We’ve all been there – we decide to go vegan and … Ok, so maybe we haven’t all been there. But there are many people who try their hand at plant-based eating, only to become discouraged and give up. This is typically due to misinformation, or no information at all. That’s exactly why I’m writing this post. I want to give you some tips that will make your transition to vegan eating as smooth as possible. If you’ve been vegan for a while, this could still help you. Like most things in life, there’s always more to learn about plant-based eating. For those of you who have tried a vegan diet, but found it too difficult, I encourage you to try again. This time, follow these simple pointers:
1. Ask yourself why – There are several reasons why people choose a vegan diet: environmental issues, weight loss, increase in athletic performance, or simply to save the lives of innocent animals. Knowing why you’re going vegan will help you to stay on track. Write down your reason(s) and keep them nearby. Maybe you could attach them to your bathroom mirror so that it’s the first thing you see in the morning.
2. Research – The most common reason that people fail to achieve a vegan lifestyle is that they don’t do their homework. Learning what to eat, where to eat, and the supplements you may need, ensures that you’ll be prepared for whatever obstacles present themselves. Do a Google search for “vegan blogs.” You’ll be surprised at the wealth of information that’s freely given on the internet. Speaking of free, grab my free eBook to learn the challenges I faced.
3. Plan meals – Going vegan will present a completely new culinary world to you. It’s probably safe to assume that your pantry isn’t stocked full of vegan ingredients. Before you begin your transition, I encourage you to pick up some necessary ingredients. Not sure what to get? Check out my (nearly) complete list of vegan diet foods. From this list of ingredients, you will be able to make hundreds of unique and tasty dishes. Again, search the internet for vegan blogs that offer recipes; there’s hundreds (maybe thousands) of them!
4. Gain Support – Taking on a plant-based diet can seem like a pretty big challenge. Like any challenge, it’s best to have people in your corner rooting you on. Let your friends, family, and co-workers know how you plan to change your diet, and way of life. Don’t expect them to make the switch themselves, but you should receive their support. Although many people will question your new way of eating, many will encourage you to pursue your goals.
5. Understand the Signs of Detox – The first two weeks of plant-based eating may present a challenge you didn’t expect. As you make the transition into clean eating – removing dairy, cheese, milk, and eggs – your body will be going through some changes, namely detoxification. It may seem at times as if your body is screaming from every pore for some missing nutrient. Once you get through the first week or two, this feeling will subside. Push through it and allow your body to feel the change. Keep in mind #1 from above; remember why you are making the change. If you are adopting a whole-food vegan diet (like I did), you may feel the detox even greater. Another thing to consider is that our bodies can become addicted to refined and processed foods. Removing them from your diet immediately can cause withdrawal-like symptoms. It’s nice to know that this is normal, and not a symptom of poor health.
6. Have your B-levels tested – I can’t stress this enough. So many people make the (false) claim that a vegan diet is unhealthy because they fail to check their B-levels. Sure, you can’t get vitamin B-12 from plants – this is true. But you can eat foods fortified with B-12, or take supplements, to achieve proper B-12 levels. Having yourself checked at the beginning gives you a baseline to which you can compare future tests. While a B-12 deficiency is the most common cause for people to give up a plant-based diet, there’s another B vitamin to which you should pay close attention. Vitamin B-6 which is abundant in plant-based foods can actually become toxic due to over-consumption. This can lead to another host of problems. I recommend that you get your levels tested by a doctor every couple of months to ensure that your B-levels are balanced.
7. Grab some cookbooks – Another problem vegan beginners face is that they grow bored of eating the same old thing. In the beginning, I ate a lot of salads. Today, I probably eat one salad a week. This is because I’ve learned to cook some amazing dishes by using nothing more than whole plant-based ingredients and spices. I didn’t learn it all on my own though. I’ve probably read a half a dozen cookbooks which gave me the tools I needed to succeed. A few I recommend are: The Engine 2 Diet, Forks Over Knives, and The Happy Herbivore. Make the small investment up front to keep from losing your plant-powered momentum.
8. Meet other Vegans – Meeting people has never been easier than it is today, thanks to the internet and social media. But the internet is not the only place you’ll find us humble herbivores; your local health food stores is another common stomping ground for us foodies. Getting to know other vegans is great for several reasons: it gives you someone to reach out to when you have questions; allows you to be accountable to someone; and it keeps you focused on your goals. Just starting out, you may feel like an outcast among your peers. This was certainly true for me. Remember that there is a large and vast world out there. What you’ve been living in (and around) is only a small part of the bigger picture. Step outside of your comfort zone and see what you’ve been missing. Don’t let the limitations of others become your own.
9. Take Baby Steps if Necessary – Not everyone become vegan in one day, and you don’t have to either. If you find it overwhelming to cut out meat, eggs, cheese, and milk all in one night, then make a plan to remove them one-by-one. Many people choose to go vegetarian before they go full-blown vegan. This allows your body to adapt to the changes more gradually. Make a 4-week plan, cutting out one ingredient (milk, eggs, cheese, or meat) each week.
10. Take Before and After Pictures – Have you ever completed a large project and looked back thinking, “I wish I would have taken a before picture of this!”? Going vegan is sort of like a project, one that you’re building from the inside-out. Some changes you can expect: glowing skin, weight loss, increase in energy, and whiter eyes. You will most certainly receive comments from your peers telling you of these changes, but it’s often hard to notice for yourself. Taking before and after pictures of your transformation will allow you to see what others see. If that isn’t incentive to keep you moving forward, then I don’t know what is.
Do you still have questions? Search around the blog here to see if you can find an answer. You can also grab a copy of my free eBook which outlines other challenges I faced as a vegan beginner.
Leave a comment below and let me know what challenges you are facing. I would love to help get you on track to a healthier, and happier, way of life.