When you first decide to switch to a vegan lifestyle or a plant-based diet, it can be super daunting. The overwhelming majority of us were not raised in a vegan household and the switch is something we decided ourselves. If you are transitioning to a plant-based diet/vegan lifestyle, you may find yourself wondering "Where do I start?".
My biggest tips are:
1) Give yourself time to transition.
Some people do 6 months-1 year, but making big steps like replacing/omitting your meat and dairy items are huge. If you want, eat the rest of the meat/dairy you have (of course, unless it’s making you sick). Be patient with yourself. It is not the end of the world if you accidentally slip up and eat something with meat or dairy/milk in it. Just move on and get back on track.
When I first decided to try a plant-based diet in 2017, I watched What The Health and had one too many asthma attacks--I made the decision overnight. I cut out all meat and dairy cold turkey and was doing wonderfully...Until I was 3 months in, down 13 lbs and I got a call my mom was in the hospital. When I rushed to be by her side (and of course I was stressing), I didn't think about what I was going to be eating.
There was a nice cafeteria on-site and for the first few meals, I was choosing plant-based vegan meals. Then late night when the cafeteria options were super limited, I saw my drug of choice staring me in my stressed out face...pepperoni pizza. I caved. That one decision led me to get off track, my asthma returned along with the 13 lbs (and some bonus pounds too).
It took me almost two years (Father's Day of 2019) until I realized I was feeling so down, depression was setting in, I was sick again and I asked myself...."When was the last time you felt joy?" I immediately realized...it was when I was on a plant-based diet. So I returned and realized, I did not give myself any time to transition and I was so concerned with my "all or nothing" approach to it, I set myself up for failure.
Now I don't think of it as "what I can't eat" but "what I won't eat".
2) Remember your ‘why’. This is what will keep you on the right path. For me, my why has been to maintain my highest quality of life (not having asthma anymore) and to be an advocate for the animals. I watched all the vegan documentaries to expose myself to WTF was really going on because its a whole mess and when you know better…you do better.
My why is absolutely for my health initially, but the more I learned about the horrifying mistreatment of animals that I used to put blinders on to, I became fully vegan in 2019.
3) What I like to call it the 3 Ps:
#1: Planning: For me, this is making lists for what I need at the grocery store (recipe planning). It’s easy to overbuy because you’re excited and want to try so many things, but be mindful of food waste.
If you’re going out to eat, knowing beforehand if there are vegan options/ what you’re going to order is You can’t be out here in these streets not knowing!
This can be meal prep, having snacks/easy grab vegan options on deck, whatever is necessary for your lifestyle/schedule. I always suggest to "veganize" the foods/dishes that you already like to eat. This way, you'll be able to get comfortable in the kitchen with this new approach.
Finally, prepare yourself for the lifestyle by reading and researching. Similar to watching the documentaries, write down questions you find yourself asking yourself and turn to good ol' Google and books to help answer them.
Pinterest has endless vegan recipes and inspiration. Pinterest is yo fraaand! Also, follow vegans that resonate with you online for consistent drip feed of vegan inspo!
These are the major pillars that helped me to "go vegan" and remain vegan. Just remember: Being a vegan ≠ perfection. None of us are perfect, but we are intentional.
Are you transitioning to a plant-based diet/vegan lifestyle now? What tips have helped you make the switch?