When I initially got exposed to the idea of veganism, I instantly felt that I didn’t want to eat animal friends anymore. But it took me around 3 years to finally go vegan and stay vegan. Therefore in my personal story, though the understanding and realization hit home instantly, the process of connecting the dots took longer.
In these past few years of being vegan, I’ve seen people who express a desire to be vegan, identify with it, but don’t manage to keep a fully vegan lifestyle for different reasons. I’d like to talk about 10 major topics which I think are key to succeeding on a vegan lifestyle, thriving on it and staying vegan for life. This would have helped me so much all those years ago! If you’ve tried being vegan and have struggled or are struggling now–please read all 10 points. 😀
1. Veganism is Not a Diet, it’s a Way of Life
Many of us find veganism as a result of searching for a healthy lifestyle. It’s definitely the healthiest lifestyle I know! My observations have led me to understand that most of those who also allow themselves to reconnect with their innate compassion towards animals and take an interest in reducing the suffering of animals and saving the planet, create a stronger sense of identification and bond with the vegan lifestyle. They tend to struggle less with feelings like they “miss” non-vegan foods from their past and they don’t see it as a sacrifice, but on the contrary, as a gift. I have friends who began their vegan journey for health reasons and slowly developed these aspects I mentioned here too. They’re vegan today and are loving it! So the more we allow ourselves to reconnect with our basic desire to protect animals and nature, which we’re all born with, the easier we’ll find it to adopt and enjoy a fun and cruelty-free lifestyle.
2. Getting Our Vegucation
You can either take your time or lap up all the information all at once. In any case, I highly recommend familiarising yourself with the information available regarding veganism. The more educated I am about my choices, the more I identify with them and the more they become part of my life. The three main aspects I would focus on are:
1– Animal rights: Becoming knowledgeable about the horrid conditions of suffering and disease in which animals live, and the process of their slaughter in the meat, dairy and egg industries. Learning about the way humans treat farmed animals like products in a factory. A recommended documentary to watch is ‘Earthlings‘ (warning: tough to watch)
2– The disastrous environmental effects a non-vegan lifestyle has on the planet and the animals (including us humans) who live together on it. To list a few:
a) The extinction of complete species.
b) The destruction of the rain-forests to allow for grazing of farmed animals and for growing crops to feed them.
c) The emptying of ocean life due to large net fishing which rips out sea plants and kills off marine species causing massive ocean “dead zones”.
d) World hunger which is caused by large quantities of the planet’s crops being fed to factory farmed animals instead of to hungry humans.
e) Water depletion due to the growing need to provide water for larger groups of factory farmed animals to keep up with our consumption of meat and to irrigate the crops they feed on.
f) Green-house gases released from farmed animals’ excretions and due to destruction of massive stretches of CO2 absorbent lands (i.e. rainforests).
A documentary that covers these topics, which left me dumbfounded and literally felt like a punch in the gut is ‘Global Warming: Meat the Truth‘.
3– Health: This is a controversial topic of course but there’s plenty of research showing the health advantages of living a vegan lifestyle. Watching the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives‘ amazed me and totally changed what I believe about food. I was astonished to learn how our top ‘silent killers‘–heart disease and diabetes–can be reversed through diet alone! (Cancer can also be kept away in many cases). I’ve also listed a few recommended books on this topic in my ‘vegan shopping‘ section, in the ‘books’ category.
3. A Support Net
Finding a support net can be the difference between reaching or not reaching our goal of living as a vegan. Some people are fortunate to have a partner to go vegan with or a very supportive family. Others might not be as lucky. Besides our direct friends and family there are other wonderful options such as vegan online forums and facebook groups which are a great place to:
a) meet other vegans or people making the transition by engaging in the groups.
b) Learn about the different aspects of veganism.
Having a support net can really help encourage you along your vegan journey and most importantly, show you that you are not alone! Here are a few recommendations:
a- Join Communiteam. A support and accountability group for people who want to work on changing lifestyle habits or maintaining changes they’ve already made and support others who want to do the same. And have fun and laughs doing it.
b- Find the vegan facebook group of the city you live in. It’s usually called ‘vegans in _____ (Vancouver, Portland, Berlin etc. OR ‘Vancouver/Berlin/Portland Vegans’). Joining these groups will allow you to get familiar with all topics relevant to vegans in your area; from meetups, vegan potlucks and different shops to restaurant recommendations, supermarkets with vegan items etc.
4. A Whole Foods Plant Based Diet
To acquire the health benefits that can really take place once we live a vegan life, it’s best to stick to a whole food plant based diet. Why is it healthiest? Eating food closest to its whole form ensures that we are left with as many nutrients as we possibly can: fibre, intact macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat), minerals & vitamins, water content etc. Here is a list of what a whole foods plant-based vegan diet is comprised of:
- Plenty of vegetables
- Plenty of leafy greens: lettuce, kale, spinach, rocket, chard, herbs etc.
- Whole grains: rice, millet, barley, wheat, buckwheat, corn, quinoa etc.
- Root vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroots, taro roots, daikon roots, sunchokes etc.
- Legumes: a variety of beans, chickpeas, a variety of lentil (red, black, brown, green), peas
- Avocados, olives, various nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, chestnuts) & seeds (pumpkin, flax, hemp, sesame, poppy, chia)
These are some of the leading plant-based doctors who recommend a whole-foods plant-based vegan diet as the healthiest diet. Reading their materials could help you establish the ratios between the different food groups that are right for you.
Following vegan blogs and especially recipe blogs can help kick start our culinary experiences, to learn about cooking or baking with new products and to simply fuel up with new ideas. A few recommended blogs and websites:
Finding Vegan – is a website with thousands of cool vegan recipes which is updated every single day!
Oh She Glows – Is a recipe blog written by Angela Liddon, where she celebrates her love for plant-based foods. Most of her recipes are free of processed foods.
Chef Chloe – A vegan blog with popular dishes and easy to follow recipes. If you’re a beginner, you’ll love this!
vegaNoga – And of course my own recipe blog, which consists of the food that I eat on my whole foods plant-based diet. The recipes are oil free, mostly whole-foods, and super easy to make!
6. Staying Physically Active
We all know that in order to be healthy we must be physically active. Physical activity and veganism go hand in hand. They are two of the leading components of a healthy life. It’s important for all of our basic bodily functions, for keeping the machine running at top performance long-term. Being physically active is also a lot of fun 😛 and it’s basically the foundation of a balanced vegan lifestyle. Check out my ‘fitness fun‘ section to help you get started or continue and stay consistent and motivated.
7. Staying Positive: It’s easy to get sucked into negativity when we become aware of what atrocities we humans are causing in this world to animals, to the environment and to ourselves. We have to keep in mind that change takes place when each one of us plays our part. All we need to do is be the change we want to see in the world, lead by example. By doing so we are a trigger to a chain reaction which builds up power and energy the more it continues down the line. Check out this cool demonstration of this idea
8. Making Room for Trial and Error
There are many different ways in which we can choose to live our vegan lifestyle. Especially when it comes to the aspect of diet. What I can tell you is that there are many different vegan “diets” and people following a certain diet will most probably try to convince you that their diet is the absolute healthiest and is the only way to go. I say: make room for trial and error. Be your own guru, try anything that resonates with you and see what feels most comfortable for you. The 10 commandments were carved in stone, all the rest is open up for discussion. Kidding! 😆 What I mean to say is we should allow ourselves the space to explore and experiment. Each of us is a unique being, literally a whole world, and we each have our own individual and unique path to walk down. If you feel you would benefit from a private consultation with a dietitian, who specializes in plant-based nutrition, I definitely encourage you to set an appointment to get your journey off on a good note.
Here are two lists for dietitians specializing in vegan nutrition in the US:
1. The Vegan Truth Blog – Lists of plant-powered professionals; vegan doctors, registered dietitians, vets, nutritionists.
2. Big Tent Vegan – A directory of vegan-friendly and whole food plant based diet-friendly doctors and dietitians.
9. Taking it a Day at a Time
It might seem overwhelming at first, a little scary–life-long commitments sometimes are. This is why I find it easier taking it a day at a time. Thinking of how I’m going to cope tomorrow, especially when I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, makes me feel anxious sometimes. It’s ‘the unknown’, it’s natural to feel this way. Therefore, taking it a day at a time, focusing on today, each day, can be very helpful in achieving our goals successfully. What helped me was planning out the day–if you’re a writer type, go ahead and write your plan. If you’re more of an inwards thinker type, make a mental list and map out your vegan day. This method really helps me ease the pressure off of myself. Once it’s on paper (or screen) I know I’m not worried anymore.
10. Being Proud
Let’s be proud of our choices. Living our choices proudly and assertively helps our environment adjust to them more smoothly, I find. You have all the reason to be proud too! Choosing a vegan lifestyle is commendable for the choice of not causing harm to others, for the collective responsibility over the planet and its inhabitants you are taking upon yourself, for the informed choices you make again and again each and every day in which you re-choose to be vegan.
If you found these “10 commandments of staying vegan” helpful, please share them with your friends. 😀