First of all, congratulations on taking such a huge step! Becoming a vegan is a very big deal. I know that it was for me. I’m proud of you already!
Let’s define for a minute what it means to be vegan. Being vegan is a way of life, it’s a lifestyle. Many people believe that being vegan just means that you don’t eat meat or dairy. While this is true, there’s so much more than that!
Being vegan is going to change the way you shop for things. For example, maybe you love vintage but no longer feel comfortable purchasing fur or a leather purse. I used to sell vintage for a living. About nine months into being a vegan, I realized that I shouldn’t sell vintage leather purses in my shop. I never sold fur but for some reason, it never crossed my mind to eliminate the vintage leather.
Now, here’s where things get tricky. It all comes down to personal choice and how much of a purist you want to be. I personally feel less bad about people using vintage leather products such as, purses.
My reasoning is: It’s vintage and it’s sustainable so it’s better for the environment. Part of being a vegan is being an environmentalist. However, you may look at it differently and that’s okay too. You may feel that any type of fur or leather, no matter how far back it goes, is wrong. This is where you begin to choose your moral guidelines.
Be sure to go slow! Don’t let anyone choose for you or try to persuade you. At the end of the day, it’s all about what each vegan can live with. I gave away all my vintage leather purses as Christmas presents that year and cleaned them out of my shop.
Personally, I won’t go out of my way to buy a leather purse or anything with animal fur, even if it is vintage. I just don’t take a personal interest in those that do choose to use it because I can understand their reasoning.
Being vegan also means choosing better bath & beauty products. Try to choose products that are better for the environment and that aren’t tested on animals. You may have to do a little research for this part but it’s so worth it!
There will also be personal dilemmas with friends and family. People feel afraid when they first find out that you’re going vegan. This is because being vegan is an unfamiliar territory and it’s human nature to be afraid of what you don’t understand.
You can explain as much or as little as you want to. You don’t owe anyone anything and it’s not your job to educate the world. I’m a big believer in leading by example and letting people come to you. You can always tell the difference between someone who is trying to grill you and someone who genuinely would like to learn more about your new lifestyle.
You can even tell them that you’re new to being a vegan and that you’re still learning. It’s your right to stay in your little bubble and only explain things when it’s relevant to you.
Family Gatherings and Restaurants
How do you deal with being a vegan when you’re invited to dinner at a friends house or the whole family is going out to eat at a restaurant? These are the types of things you’ll be dealing with as a vegan. So what do you do?
I let people know up front who I am and what I’m all about. At restaurants, I make it clear when I order and if I need them to re-make something, I’m not afraid to ask. This will take some getting used to. I also go out with people who understand my diet, lifestyle, and beliefs.
This isn’t so they have to adhere to them too, this is just so that I can get some personal backup and understanding. Most people are cool about it, as long as you define clear guidelines, so that’s exactly what I do.
It is often much more difficult for those times when you have to eat dinner with family at their homes. The reason for this is because, no matter how much you explain exactly what it means, it doesn’t sink in for some people.
An example of this was my when my Stepfather invited us over for pizza recently. He made it as vegan as possible and I do appreciate that. I actually thought it was very sweet. After eating it, we had come to find out the bread ingredients used had milk and egg in them.
There are plenty of common ones that don’t so I thought for sure he remembered what I can and cannot have. I have been very clear: No meat, no eggs, and no dairy!
Sometimes, like in the case of my stepfather, older people don’t understand what being vegan really means. More importantly, no matter how many times you may have explained and tried to be clear, they don’t want to learn.
While I appreciate that my stepfather went out of his way to make the vegan pizza, it would also be nice if he would be more open and willing to learn what that means. Chances are, you will have people like that in your life.
The best you can do is brush it off and try to do better next time. I probably won’t eat with him again, not if he’s the one making it. I still thought it was sweet that he tried.
For restaurants, you’ll want to find vegan options from all your favorite places. This includes fast food restaurants.
Here’s a list from Peta of safe and vegan-friendly fast food places:
I would personally veer away from Burger King, even though they have vegan and vegetarian options. Here’s why: They use palm oil, which burns off huge chunks of the forest, and harms the environment. Of course, it is your personal choice or not whether to eat there but, as a vegan, you’re all about the environment!
Things That No One Tells You When You Become a Vegan
- You’ll need to take B12. B12, often found in meat and dairy, is found far less in veggies and fruits. If you drink soymilk, then it is fortified to have it. It can also be found in Tempeh and vegan mayo or vegenaise. Taking a supplement will help you with energy and keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. Being deficient in vitamin B12 can cause megaloblastic anemia, which makes it difficult to walk, affects your memory, and creates an energy deficiency. So, it’s very important that you take your B12 vitamin or shot!
- You can’t have gummy vites or medications with a casing surface. This is because it contains gelatin, which is made from the bones, cartilage, and skin of animals. It’s the same with candies like gummy bears and the like. Be careful! Most vegans have made the mistake of making eating a gummy vitamin, only to soon find out what it’s made of. Myself included!
- You’ll have to read labels carefully! Most processed foods and refined sugars contain milk and/or eggs. The sugar in cake batter and refined sugars also contains animal.
- You’ll have to buy vegan sugar. The reason being is that refined and processed sugars contain animal bone and skin, which can also be found in your favorite sweet treat batters and in white or brown sugar. This is where reading labels comes in handy!
- Soy can cause cancer. You’ll want to be careful with your consumption of soy products. It might seem like a valid choice to switch to soy but there’s a better way to do it. I buy tofu but I buy it with Non-GMO Whole Soybeans. That’s just one example of making it better.
- You can still have cheese! Unless you decide to go raw vegan like the adventure I have embarked on, then you can have Daiya It tastes amazing and you can buy it in a variety of forms. Shredded, sliced, and sliced to eat right from the box if you like. It’s good and it makes the transition much easier.
- You can still have eggs! If the thought of giving up eggs is more than you can bear, please know that you don’t have to. You can have VeganEgg, a plant-based replacement made of algae. It sounds gross but it’s not! It looks, smells, and tastes just like an egg and you can use it in recipes where you need to replace a real egg with something else.
- You can still use butter! I actually didn’t have butter for my first year as a vegan. This is because didn’t know that the vegan version of it existed. I also didn’t know where to find it. Choose Earth Balance. I personally like the kind with olive oil but honestly, they’re all good.
- You’ll lose weight! It just happens naturally and it eventually balances out and you’ll be at a weight that you’re pleased with.
- You’ll get plenty of protein. People constantly ask vegans about their protein levels (as if!) but the truth is, protein can be found in mushrooms, kale, asparagus, artichokes, Brussel sprouts, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, peas, collard greens, mustard greens, parsley, arugula lettuce, beets, zucchini, garden cress, squash, cauliflower, and corn. You can also find high amounts in the beans, chickpeas, and nuts that you may like to include in your diet so no worries there!
- You’ll have to poop a lot! Sorry to be blunt here but it’s the truth. Your body will begin naturally cleansing itself of all toxins and impurities and one way it does that is through frequent trips to the bathroom. This will happen even more so in the beginning, as you are ridding your body of either meat or dairy or maybe both!
- You’ll start getting cravings for healthy foods! Suddenly, you’ll want a shiny apple or a bowl of lettuce. You’ll begin to make fair and better food choices, including locally grown, organic produce.
- You’ll save lives! That’s a pretty big deal. Being vegan saves 198 animals a year.
- You’ll also save the planet! A whopping 51% of the planet’s greenhouse emissions come from animal agriculture. As a vegan, you won’t be contributing to that 51%. You do the math!
- You’ll become more conscious and aware, as well as more compassionate towards animals and the environment. Being vegan opens up a whole new world-view for you! It’s almost as if you become a brand-new person, as you learn about the environment and the animals that live in it. You’ll become more compassionate towards humans too, as well as become more of a problem solver. You’re going to be in a lot of tight situations as a vegan, how you handle those situations says a lot about you.
Becoming a vegan, naturally lends itself to a lot of questions. While you’re free to ask me any questions that may pop up, I have also created a Frequently Asked Questions section to get you started!
- How is becoming a vegan going to change my life? Becoming a vegan will change your life in an instant. No, really! It’s as if a whole new world opens up for you. For example, becoming a veggie made me rethink how I thought of animals. In my case, it wasn’t the initial reason that I become a vegan, health was, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that the way I was eating before was hurting and killing animals. Becoming a vegan also brought out the environmentalist in me. I began to do more things to help the environment like picking up trash, recycling, and using green bags. It made me more conscious and aware. Going vegan also made me more health conscious. I began to take care of myself better by tweaking my diet, taking nightly walks, and staying out of the sun. Just little things that made all the difference in the world. Oh and oddly enough, you’ll become a better cook!
- Will I lose weight by becoming a vegan? Most likely, yes! It really depends on where you started out when you became one and what kind of food you eat. If you become a vegan and still eat vegan junk food, then you’re less likely to lose any weight. I can say from personal experience that I went from vegetarian to vegan and still lost weight. It was slow and gradual though, as well as completely unintentional. It was just my body’s way of adjusting to the changes.
- Is it difficult to be a vegan? In some ways yes and some ways no. Let me explain. Being a vegan will open you up to a lot of judgement and criticism, often coming from close family and friends. It will sometimes single you out in social situations, at restaurants, and at events, parties, and during the holidays. You’ll be asked a lot of questions and singled out. This sounds intimidating and I won’t lie, it can be, but I wouldn’t let that deter you because it does get easier. You’ll learn how to say no, rather than just being polite. You’ll get stronger at sticking up for yourself and the things you believe in. You’ll also get better at shutting people down when they want to argue with you. Sometimes being a vegan is difficult, yes. There are times you’ll be tempted and want to do what everyone else is doing but because you are exemplary, you’ll outwit the situation you’re in with grace.
- How do I take the first step to becoming a vegan? Well, reading this and using this kit, is a great first step! I’m super proud of you! The next step is, you’ll want to do a detox and body cleanse right away. You’ll want to get any meat and dairy out of your system and get things clean and moving again. From there, you can begin purchasing fruits, veggies, and other vegan foods.
- What should I be eating as a vegan? You can eat anything that doesn’t have meat, dairy, or eggs. Be sure to check labels. There are a plethora of food items that have dairy and eggs ingredients so be careful! This is where a lot of new vegan’s mess up, myself included.
- Can I cheat as a vegan (with dairy)? I definitely can’t recommend cheating on your vegan diet. That would be against the vegan principles. However, I can say that some of us do partake in dairy from time to time, myself included. For me, it used to be with treats like cake, cupcakes, brownies, and other sweet treats, once in awhile or on a special occasion. These days, since I’ve learned how to bake like a vegan, I’ve gotten a lot better about not partaking in non-vegan foods. So no, I don’t recommend it but it does happen and I personally wouldn’t judge you. Just keep working on it and getting better at eating only vegan. It takes time to know what’s what.
- How do I get other people to become a vegan too? I would say, never try to convince someone to become a vegan. Let them come to it on their own by being a good role model and example. If someone genuinely has questions about becoming vegan, then open it up for discussion. If someone is pressing you to justify or explain your lifestyle, I say shut it down. That’s just someone who wants to make you feel bad about being different and these type of people aren’t receptive to change. I never tell someone they can’t have meat and while I don’t like it, I don’t judge them either. I only have to answer for myself and be the change which I wish to see in the world. That’s it. That’s my job.
- I can’t cook, can I still become a vegan? Absolutely! I really didn’t have much interest in cooking before becoming a vegan. I was always very good at making healthy foods that didn’t require any cooking or baking. Things like making a posh salad, an immunity boosting juice or smoothie, and glitter trail mix. When I became a vegan, it was like suddenly I had more to cook and bake! I got very excited about it and would experiment more. I can honestly say, I’m a much better cook today than I was when I was a meat eater. Just saying!