Tips on Transitioning to Veganism
There's a lot more to veganism than most people realize. Although a huge part of it is the food, as a whole, it is a lifestyle, not a diet. But in my opinion, the diet aspect of veganism is the most important and the best place to start when you are interested in adopting a vegan lifestyle.
I have written out a few tips that helped me while transitioning and hopefully can be of help to you as well.
Don't expect the transition to happen overnight
This is going to depend on where you are at. Some aspects of your journey may take longer than others. Although I stopped eating animal products overnight, other parts of my journey such as mentality and awareness took longer. As for my diet, I was already in a place where I could make the change overnight. I already avoided dairy and consumed very little meat and eggs, and before I made the switch I had many recipes and ideas ready to try out. I'm a "don't sleep until the job is done" type person, always have been and always will be, which is why that worked really well for me. But that might not be you. This transition process can take as long or as short as you need.
Use what you already have
Since becoming vegan, everything that I have purchased does not contain animal products intentionally. But there are things that I had purchased before I made the lifestyle change that aren't vegan. I never realized how many animal products are snuck into our lives whether the purchase was intentional or not. Finding out my favorite pair of boots were real leather and my favorite hat was made of wool was heartbreaking. It also showed me that this normally wouldn't be something that I would pay attention to before I made the switch.
Something I've learned is that I must be logical with my actions when it comes to creating a vegan lifestyle and home. I've tackled the food part pretty well but when it comes to replacing home items that may have cost a lot of money, it's simply just not logical or possible for me to do it all at once.
My bank account does not allow me to get rid of my comforter that contains down, only pair of winter boots that are made of leather, my car that has a leather steering wheel, etc and replace them all at once, and I'm guessing most people can't do that either. Of course if I ever need to replace these things in the future, I will be making vegan purchases. But the most sustainable option is always always use what you have already.
No one can be 100% vegan. It's just not possible in the world that we live in. Certain things like paint, glue, crayons, things you would not even think about, are not vegan, but sometimes we end up having to use those things in our daily lives. Plastic bags at the grocery store are coated in animal lard to keep them from sticking together. Animal products are unavoidable. That's why it's important to focus on the changes you can make right now (without making yourself go insane). We can only do the best that we can do, and perfectionism will never help us here.
Crowd out, don't cut out
The best advice I have ever read when it comes to going vegan is "crowd out, don't cut out." If you go from eating a very heavily animal product based diet and tell yourself that you can no longer eat any of those things, you are going to feel deprived and unsure of what to eat. Instead, slowly crowd out the animal products in your diet with plant-based foods. The more plant-based foods and meals you incorporate into your diet, the less room you will have for animal products. Eventually your taste buds will change and you won't even want animal products anymore because your body will crave the good stuff.
Start with small changes like opting for almond milk instead of cow's milk at the grocery store, or using beans as your source of protein in a meal instead of meat, or making one meal a day entirely plant based. These small changes will add up overtime and eventually lead to a full transition. You will get the feel of what your body needs and the pace that works best for you.
You will go through a transition period
I want to be honest about this part not to scare you or discourage you, but so you can prepare and expect it. When switching to a plant-based diet your body will go through a transition period, especially if you make the switch as rapidly as I did. If you make the transition at a slower pace, the effects may be smaller and less noticeable, but it's going to be different for each person.
The reason your body goes through a transition period is because it is detoxing from essentially all the toxins that it has been fed for your entire life. If you're reading this because you're interested in going vegan, then you are probably aware of the dangerous health effects of eating animal products. It will take time for your body to adjust to the new nutrients you are feeding it. The most common "side effects" (if you even want to call it that) may be bloating due to the increase in fiber and legumes you consume, as well as headaches and foggy brain from "animal product withdrawals" as I like to call it. Animal products trigger the same addictive effects in our brain and bodies as drugs or sugar does, so our body really does go through withdrawals during the detox period. Because of this, cravings for animal product based foods may happen, but can be avoided if you crowd out instead of cut out and make sure you are eating enough calories. Like I said before, your brain chemistry and taste buds will change when you switch to a plant based diet so much so that animal products begin to sound, look, and taste gross. Especially after the transition/detox period, cravings aren't really something you will have to worry about.
This part is what discourages many that decide to go vegan. We begin to nourish our bodies with all these wonderful plant-based foods and get confused when we aren't immediately glowing and radiant.
Do not let the transition period discourage you!
It will not last forever! After your body goes through the initial detox, you will feel amazing.
If you've been wanting to transition to veganism, this is your sign. You are about to change not only your life for the better, but the lives of animals too. I encourage you and I applaud you for whatever changes you are making and steps you are taking. There's this notion in the vegan community that veganism has to be an "all or nothing" thing— either you're completely vegan or you're supporting animal cruelty. Either you're vegan or you "hate animals." And I really hate viewing it that way because it's discouraging and simply just not as black and white as that. (I wasn't vegan my entire life, and I loved animals so much even when I ate them. I just wasn't awake yet.)
Some vegan will always be better than no vegan at all.
Small changes are better than no change. If we all do the best we can do to make vegan choices when we can, then that's going to make the world a whole hell of a lot better than if none of us were trying at all.
When I first became vegan I got very caught up in perfectionism and looking at veganism, health, and animal cruelty as an all or nothing thing, and I projected that belief on others as well. Living with that mindset caused me to be harsh and judgmental not only towards others but also towards myself. And I want to make sure that anyone else transitioning to veganism or wanting to does so in the right mindset and knows that every small step matters and makes a difference.
As always please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or simply would like to chat about veganism! And please take a look at all the resources I've linked below. They are great and so very helpful.