5 Practical Tips for Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet. (Part 1) - The Why
Hello, internet friends and strangers!
So, I've decided to go vegan. If you're wondering why, and haven't read my other blog post, head on over here to see why I've decided to make the switch.
Before I begin, let me just remind you that I'm still a newbie at this. I'm a beginner, too! I'm learning new things every day and it's a work in process. I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I have the advantage of being a vegetarian for 2 years in university, so I've used the knowledge from that to move forward as a vegan....but I'm still in transition. And that's okay. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
This is going to be a 5 part series....and I'll be dedicating a post to each of my 5 tips. I feel like all of them deserve their own explanation.
So...let's jump right into it!
Decide why you want to do this.
When I was in university, I spent 2 years as a vegetarian. I did this as a "diet" and a way to lose weight. It was really successful - my weight fell to the lowest it's ever been. Along with that, my hair fell out in clumps, I lost my period, and I was so anemic the doctor considered giving me a blood transfusion. He told me that I needed to take iron supplements or start eating meat again. After trying iron supplement after iron supplement...I gave up and started eating meat again. I was tired of being so fatigued I couldn't open doors or climb a flight of stairs without feeling faint. I couldn't sleep because I was always starving, but I would nap throughout the day.
As a college-student vegetarian, I lived mostly off of oatmeal, English muffins and cottage cheese, tofu, apples, zucchini bread, cereal, and alcohol. I exercised far too much and ate too little. I hid behind vegetarianism as a way to restrict myself and stop myself from eating things that I thought were "bad."
This was horrible for my health in a number of ways. 2 years after leaving university, I found out I'm intolerant to gluten. My diet at that time consisted mostly of grains, which destroyed my stomach and made it even harder to absorb the nutrients I needed. This also fueled a very unhealthy relationship with food that has taken me -years- to deal with. Food was not enjoyable for me - it was simply a way to look the way I wanted. Calories were more important than nutrients, and I would drink a 2L bottle of Coke Zero because "0 calories!" Everything was very backwards.
Needless to say, this was one of the reasons I was very hesitant to go back to veganism. That time in my life was a very dark, dark place and I have no wish to ever step foot in that life ever again. I've made major strides when it comes to food...although, I still have body issues that I deal with. But that's another post for another time.
I really had to reflect on why I wanted to do this. Becoming vegan looks very restrictive from the outside. No animal products, plus on top of that, no gluten? What the hell would I eat? Grass? Salads? For the rest of my life? And why would I want to do this in the first place? Was I moving towards an eating disorder yet again?
Sorry, but it can't be just a diet.
They talk a lot about this on vegan podcasts (Liveplanted is a great one that is helping me with my transition) but it's so true.
The diet and health part is really just one part of the triangle.
You see, veganism encompasses three issues. And all of them are inter-connected and becoming vegan has a positive impact on all three.
The 3 issues are:
1. The Environment
2. Animal Rights
3. Health and Diet
The first time I became vegetarian, I focused solely on health/diet. I didn't delve into the issues of the other 2 parts of the triangle, because I didn't care about them. Like I said, I was using vegetarianism as a way to lose weight, primarily.
This time around, I'm doing it for all 3 reasons - but mostly, numbers 1 and 2. As I've gotten older, my priorities have changed. Yeah, sure, it'd be nice to look like a Victoria Secret's model...but I'm with a guy who loves the way I look (he especially loves my curves and my thick thighs?!) and I don't really feel any need to change anything about my body significantly.
More important to me is our earth. I am very, very concerned about the state of our environment. I think our world will look drastically different in 100 years, and sure, I'll be dead, but humanity will live on. If I have children (which I am almost reconsidering based on the predictions about what the world will look like very soon), I don't want them to have to deal with wars over clean drinking water, extreme weather like hurricanes and droughts and floods, and world-wide starvation. Vancouver, the city I'm currently living in, will probably be under water in 2100 after the ice caps melt. That pretty much says it all.
Obviously, this is not okay with me.
The second important reason I'm doing this is for animal welfare. I....really fucking love animals. I always have. When I was child, I dreamed of having a life filled with tigers and elephants and dogs and pigs and horses and dolphins. In fact, I had an imaginary pet pig when I was 5 that I would walk around. I never had much interest in dolls - instead, I had hundreds of plastic animals that I would play with.
So, I care about animals. A lot. Watching videos of animals suffering or hurt, makes me really upset. Seeing a dog die in a movie makes me cry. When my parent's dog was having seizures and we visited her at the vet's office, it broke my heart. Hearing about animal abuse in any form makes me sick. You get the idea.
...well, if I feel this strongly about animals....why the hell would I support eating them?
Would I eat a dog? No.
Would I eat a cat? No.
Would I eat a rabbit? No.
Would I eat a horse? No.
So why am I going to eat pigs? Pigs are as smart as 3 year olds and cute as heck.
Why would I eat cows, who are very similar to dogs and horses?
Why would I eat chickens, who can recognize over 100 humans and feel empathy for their chicks?
Causing unnecessary suffering to these animals doesn't sit well with me. I can't morally eat these animals or their by-products knowing that they're going through hell in factory farms before they die. And yes, this includes milk and most egg products. No amount of "Meat tastes so good!" can convince me that's it's okay to be a part of their suffering. I've gotten to the point where I really can't just ignore it and pretend it's okay. It feels bad to me, so I'm not going to do it anymore.
So, where am I going with all of this?
If you decide to go vegan - do it for a reason you believe in beyond "losing weight/health". If you're not losing weight, are you going to give up? If it doesn't immediately heal you of your health issues, are you done? Not if you have a reason greater than yourself to eat this way. Veganism isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. The eating part is actually the easiest part. It's going to be all the social interactions, the questions, the parties...that's going to be the part that wears you down. You're going to have a lot of projecting thrown your way and that's going to be tough. Your family might not understand, your friends too - coworkers and strangers, probably not. So you need to feel strongly about why you're doing this or you'll give up.
I highly suggest you do some research on the reason you want to go vegan. There are lots of great resources that I'll list below. Spend a few days looking into it. Become passionate about the issues. That will get you through the rough patches. Trust me.
Resources I've used.
Netflix documentaries: Cowspiracy and Forks over Knives.
Documentaries not on Netflix: Earthlings
As I gather more resources, I'll be posting them here for you to check out. I'm a huge fan of Youtube (obviously), both for the recipes and the personalities there...but it's easy to digest. Youtube was where I was first introduced to the idea of veganism...so I definitely credit the platform for planting the seed (see what I did there?) in my head to go in this direction.
So, for a quick TL;DR: Find a reason beyond health to go vegan. Health and weight loss will not sustain you for a long period of time. Believing in something bigger than yourself will.