Are you on the fence about making that leap from vegetarian to vegan?
As a previous vegetarian of 12 years, I know how easy it can be to get stuck in the veggie stage, not understanding or believing the benefits of going fully vegan. Even when you are convinced, it can be hard to know where to begin and how to stick at it!
As you may know, I’ve been vegan for 6 years now, and have helped others to make the transition too. I also did an Instagram LIVE on this very subject! If you didn’t catch it, and you prefer video format, go and catch the replay over on Facebook.
Why go from Vegetarian to Vegan?
Most people are vegetarian either due to animal cruelty, or health reasons. Going fully vegan can benefit both of those things!
- Animal Cruelty – As a vegetarian, I ate a higher quantity of cheese and eggs, not realising that these still contributed to animal suffering. Egg-layers are kept in confined spaces, susceptible to disease, and culled when they are deemed ‘unproductive’. They are also bred unnaturally to produce a disproportionate amount of eggs, which is very uncomfortable. If that’s not enough, male chicks are killed at 1 day old because they can’t produce eggs. They are usually gassed or macerated, and this happens even in free-range systems. As for dairy, female cows need to have young to produce milk, just like humans. These mums are kept in a perpetual state of pregnancy, and their calves taken away from them after birth, so that we can use their milk for cheese, chocolate and other foods. Most calves are sold as veal at a young age, or shot and discarded, as a by-product of the milk industry. Mother cows can spend days crying and mourning their babies.
- Health – There are many anecdotal health benefits associated with veganism, but I’ll focus on those backed by science. If you eat well (not simply vegan junk food!) you can lose weight without calorie counting, have lower blood sugar levels and improved kidney function. You reduce the risk of contracting Type 2 Diabetes, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Veganism is also linked to a lower risk of heart disease, relief from arthritic pain, less constipation and a longer life span.
If you’re interested in more information on these topics, do head over to the Benefits of Going Vegan page, which also links to scientific research.
So what stops vegetarians from going vegan, and how can you make your transition easier?
People often think that veganism has to be an overnight transition, so end up panicking and backing out. That’s a whole lot of pressure! A slow move to veganism is fine, too. It actually took me around 6 months to go fully vegan. First I started to buy plant-based milks and other dairy products, to test them out and find what was easy to get hold of (and tasty too). Next, I focussed on eggs. Finally, I looked at other aspects of my life such as hidden ingredients (e-numbers), clothing and cosmetics. By educating myself and swapping out one thing at a time, I found the transition really easy and stayed vegan for good.
What could you reasonably swap out first? Go do it! Small steps really make a difference.
Sometimes we have internal beliefs and thought processes that stop us from diving into change. They limit us from moving forward and progressing and can show up in any area of your life. Do you want to go vegan? Dig deep and see what excuses your brain throws up. Are they reasonable, or could they be overcome? Many people mistakenly believe that veganism is expensive, difficult, they worry about what friends and family will think… the list goes on.
Think of something in your life that you accomplished with ease – how did you approach it? What beliefs and mindset did you have while doing it, so that you didn’t give up when things were tricky? Try to apply that to going vegan. Replace those limiting beliefs with things like ‘Many people are vegan on a budget so I can too’. Keep repeating them to yourself… they’re true!
The Eating Out Dilemma
Some vegetarians attempt to go vegan, and successfully do so at home, but get stuck when out and about. Being vegan on the go does take some preparation at first. After a few months though, it is second nature! You simply have to learn which places have vegan options. Be
prepared to look up menus online, or ring a restaurant ahead and let them know you’re vegan. You’d be surprised how many eateries have a separate allergen menu with vegan options… sometimes it just isn’t very well advertised. Get to know the supermarkets and cafes on your route to work, or around places you visit frequently. That way, you’ll never be out of options and panic-buy something non-vegan. If it’s products you’re looking for, the Facebook pages Supermarket Finds UK and Accidentally Vegan are both really useful! There’s a substitute for everything nowadays… the vegan community can help you to find what you need.
From people I’ve spoken to, lack of organisation skill is the biggest stumbling factor when going vegan. People fall off the wagon when they’re on holiday, out and about, or caught out hungry. It really doesn’t need to be difficult to eat vegan! Here are some organisation techniques I utilised when going vegan:
- Meal planning – This can often put people off, as they think meal planning has to be a week’s worth of cooking in one day, full of fancy ingredients and a lot of hassle. I actually just plan for 2-3 days at a time. I’ll decide what I want to eat for each meal, make a shopping list for anything that isn’t already in my fridge, and prep anything I think I won’t have time to do when the meal comes (for example, if I’m working). This simply takes the guesswork out of every meal as you know what you’re eating, you have the food in your kitchen ready, and you’re less likely to be tempted by something non-vegan.
- Handbag snacks – We should all be carrying snacks for those desperate times when a train is delayed or our favourite eatery is closed. NAKD bars, fruit, and nuts are all great options to keep you going in a fix. Don’t forget a bottle of water!
- Knowing my weakness – I knew I loved biscuits and cheese, and had ZERO willpower at first when it came to those items. Because of my self-awareness, I ensured that I had none in the house, I didn’t even go down those aisles in the supermarket, and generally avoided them as much as possible. Now, I love vegan cheeses! Your tastebuds do adapt and it’s good to know your own potential pitfalls in the first few weeks of going vegan. That way, you can put a plan in place to combat it. What’s your weakness?
- Having a go-to list – This should involve takeaways, nearby restaurants, eateries on the way to work and what their vegan options are. Be prepared!
Lastly, everything has to link back to your why. What is your reason for wanting to go vegan? If it’s health, you could carry around a photo of you at your healthiest self. If it’s due to the dairy industry, you may have a clip on your phone about how cruel it is. Sometimes, we just need something physical or visual for the first month or so, while we adjust. When we’re in a tricky situation, we can just take a moment and reconnect to our ‘why’. It brings us back to our reasons for going vegan, and motivates us to continue.
Does this help?
Is something stopping you from making the leap from vegetarian to vegan? Let me know – I’d love to hear about it and help!