Here, we give you a few pointers to get you started and help prepare you for what lies ahead. The transition can be a bumpy road in what can be an already challenging experience.
Have fun, take your time and remember, you can do it!
Understand the Why
This is the most important step in switching to a plant-based lifestyle. If you understand your motivation, it’ll determine whether it’s going to be temporary or for life.
There are 3 main reasons to go vegan, you don’t have to choose just one of them, all of them are good, too!
What’s important is that you look into the area that resonates with you most; research it, look it up online or simply ask long-term vegans why they haven’t gone back.
For me, it was initially for the animals. I recognized my own hypocrisy at loving a pet and at the same time eating a chicken sandwich.
There’s a mental connection that, once formed, is permanent. The psychologist, Melanie Joy PhD, discusses it in her book, Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows.
Make A Big Announcement?
Some people begin by deciding on the day and then tell all their friends and family that, “From next Tuesday I’m going vegan.”
This can cause you a lot of unnecessary issues. Firstly, you may get people giving you their opinions as to what they think about you going vegan.
At such an early stage, this can lead to confusion and self-doubt. It also puts pressure on you that you don’t need.
I’d also say, if you’re planning to make the switch at a future date, even if it’s tomorrow, then you probably haven’t thought it through enough as to why you’re going vegan.
In my experience, once you truly understand the why, then it’s immediate, and there’s no going back.
Our advice is just to do it in your own time, if it’s immediate or gradual, do whatever fits best.
When you’re new to this or making the transition, you may find it helpful to avoid discussing it with other people. Just make different choices when out socializing. You need to get used to it yourself without potentially having to defend your choices.
What Do I Eat?
Some people think following a plant-based lifestyle means the diet is restrictive when actually the opposite is true.
The thinking goes like this: generally speaking, the most basic meal on a Standard American Diet (SAD)/Western diet is a plate of meat, potatoes and vegetables. Meat is the main part and the rest really are accompaniments. For many people, this is the starting point in their mind.
Moving forward and then thinking about veganism means removing the meat, the ‘main’ food on the plate. This understandably promotes confusion and anxiety. You’re only going to eat vegetables now?
If you’ve been eating this way all your life, now is the time to broaden your horizons. There are so many more food choices out there. So many different cultures, cuisines and customs.
You have two options:
- Veganize your favorite meals which is so easy nowadays with endless meat substitutes; you can get everything from steak, sandwich ‘meat’ slices, sausage and even scrambled egg that doesn’t contain egg!
- Go outside your comfort zone. Many authentic Italian recipes are naturally vegan, vegan sushi, Middle Eastern cuisine has many vegan recipes, then of course there’s Indian food, a personal favorite of mine!
To get you started, we’ve reviewed thousands of recipes, which you can check out here.
Take It Easy
Some people find transitioning over to a plant-based lifestyle easy while others have a hard time. You know you want to do it, but some habits can be hard to break.
My all time favorite saying is, ‘There’s no substitute for time’.
Don’t worry if you fall off the wagon, you haven’t failed, it’s just part of the process. Those times will become less and less and one day it’ll just happen.
Most importantly, just do the best you can. Don’t feel guilty, disappointed or angry at yourself, just remember why you made this choice and keep looking forward.
It can be really helpful to get some apps for your phone to help you identify vegan ingredients, find places to eat and so on. Just type in ‘Vegan’ and see what you fancy!
In addition, get support and join online communities, you’ll find people that went through the same experiences as you and are more than willing to help you out.
When you make the connection about seeing all beings equally, it can be like waking up into a nightmare! You see the madness and hypocrisy all around you.
You see people happily pouring cows milk in their coffee, but they’d look at you like a crazy person if you suggested they use human breast milk in the drink, or milk from a dog.
You want to tell everyone! You want to do it for the animals, for the environment and for the health of those you love and care for.
In our experience, very few people turn to a plant-based lifestyle because someone told them to. It’s something you find for yourself and the time varies depending on the individual.
The best you can do is set the perfect example of health and vitality.
When someone is ready, they’ll come to you for guidance and this is when you can help.
Most people assume that when you’re a vegan, you only eat healthy foods and you never get sick. Remember, the term ‘vegan’ refers to what you don’t eat, not what you do.
You could eat (vegan flavored) potato chips and drink soda all day and you’re still a vegan.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s also an endless array of meat substitutes available and these can be great!
In fact, if you want get a little savvy in the kitchen, we’ve put together an excellent recipe roundup filled with vegan substitute recipes, especially for people who miss the taste, texture, or simply want the familiarity of what you used to eat.
Despite everything, the same rules apply to a ‘vegan’ as they do everybody else. We all should eat an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as exercise regularly to be healthy.
A plant-based burger may be far better for you compared to one made from beef, but it’s still processed food and this should always be consumed in moderation.
Over time, you’re very likely to get people asking you questions as to why you’ve chosen a plant-based lifestyle. You’ll want to know how to handle these situations.
You’re going to come across curious friends and family and, at least initially, they may genuinely be interested in your responses to their questions.
Personally, I try to avoid the subject as it can easily escalate into an argument; it isn’t always intentional, but we all have an ego and it goes something like this:
Interested carnivore friend: “Oh, I heard you went vegan? What made you do that?”
You: “I love animals.”
At this point, your friend realizes she’s always considered herself an animal lover, too, so the conversation switches from one of curiosity to one of defence, and at this point, an argument isn’t far away.
Understand this happens because if they were to agree with you, they’d have to change their life right there and then, otherwise they’d consider themselves a hypocrite.
This isn’t about winning arguments or proving anything. Educate yourself on facts but also learn how to handle such situations and appreciate you were once a meat-eater, too, who hadn’t yet made the connection.
It used to be you. Be understanding, loving and treat it as though you’ve planted a seed. Just give it time to grow.
The road to switching to a plant-based lifestyle can be paved with many twists and turns. It’s far more than simply deciding to eat something else.
As well as facing your own issues of breaking old habits and trying new foods, you also have those around you either asking questions or challenging your choices.
Being prepared is always the best course of action. Knowing what to expect can make the journey that much easier.
We’re here for you every step of the way!