I know there are already heaps of hints and tips out there for transitioning to a vegan diet. Mine will hopefully help with a slower transition, as some of us can’t do change overnight. We like to wade around a little first to see what the temperature is like and how big the waves are before we dive in. We will eventually dive in, it just takes a little more time for us to get used to the temperature.
And, it can be daunting. Veganism is more than a diet, it is a way of life – hence the ‘ism’. If you’re doing it to lose weight, you’ll more than likely go back to your old habits once you hit that magic number and, like most of us do, put it all back on again. If you’re doing it for health, you’ll be good most of the time, but again you will find an excuse to eat the cheese or ice cream or T-bone, because you’ve been well for a while now so maybe a little wont hurt? And the more ‘the little’ doesn’t hurt, the more you’ll eat it and eventually you too will be back at square one. I am speaking from personal experience here, because this second one was me with cigarettes and nearly was for veganism.
The only way I’ve found for this to truly work is to incorporate an ethical philosophy into your choice to change. If it’s not about something bigger than you, it wont work as effectively.
So, it’s a lifestyle choice. Are you ready for a change? If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you are. So, here are my 5 tips for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle:
- Go easy on yourself. Most people will put this last, and the article I read it in did too if memory serves me (and it doesn’t on the source unfortunately!). I’ll put it first because most people only remember the first and last thing they read (as science has shown time and time again) and I think it is the most important part. You wont get it 100% right 100% of the time, especially at first. I know I didn’t. And when you’re out and about and starving, do your best to avoid animal products. If your best is smashed avocado with feta on sourdough, because that’s all there is and they already put the feta in, don’t beat yourself up over it. Do what ever ritual or say whatever prayer you need to to thank the animal and move on. Guilt doesn’t help anyone, it weakens your resolve and eventually you will give up because it gets too much. And if you make a mistake, as you almost certainly will, and eat something you found out later to have animal products (like white sugar, red lollies or some hashbrowns) same deal applies – GO EASY ON YOURSELF!
- Adapt your existing diet. Big changes are more easily made in small chunks and familiar surroundings. One friend of mine did it overnight, but most of us just aren’t built that way and that is perfectly acceptable. So, do it one meal at a time. Stick to your already established routine, but make adjustments. Substitute mince in spaghetti bolognaise with grated zucchini. You only need one, so it’s cheaper as well as healthier! Swap cows milk for soy or almond milk in your tea or coffee. Be careful here and experiment, because I’ve found some milks can curdle in instant coffee. It doesn’t taste bad and won’t hurt you, it just doesn’t look appealing. I have also found I need less sugar in my tea because the milk is already sweet! Exchange thickened cream in soups and carbonara dishes for coconut milk. The texture will be a little different, but the taste is as good, if not better due to the lack of oil that tends to pool at the top of some pasta dishes. These are a few things I did, but it is easy to find more. Just google for a substitute to your meat and dairy and you’ll find heaps of examples. I live by the simple rule of more veggies over meat and plant-based over animal dairy. This also makes most new recipes easy to adapt too.
- Research, research, research. Most vegans will learn all they can about how harmful animal agriculture is for the planet and our own bodies. This is great! People definitely need to be aware of this. What I found most interesting, and eye-brow raising for my carnist loved ones, was to find out how certain foods heal the body and what impact others have on our health. In fact, it was this search that lead me to giving up dairy almost a year ago, before ever even considering becoming vegan. One book I found particularly helpful was Dr Greger’s How Not to Die. So much so I ended up buying a copy, despite my minimalist tendencies. The library copy would only let me renew it so many times! There are others, but any general research from reputable sources on nutrition will help. And this knowledge will bring an interesting addition to the inevitable ‘discussions’ with carnists.
- Watch, watch, watch. Perhaps this should have gone in spot 3, more for continuity’s sake than anything. Still, here it is and here we are! There are a multitude of documentaries out there now, especially on Netflix, about sustainable living and the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and our health. Go, be a sponge! A Netflix and pyjama day is a must! For me, this was the turning point from ‘maybe’ to ‘never again’. I remember the scene quite clearly, and if you’ve also read The Day I Chose Me you will already know what’s coming. I can’t remember which one it was now, probably Cowspiracy. There was a scene in a dairy farm with a dairy cow being lead back outside after being milked. I don’t remember what was said, but my eyes were drawn to her udders, dripping blood and pus. I was horrified. Maybe I empathized with her, woman to woman, despite not having yet had my own children, but knowing the pain she would be feeling in such a vulnerable part. Maybe it was my logical side kicking in, knowing the blood and pus would surely be in the milk we would then drink. If not, I wasn’t keen on drinking the chemicals they would need to use to make it drinkable either. So, this was my ‘never again’ moment. Since visuals are often the quickest, most effective way of imparting information – watch, watch, watch! And if you’ve already had your ‘never again’ moment, the worst that can happen is gaining more knowledge, which is certainly never a bad thing.
- Find out what works for you. This I can’t stress enough. As someone who has spent her life up to now living as others expected me to, I have finally learnt that you have to honour yourself first. Find a philosophy that works for you. Mine comes from a line in the Wiccan Rede – ‘Do what you will and harm none’. So, I live my life however I wish, as long as I am not hurting anyone or any being. So, if I chose to still consume some animal products, I will make sure no animal was harmed in the process. I, and a few vegan friends, still consume honey for its healing properties. Me, usually only when sick, and one friend more regularly as a preventative. Our philosophy leads us to sourcing organically grown honey that does the least harm to the bees when sourced, none if possible. As long as no bees are killed, maimed or otherwise hurt through this process, I am happy. Many vegans wont agree with me, but they don’t have to. I have made an informed choice and this is what works best for me. So, discover your own philosophy and do what works best for you.
So, I hope these tips help you in your transition. Feel free to comment any thoughts, experiences or questions below. I would love to hear what worked for you!