How To Go and Stay Vegan
Updated: Feb 4, 2019
Going vegan is not easy, it's a major lifestyle change and we live in a non-vegan society. It's going to take some time, effort and commitment to go and stay vegan. However, it's not rocket science either. With some proper planning and resources it eventually becomes second nature. One of my favorite phrases about veganism sums up very well about how I feel about it.
"Veganism is not a sacrifice. It is a joy". - Gary L. Francione
According to the definition of the Vegan Society VEGANISM is
"A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
Motivation - Strong motivation is the key. To make such a dramatic lifestyle change and to stick with it long term, you'll need to have a very strong "why". Vegansim is about reducing animal use and suffering first and foremost. To me the ethics are the cornerstone of veganism. You may not make the ethical connection first (like me), however once you make it, you will never consider animal products food. I did not grow up vegan or even a vegetarian and for a long time I believed I needed to eat animal products to be healthy. So when I found out that not only I don't need animal products to be healthy, but I can be even healthier and thrive solely on plants, I just could no longer justify eating these products.
Take your time - Take as much time as necessary. Some people do it overnight but others may take weeks, months or even years. Remember, this is not a diet, it's a complete lifestyle change and may take some trial and error. I hear this a lot - 'I tried it for a day/week/month (short period of time here) and didn't really work for me.' I mean, it's going to take some time to change your habits and behaviors to adapt. Most of us were not born vegan. So trying to reprogram your habits and behaviors of decades in a few days or weeks or even months is not going to cut it. This is why diets never work, we usually fall back into our old habits. Being vegan is a commitment, and so is being healthy. There are great programs for helping you to kick start, like Veganuary or Challenge 22. I think the more time you take, the more likely you are to do it properly and stick with it for good. For me it took years. I was pescatarian for about 5 years before becoming vegan.
Perfection is not the goal - Trying to be perfect is not an attainable goal. Remember the definition of veganism is to reduce use of animals as much as possible. In the beginning it can be very overwhelming when you find out about the animal products and by-products used in every aspect of our lives not just food system. Make reasonable goals about replacing things over time. It doesn't really make sense to try to get rid of everything you own at once and it can be very expensive.
Don't be afraid to try new foods - I've always considered myself pretty open to trying new things however I think my meals are so much more diverse now. I've always enjoyed abundance of fruits and vegetables but becoming vegan opened up whole new world of foods I've never even heard of.
Veganize your favorite recipes - Whatever your favorite recipe is, it can easily be veganized. There are a lot of resources that will help you with substituting non-vegan foods with vegan version. Do not be afraid to use plant based meats, especially in the transitioning period. These are usually mimicking taste and texture of the products that we are more familiar with and in the beginning a lot of people find these products extremely helpful to incorporate in meals.
Get the HappyCow app - This app is a life-saver when traveling or looking for places to eat out. Not only it has vegan, vegetarian restaurants listed in the area, but also non-vegan restaurants that offer veg options.
Do your research about nutritional consideratiosn - There are a lot of good resource available. The key is to not just remove animal products but to add appropriate plant substitutions. Here are some of my favorite ones:
This is the official position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (American Dietetics Association). I highly recommend reading the nutritional considerations portion as well as the relevant life cycle portion. This is a great starting point. (Her is thethe full text of the original paper).
The Vegan Society has a section with health and nutrition informatin
Dr. Michael Greger provides updates on nutrition topics in short videos. This is a great place if you are interested in learning more about specific topics.
Ginny Messina, RD - a registered dietitian who has a lot of helpful practical advice
Forks Over Knives - recipes and articles created by a large community of chefs, authors, doctors, and other health professionals representing an array of specialties, from preventive and lifestyle medicine to nutrition.
PCRM - for information about plant-based nutrition and healthy recipe ideas
I think educating yourself properly about nutrition is extremely important. There is a lot of bad advice on the internet. You will also be hearing a lot of myths about vegan diets and specific foods from family and friends. Please choose your sources carefully as there are a lot of self proclaimed nutrition experts out there. I do get a lot of recipe and food inspiration from vegan Instagram/You Tube influencers but never nutritional or health advice.
* According to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly ADA) "It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes".
Good luck and trust me, this is going to be one of the best decisions of your life :)