How to Start Eating a Vegan Diet
Eating a vegan diet is not as hard as it seems. There’s different ways that one can transition into a vegan diet, but it really depends on the individual. What works for one person may not work for another. Rarely does someone go cold turkey (pardon the pun) when it comes to making a change like that. As was the case for myself, I feel that most people need to take baby steps, more often than not, in order to fully eliminate animal derived foods.
When I finally decided that I was going to go vegan, I knew that it was going to be a transition, a process. I knew that if I tried doing it in one fell swoop, I would fail. I had to do this in a way that allowed me to process the ‘shock’, if you will, of not eating any more of the foods that I’d been eating for 39 years, and also the ‘sadness’, if you will, of eliminating the foods that I loved to eat and was addicted to. Sadness is written not in the truest sense of the word, though, because what I’d discovered about what happens to factory farm animals and what it in turn does to the human body and how it creates disease, is the truly saddening thing.
Before we move on, I’d like to point out one very important thing. In making any kind of transition…any lifestyle change…I feel it’s of utmost importance that we know beyond a doubt the WHY before we figure out the HOW. For me, I have to be convinced of something before I do something on the level of a lifestyle change, especially when it comes to food. I have to know in my heart that this is something I really want to see happen because that is truly the only way I will continue making the change. If I go into it half-heartedly, I’m not going to put my all into it and I am most likely going to drop out.
The following is just one way that someone can adopt a vegan diet. In my case, to be more accurate, I follow a plant based diet because occasionally I eat honey. But for the purposes of simplicity, I will use the word vegan.
I went into this mission with a plan that worked: I would start with one food that I liked the least, and then move on to the next food I liked the least, and so on, ending up with the food that I liked the most, which was a tie between eggs and dairy (although I made a little departure from the plan, and you’ll see how, soon). I didn’t know how long it would take me, but the goal was to start in June 2009 and fully eliminate animal products (again, the exception is honey) in my diet by January 2010.
In June I eliminated beef, and, to my surprise, it was easier than I imagined. I loved hamburgers but I didn’t miss them at all. I replaced them with veggie burgers, which didn’t taste like beef but still gave me a satisfied feeling. I also started experimenting with other vegan meat replacements like seitan, tempeh and soy based ‘fake meats’. Although now, after being more educated, I know that those foods, especially seitan and fake meats, aren’t optimally healthy, they helped me nonetheless, to get my mind into believing that I could do this and that I could still eat foods that tasted like them.
I went on like this for months. I wasn’t sure what the next food elimination was, honestly. I was just riding the wave until my intuition told me what was next. In early October, I ended up watching 20 seconds of a video showing the horrible treatment that pigs are put through in factory farms. Yes, just 20 seconds is all I could handle. My whole body shook and I could literally feel the pain of the piglet whose tail was being cut off without anesthesia. He looked at the camera and I felt he was doing his best to communicate his agony. I am an empath, so this experience was even more brutal for me. That was the day that I eliminated pork, and this was a big one for me, since I used to eat bacon, sausage and ham quite often. But again, I never missed it from that day forward.
Then came Thanksgiving. Prior to that day, I decided that I was going to do a fast right after Thanksgiving, not only to detox but also to see if I could eliminate my cravings for cheese, which was one of my top favorite foods. I truly was a cheese-aholic. This was a scary but exciting thing for me, because A. I’d never done a long term fast before and was curious on how well I would handle it and B. I was curious to see the results. I also decided that this Thanksgiving would be poultry-free for me. I was always a side dish kind of Thanksgiving meal eater, so that part was easy. To be honest, there were a couple of times afterwards when I craved fried chicken and whatnot, but they weren’t overwhelmingly strong. The day after Thanksgiving, I began the Master Cleanse and did it for ten days. I went through a lot of detox symptoms, particularly flu like symptoms and zero energy. It really kicked my butt. I felt great after it was over and to my surprise and delight, I no longer craved cheese! I don’t know why I chose this time to eliminate cheese from my diet, since the plan was to get rid of dairy the last, but again this was a case of my intuition guiding me.
Throughout the rest of the year, I kept on with avoiding all of these foods and eased into eliminating fish and seafood. Rarely do I miss it. And this is where it gets really interesting: at this point, I wasn’t ‘into’ dairy or eggs anymore, meaning that I didn’t want them or go after eating them anymore. And these are the foods I thought would be the hardest to give up! In reality, I was already eliminating them without intentionally doing so. Most certainly, detoxing from cheese helped the dairy addiction. It was almost effortless. By the end of January, I could safely say that my mission was complete and I accomplished what I set out to do.
I have been continuing this way of eating for 4 years now. I remain open to trying new food products that mimic animal derived foods that I used to eat, but for the most part, I stick to whole foods that are minimally processed. I feel better than I ever have, not only physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. I do realize that some people have a much harder time giving up those foods and going vegan. Again, I want to stress that if you aren’t completely convinced and going into it wholeheartedly, chances are is that you will fail or not give this enough of a chance. I have seen time and time again people who struggled so much to change their dietary ways. Give yourself lots of time to accomplish this. It may take years. It may take 7 months, like it did for me, or it may take faster for you. The important thing is to do it when and how it feels right for YOU.