If you are reading this, it must mean that you are somewhere on the spectrum of interest in a more vegan-oriented lifestyle. Maybe this means you would like to incorporate more plant foods and reduce animal products in your daily diet. Perhaps you feel ready to completely overhaul your meals from the Standard American Diet and go cold turkey, er, cold Tofurky? Either way, this post is meant to give guidance so that whatever transition you choose is easy and enjoyable.
1. Become a student of your new lifestyle
One of the great things about venturing into veganism in 2016 is there is an endless amount of knowledge to absorb about every facet of the lifestyle, from the food to the activism, from the fashion to the philosophy. This means you can always find resources or communities that resonate with you and keep you jazzed about being veg. The downside is there also tends to be a lot of misinformation and criticism out there on the World Wide Web.
It’s important when researching anything to be able to separate the cold, hard facts from the sensationalism (yes, it’s true: veganism is not a panacea for all health ailments). It is equally important to rely upon or build some tough skin to face the critics of the world—or, our own families and friends.
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By keeping your curiosity alive and researching what piques your interest along the way, you will solidify your place in the community at large and the personal meaning behind your transition. Branch out to different blogs, forums and websites to find new and exciting recipes, stay learned on what environmental, health or animal rights information empowers you the most. But also remember that being a student of your lifestyle does not mean being an expert; it is okay to not have the answers to others’ questions (and yes, you will receive a lot of questions), but to instead speak from your heart and say why your choice is important to you.
2. Figure out what is practical for your budget and routine
Before you considered a veg transition, what were your eating habits? Mealtime routines? Kitchen skill set? Budgetary expertise? All of the things you already know about yourself will inform you on how to take care of implementing the change in the foods you eat. If meal planning, meal prepping and a closely-watched budget describe your flow, then start looking up some recipes, make some charts and check out the prices of produce. If you are more go-with-the-flow, ask yourself what types of foods you typically enjoy and consider veganizing some of your favorite meals and how to make the switch simple.
Many people may think that going vegan means buying expensive, exotic-sounding ingredients and relearning how to cook. If that’s your cup of tea, go for it, but for most of us all we need to do is make some adjustments to what we already know. Does your family enjoy Taco Tuesdays and pack most of their lunches? Then it’s time for lentil, jackfruit or veggie fajita tacos and simple sandwiches, soups and stir fries that can be packaged to-go! Are you more of a takeout type who only enters the kitchen to make Sunday brunch? Well, start examining local restaurant menus and fast food options and make a plan for a fulfilling, delicious vegan brunch spread!
3. Find a supportive community of vegans and vegetarians
This advice I cannot stress enough: find at least one other vegan with whom you can connect for support and questions. Being vegan can be hard sometimes, largely because most the world is critical and still catching up. Veg folks can feel surrounded by eye-rolling and meaty menus and, therefore, isolated and alone—especially where there aren’t a lot of other vegheads around for support. Find an online community, local meet-up group or social media connection to feel at home.
4. Stay connected to what you really enjoy
Most of our daily life can begin to feel like a rat race from time to time. If you start to feel unenthusiastic about dealing with grocery shopping, meal prep or dealing with the same old questions from co-workers (“Where do you get your protein?”), remember what you have to fall back on that brings you joy. Perhaps getting creative in the kitchen is your jam and gets you out of a funk. Maybe you went vegan for the animals and taking time out of your day to connect with your companion animals or plan a trip to a farmed animal sanctuary brings you peace. Or, if your moment of zen is kicking back with a good book or film, there are so many informative and entertaining reads and documentaries on the power of veganism that will invigorate your soul.
Whatever it is that connects you to the reason you chose to become vegan, keep it close to your heart and take action to connect with it on a daily basis.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.