My vegan journey began early 2016 when my mum was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Over the course of that year I investigated, researched, watched films, read books and made lots of new discoveries and connections.
I began eliminating different animal products from my diet and wardrobe and beyond. Slowly, in a considered and thoughtful way, I eventually became completely vegan and so did my kids and (now ex) partner.
Overall the experience has been completely life changing and liberating. I feel so good everyday to live in line with my beliefs and values. Even though the transition process of becoming vegan is deeply personal and unique for everyone, I hope that some of my reflections may inspire, support and guide those of you who a intrigued or curious to give it go.
I would be lying if I said the whole process was super easy and smooth sailing. There were definitely some things that, on reflection, I could have done differently and other things which I feel I'd do the same way.
Here are some of my thoughts. I hope they help you.
- Start gently. It’s highly unlikely you will wake up one day and magically become vegan! This is not an overnight thing or decision that should be made lightly. So accept it may take some time and don’t set yourself up for disappointment with unrealistic goals. Maybe you could start with some elements of your diet. Try to swap out cow’s milk in your coffee with soy or almond milk. Maybe you could try Meatless Mondays. Allow yourself the time you need to adapt. Initially I hated the taste of soy milk in my coffee but now I would literally be sick if I had cow's milk! My taste buds changed and so will yours. Becoming vegan is a journey, of exciting new discoveries, awakenings, flavours and changing habits. It’s not a finite destination. What worked well for me was to initially identify as a Flexitarian - I ate plant based at home, but wasn’t too fussed if I went out or to a friend's place. Then after a while I was a Pescatarian (ate fish only) and then finally I was ready to be fully committed. Put simply, after some time I had made so many connections and it just felt wrong, yucky and against my values to be anything other than a vegan - and I’ve never looked back! It was a very natural evolution; organic and authentic in nature.
- It's not just a diet. Next time you need shoes or clothes have a look at vegan options first, you’ll be surprised to see there are so many beautiful alternatives. You might then decide to wear out your leathers and look at some Piñatex options for your next purchases.
- Understand that not everyone is going to like it! And that's ok. Just remember we live in a society that has created the cultural norms of eating meat and dairy and places great value on products like silk and leather. Understand that if you take the vegan path you will be making a stand against the status quo. This can be challenging. And some people may not be so supportive of your decision, even your loved ones. Don’t lose heart, just be aware.You may find the following resources helpful to look into. Dr Melanie Joy US Psychologist - author of Beyond Beliefs which is a great guide to navigating relationships between Vegans and non-Vegans. Dr Claire Man Aus Psychologist who coined the term Vystopia, which describes the feeling of anguish of begin vegan in a non-vegan world. Melbourne based Dr Ash Nayate Neuropsychologist and author of Staying Positive in a F*cked Up World.
- Don't be swayed by other's opinions. If you’re anything like me, you will at some point become acutely aware of that fact you are part of a minority group. You'll begin to notice some people or brands trying to get you back on the mainstream track. Whether that’s your friends and loved ones challenging or criticising your decision, or big brands with big marketing campaigns trying to tempt you to buy their products, or cultural traditions such as Easter Eggs or going out for dinner and finding the vegan options are limited. There may be many unforeseen obstacles on your vegan journey, so set realistic and achievable goals and don’t be disheartened if you resort back to past habits or accidentally trip up in the early days. You are only human after all! My transition took about 18 months. During this time I went back and forth quite a bit. Some of that was due to: learning new habits, mum guilt particularly around nutrition (letting go of ingrained thinking such as Dairy owns Calcium and Meat owns Protein, for instance), emotional attachments to food, FOMO, giving into temptation, peer pressure or purely just by “being social.” Side note - Did you know that know that not all wines are vegan!? Who knew?! (great vegan wine guide here). In essence, we are social beings and and navigating the social space when you go vegan takes consideration and tactfulness. It's a skill unto itself and over time you'll get better at it. Which leads me to my next point.
- Keep it to yourself. In the early days I suggest not telling anyone and everyone. This is a deeply personal journey. Give yourself time to adjust. Remember non-vegans generally do not like a know-it-all preachy vegan which is how you may accidentally come across, simply by sharing your enthusiasm. Generally this is the quickest way to NOT convert people! Remember, as a vegan you are going against the status quo - even though it’s got huge traction at the moment - and purely by letting people know you’re doing it some people will take offence and see it as an opportunity to test you and throw all sorts of questions and statements at you. “Where do you get your iron, minerals etc from?” “But meat is healthy” “that’s a bit extreme!” When this happened in the early days I wasn't as equipped to handle it and sometimes I felt myself accidentally coming across as a preachy vegan simply by defending my decision. In the early days it felt (and still does sometimes) that the very essence of what I believe to be true is being disrespected. This can be tricky to navigate. Especially if you are still educating yourself and you might not have all the answers on hand. By purely trying to defend your truth or your decision you may find yourself coming across a know it all. This is why I suggest keeping it on the low-down until you’ve had a bit of experience. Maybe test the waters here and there. Of course don’t be ashamed of your decision, but you need to be prepared for some negative reactions. If you’ve been doing it quietly for a while then you will be in better position to respond to others with something like “it seems to be working well for me.” You’ll also be able to lead by example and defy people’s negative stereotypes of a vegan. I still come across people who are perplexed by my decision and sometimes want to challenge me on it. I’m just getting better at not caring what they think as much or feeling like I need to justify my decision anymore.
Please stay tuned for another instalment of tips for newbie vegans over the coming weeks. If you have any tips I'd love to hear them via the contact us page.
Go Vegan Baby x