Thinking of going vegan? My top tips!
Going vegan is not an easy decision. It's a major life change. And while there are many (many, many) perks to being vegan, it's not for everyone.
"Veganism means no animals products-- no meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin or anything that once came from an animal. This is different from being a vegetarian in that vegetarians just do not eat meat. Vegans also avoid leather, fur, silk, wool and any other material items that includes animal products."
Nutrition is the cornerstone of health and like I've said before, some nutrients are predominately found in animal products. So veganism will impact your nutrition and the vitamins and minerals your body gets; as a vegan you will also need to become intentional about how you dress, what companies you support, and how you fill your days.
And this can sometimes be hard.
But it doesn't mean it's not worth it. Beginning my transition into a vegan lifestyle has been one of the best things I've ever done - not only for my consciousness but for my health and wellbeing, too. I'm not a 'full' vegan, but I'm about 95% off meat and about 80% off animal products all together. So I thought it was time to start addressing veganism on this blog. If you are considering going vegan, this post is for you.
If you're still reading, you are either already transitioning to veganism or at least giving the lifestyle some serious thought. Below are six things that might make your decision easier:
1. FIGURE OUT YOUR WHY
Veganism isn't a fad. It's a lifestyle, and as with any lifestyle change, it requires a strong WHY. Why do you want to be vegan?
I've always been able to differentiate meat on my plate from an animal in a field. I was asleep to the time in-between - to the pain an animal felt in the process of becoming food. This all changed when I met a pig. Pigs have been shown to be highly intelligent, and feel emotions and stress. Anyone who knows me knows my dog is my best friend; she is the most loving soul I've ever known and if anyone did anything to hurt her, I would lose my faith in humanity. After meeting the pig I couldn't help but wonder if roles were reversed and my dog was the one being bred for the slaughter house. I wasn't okay with anyone hurting my pup, so why was I okay with other animals suffering just so I could eat meat? Saying one type of animal was more worthy than another was the same as saying one type of person was more worthy than another. I don't tolerate racism, sexism or homophobia, so why was I okay with this?
These questions became my why. Your why might be related to ethics/health/environmental or anything else. The why is very important for staying accountable and for navigating the many "but why?" questions your friends and family will ask. It's also important to stay updated on the other side of the argument, on why veganism isn't the right choice for everyone. This is not only helpful for making the best decision for you, but also, "being forewarned is being forearmed" and you will be asked to defend yourself here and there.
2. FIND A VEGAN 'RUNNING BUDDY'
As with any big life change, it's easier to commit when you have someone to be accountable to. I don't have anyone in my immediate life who is vegan so I've found my running buddy in grimcorn, a kindhearted YouTuber from Norway. Watching her videos every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday helps me feel part of a community. There are a lot of beautiful people using creative entrepreneurship for social change. Find these people! Having a community to share your thoughts and struggles with is important.
It's also nice to have someone to share recipes with!
3. BOOK A SESSION WITH A PROFESSIONAL
There is a lot of information available on the web regarding veganism, but just like you wouldn't only consult the internet for a strange ache and pain, you probably shouldn't only consult the internet for major changes to your diet. When I decided to start transitioning into veganism I was already working with a naturopath. This combined with a best friend in Pharmacy (who had oodles of knowledge about vitamins and minerals and how they are absorbed in the body) made my initial transition easier.
A professional doesn't have to be a naturopath or a pharmacist. It can be a shaman, a traditional GP, or whoever else fits with your lifestyle and beliefs as long as they are knowledgable about human nutrition and how to adequately meet the body's needs.
If you don't have access to a professional, ivegan.ca is an AMAZING resource. They have guides for going vegan, tips for where to get amazing vegan foods, tips for how to swap in alternative ingredients in loved recipes, and so much more.
4. LEARN TO LIKE LENTILS AND LEARN TO THINK IN BULK
I hated the idea of lentils before going vegan. But I quickly learned to like them for energy needs. My favourite way to get a complete protein since giving up meat is by eating brown rice + red lentils. It's super easy to whip up a pot of lentils and rice at the beginning of the week and one mid week and stay happily fed Monday through Sunday. Other foods you'll have to add to your palate are quinoa, buckwheat, soy, beans, seitan and chickpeas - all of these things can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack - and having them around in bulk makes it much easier to make vegan-friendly decisions.
5. YOU GET TO DEFINE WHAT VEGANISM MEANS TO YOU
Veganism is not about being perfect. Though I rarely eat meat anymore, there are times where I do consume animal products like honey, eggs and milk. It's rare and the products are usually baked into a bagel or muffin but it's non-vegan none the less. There is a giant learning curve when becoming vegan and it's totally okay to go off track once in a while. It's like starting at a new gym... there are going to be days when you are sore and you are sick. Not going to the gym those days doesn't make you a non-exerciser.
Every hour 500,000 animals are tortured for the meat industry in the US alone. There is also a statistic circulating Instagram right now that every vegan saves 200 animals/year. When you think in terms of animals, every time you decide to do something vegan, you are one step closer to keeping one of these animals on the field and out of the slaughterhouse. Instead of thinking about veganism as all or nothing, think about it in terms of small steps. Each time you choose to forgo a burger, participate in a meatless Monday, buy a cruelty-free lipstick or wear boots made without animal products you are making a huge difference for the animals you are trying to advocate for.
Don't expect to become vegan all in one day. Don't feel bad if you accidentally consume an animal product. Don't beat yourself up for using non-vegan products. Don't succumb to an 'all or nothing' mindset because that will be the quickest way to ensure you don't succeed with veganism long term.
6. VEGANISM IS ROOTED IN KINDNESS
Sometimes when we are passionate about things we can be a bit pushy about wanting other people to be passionate about them, too. Veganism is rooted in kindness. A love for all beings. Yet, time and time again I see vegans put other people down for eating meat. Where is the kindness in that? Advocate and educate through your presence. Teach about the beauty of veganism by embracing the qualities that make it so.
I told my friend about my decision to go vegan. A couple days later she messaged me to recommend a relevant documentary. Sharing my experience in a casual non-conformational way planted a seed and encouraged her to learn more about the lifestyle. I don't expect her to become vegan, but seeing her explore the topic brought immense joy to my heart.
Learning the realities of our world and what really goes on in the meat industry is horrific. And it will make you angry. And sensitive. But it's your responsibility to be self-aware and avoid spewing your anger on your friends and family. Put your energy into improving how you interact with the industry and how you live day-to-day, and be sure to only spread kindness.
SOME WAYS TO ADVOCATE GENTLY:
x. tell your friends what you had for lunch
x. drop high quality non-perishable vegan food items off to your local food bank
x. encourage grocery stores to do the same
x. start a group at your library to share cost-effective tips and tricks for eating vegan
x. send love to meat and meat products
x. foster an animal
Above all: honor that veganism is your choice and that there are many reasons why people choose not to be vegan including religious, cultural, health and socioeconomic.
WHAT I'VE NOTICED SINCE GOING VEGAN
I've been a transitioning vegan for almost three months. Up until that point I was happily eating burgers and bacon. The changes that have occurred in my life since transitioning into this lifestyle have been amazing and I can't imagine living any other way.
Here are a few things you can expect when / if you make the switch:
My weight has levelled out.
I don't crave fast food. EVER.
I've become much more sensitive to animals and their needs.
I've learned a lot more about nutrients and the body's needs.
My skin is glowing.
I've become more loving, kind, and intentional in my day-to-day.
I've become a better advocate (for myself and others).
I need much less sleep to be productive.
I'm not as moody.
I've tried many new foods/recipes.
I've met new role models and attracted like-minded people.
I've grown to be more tolerant about others' choices.
I've grown more confident in myself.
My energy feels much lighter.
My intuition and clairvoyance has improved.
I love myself so much more than ever before because I'm actively giving back to our world.
But things weren't all cheery. Until I understood how to get enough protein, iron and B12 in my vegan diet I got tired and lost a bit of hair. I can't stress how important it is to be mindful of your nutrition! I also spend more money by making more intentional choices regarding clothing, health and beauty products. This is one of the reasons why I have decided to gradually transition into the lifestyle.
The biggest thing, though, has been learning to advocate for myself. I'm not new to dietary changes but this change made some of my loved ones uncomfortable until I was able to communicate my why. Some have joked that I'm not "really" vegan (an assumption that veganism has to be all or nothing from the start) and one person has said, "Oh, you're one of those." Those? A kind, caring individual? Haha. None of this has to do with me and my decision, but rather the misconceptions and stigma associated with the vegan diet. Loving myself and staying committed to my decisions has been instrumental in dealing with this.
SOME RESOURCES TO FIND YOUR WHY
Food Inc (Netflix)
Forks over Knives (Netflix)
If you have any questions about veganism, on my transitioning process or your process, please leave a comment or as always, feel free to PM.
Have you already gone vegan? I'd love to hear your perspective and your tips and tricks!