Over the last few years, there has been a surge in veganism. Documentaries like Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy and What the Health have illustrated the dark sides of a carnivore diet and encouraged more and more people to embrace a vegan lifestyle. Some are intrigued by the health benefits a vegan diet offers, some are concerned about the impact animal agriculture has on our planet, and some are appalled by the way animals are treated by the meat and dairy industries. Whatever your reason may be, you’ve finally made the decision to transition to a vegan diet. Where do you start? Going vegan is much easier than you think.
Your Adventure, Your Rules There’s no right or wrong way to go vegan. Some people do it overnight and have no problem while others prefer to do it slowly. My journey to veganism happened instantly. I watched a powerful Youtube video by Gary Yourofsky and decided to go vegan right then and there! However, I was (and still am) an ice cream junkie, and I gave myself one week to devour the few Magnum Almond ice creams I already had in the freezer. There are many ways you can transition to a vegan diet. You can:
- start by cutting out one type of meat or just dairy or eggs from your diet and then gradually add to the list
- have a vegan day per week
- switch to vegan breakfasts for a week, then also make your lunch vegan before having all your meals be vegan.
Simply put, there is no “right” way to make the transition. Choose what works best for you. Like any change, it might take a while to complete the transition, so just take your time and find out what best suits you and your lifestyle. Also, some people keep their decision a secret and are only vegan at home. This way you have a chance to focus on yourself and your diet without feeling watched and judged by others. Do it your way at your own pac
Eating Vegan Food Don’t get down on yourself if you genuinely dislike some vegan foods. Depending on your diet before the transition, you might find the taste of some vegan meals challenging. As a teenager my mum forced me to try avocado. The gooey stuff made me sick. The same thing happened when I was offered soy milk at a friend’s house, and I hated it.
The thought of having to add avocado and soy milk to my diet made me gag. Nowadays, there are plant-based alternatives for almost everything you’re eating and enjoying right now – vegan tofu chicken, vegan steaks, vegan bacon…the list goes on. It is also important to remember that our taste buds will change over time. You may find yourself not caring for vegan meat-substitutes at first and then actually savouring the new flavours and textures. Personally, I’ve fallen in love with avocado – did you know you can use avocado to make delicious chocolate mousse? And now there’s always soy milk in my shopping cart. Just be sure to eat a variety of plant foods to get all the necessary nutrients. If you want to learn more about the supplements you need, click here.
The Cost of Eating Vegan Many new vegans are worried that their new lifestyle will be too expensive. That’s a myth! Vegan ingredients such as rice, pasta, beans, fruits and vegetables are the cheapest foods on earth. You can buy and store legumes in bulk. There are farmers markets where you can buy cheap vegetables and fruits in almost every community. However, a vegan lifestyle can get expensive if you only consume processed soy versions of an omnivore diet.
Non-Vegan Family & Friends Not all families and friends will be supportive of your decision, mainly because of their misconceptions about a vegan lifestyle. My mum worried that I might develop iron deficiency and lose hair. I did my research and educated myself about the health benefits of a vegan diet in order to reassure her, and she became more supportive once she understood that I would be getting all the necessary nutrients.
Food also plays an important role in social gatherings. We meet friends over coffee and cake, relax over brunch, meet family for Sunday dinner and celebrate important events with a feast. Many families have their own traditions around certain foods. The idea that you wouldn’t be able to share in such food-centered gatherings might feel threatening to family members and friends, but that doesn’t have to be true. Making traditional dishes vegan is a great way of showing that you’re still part of their social circle. I often invite my friends over for a vegan brunch and share my favourite meals with them.
Join Like-minded Groups Humans are social beings. We enjoy sharing experiences, stories and emotions. However, veganism is a fairly new concept, and like any new idea, it can be met with opposition and ridicule – sometimes even by close family and friends. I was once asked by a friend whether I can break my veganism for a night. The media and some vegan celebrities who changed their minds and now eat fish a vegetarian or omnivore diet have propagated false beliefs and ideas about what veganism is. That’s why joining like-minded people on social media or at real world events can be helpful. It’s good to have new friends to discuss your thoughts with, ask for help or just vent about your frustrations.
A Collection of Non-Vegan Items In an ideal world, we’d ditch all the leather and fur items we’ve collected over the years and buy more humane replacements. However, using a leather bag won’t cause any more suffering to an already deceased animal. Can you afford to throw it away and get a new one? What about donating it to a second-hand shop that helps an animal sanctuary? Or how about buying your new items from that same second-hand shop and helping the animal sanctuary? Maybe you’d rather keep your items and donate the money to an animal charity. It’s really a personal choice, and it very much depends on your finances. Once I went vegan, I stopped buying non-vegan clothing items, but I didn’t get rid of pieces already in my possession. As I go forward, my wardrobe and home will be transformed over time to align with my beliefs.
Weight Loss or Gain One of the common questions I’m asked is: “I’ve been vegan for weeks, but why haven’t I lost more/any weight?” When you eliminate animal products from your diet, you’ll reduce your intake of saturated fat and calories.
However, more and more companies are getting on board the vegan bandwagon and offering vegan varieties of all the available junk food. Eating vegan junk food and processed meat substitutes not only harms your health, but it can also prevent weight loss. Keep the amount of the junk food you consume to a minimum and find healthier snack options. Though 70% of weight loss is due to nutrition, exercise still makes an important component, and a lasting weight loss is achieved by a combination of both.
Last, But Not Least… Even with all the information and support of like-minded friends on vegan forums, some people still have moments when they feel overwhelmed by the disapproval of their immediate social circle. Or you may have a strong craving or some other personal issue and end up having a relapse or even consider quitting. Should that happen, be compassionate with yourself and remember why you started. Your why will help you to get through it. Think of it as a journey. You don’t need to have an exact road map or the perfect tools to set out; you just need to take the first step and then another and another.