Back in March, I decided to become a vegan.
It’s been about two months since I announced the change, and, as I promised, today I would like to get back to you with all that I learned throughout the process.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, being vegan means that you abstain from all animal products. That means not only meat like cow meat, chicken, and fish, but also dairy (like milk, cheese, cream and yogurt) and, finally, eggs.
I have a learned a whole lot through the process and I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned!
So, without further ado: here are my tips for going vegan:
1. Deal With Food Anxiety By Using Love
We have a growing problem nowadays: food anxiety.
There is so much fear being attached to what we eat nowadays that it can drive a person bonkers. Going to the grocery store nowadays is like playing a game of Russian roulette:
Should I do organic or not organic? Gluten or No Gluten? Rainforest certified or not Rainforest certified? This product is all natural but it’s not environmentally friendly–and this other product is environmentally friendly, but it’s not ALL natural! Soy or almond milk or Rice Milk or…ehh… Hemp Milk? WAIT, WHAT? MILK MADE OUT OF WEED? AWESOME!!!
And the news media doesn’t help to calm our food anxiety: it only fans the flames. One day the news says something is bad for you, the next day it is good for you. We all know it’s because the news media just want more eyeballs on their news articles and since we can’t trust the news to deliver us information anymore that is not totally fear-based, who the frak can we turn to calm our food anxiety?
Ourselves, that’s who.
That’s why, when making the journey toward becoming vegan, I suggest you remind yourself why you chose to shift your diet so dramatically: because you love your body, you love animals, and you love the planet, and you want to take care of all of these things. Infuse the experience with love, not fear or hate.
If you focus only on trying to avoid foods you think are going to explode in your stomach after you eat them, then the whole darn experience will be absolutely miserable.
Instead: focus on foods you think will be loving towards your body and that will imbue the experience with feelings of warmth, healing, and peace.
2. Don’t Let Perfection Be The Enemy of The Good
I’m going to be honest with you: I’m probably not what most people would consider a true, bonafide “Vegan.” I am more vegan-ish than anything.
Occasionally, I’ll slip and eat cheese or sour cream or an egg here and there. Hey: I can’t help it. I’m a friggin’ human.
At first, when this happened, I tried to guilt myself, but then I learned long ago that self-punishment never works, and keeping something as “PROHIBITED AT ALL COSTS” makes that thing all the more tempting and almost guarantees you will end up indulging in that something.
So, instead of striving to be the perfect vegan, try to do your best instead.
For instance: if I end up eating cheese one day, I don’t whip myself and go:
“Ooooh, Ollin, you’re a bad vegan!”
I don’t do that to myself because, first of all, it kinda weird and kinky–and, second of all: it’s so cruel to myself.
In fact, the more I allow myself to occasionally slip, the more it reminds about how gross my body feels after I eat animal-based products and it motivates me EVEN MORE to go back to veggies and fruits.
That’s why I suggest you use the times you slip to propel you forward.
3. Start Slowly… VERY… VERY… SLOWLY
I’m not a big fan of so-called “30-day challenges” when it comes to food or exercise.
I’ve tried stuff like that before and, for me, it doesn’t work in the long run. I often revert very quickly back to my old eating and exercise habits after the “30-day challenge” and it makes me feel like more of a failure than ever before.
That’s why I suggest that when you go vegan you don’t do some sort of “30 day vegan challenge” that asks you to quit cold turkey for a month.
That, to me, is a very foolish approach.
In my opinion, to shift so quickly and dramatically will MAKE SURE the overall experience is miserable for you. Then, when you’re done, you’ll be less likely to become vegan permanently.
I have no idea why other vegans suggest such fast-and-hard approaches, it seems like they are just setting people up for failure. (In fact, a part of me thinks its kind of cruel.)
A more loving approach would be to suggest that people begin by eating less meat.
• Maybe you can begin your vegan journey today by choosing to eat meat only 5 days out of the week, opposed to 7.
• Then slowly cut that down over a year or so until you get to a mostly vegetarian diet where you don’t eat meat most of the week, and occasionally indulge yourself about 2-3 times a month.
• Then from that point, do the same thing with animal products like dairy and eggs: try eating dairy and eggs only 5 days a week instead of 7 and then, slowly, gradually, wean yourself off of that habit over about a years time.
• Finally, you can get to where I am at where I am mostly vegan, but about 2-3 times a month I do indulge myself with animal-based products.
Now I know that this approach is neither dramatic nor flashy. It is less likely that your family and friends will notice the dramatic shift since you are doing it gradually over time and, no, you yourself will not notice a lot of the dramatic changes the new diet will have on you because they are happening more slowly, over time.
However: you will find that your shift to becoming a vegan will stick and the experience will be more enjoyable and less traumatic.
4. Get A Good Grasp For Nutrition Before You Make The Jump
You know all those vegan friends of yours who appear sickly and miserable? Yeah, they aren’t eating right. They’re probably eating processed vegan junk food, or vegan meals prepared at restaurants where the chef doesn’t think at all about the nutrition in the food he’s cooking and just wants to make it taste good.
These sick and miserable vegans think this is doing something for them but. really. they might as well be living on a diet of cardboard chips and sawdust.
You have to understand that junk foods like chips, ice cream, cookies, and desserts are still junk foods even if they are made with no animal products. These processed vegan treats are still filled with sugar and sometimes high fructose corn syrup.
I highly recommend working with a nutritionist before you may the jump to veganism.
Understand what your body needs can go along way to making you a happy and healthy vegan.
5. Don’t Mistake Becoming Vegan As The Ultimate Weight Loss Cure
Veganism can help you lose weight–but only if you approach it in the right way.
Just avoiding animal products, in and of itself, will not automatically make you lose weight. (There are fat vegans, believe it or not.)
If you really want veganism to help you shed those pounds, you’ll have to:
• Stick to the fresh produce aisle for the most part and avoid the processed food and frozen food aisle in the grocery store.
• Cook for yourself most of the time so you can ensure that every meal you have is balanced and has all the nutrition you need. (Try to avoid restaurants and fast food joints, even if they are vegan or have vegan options. Also be wary of dressings and sauces that might have hidden sugars in them. If you can, try to make your own sauces and dressings.)
• Exercise regularly
6. Make Cooking For Yourself A “Food Adventure,” Not A “Food Shore”
Cooking for yourself can become like a shore, but it doesn’t have to be: you can make veganism an ADVENTURE!
(I know: you totally hate me right now. But just play along, you jerk, and you’ll have more fun. I promise.)
You can get excited by the thought of trying different recipes and flavors you’ve never tried before. For instance: I never tried a “date shake” before, and I made one for myself yesterday, and it was delicious!
As soon as I understood that veganism didn’t have to feel like “food prison” and I can actually make tofu taste really delicious after a couple of tries, suddenly the journey wasn’t so miserable anymore.
I was having fun!
Try to make the journey to being vegan fun and exciting by:
• Always trying new things: new types of veggies, new fruits, new recipes, and new spices.
• Diversifying your food: if you get bored of the same thing, instead of forcing yourself to keep eating it, take it as a signal to shift to another type of food or recipe.
• Being creative: we’re all artists aren’t we? Don’t just rely on the recipes that are out there, mix and match and do your own thing.
• Always improving your recipes: if something you made for yourself is just mediocre, don’t settle. Keep trying to make those vegan dishes better and better. You may end up surprising yourself, and others, who will have their mouths watering for something they don’t’ even realize is vegan!
7. Make Sure to Have Protein With Every Meal
This is true of everyone, but especially for vegans: make sure all your three daily meals have a high level of protein in them.
There are plenty of plant-based protein sources out there. For me, I prefer tofu, chia seeds, hemp protein powder, black and pinto beans, spinach and nuts. But there is also tempeh, quinoa, and saitan, for those who are interested.
Note: Lack of protein in a beginning vegan’s diet may be the reason why a beginning vegan might be feeling weak, sick, or unable to do heavy exercise.
8. Take A B-12 Supplement On Regular Basis
If you feel like your diet is still lacking in nutrition, you might also try a daily multivitamin as well to help you out.
Note: Lack of B-12 in the system might be a reason why a beginning vegan might feeling abnormally heavy, tired and lethargic.
9. Drink A Lot of Water
When you become vegan, you tend to absorb more water than usual. So make sure to keep hydrated!
Note: Lack of hydration may be a reason why a beginning vegan might feel dizzy and light-headed.
10. Increase Your Calorie Intake
Plant-based foods naturally have less calories than animal-based foods, so beginning vegans might have to eat more calories than they are used to.
Vegans shouldn’t feel starved all the time. THIS IS A SERIOUS MISUNDERSTANDING OF WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE VEGAN. The reason many vegans still feel hungry even after eating is because the food either:
A. Lacks the right balance of nutrition
B. Is too high in fiber and too low in protein
C. Is too low in calories
Note: Lack of calorie intake might be a reason why beginning vegans might be feeling hungry, starved, lacking in energy, unable to focus, or why they are experiencing headaches.
The (Plant-Based) Conclusion…
After two months of being vegan, here’s what people have been telling me:
“Ollin, you look great!”
“Ollin, you’ve lost weight!”
“Ollin, your skin look so good!”
The truth is, I do feel great. I feel more energized, more awake and alive, my insides feel more light and clean, and I feel stronger, too. I have lost weight, and yes, my skin looks so clear and my cheeks are so naturally rosy that my sister even says sometimes it looks like I’m wearing stage make up.
I am very happy with my new vegan diet, and I am here to tell you that as a person who used to eat Jumbo Jacks from Jack In Box and chicken sandwiches from McDonalds for practically every meal he ate—that you can eat like this, too.
I won’t lie to you: it is super challenging, but it is possible.
If done right, and done gradually, veganism can make you feel great physically, emotionally, mentally, communally, and spiritually.
Not only that, but it ends up being a huge boon to your life and your creativity.
Today’s Courage Exercise
In the comments below, ask me any burning questions you have about the experience of going vegan.
If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, share your own stories and tips about the journey below.
Can’t wait to discuss this with you!
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