I’ve been vegan for about three years now (four in February) and every time I tell someone this, I get one of two reactions: 1. “Oh my god, really? Why?” or 2. “Oh my god, really? That’s awesome! I’ve thought about it, but it seems too hard”. So for all of my friends and everyone else who has thought about going vegan but isn’t sure how to start, here’s my advice on how to begin your journey.
1. Do Your Research
Anyone who is deciding to make a huge life change needs to educate themselves. Going into anything blind is a bad idea because you could end up making things more difficult for yourself without even realizing it. Part of what makes veganism so rewarding is truly understanding the impact your decision makes on the planet. In order to understand the benefits, you must first understand the issues present in the food industry and how a plant-based diet helps to eradicate them. Veganism has become more mainstream over the last two decades or so, and with that comes more and more resources to help you make educated and solid food decisions.
I am a huge book fan, and there are some great books that have been written about a plant-based lifestyle that are worth a read, such as, “Diet For A New America” by John Robbins, and “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, PHD and Thomas M. Campbell II. MD. If you’re not much of a book lover, there are plenty of wonderfully informative documentaries such as “Vegucated”, “Food Inc.”, “Forks Over Knives”, and “Earthlings”, which illustrate the benefits of a plant based diet for the planet and our bodies.
2. Get Connected!
I was very lucky to have my mother join me on my vegan journey, but I know that not everyone has someone in their life who is as excited to jump on the vegan train. Whether or not you have a support system near you, it’s important to connect to other vegans in your community and the vegan community online. There are so many great websites, Youtubers, bloggers (*cough* Feminine Boutique *cough*) and magazines that keep you informed about vegan news, activities, and events.
If you are surrounded by meat eaters, it can feel like you are alone in your quest and that all of your efforts have been for nothing. Keeping up with all of the progress we’ve made for things such as animal rights and restoring the condition of our planet is always uplifting. For me, knowing that there are so many others out there who share the same beliefs about the planet and compassion for animals that I do has helped me many times. Being able to communicate with these people, even if it’s not face-to-face, always reignites the fire that made me want to be vegan. Some websites to check out are vegnews.com and vegan.com. Magazines I love are Vegan Health & Fitness and Vegan Lifestyle.
3. Be Creative.
One thing that was very hard for me when I first became vegan was realizing that I couldn’t eat half of the things in my fridge anymore. At that point, I had been mainly vegetarian for 9 years, but I was still so surprised at how much of the food we had in the house that had dairy in it. What saved me was using my creativity. Instead of focusing on the things I loved that I couldn’t eat anymore, I looked for new, cruelty-free food obsessions.
Get excited about eating new things and get crafty in the kitchen! In the three years since I’ve been vegan, I’ve become a much better cook because I’ve learned to think outside of the box when it comes to food. Most of us have been conditioned to believe that meat and dairy are the main focus and necessity of every healthy meal; removing them can seem very tough at first, but I promise that if you just open your mind to all the delicious vegan possibilities around you, you will never run out of satisfying meals. Some of my favorite meal ideas have come from vegan YouTubers such as Jelly Draper, Kicki Yang Zhang, Cam and Nina, Natural Vita, and Nina and Randa.
4. Go Easy
Becoming vegan is a huge life change; whether you’ve been vegetarian before or you’ve eaten meat and dairy products all your life, it’s not a small feat. With that being said, I think it’s very important to pace yourself and listen to your body while transitioning. If you are committed to being a vegan, you need to allow yourself that time to get used to the change. I know plenty of vegans who were able to stop eating animal products immediately and haven’t looked back, but not everyone can do that, and that is okay! You may slip up every now again when you’re starting out, but the important thing is to keep your goal in mind and keep pushing forward. I promise you that if you keep going, there will come a day when you won’t even think about the food you once thought you couldn’t live without. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so allow yourself time to grow and adapt every step of the way.