How To Go Vegan
Last week I encouraged all of you to go vegan for the month of January with Veganuary and promised a "how to go vegan" tips and tricks post. Well, here we are! Whether you signed up for the challenge or are just interested in making the transition to veganism on your own, I'm here to try to make the process as seamless as possible!
Before we start, did you know that I have a Resources page with lots of goodies to help you on your journey? Be sure to give the list a read through once you finish this post!
Ok. Veganism. It's kind of a scary word, isn't it? It conjures up images of an ancient religion, or a strict order, or an overbearing ideology, right? The good news? It isn't any of those things. Veganism is, at its core, compassion. And the even better news? You're already a compassionate person! All you need to do to go vegan for good is to connect the compassion that is already inside of you to the plight of the animals, our fellow humans, our planet, abd your own health!
Now, you may be thinking; "That's great, Elizabeth. But HOW do I do that?"
I'm glad you asked!
For me, this connection came about through exposure to the realities of the animal cruelty inherent in the animal agriculture industry of today. Or, more simply, I educated myself!
1. GET EDUCATED
The more you know, the easier it is to stay motivated. Every time I learn something new about an aspect of veganism, my resolve strengthens. For example, the recent release of the documentary film Cowspiracy educated me far more deeply on the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry than I had ever been before, the environment being an aspect of veganism that was low on my list of interess. If you asked me about the benefits of veganism today, saving the planet would be amongst the very first mentioned. If you get in the know now, and keep on top of learning more on an ongoing basis, going and staying vegan won't be nearly such an imposing challenge!
The more I learn, the more committed I become. Click here to open the resource page in another window and sign up below for my Vegan 101 info booklet to give yourself a starting point!
There's another important reason to get educated - the more you know, the more confident you'll be answering the questions of the non-vegans in your life. This is important not only for you - the more confident they see you are, the less like they'll be to question your choices or make jokes at your expense - but for the vegan movement. If you're going vegan you probably have a compelling reason. The more researched and well-spoken you are, the more likely others will be to take your message to heart. And that, my friend, is how vegans make more vegans!
Check out the Plant Based Bride blog archives for lots of informative articles to start with!
2. FIND YOUR WHY
Finding your main motivation(s) behind maintaining a vegan lifestlye is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your success. Perhaps it is about health and healing above all else, or maybe it's about reducing your impact on the planet. For me it is animal ethics, far and above any of my other motivations. Knowing this is a great help to me, and was especially indispensable when I was a new vegan. Any time I felt that it was too hard to be vegan, or I ate a non-vegan food by mistake and thought about giving up, or had had enough of the jokes and comments, I had only to think of the animals I was saving each and every day to get right back on track and to feel more inspired than ever.
Not sure what your reason is? Try beginning with my 10 Reasons To Go Vegan post and use it to identify the aspects of veganism that resonate the most with you and where you are currently in life.
3. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM
I've said it once and I'll say it again - everything is easier with a friend! I know from personal experience that going vegan alone can be tough. That's not to say it's impossible - I did it, and more do it every single day! But I wish I'd had someone to talk to during my transition who was going through exactly what I was - not so much for the food part, which I found to be the easy part, but for everything else.
It's hard when you feel like no one understands you or supports you, and unfortunately for us, many people take a while to warm up to new ideas that go against everything they've ever been told. Your friends and family may not react the way you hope or expect them to when you tell them about the change you are embarking on, and that can be much harder on you than you might think.
If at all possible, enlist someone in your life to go vegan with you or find a stranger in your city through facebook groups or local meetups to be cyber (or even real-life) vegan buddies!
4. FIND A MENTOR
If you can't find someone to go vegan with you (or even if you can!) consider finding a vegan mentor. Whether they've been vegan for a short time, or for longer than you've been alive, someone who has gone through their transition to veganism has a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be invaluable!
I've acted as a mentor for quite a few people in my life, including my fiance, Jason! Every time Jason had a question, or a struggle, or an observation I was there to answer, aid, and acknowledge his experience. How I wish I'd had someone to do that for me! That is why I continue to act as a mentor for everyone who asks me - whether in person or over phone or skype!
If you have a vegan in your life, you have a built in mentor (and are very lucky!) If not, try jumping into online forums or facebook groups! Most vegans are happy to offer guidance to those who are in the midst of their transitions. Reach out and see what happens! I promise you won't regret it.
5. GET INSPIRED
Inspiration is definitely your friend! Get on Pinterest, follow vegan You Tubers and instagrammers, read books and blogs, watch films, and listen to podcasts every day! One of my favourite things to do is to listen to podcasts as I walk to and from work. It's a great way to find inspiration in what would otherwise be wasted time. Go to my resources page for some of my favourites and check out my Pinterest page!
6. COLLECT SIMPLE RECIPES
While you're shopping around for inspiration, be sure to save any easy, delicious-sounding recipes you come across! Consider buying a couple great cookbooks (see some of my favourites here) or check out some of the many awesome vegan food blogs out there.
One of my favourite ways to find new recipes recently has been to follow instagram accounts run by vegan food bloggers! You can stay on top of all of their new creations, and they often include the recipe right in the picture's description. Try starting with bestofvegan - they curate recipes from vegans all over instagram! It's a great way to get recipes AND to find new people to follow.
7. CLEAN UP YOUR KITCHEN
One of the very first things you want to do once you're ready to go vegan is refresh your pantry and do a kitchen rehaul. Go through everything you have and separate the non-vegan products. Whether you decide to discard them all at once or to use them up over the next couple of days is up to you. For some, eating animal products once they've decided to go vegan is too hard and they need to get those products out of the house as quickly as possible. For others, the waste seems to be the worse crime, and they prefer to use them up.
As you restock your kitchen be sure to load on up the staples: fruit, vegetables, rice and other grains, beans and legumes, oatmeal, frozen fruit and vegetables, and some prepared vegan foods. I don't suggest eating processed foods too often, as they aren't conducive to optimal health, but the one exception to that rule is during the transition. Especially for those with strong addictions to animal products or those with little cooking experience, stocking up on prepared vegan foods and fake meats and cheeses can be the difference between success and failure. One thing to remember: be sure to read the ingredients on all foods you buy, including those that should be vegan. Sometimes fake meat and dairy products can still contain animal products (sad but true) so keep your eyes open!
8. READ THE INGREDIENTS
On that note, get used to reading the ingredients on EVERYTHING. At first it may seem tedious, but over time it will become a habit that you barely even notice. Check out my post on Non-Vegan Ingredients to Avoid and on 25 Surprising Non-Vegan Foods for some ideas to get started.
I also suggest you download the app Vegaholic if you drink alcohol. You can search the specific brand and flavour to see if your favourite drinks are vegan, right on your phone!
9. GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD (AGAIN)
Do a google search of vegan restaurants, cafes, and stores in your area and make a list on your phone. Make time to visit them and ask the people you meet there what their favourite places in the city are for all things vegan! It's kind of fun to get reaquainted with your neighbourhood or city and to visit places you didn't even know existed!
Another thing that helps me all of the time, especially while traveling, is the Happy Cow app! If you're still not sure what's available around you, or are on the go, this app will be a life-saver. You can quickly search vegan, vegetarian, or vegan-friendly restaurants, stores, cafes, and bars near you or in any place you like. It's become indispensible for me!
10. PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD
Mistakes will happen. You will eat something that isn't vegan by accident. You'll forget to read the ingredients. You will assume something that used to be vegan is still vegan without double checking. Don't dwell on it because, guess what, it literally happens to all of us! Going vegan in an omnivorous world that sees animals as commodities is HARD. But as the saying goes, nothing worth getting comes easy. And living a vegan lifestyle is 100% worth it.
Don't let your need for perfection lead you to giving it up all together. Just do your best! Remember, your best effort to be as vegan as possible makes a HUGE difference for the animals, the earth, your health, and the wellbeing of others. Please don't let a need for perfection crowd out the good you're doing everyday. Be kind to yourself as you are kind to every other living thing on earth.
This also applies to the process of GOING vegan. For some, an immediate change is the best way to do it, and that's great! But for others a gradual approach is needed. And that's also great! Do you know why? Because in BOTH cases the person is moving closer to an ethical, sustainable, and healthy life. Gradual is not bad or wrong. Gradually moving in the right direction is better than going full bore, failing, and giving it up all together.
Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good!!
11. EAT ENOUGH
I don't want to hear you complaining about this one. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want to be able to eat more everyday and not gain weight? Plant foods tend to be lower calorie per pound than animal products, meaning you need to eat more to fulfill your daily calorie and nutritional needs. I'm not going to give you a minimum calorie amount or a goal because it's a personal and intuitive process that you need to explore yourself. But I will say:
If you're hungry, eat. ALWAYS!*
*And try to make what you eat mostly fruits and vegetables, if you can. Those are the nutritional powerhouses!
12. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Unfortunately, in this day and age anyone going vegan should expect comments, negative criticism, and jokes. I'm here to tell you not take what people say to heart. It's their insecurities, their ignorance, their guilt, their fear, THEIR thoughts and feelings that are making them say and do those things. It's not about you, it's about them. And that's ok. Everyone is on a different chapter in their life, and it's not up to you to force them to skip ahead if they aren't ready. The very best thing you can do for everyone involved is to lead by example.
I know it's hard. Every vegan goes through their passionate (*angry) stage where they feel they can't contain themselves. I feel you. I've been there. (And it's ok if sometimes you fly a bit off the handle. Forgive yourself!) But that doesn't work. Want to know what does work? Living your vegan lifestyle with nothing but compassion and respect for all living things. People pick up on good energy. They will notice that you never judge or criticize them for their choices, simply make yours and educate when asked. They will come to it in their own time. You just need to give them the chance!
A great way to share information in a non-judgemental way is to watch documentaries together! My personal favourite at the moment is Cowspiracy (which is on Netflix) - it focuses on the environmental effects of the agricultural industry and is not hard to watch. Check out my resources page for more documentary suggestions!
13. IDENTIFY YOUR TROUBLE AREA
This is very important for transitioning success! If you LOVE cheese or bacon, buy some vegan cheeze or vegan bacon to eat when those cravings hit! Knowing your biggest obstacle makes it MUCH easier to overcome it. The good news is that the longer you're vegan, the less and less you'll crave your old omni foods or even the vegan versions!
The last thing I want you to remember on this journey is to STAY POSITIVE and to GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO ADJUST. You're making a big change. It won't always be easy, and it will take time for it to become your new normal. Don't give into the deprivation mindset that most people associate with veganism - this is your opportunity to try a plethora of new foods, meet new people, go to new places, and enjoy the richness and variety of the vegan lifestyle!
My most important piece of advice to you is this:
Don't think of going vegan as giving up aspects of your life that have brought joy or pleasure, but rather as moving towards those values that you hold most dear and a deeper, more meaningful life experience.
Good luck, and remember, I'm here for you!
Until next time,
What was or is the hardest part of your vegan transition?