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Tips for Transitioning From a Vegetarian to a Vegan Lifestyle

Monday, May 28, 2018

This may very well be one of my favorite blog posts I've had the pleasure of writing (which makes me wonder why I never thought of it prior to today?). It's said that you become an expert on a matter after doing it for 10,000 hours. Well, I can't claim to be an expert but I have most certainly spent more than 10,000 hours of my life telling myself it was time to go fully vegan from being a vegetarian. I've discussed it before but I went vegetarian when I was 14 years old. It then took me nearly 14 more years - and plenty of failed attempts over that decade-plus - to finally make the transition to veganism. Therefore, you can trust that I too know what it feels like to see the value of going plant-based but also not being quite sure how to make it work for you in the beginning. Scroll down to see a few of my tips for transitioning from a vegetarian to a vegan diet - and some of Matt's advice, too!

Find a way to veganize your favorite vegetarian products and recipes

There are so many awesome resources out there ranging from books to blog that can help. Do you love scrambled eggs? Try a tofu scramble for a healthier and cruelty-free version. (This one from Minimalist Baker is my all-time favorite! It's also my go-to food blog that I immediately visit every time I need a plant-based version of a recipe.) Love mayonnaise, ranch dressing, mac and cheese, and/or brownies, too? You're in luck then because there's a vegan brand out there that has already created it for you! (Some of my other personal favorites are Follow Your Heart, Chao, Violife, and so many others. These days there is a plant-based alternative for almost any food you can dream of, and Whole Foods carries tons of vegan brands if you don't know where to start!)

Stop worrying so much about the social aspects

One of the reasons excuses I always told myself was that it would be too difficult because societally veganism isn't totally understood by a lot of people. I was worried that I could never eat at a dinner party again (I've previously discussed this fear and the actual reality in this post) or that my family and friends would think I was "too radical." In my personal experience, I also stressed about just how many animal rights videos I could share on social media before people thought I had joined a cult. However, these videos are what made me finally commit to going vegan so I've since decided that I don't really mind if they throw some people off.  Because you know what I realized? If someone doesn't want to learn about the realities of factory farming, well then, they can just "mute" me or unfriend me. The others who force themselves to look at what's really happening are the ones who will hopefully be moved to change their lifestyles. Those are the same people who message me on Facebook or text me for advice on how to veganize their lives. They always remind me that sharing those uncomfortable posts, despite that a few people may silently judge me, is always worth spreading the knowledge because every time someone chooses not to eat meat for their next meal, an animal is saved and the amount of suffering is lessened. Those moments and people make me remember that I should stop worrying about temporarily upsetting my cousin twice removed with a video that shares the harsh reality of factory farming if it means innocent animals' lives could be spared.

Get involved somehow

It can be helpful to reach out to some local animal activist groups to get involved and meet like-minded people (many of whom are most likely plant-based and can physically be there to support you in your journey to veganism - and try out all the best restaurants together 😉). I actually did this the opposite way -- I went vegan which instilled the need to volunteer more for the cause, which then led to me becoming an activist and meeting other local activists who have now become friends. It's a great way to meet people and there is a group for whatever your views are on animal rights! Some ideas of possible organizations to check out are your local chapter of The Humane Society of the United StatesThe Humane League, Mercy For AnimalsAnonymous for the Voiceless, signature gathering/campaigning for pro-animal welfare ballot measures in your state, your local humane society, etc. Do some research and see which org's viewpoints best align with your own.

Watch the documentaries

If you ever feel yourself hardcore craving, flip on one of those Netflix documentaries to remind you why you wanted this change in the first place. Going vegan for the animals? Watch Earthlings. Care deeply for the environment? Check out Cowspiracy. Interested in the health benefits of being plant-based? What The Health is super informative. Need a movie rather than a doc? Okja is for you.

Work in phases if it helps you

Personally, the only way I could commit to going vegetarian and later vegan was to do so cold turkey (which is probably not that best phrase to use when speaking on this topic...). I recognize that most people I know who are veg did not do it this way though and that many people prefer to work in phases. What worked for Matt was first to stop buying animal products for our home, then he stopped eating it at family gatherings and restaurants, then when he felt comfortable, he full out stopped eating it anywhere, and finally, he stopped purchasing leather. This step-by-step method worked for him because he wasn't feeling pressured or overwhelmed by doing it all at once. You have to do whichever works best for you and will help you stick to your new lifestyle.

Don't beat yourself up if you slip up

"Progress not perfection" should be the newly plant-based person's motto. It's okay to not get it 100% correct every single time right off the bat. There will most likely be a time or two or three or ten when you quickly check a label or assume it's good to go (because why do you put dairy in so many unnecessary products, America?!) only to later rescan the ingredients list and see they snuck in something you didn't expect. It is OKAY. Don't fret or start to self-criticize. You did your best and had good intentions. Just use it as a lesson for the next time and soon enough you'll be the quickest list checker known to humankind 😏

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Are you currently trying to lean into a more plant-based lifestyle or have you already transitioned to veganism? If so, what has worked best for you? Please share your tips, too!

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