- Make the connection.
The whole foundation of the vegan movement is compassion towards all species. Without the ethical connection it’ll be hard for you to ever become fully vegan – it’s these ethics that extend the movement from being just a diet, to a full lifestyle. I would recommend you watch documentaries such as Earthlings and Dominion, to see the suffering that veganism takes a stance against. Once you see this suffering, difficult as it is to watch, you’ll be completely fuelled to start your vegan journey (unless you literally have no heart).
- Learn about the health and environmental implications.
Whilst veganism is primarily about reducing animal exploitation and suffering, there are other motives that lead people towards the lifestyle. Environmentalism is one – especially given the state our planet is in at the moment. Animal agriculture is hugely detrimental to the environment, so much so that Oxford University found that reducing our meat and dairy intake is the single biggest thing we can do individually to reduce our impact on climate change. To learn more about the environmental issues I would recommend the documentary Cowspiracy.
A lot of people also go vegan because of the profound health implications it can have; this one will apply differently to everyone so I urge you to do proper research on this, especially if you have certain health issues. However it is generally accepted that animal products are not beneficial to human health and a wholefoods plant-based diet has in a lot of cases proven itself to yield greater health. Doing research into the health aspect of veganism is hugely important when you’re starting out to ensure that you’re following a nutritionally adequate and sustainable diet: just like any other diet, without adequate knowledge you may do it in a detrimental way. Many people follow unsustainable fad versions of vegan diets which leads them to wanting to revert – it’s important here to remember that this is not an issue inherent in veganism itself, it’s an issue generated from a lack of knowledge/research. Keep in mind that everyone’s bodies are different, and it may take some time for your body to adjust to the new food changes – especially if you’ve been consuming animal products three times a day for your entire life. For information on this I would recommend: What the Health, Forks over Knives and www.nutritionfacts.org.
- Take it at your own pace.
Some people are able to go vegan overnight (like myself) but for others that can be hugely difficult and may cause you to give up. From what I have witnessed and what I can assume, the most effective way to go vegan is to switch our your animal products one-by-one: this way you don’t have to look at it as if you’re cutting out foods, instead you can look at it as an exciting journey to find new alternatives. This is a big learning curve given we were taught to include animal products in every meal, but keep in mind that contrary to what people think, veganism actually expands your food choices; all you’re really doing is getting rid of the same three dead animals you continuously consume as well as their secretions, and opening yourself up to the endless varieties of plant options, thus exposing yourself to foods you likely would never have even tried without deciding to make the switch. If you think you can go vegan overnight then that’s great, but remember the goal is to remain vegan and if taking a little longer to transition is what it takes, that is better for the animals overall.
This can also apply to switching out other products such as make-up and toiletries… Don’t try and replace them all at once (unless you can/want to) – the harm is done when you buy the product so there is nothing wrong with using up ones you already own. The best approach I can suggest is every time you need to replace one, try and research a vegan alternative so eventually you’ll have switched them all out.
- Vegan-ise your favourite meals.
Becoming vegan can be overwhelming at first because the likelihood is you’ll have absolutely no idea what to eat… In this situation a good place to start is to research how you can vegan-ise your favourite meals. Switching out meat products can be very easy as there are now so many plant-based meats on the markets; the same goes for milks, cheeses, pizzas etc… Other meals won’t be as simple but you will always be able to find a TONNE of recipes online. For example there are endless recipes for vegan mac n’ cheese that usually involve cashews, potatoes or vegan cheese – these will all be just a matter of trial and error but I promise there will be one out there that you like. Also keep in mind that once you go vegan, your taste buds will gradually change – in my case I now enjoy food so much more than I did before I was vegan and do not miss animal products at all. Furthermore, once you start to look at animal products for what they are (corpses and animal secretions), these plant alternatives will become more and more appetising.
- Follow vegan accounts.
Becoming vegan can be incredibly hard at first because in a lot of cases it’s likely you won’t know any other vegans and thus no-one who shares the same morals (or at least acts on them): it is very easy to become an enraged vegan when you first start and learn about all these injustices, believe me, I would know… But following other vegans on social media really helps with this. I would strongly recommend starting a vegan twitter account: this has allowed me to connect with other vegans and hence find people who share the same values so not only do I feel less alone, it gave me back a little faith in humanity… Following vegans on Instagram and YouTube is great to find meal inspiration so this again will help ease the transition.
Feel free to follow me on twitter/Instagram and connect if you would like any help or just someone to talk to about it: both @ thevgword.
- Presume everything isn’t vegan.
This one may seem counter-productive but hard as it may be at first, this will help to make it easier in the long run. There are a lot of products that you would never imagine to be non-vegan but unfortunately are. For example, some wine isn’t vegan because it’s filtered using a fish bladder. If you’re turning vegan through a transition this should all come naturally anyway as you start to substitute in more vegan foods and learn what you can and can’t have, but in general it is best to research stuff and never presume that something is vegan. This will also help to prevent you from becoming discouraged from making mistakes (which are okay!). If the sound of this is overwhelming, don’t panic, it becomes easier.
- Abundance not restriction.
One essential thing to take note of is that animal products are generally a lot higher in calories than plant foods, so when you switch to a plant-based diet you need to increase your portion-sizes to ensure you’re eating enough. Don’t be scared of bigger plates of food otherwise the likelihood is you’ll be hungry and unsatisfied and be likelier to revert to animal products. One tip is adding foods which are high in protein to your meals as this will help you feel satisfied and full for longer, for example: tofu, lentils, beans…
If you have any questions or could do with a little assistance, feel free to message me on the accounts I mentioned!