Once upon a time, veganism was something you’d hear about at yoga retreats, not boardrooms. Today, more and more restaurants sport easy vegan options, and more and more people are deciding to follow the completely plant-based diet. The primary drive behind this uptick in veganism is fact-based evidence on the impact of mass meat production. Producing one hamburger uses enough fuel for the average car to drive 20 miles. That’s enough to make even a dedicated wannabe carnivore think twice. When you’re ready to take the plunge into veganism, do yourself a favor: drop animal products cold turkey.
Baby Steps Just Hold You Back
Most people try to take baby steps into veganism. They’ll start with going vegetarian, or replacing only one meal a day with a vegan meal. The stresses that accompany changing your diet are extreme. Any dieter can tell you that, but it’s true even if you’re not looking to lose weight. You have to throw away some of your favorite comfort dishes, and it can take a while for your body to adjust to the new diet that you’re feeding it. It can crave what you used to have, especially (it feels like) if what you had before was unhealthy.
Going vegan isn’t like learning to walk. It’s more like ripping off a band-aid: easier if you do it all at once. For example, cheese is one of the most difficult animal products to give up. People who go vegetarian before they go vegan often rely on cheese as a crutch. They find vegetarian food to satisfy all their cravings rather than learning to make delicious and satisfying vegan food immediately. When you do this you ensure that you have to give up your favorite foods all over again. You’ve finally learned to enjoy vegetarian lasagna, but now you have to give up dairy and you have nothing to cook on a sleepy Sunday night anymore.
The more difficult your journey to veganism is, the more likely you are to get frustrated. It’s one thing to know that the pressure to find more grazing land for cattle is destroying the rich tropical climates of the Amazon rain forest. It’s still easy to break down and have a burger anyway because humans are programmed to want instant gratification. When you make things easier on yourself by going straight to vegan from omnivore, you increase the odds that you’ll stick with your new diet plan. After all, who wants to do hard work twice?
Skills That Will Make the Transition Easier for You
If you want to master your transition to veganism, get these skills under your belt:
- Making a great stir-fry out of whatever you have on hand
- Vegan-recipe Google-fu
- Meal plans
- The support of family and friends
Going vegan without also cooking more of your food at home can be a particular challenge. Maybe you’re the type to enjoy eating a lunch based off of whatever veggies you could grab from the corner store down the street from the office on your way to work, but most people look for a little more complexity and flavor from their food. Eating out also presents you with temptations that you’re not going to get rummaging through your own fridge.
If you’re setting a date for your transition to veganism (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?), spend the days and weeks leading up to it prepping your battle plan. Find vegan blogs, recipe books, and practice taking a good sounding recipe that you find online and substituting ingredients to make it a vegan meal. A good meat marinade can also be a good tofu brushed sauce, for example. Plan your meals in advance, figure out what your food budget will have to be, and figure out where you’ll find the time to pick up fresh veggies and fruits every week. The more information you have, the easier this will be.
Lastly, while it’s not impossible to be vegan in a house where no one supports your choice, it is very difficult. Let your family or roommates know in advance. This doesn’t mean “try to get them to go vegan with you.” People can have strong reactions to veganism, but having one conversation where you explain your intentions and your reasons should be enough to buy you a little peace on the subject. They don’t have to be vegan to support your efforts to be.
Whether you’re deciding to go vegan for weight loss and health goals, a desire to lessen the impact of animal production on the environment, or a simple quest for increased animal welfare, there are ways to make the transition natural. Get the support of those you live with, get ready to do a lot more of your own cooking, and make sure that you skip the baby steps. Don’t get attached to more food that you’re going to have to give up; when you want to go vegan, start by going vegan.