“Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it’s about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing non-violence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable.”
It’s been just over six months since I’ve adopting a vegan diet and in this short time I can say that I won’t ever go back. I look back at how my dinner plate used to look and I can’t imagine ever eating like that again. It’s incredible the transition that my mind and body has made in such a short time, but it’s also one of the most positive transformations I’ve ever experienced.
When people learn that I am vegan, there are a few questions that typically pop up – What do you eat? How do you get your protein? What made you become vegan in the first place? The first two questions always give me a chuckle because, let’s be honest, no one was ever concerned about what I was eating before. But the last one is always an interesting conversation starter and one that get’s people thinking about their own actions (mission accomplished!). No matter where the conversation goes, it’s inevitable that I’ll hear people say that they would like to transition to a vegan diet but don’t know where to start. Others say that giving up meat and cheese would just be too hard. Bottom line is that if you’re really committed to something, you’ll find a way to make it work.
I understand that with all the outside influences, heavy criticism and just plain douchebaggery we see against vegans, it can be hard to adopt and openly admit your choices. So here are a few tips that helped me in the process, including just not giving a f–k about what people think (it’s easier than you think).
Discover your why
No matter how much willpower you think you have, it’s not going to be enough. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, you’re almost sure to fall off the wagon in a matter of weeks (ok, no offence but it will probably be days). My decision was first based on health reasons. Say what you want about vegans, but you can’t deny the facts. Meat and dairy has a significantly negative impact on your health. The impact these industries have on the environment and animal welfare are also hard to ignore. So what’s your “why”? whatever it is, keep it in mind every time you feel like giving in.
The best way to discover your “why” is to educate yourself on what’s really going on in the world. There are loads of documentaries and books that provide so much interesting information about how the meat and dairy industries impacts your health, the environment, the animals. And I’m not just talking about studies done on 10 people over the course of a week. The China Study (maybe you’ve heard of it), is one of the most comprehensive study in nutrition ever done. Say what you want about the impact of nutrition on health, you can’t deny these facts. The documentaries Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives are also good resources to get started. Just a warning – as you can imagine some scenes in these films can get a little heavy so take the time you need to process it.
Take baby steps
Drastic changes never work out in the long term. Start slowly making small changes that you know you can adopt in the long run. I started by cutting out dairy years ago just because it made me feel like ass. When I moved and was living on my own again, I drastically cut my meat consumption (it’s easier to do when you’re not living with a carnivore). When I met my bae, that’s when I became fully vegan (he’s been vegan for three years). If cutting out one food at a time seems too daunting, aim for Meatless Mondays. Then try adding a second plant-based day, and so on.
Make health a priority
It’s an amazing time to be alive! The variety of vegan products out there is insane and give you zero reason to consume animals (have you tired the Beyond Meat burgers?). But like any diet you choose to adopt, there’s a healthy version and a junk food version. The beauty of veganism is the delicious rainbow of foods that are available directly from nature. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an Amy’s pizza and much as the next girl, but the bulk of my diet is fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Sticking to these foods as your primary source of nutrition will help you feel good and shine from the inside out.
Forget everything you’ve ever known about nutrition
You need meat for protein. You need milk for calcium. Fruit makes you fat. Ok, now that we got that nonsense out of the way, here’s the truth. Fruit won’t make you fat (unless you’re in a caloric surplus) and a plant-based diet provides more than enough of the protein and calcium you need to be healthy. When it comes to protein, the recommended amount is different for all of us and depends mostly on your goals and activity levels. But even if you’re training hard and wanting to build muscle, it can be done on a plant-based diet (just look at Nimai Delgado and Natalie Matthews, both IFBB Pros). Foods like beans, quinoas, almonds, tofu and tempeh are amazing sources of protein. Also, did you know that 1 cup on spinach has 5 grams of protein? When it comes to calcium, 3 cups of kale contains more calcium than 1 cup of milk. Plus you gate the added vitamins and minerals.
If you haven’t heard, veganism is a movement that is growing quickly. And the beauty of that is that there is no shortage of inspiring people to follow, learn from and keep you motivated. Instagram is my main source of inspiration for finding delicious recipes and learning more about the positive impact that veganism has on bodies, our environment and the planet. I also joined a few private vegan groups on Facebook which are amazing for discovering new products and also support others that are working towards a vegan lifestyle and (unfortunately) have to deal with people around them who just don’t get it. (PSST! The Skinny Confidential has an amazing vegan page). I also love Live Kindly, Minimalist Baker and My New Roots for amazing recipe inspiration.
Don’t give up
This is a journey. Some will get it, most won’t. You’ll come across people who want to question your choices, don’t agree with your choices and even ridicule your choices. Honestly, f–k ’em! Never forget why you’ve made the choice that you’ve made. Second, there may be times when you slip up and give in, and that’s ok. If you feel like you need that piece of cheese or you’d up buying a product that isn’t vegan, so what. Do your thing then move on. After a while of eating plant-based, you’ll love how you feel to the point that when you eat a piece of meat or an ounce of dairy, you’ll notice a difference and want nothing more than to get back on track.
Are you vegan? What would you say to someone who wants to become vegan? Share your words of wisdom below!