How To Go Vegan: The Complete Step By Step Guide
Changing your whole diet and lifestyle from the standard, modern method of doing things to a vegan way can be challenging without the proper planning. For most new vegans, their metamorphosis means more than just saying so long to hot dogs and ham and cheese sandwiches. Because this lifestyle encompasses health concerns, a deep environmentalism, and a way of caring about animals’ rights that is outside the norm, becoming vegan involves every aspect of a person’s life. But this way of living and being in the world will bring personal, emotional, physical, and global benefits.
No one can tell you how exactly these changes will occur in your life, because each individual has a unique set of circumstances to consider. Who you live with, where you live, what your job is like, and how much support you have all make a difference. If you’re a butcher in Wisconsin, for example, you’ve got your work cut out for you. This guide can help you decide when and how to make the switch from a meat and dairy diet to a vegan one. Just remember that every step forward toward a vegan lifestyle, whether fast or slow, is a positive step for yourself and the greater world around you.
Going Cold Tofurky
If going cold Tofurky is your preferred method of vegan transition, be aware that you may have some slip-ups. Don’t beat yourself up over a bacon cheeseburger a few weeks in. A full transition will take time. In fact, you may find in the end that it’s more difficult to live a completely vegan lifestyle with all the clothing, furniture, and products necessary than just focusing on eating a vegan diet.
Just keep in mind that staying positive and keeping a creative mindset are important character traits when trying to endure any setbacks or challenges.
The pros of converting quickly
Immediately getting rid of every morsel of meat or dollop of dairy can be a really satisfying experience on many different fronts. Consider these benefits of converting quickly:
- You may notice the health benefits . For someone who has health problems that are exacerbated by meat, has excess weight to lose, or is sensitive or allergic to dairy, this method can yield near immediate positive feelings. Imagine that you’ve been having asthma, a runny nose, or allergies for years, and then all of a sudden your phlegm disappears because you stopped drinking milk and eating cheese just a few days ago — it’s a terrific feeling, and you’ll want it to continue. How’s that for an incentive?
- You can be relieved that you’re no longer contributing to animal cruelty If animal rights and the moral issues behind veganism are an impor- tant part of your decision, you’ll immediately feel so much better about eating food that doesn’t contribute to the pain and suffering of others. When you realize how inhumanely animals are raised and feel compassion for the creatures that humans eat, it can be really heartbreaking to continue eating them yourself. So making the switch quickly will be a huge relief to your conscience.
- You can be energized by the change in lifestyle. Many people find it fun and exciting to have a life full of purpose and a new way of doing their daily deeds. Buying different foods, exploring new shops and Web sites, and discovering the complexities of a vegan life can feel truly energizing.
The cons of going too fast
Adopting the vegan way of doing things too quickly can be dizzying with its complexities and new rules. Keep in mind some of the drawbacks to moving too fast:
- Your health may initially be affected and can cause you to crash and burn or get sick during a busy Detoxing from meat and dairy foods is a possible side effect when you choose to go vegan. When the body stops storing the constant influx of unhealthy fats and proteins, it will finally have a chance to let go and cleanse. This cleans- ing can be physically uncomfortable and may result in headaches, acne, tiredness, or the urge to invade small countries. Your digestive system may not be accustomed to such large amounts of fiber, so you also could notice some bloating and increased bowel movements at the beginning of your transition.
- You may go broke trying to replace every animal product in your home. Donating or throwing away everything that was tested on or was once part of an animal can leave your cupboards bare and your house and closets empty. Replacing the leather sofa costs money as will filling up your refrigerator with vegan food. Think about how much you need to throw out to be truly vegan — and how much money you’ll need to spend to replace it.
- You may make mistakes if you don’t do the proper research before- You’re probably going to mess up in the first few weeks of being vegan. If you go too quickly and don’t research all the foods, ingredients, and products you buy and use, you may continue using things that were tested on animals or that use animal ingredients. Still, messing up isn’t a good reason to give up — if you trip going down the stairs, do you swear off stairs forever? No. You get up, dust yourself off, and start walking down again. Keep it up, and you’ll figure it out. And eventually you’ll be sliding down the banister!
Taking a Slow, Systematic Approach
Most new vegans find that a less abrupt, slow and steady transition approach works best for them. Changing your diet and lifestyle completely can be really challenging, and doing everything at once can be stressful. So, by taking your time, you’re less likely to make major, costly mistakes.
Advantages of taking your time
Sudden changes to your diet can cause many surprising results, but making a slower switch to veganism can help reduce the consequences. Here are some reasons why:
- You won’t stress out trying to substitute foods for every animal product you’re used to Consider giving up one nonvegan food category a week. Cheese, milk, meat, eggs, and butter can all move out of your life slowly as you figure out how to substitute for them with new vegan foods. Taking your time allows you to ask questions and discover new protein, fat, and nutrient sources as you move forward.
- You’ll encounter less discomfort from detoxifying side The human body has incredible systems in place to help detoxify and release harmful foods, liquids, and chemicals. The skin can sweat out impurities, the liver deals with unhealthy fats, and the bowels release waste. It’s truly amazing what the human body is capable of doing to heal and cleanse itself, if given half a chance. However, this “spring cleaning” effect can manifest itself with some unwanted symptoms like headaches, fatigue, rashes, sleeplessness, fever, temporary loss of menstruation, diarrhea or constipation, increased methane emissions (if you know what I mean), and acne.
People who move to a vegan diet very quickly are more likely to expe- rience these symptoms. Taking your time will allow the body to work these processes slowly, causing less discomfort. Going cold Tofurky can sometimes be pretty painful!
- You’ll ease the flow of money out of your new pleather If you throw out everything in your house that was tested on animals or that’s made of leather, wool, silk, beeswax, dairy, meat, or eggs, your house may look the way it did the day before you moved in: Empty! Allowing more time to replace items that get used up, worn out, or eaten will spread the expenses out and make the cost more manageable.
Problems with pacing yourself
As you probably know, transitioning slowly to veganism isn’t all daisies and sunshine. You may run into a few problems, including the following:
- You may be impatient and find the waiting to be If you’re the type who likes to make a decision and jump right into new habits, taking your time to make your whole life vegan may be too annoying for you. You may get bored or frustrated because you know what you want to do and how you want to live, but you can’t afford to make all the nec- essary changes.
- The prolonging of detoxifying effects may trouble you more than just getting it done and over While the “shock and awe” method of quick detoxification can be too much for some new vegans, others may experience such painful physical problems that they’re ready to get their bodies cleaned out as quickly as possible. When you’ve hit bottom physically, a few days of detoxification symptoms may be preferable to waiting weeks for relief.
The Nuts and Bolts of Changing Over
Whether you’re going cold Tofurky or transitioning over time, going vegan is a life-changing event that requires you to do and remember a few basic things to be successful. I explain these nuts and bolts, including timing, education, planning, and experimentation with new foods, in the following sections.
Choosing your timing wisely
Whether you decide to be 100 percent vegan tomorrow or make the transi- tion over the next few months, you’ll want to make a plan to ensure that you don’t make big changes during inconvenient times. Going vegan right before a rehearsal dinner at a steak house may be tough. Similarly, if you’re about to
go on a three-week vacation to Brazil, you’ll find it much more difficult to eat a vegan diet if you’re not experienced in choosing vegan foods. In other words, go vegan slowly over a few weeks where you aren’t required to do something important: take finals, present a paper at a business conference, or give birth — there’s no point in adding extra stress to an already stressful life.
Choose an easy week, and get started over the weekend so you have time to plan a week of meals, shop, and research your local resources. You can make a commitment to eating one or two vegan meals a day for the first week, adding vegan snacks and more meals as you go forward. Perhaps you have a three-day weekend coming up, or your job duties are going to be really relaxed at the end of a big project. These times would be excellent for starting to cook more or to switch from cow’s milk to soy, rice, or hemp milk. You also can add another change at this time, such as eliminating white sugar, which is often processed with bone char from animals, and honey and replacing them with agave syrup. Keep building on these changes. As you master one major item, try another.
Making time to cook on a regular basis can bring you many benefits. Cooking your own food from scratch saves you money over time, because you can avoid relying on more expensive convenience items. Getting down and dirty in the kitchen also connects you with your food on a new level and helps you appreciate new flavors. When you have time to experiment, get creative with new produce and products to avoid getting stuck in a food rut. Or check out the many vegan cookbooks and recipes online to get inspired.
Educating yourself and involving your friends
You’ve already chosen an excellent first step in educating yourself — reading this blog! Looking at vegan Web sites, talking with other long-time vegans, discovering which ingredients to avoid, and buying a few vegan cookbooks also can help you prepare. Understanding how to feed yourself, what to eat, and where to get the foods and products you need are necessary skills. You don’t have to be a doctor to understand the foundations of healthy living; it’s easy to become a student of nutrition, food, and healing. Plus knowing the facts about veganism helps you explain your decision to become a vegan when you’re confronted with questions and doubts.
You may be the only person you know who’s brave enough to try a vegan diet, but it can’t hurt to ask for support from your family and good friends. If they understand why this is important to you, what you plan to do, and what you may need from them in order to be successful, they’ll likely offer their help or resources. Perhaps your father works with a vegan or your friend’s sister works at a vegan-friendly restaurant. Cast a wide net and see what comes back to you! It’s not often that you get to experience a major shift in life and truly rely on the wisdom of those who have gone before you.
Making healthier decisions by planning your meals ahead of time
Planning your meals in advance is the best way to make a healthy, less-stressful transition to veganism. Your diet may be changing drastically from bacon three meals a day, or you may just be eliminating dairy from your already vegetarian diet. Either way, you’ll feel much better if you set your eating goals and write down a week’s worth of menus. And think how great you’ll feel when you stop buying bacon!
By using a meal planning guide and working from a list of foods you know you want to eat more of, you can sketch out a good idea of what you need to buy. If you want to eat more leafy green vegetables, whole grains, or sea vegetables, choosing recipes that will incorporate those healing foods makes it more likely that you’ll accomplish your goal.
Knowing what you’re going to make for dinner on Wednesday (or any other particular day of the week) helps you plan your daily schedule better so you’re sure to have enough time allotted to cook at the end of the day. It also saves you and your family from bickering and deciding on takeout or veggie burgers yet again. Keep in mind that it’s often easier to plan for bigger cooking projects on the weekend, because you’ll have more free time and fewer obligations to worry about. And if you cook enough on the weekend, you can have leftovers to make the next week that much easier.
Purging non-vegan products from your life
Some of the non-vegan foods you’ll be avoiding are pretty obvious: cheddar cheese made from cow’s milk? Chuck it. Steaks in the freezer? Give ’em to the meat eater down the hall, or throw them away. Most vegans start avoiding these foods immediately once they set their minds to it.
Other ingredients aren’t as easily avoided. You may find out a few days into your new vegan diet that your favorite crackers have honey in them or that the skin cream you love is made with goat’s milk. Sitting on your leather sofa or car seats may gross you out after you comprehend their origins.
Go easy on yourself when you make your decisions about what to throw away and what to use until it’s gone. If you can’t afford to buy all new beauty aids this month, use what you have and replace each bottle of shampoo or lotion with a cruelty-free brand when the old one is gone. Perhaps you don’t have anyone you can give your dozen eggs to and you don’t want to waste them — maybe it’s better to eat the rest of the package, say a prayer and blessing for the chickens, and buy some tofu next week instead.
You can stop using every nonvegan item today, or you can take your time. It’s up to you, and no one should judge your decisions. You’re already making more conscious actions, and you’ll continue to improve as time goes on.
Getting to know your new community
Reach out and touch the faithful — vegans, that is. By joining a local vegan potluck group (or even a vegetarian one if that’s all you can find), you’ll meet like-minded people who have similar values to yours. Getting to know others who see the world as you do can help you feel connected and as if you’re a part of something bigger. The folks who belong to these groups know where to buy the food you need, can share strategies with you, may teach you new recipes, and can even point out possible pitfalls. They also can help you find that fabulous vegan outfit you need for your high school reunion.
Local vegan groups may be involved in political actions or animal rescue work, which can bring a new level of meaning to your vegan lifestyle. Get involved and educated about the issues in your community so that your new theoretical lifestyle will have a real-world impact. Getting involved also shows the people around you how the ethics of your diet play out in everyday life.
Many people are won over by the upstanding moral code of veganism after they see the passion and dedication their friend or family member pours into a local environmental or animal rights cause.
Focusing on the fun and adventure of being a vegan
Eating can become a mundane chore if you aren’t careful. By focusing on the celebration of life, as displayed in a well-planned meal, vegan dining offers you the chance to return to honoring nature’s bounty. Focusing on the fun and joy of real, natural, cruelty-free food can turn every meal, no matter how elaborate or simple, into a party.
The fun of sharing food together and searching out the new and different menus available for vegans is one of the best parts of adopting this lifestyle. A new world of tastes, products, and guilt-free meals awaits you. Make it your intention to share the glorious natural foods with your friends and family (whether they’re vegan or not). Giving them the gift of healthy vegan recipes shows your love for them and all the world’s creatures. Not to mention you’ll be helping them get their daily dose of roughage.
Get adventurous with your meals. Even if you’re preparing a simple salad for yourself, you can incorporate homegrown herbs and tomatoes that connect you to the season. When thinking of your family’s upcoming reunion feast, ask the local farmers at your farmer’s market what will be in peak season that week. By bringing luscious, fresh produce, you can share the story of your trip to the market, explain what you chose, and reveal how you prepared it. Not only will this show your own dedication to good food, it also may encourage those around you to try new, more sustainable fare.