I decided to try a vegan diet about six months ago after doing a lot of research on how to help my body heal. You can read more about my vegan story here! Originally, I was just going to try it out for a month or so but even after a few weeks, I knew I was on to something big. I felt better than I had in years!
People will be skeptical
Not everyone will understand your choices regarding a vegan lifestyle. Overall, my experience telling others about being vegan has been mostly positive. My family is 100% supportive, which I don’t take for granted. I’ve read stories where people make the switch to veganism and their friends and family react terribly. I have an awesome family who never heckle me about my diet choices and are very respectful of my new lifestyle. They gladly eat anything I cook and will make adjustments to what they’re making so it’s “safe” for me. Like I said, my family is awesome.
I never really made a big announcement to anyone unless food came up or they asked me a health-related question. I never posted a Facebook status declaring my dedication to veganism, but I also never hid anything. Any close friends that I did talk with about veganism in depth with were supportive and I think just happy to see my health improve.
In social settings with new acquaintances is where I meet the most misunderstanding. I get the usual comments like
“What do you eat?”
“How is that healthy?”
“I could never do that.”
“I could totally do that, except for cheese. I love cheese too much!”
“You chose to live like this?!”
or my personal favorite “You always did seem like a hippie…”
However, since I did my research and educated myself about veganism thoroughly, I was ready for the questions and not surprised by the reactions. I take pride knowing that I am doing the best for my body and the lives of other animals, regardless of what anyone else says.
You can still fail and it’s okay.
The road to veganism isn’t always easy. I will be the first to admit, I have had non-vegan meals since starting this journey. There are some days that I just wasn’t able to resist or help some sort of animal product in my food. Whether it was a baked good made with conventional milk and butter or some grilled chicken in a salad, I’ve had my moments of weakness. However, I learn from them each time. I notice if I think ahead, bring snacks on long work days and don’t allow myself to become starving before looking for food or a place to eat, I have no problem making ethical and healthy eating choices. Most of the time being vegan is very easy. However, when it’s 4pm and all I’ve ate was a banana and some blueberries, that’s when I find myself failing and reaching for the fastest, closest edible option. At first I was really hard on myself when I would slip up, but now I just recognize the signs and plan better for the next meal. The vegan lifestyle is a process and everyday I aim to be better than the last.
Vegan food doesn’t always mean healthy.
Oreos are vegan but that doesn’t mean they should be breakfast. I got so caught up in just reading the ingredients list making sure there were no animal products and sometimes forgot to keep in mind nutritional value. Sure, it could be vegan soup, but with 500 mg of sodium it’s far from healthy or good for your body. As with any food, it is always best if you make it yourself.
Shop the outside.
You can interpret this a couple ways. At the very least, for grocery shopping I always recommend shopping the perimeter of the store for optimal health. This is where all the good stuff is usually found. Fresh fruits, vegetables and dry goods like legumes can be found here with minimal need to venture into the aisles filled with all the preservative-filled convenience foods. This also reduces temptation to toss old favorites into the cart out of habit. More and more frequently, some vegan products like boxed milk can be found on the inside aisles so use this simply as a loose guide. However, if you really want to bump your vegan status up a notch, take this a step further. Shop at your local farmers markets for as long as seasonably possible, which are usually held outside. See what I did there? Clever, I know. It’s a great way to support local agriculture and contribute to a sustainable community. Hey, you might even make a few friends!
Never stop educating yourself.
At the end of the list but one of the most powerful tools a new vegan can utilize. There are so many quality resources for information about a vegan life from blogs to free YouTube videos. It really helps me to continue reading, watching, and listening to vegan resources keeping the facts and images of what it means to be vegan fresh in my noggin. When I first started my vegan journey if I was going out to dinner with friends, I would watch documentaries or YouTube videos while getting ready. It guaranteed the connection between animals and food was running through my mind when looking at a menu. I am constantly reprogramming my brain from the cultural norm of thinking there is a difference between animals we eat and animals we don’t. It sounds extreme to reprogram your brain but after years of bombardment by the meat and dairy industries, it’s no wonder everyone still believes that milk “does a body good.”
I really look forward to the next six months of growth, I feel like I am settling more and more into a vegan life. I am becoming more comfortable when explaining my beliefs and values to those who have questions (or criticism). In general, I just feel good.
What have you done lately that cultivated personal growth? Share with me in the comments!