Going vegan can be a daunting transition for some people who desperately want to change their diet and/or whole lifestyle but do not know where to start.
Some people might have had a life-changing and eye-opening experience and are wholeheartedly determined and committed to embracing a vegan lifestyle and, in that new-found truth and willingness to choose a more compassionate life, they get lost in their process or frustrated with, for example, having consumed something they did not know had egg whites.
Whereas some people might transition overnight, some others might do it gradually. Regardless of how long that process takes for each individual, some key principles to keep in mind to guide you in this journey are:
Be patient with the process. Change, more likely than not, requires time and learning is a process, a journey that invites us to dig deep and connect not only to ourselves but, also, to the world around us.
Know your motivation for going vegan. If you have a clear idea, goal, reason, then you are more likely to be committed to this journey.
Read books, watch and/or attend talks, listen to podcasts, talk to other vegans. Do anything and everything you can to learn. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the more empowered you will feel about your choices.
Go at your own pace. Do not compare yourself to others, however tempting that is.
Be kind to yourself. You might make mistakes along the way but you’re human, you’re not a robot. If you, for example, mistakenly eat something that is not vegan, however frustrating that might be, you did not do it on purpose. You can always learn from that experience and choose again. When in doubt, you can always double-check.
Apart from being compassionate to the animals, be compassionate to yourself and others. People might be curious and ask you about your vegan lifestyle/diet; if they are coming from a place of genuine curiosity, lovingly share your journey with them. If they are making fun of you, sometimes it is better not to engage and politely walk away. Sometimes people are not ready. That is okay. We are all on different journeys.
Try different foods and ingredients and explore the diverse range of products. Recent years have seen an exponential rise in vegan products, from ice-cream, yogurt, and milk, to mock-meats and chocolate.
Have fun cooking and trying new recipes! Dare explore, you might be surprised! You might even fall in love with a dish or ingredient that was not on your radar. Hello, curiosity and exploration!
Following diverse whole-foods, a plant-based diet provides your body with a lot of the required vitamins and minerals for its optimum functioning. However, supplementation of some vitamins and minerals, such as B12, is essential. Seeing your doctor at the beginning of this journey (and then having regular checks ups, such as blood tests, for example) is a wise decision and can help you have a clearer understanding of your body and its needs.
If you’re thinking about getting rid of certain items of clothing and/or shoes, take your time. You do not have to let go of all your non-vegan items in your wardrobe right away and buy new vegan boots or sweaters, for example (this might also be quite expensive if done overnight!) Wearing a leather belt that was given to you as a present by a dear friend, does not make you ‘less vegan.’ Again, do not compare yourself to others.
Lastly, have fun and keep an open mind.
Debunking Some Myths Around Veganism
Veganism is not healthy: veganism, if done correctly (e.i. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds, for example) is far healthier than a traditional diet of meat, eggs, dairy products and little to no fruit and/or vegetables. A whole-foods, plant-based diet is incomparably healthier than a processed diet filled with animal products.
Veganism is not for children: veganism is undeniably healthy for children and this is supported by the British Dietetic association who states a vegan diet is healthy and suitable for all ages. Once again, it is about being mindful of what types and amounts of food are provided to children.
Vegans are severely deficient in vitamins: fortified foods and some supplements are necessary for vegan and non-vegan diets alike. For example, B12 is fundamental in a vegan diet as it is for non-vegans who might not get enough B12 through the meat they eat. Nowadays, due to soils being depleted of nutrients, cattle have to be fed B12 as well. Furthermore, in our modern society, many foods are fortified as these are necessary for healthy living, and, once again, it does not only happen with ‘vegan’ food: dairy milk, like plant milk, is normally fortified with vitamins A and D.
Being vegan is hard: nowadays, with the increasing availability of vegan foods, it has become exponentially easier to be vegan. While in supermarkets you can find a wide range of products clearly labeled ‘Vegan’. You can also buy online in vegan stores which will deliver to many places, even remote ones. While food deserts are still challenging, a vegan diet does not have to include fancy herby tofu or marinated tempeh. A vegan diet can be composed of simple ingredients such as potatoes, canned tomatoes, lentils, beans; though it might be challenging to find certain products, a vegan diet is neither hard nor impossible.
Veganism makes you weak: on the contrary, a well-balanced vegan diet provides you with the nutrients your body needs to thrive, not just survive. Nowadays, many athletes choose a vegan diet to improve their performance and stamina. Few examples of vegan athletes are Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, football player Colin Kaepernick and professional surfer, Tia Blanco. The list is very extensive and keeps growing with each passing day with more and more athletes realizing a plant-based diet can massively enhance their performance and recovery time if suffering from injuries, for example.
Vegan food is boring: on the contrary! A vegan diet can be very colorful, flavorsome, and diverse; people going on a vegan diet discover ingredients, herbs, and spices they’d never tried while eating a sometimes bland non-vegan diet. And the excitement and search for new things can extend to clothes, for example, with a range of vegan fabrics to be discovered.
Vegan diets are not filling enough: when transitioning into a vegan diet some people might feel less satisfied and hungry quickly after having eaten but this can be due to two things: first, a change in diet like this (from consuming animals products to plant-based ones) can take a few days and you need to give your body time to adapt and get used to the new diet. Secondly, sometimes people make the mistake of eating the same-size portions but, good news, due to plant-based foods normally being less calorically-dense, vegans need to eat bigger portions to feel satisfied.
Vegans are preachy: when offered a piece of cake, if a person says ‘No, thank you, I’m on a diet’, then most likely than not, nobody would take it personally. But, if the person were to say, ‘No, thank you, I’m afraid the cake is not vegan’, then probably someone would make a comment or even feel personally offended or attacked. Why is that? Well, non-vegans might feel vegans are judging them even though nothing might have been said; this could be connected to the cognitive dissonance many non-vegans struggle with: they love animals and would never hurt them but they’re eating something that contains animal products (and which implies the exploitations and commodification of animals.)
Veganism is for hippies: veganism is a belief of non-violence and compassion shared by vegans from different walks of life: old and young, gay and straight, female and male; business owners and employees, rock and roll lovers as well as classical music enthusiasts…The list goes on and on! Veganism does not discriminate. Veganism has brought people together under the shared belief of ahimsa, the principle of non-violence which applies to all living beings.