committed to being 100% vegetarian. This change was prompted from watching the documentary What the Health. When I mention watching that documentary a lot of people say “oh I can’t watch that kind of stuff, it’s too hard” – well DUH! I think that’s the whole point of those documentaries. They show a side of reality that NO ONE wants to believe exists. It’s torture. I learned things I never wanted to know were real. But it’s the best & probably the only way to understand the reality & feel undoubtedly encouraged to make a change. If we sat & watched little pigs & cows living an amazing life & later on being rocked to sleep in a crib & slipped a magic “death” pill that would make them pass super peacefully, how would that encourage us to make a change? It wouldn’t! So, my point is that the truth really does hurt sometimes, but that shouldn’t stop us from making sure we understand how the products we’re using & consuming daily are being produced.

Wait – I’m crying. Cute little piggy’s don’t just “go to market?”

Our law today basically allows farmed animals to be treated as inhumanely as a farmer deems necessary, just so we humans have the pleasure of eating them. Did you know most farm animals like cows & pigs are highly sensitive, affectionate & gentle animals?  They thrive off of forming deep friendships & family bonds, just like our dogs do. The only difference is it’s legal for them to be completely sh*t on for the entirety of their lives. That cuts my soul to the core & that’s exactly why I believe in order for us to be truly affected by an issue, we need real, raw, & “hard” examples that force our hearts & minds into change. Quick read on factory farming to learn more.

What has been the easiest part of making this change?

Becoming vegetarian truly was easy for me. I rarely ate meat to begin with because the thought of a dead animal rolling around inside my mouth has always been unsettling to me. But I continued to eat things like ground turkey or chicken breast because I thought it was “healthy” or a good way for me to get some protein. Once I learned how untrue that was & how those animals were actually being treated for me to be able to eat them, it really was a no brainer to stop cold-turkey. Check out the top 10 things you need to know about the meat & dairy industry. Another aspect that was easy for me, when I actually became aware it was even something I had to think about, was committing to supporting only certified cruelty free brands (brands that do not test on animals, cus yes that’s a thingL - try this PETA tool if you want to check your current brands) & commit to avoiding entertainment events where animals are forced into unnatural circumstances - think horse & dog races, rodeos, horse-drawn carriages, the circus, etc. We think it’s a hoot watching these animals perform, but if you take time to learn about what actually happens behind the scenes & how these events affect the animals being forced into the situation, you may never want to see it again. On the vegan side, things that have been easy for me to give up are yogurt, butter, milk & eggs. I learned a lot about why these products aren’t meant for human consumption & how they’re actually pretty awful for our bodies in combination of doing the Whole 30 diet a couple years ago & watching What the Health. I would never follow the whole 30 diet again because it’s not a sustainable way to live (grains do not = bad!) & my beliefs have changed, but they do a great job teaching what we need to know about dairy in their book It Starts with Food.

What has been the hardest part? 

The hardest part is feeling like really REALLY small in the grand scheme of impacting the issue. I’m getting better at accepting that I can only be responsible for myself & then pray continuously for God to use me in a bigger way if that’s His plan for me, but it’s really hard to accept that I might not be called to do more than just that. I feel reassured in seeing the awareness & activism is only growing & there are countless people out their dedicating their lives to these matters. What’s also cool is did you know that veganism has grown 500% since 2014?! So that certainly reassures me that there’s a crap ton of people out there holding themselves accountable to make a difference.

All of that being said, there’s still a ways to go in terms of options for people wanting to live this lifestyle right now. Like cheese for example – is anyone NOT addicted to cheese? I don’t think so, but this is the hardest food I’ve found to find really good alternatives for. There’s also limited dining options for vegans in our area, but the more people continue to ask for those options, the sooner restaurants will catch on. Here’s an awesome article talking about the rise of veganism if you want to learn more about why it’s trending!

Girl, I hear you about cheese. You’ve mentioned some great resources so far. How else can other women inform themselves about this lifestyle change?

I think there’s a huge opportunity to educate. Most of this stuff isn’t ever going to be “taught,” so a lot of us don’t even realize it’s something we should be thinking about. I like to believe the majority of the human race isn’t intentionally supporting animal cruelty, there just isn’t enough awareness sometimes on how we might be contributing to it. So, it really is up to us to understand what habits we have today that are contributing to “unethical consumption” & uncovering options to change our current behavior. Even if you know you don’t want to ever give up meat & dairy or the products you really love, my only hope is that we’d all still just be open & willing to learn – be open to reading & watching the “hard stuff.” Don’t torture yourself (like I admittedly have), but take responsibility for at least understanding the high level truth of what’s going on not only in the meat & dairy industry, but in the animal experimentation & animal entertainment industries so that you can make more ethical & more educated choices.

What advice do you have for other women about making dietary/lifestyle changes?

My sister has been vegan since I became vegetarian, & even though she didn’t take her own advice because she pretty much stopped cold-turkey, I really like what she tells others pursuing this lifestyle. She tells people to “take it one day at a time.” Don’t feel like you have to plan every single day out in advance. Wake up & focus solely on how you’ll conquer the day ahead, nothing else. My advice in addition to that is to make sure you truly understand why you’re making a change. Change is easier when there’s purpose behind it. If we don’t have a true reason for it, then it likely won’t stick. My method was to start with the easy things & work my way through the harder things, I didn’t wake up one day & go “okay, starting today, I’m never eating ___ again.” Change isn’t an overnight thing.

AGREED! Change takes time AND purpose. I love that. What is the most surprising thing you've learned on this journey? 

I have a fierce passion for animal rights & I’d adopt every suffering animal in the world if I could. My heart aches daily for dogs that don’t have loving homes & when I’m on a road trip, I’ll never look at a farm the same.  I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do with this passion other than hold myself accountable for changing my own behavior (& maybe inspiring one or two more people to change with me), but I just have this sure feeling that God has a bigger plan for me & what He wants me to do with all this, I’m just not sure when He’s going to reveal it!

You know, your pup Randy does seem like he needs a brother (a dog brother, of course). What's next for you on this journey of change?

There’s still a lot to learn, so educating & praying about what I’m learning & what more I can do with it is my constant focus. Most importantly, this is just MY story & what worked for ME. My intention is not to make anyone feel guilty about their current habits or behavior, but to hopefully inspire a couple to take a closer look at the issues & see what it might mean for YOU to transition to an “ethical consumer.” Thank you for reading!

I love Katie's story! Here's one more resource in case you didn't get enough! Click here to check it out!