No matter what your motivation for going vegan is, if it’s done mindfully and strategically, it’s a choice that will prove rewarding for years to come.
I can’t think of a better way to do something so positive for yourself and others at the same time than to transition into a lifestyle that not only benefits one’s own health but also saves the lives of animals and reduces environmental degradation.
True, going vegan may appear daunting at first: your friends and family may question your motives and even meet you with hostility; you may initially feel restricted in your meal options, and you may even feel that you will never be able to get over your addiction to cheese. But fret not, for friends and family will eventually come around and understand where you are coming from, your food world-view will expand exponentially as boundless vegan recipes will enter your life, you will discover plant-based foods with abundant nutrients (and yes, even protein), and of course, you will discover that there is indeed life after cheese; delicious cheese-less life at that.
And just to make the transition smoother, here are ten tips to help make your resolution to go vegan a permanent reality:
1. Research, research, research!
Although veganism hasn’t quite reached mainstream status yet, it’s certainly heading in that direction. Naturally, with veganism’s rise in popularity, vegan books, videos, online resources and even vegan apps are at a constant rise as well.
And so, you might find that the best way of solidifying your vegan convictions and knowledge, and arming yourself with witty comebacks to lame anti-vegan retorts is to research the topic as much as possible:
- Read about the health benefits of a vegan diet in credible websites like The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Listen to podcasts and lectures, and watch free online movies like Earthlings.
- Read vegan blogs and recipe books
- Research factory farming and animal cruelty
The more you will learn and educate yourself, the more your vegan convictions will grow and will be based on facts and knowledge that you will be able to then share.
Now that you’ve done your research and have all this new information floating around in your head, take some time to integrate it in your life. What are your deepest values with regards to veganism? How can your lifestyle be an expression of your beliefs and values? Why are you, personally choosing to go vegan?
Journaling is a great way to understand your thoughts and you can return to your writing later when you need some reminding on why veganism is important to you.
3. Seek support – Make vegan friends!
If you can, recruit a buddy who will join you in your lifestyle switch. It’s true that there’s power in numbers and having someone you can call when it all seems overwhelming will make you less likely to fall back into old eating habits.
If no one in your life is as amazing and cool as you are to go veg with you, then look into vegan meetups in your area or Facebook groups around topics you enjoy (vegan recipes, vegan parenting, vegan lifestyle or vegan fitness – there are plenty communities that will offer you support!). Meet friends online or in person, but either way, make vegan friends!
4. Stock your fridge and pantry
Get excited about your new healthy life choice and go shopping! Splurge a little, if you can, on things you haven’t tried before. Pick up some vegan essentials like lentils and legumes, and of course, lots of fresh produce. Organize your kitchen to suit your vegan lifestyle, and make sure you got everything you need for your new start at home!
5. Learn how to cook (if you don’t know how already) and make it fun!
Unfortunately, we can’t all be Ellen and Portia and have our own personal vegan chef. Eating as a healthy vegan does require some planning and cooking. But contrary to popular belief, not all vegan recipes are crazy time consuming, nor are they overly difficult. If you’re not one to cook a lot, start with a few easy staples and branch out from there.
Testing out new recipes tends to be exciting, and knowing that you’re improving your health and sparing the lives of animals is more fodder for the fire of fun cooking.
6. Explore foreign foods
Give your newly vegan palate the fiesta it deserves by treating yourself to some food of the foreign variety. Seeking out foreign, vegan-friendly restaurants or adding foreign food to your recipe repertoire will multiply your dining options and keep things fresh.
There are LOTS of options here: Thai, Indian, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Jamaican, and Ethiopian, all have ample vegan selections.
7. Try a challenge
Don’t even know where to begin with going vegan? Why not let someone else kick start the process for you? There are several good vegan challenges out there. My absolute favorite is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s “Thirty Day Vegan Challenge”. Also, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s “21-Day Vegan Kickstart” can be used through their website or their app for your smartphone that will help you plan out your meals and make your transition easier.
8. Keep things balanced
As you progress in your new vegan lifestyle, you might find yourself going from thinking there are no food options for vegans, to over indulging in vegan chocolates, bakes and treats. Remember that just because you are vegan does not mean that you can’t gain weight or get sick. Be sure to keep your diet balanced to enjoy all the benefits of a plant based nutrition with as little hiccups as possible.
Also, remember that balance is important in other parts of your vegan lifestyle as well: no one is expecting you to throw away all your non-vegan items, furniture, clothes or makeup at once, just because you decided to go vegan. Progress slowly by making sure all the new items you purchase are vegan, and if you make mistakes, you’ll know to choose better the next time around. If there are items you can give to charity and replace with a vegan version great. If not, you’ll be happy to know that many vegan just faze those items out with time.
9. Be gentle: Forgive yourself. Forgive others.
After informing yourself on all-things-vegan, you may be left with a guilty taste in your mouth. You may berate yourself for not learning the facts sooner. You may judge and feel resentment towards others who continue to consume meat. But remember, everyone’s path is different.
You have come into veganism on your own accord, at your own pace and it’s best to allow others to do the same. We live in a world where eating meat is ingrained by culture, family, social institutions and media. You may have managed to get passed those hurdles, but for many it’s very, very hard. Be understanding, and lead by example.
Smile despite all the animal suffering that continues to take place. Smile knowing you are doing your part to make a difference.
Pause. Take a deep breath and smile knowing that however bad our treatment of animals is right now, things are getting better. Even though your vegan super powers will get activated (say good-bye to pesky persistent colds), you are not super human. You need to choose your battles, and cherish your success in these.
Best of success in your vegan path
I’m personally a proponent of taking the full-on vegan plunge. That is, if you’ve done all the planning and preparations before hand. Dropping animal products all at once makes it less likely that you’ll regress into meat-eating tendencies. It’s a fresh start; you’ll feel revived and have a better sense of overall well-being, both physically, and emotionally. But if you do fall off the vegan wagon, do not beat yourself up. If every day you wake up with the intention to be vegan, and every day you try your best, you’ll one day realize how your vegan choices have become second nature to you. And that is what you strive for.