FLIRTING WITH VEGANISM: IS IT FOR ME?
I was a total flirt when I started learning about veganism. I would buy books, find products, make a recipe or two, try to commit and then back out when I was invited to a party or went to my favorite burger joint and saw what my friends or hubby were ordering. Pizza was a huge deal for me and it was always my falling off the wagon trigger. The truth is that we think that making the choice to finally go vegan is this huge event, after which you are in or you're out, and this way of thinking about it makes it seem so scary that many people don't end up taking the plunge. If you have been flirting with the idea of going vegan, or perhaps are almost there but keep having setbacks and are not sure if a vegan diet will be right for you, this is the post I want you to read. We'll cover many of those questions you probably have floating around in your head, and we'll uncover the big R's, a.k.a the roadblocks we think are in the middle of the road to being vegan, and that we view as being so big we feel we can't climb or go around them, so we remain stuck.
Before we get to the lifestyle considerations that are the main focus of this post, I do briefly want to address some key points regarding health. Is there anyone who won't benefit from a vegan diet? Research says no. Whole food plant-based diets (that means a vegan diet of soda and potato chips won't fly) have been proven to not only prevent but even reverse many of the chronic diseases plaguing the world today. Many patients with chronic conditions have seen dramatic benefits from eating this way, however, I always like to play it safe and suggest that you always consult with a doctor or dietitian before making any major dietary change (especially if you're on medication). You can visit our vegan resource library (click the button at the end of this post to get access) for a list of doctors and dietitians who are specifically trained in this area. This is important, since most doctors do not receive any training in nutrition whatsoever (mind-blowing, I know). Besides seeing amazing improvement in these conditions, if you are otherwise healthy, a well-planned vegan diet can be not only safe but optimal for your health if you eat a varied diet, take the required supplements (mainly vitamin B12- and this is not negotiable), and get regular blood work done to see that everything is in order. There is one group of people however that I think need to especially seek medical and psychological support before making any decisions regarding eating habits, and that is people who have or have had any type of eating disorder, obsessive controlling of food intake or any unhealthy behaviors towards food and diets. Any way of eating, whether it's veganism or another type of diet, can trigger unhealthy behaviors if you have been drawn to severely restricting food in the past. If this is the case for you, please do not attempt any dietary change without the ongoing support of a qualified therapist.
Although I wanted to briefly address the health aspects of this lifestyle and how you can achieve optimal health through a plant-based diet (we'll link to even more resources at the end), this post will not be about nutritional requirements or specific medical conditions. This post is meant to clear all the lifestyle questions, the "will I ever eat delicious food again" questions. The "will I ever be able to enjoy time with my family around the table again" questions. Why are these so important? Because in my experience, they were the biggest obstacles I had in my head, along with countless others, that constantly kept me from taking the leap. You've heard me say this so many times: veganism has caused such a deep and profound shift in my life that my only regret has been not doing it sooner.
Let's get to those big R's
The big R's: common roadblocks we feel are BIGGER than they actually are and keep us from trying things out
Will I enjoy the food? Not just at the beginning, but for good?
Yes, yes and yes! Vegan food is not the sprouts, brown rice and lentil diet you might have envisioned. Vegan options have skyrocketed in supermarkets, but even if you base your diet on healthier un-processed and whole foods, you can make all your favorites in their vegan version. Just like if you suddenly decided to start cooking Thai food, all you need to do is learn about some new ingredients and get some ideas and recipes and you can make anything vegan. Check out our free recipes from our youtube channel here for some inspiration, and we have countless other videos and recipes as part of our online program. In my opinion, the longer I've been vegan the more delicious the food gets!
Will I feel weak or hungry all the time?
Not if you're eating enough food. One of the beautiful things about a vegan diet is that natural whole foods are usually lower in calories, so if at any point you find yourself feeling hungry, eat more delicious goodies and make sure you're eating a wide range of foods and colors. In my case, my energy levels went through the roof, probably because I was now fueling my body with the most amazing health giving foods.
Will I be able to eat out and enjoy parties, weddings, gatherings with friends and family?
Of course! I get your anxiety about this. I think this is probably the area in which we need more time to adapt and get the hang of things since people can judge, make jokes and even get angry in the beginning! Times are changing and this lifestyle is becoming more and more mainstream. Friends and family will eventually come around or at least drop it, and as for vegan choices, there are so many options out there. The strange thing is we don't even see them before we're actually in our vegan shoes, walking around and experimenting. Many restaurants offer vegan options nowadays, and most have at least one thing that is vegan by default, not to mention the hundreds of 100% vegan restaurants that are opening every single day around the globe. Bringing an amazing vegan dish that everyone can share at your next party or family get-together is also the best way to easing everyone into your new lifestyle. We'll have a whole post on this soon so stay tuned.
Will I be able to travel as a vegan?
Of course! I have had some of my favorite vegan dishes while traveling and if you don't believe me, pay a visit to my friend Wendy Werneth from The Nomadic Vegan who travels the world as a vegan and does all the homework for you. Some places are easier than others, but you'll always be able to have a splendid time while on holiday. Don't even get me started on what I like to call the "eat your heart out vegan travel", where you pick a city with tons of vegan restaurants and go on a total eating fest! New York City or Portland here I come!
Will I feel excluded from social events?
In my opinion, if you are feeling any sense of isolation in the beginning, it probably has 30% to do with strong reactions you've gotten from friends and family who are not so understanding, and 70% your own fear of what people will think. This is when your inner warrior needs to come out and show everyone that you are still the same person and that you can even laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. Keep seeing your friends and family until you all find that sweet spot. Take amazing vegan food. Find community with other vegans in your area or online. You'll always have a ton of supportive ears here at Brownble and in many other sites.
Will I be able to live without cheese?
The first vegan cheese I tried was absolutely horrifying! I had no idea where to find all of the other AMAZING vegan cheeses that were there waiting for me, so I simply decided to live without cheese, vegan or non-vegan. Yes, there is life after cheese and it's amazing! Here's the real kicker, I soon learned after some research of the stores that were right under my nose and I didn't even know it, that you don't have to go without cheese! Just in my little local health food store you can find vegan mozzarella, vegan cheddar, vegan swiss, vegan cream cheese! If I head into the city (a mere 25 minutes away) I have vegan blue cheese, manchego, rice bococcini, with herbs, with berries, with onion and chives, cheese sauce, smoked cheddar. Yeah... you can have your cheese and eat it too! If you don't have these nearby, you can easily make your own or order some online and have them delivered.
Will I be able to go vegan if my partner doesn't want to make this change?
Absolutely. My husband Carlos didn't go vegan at the same time as me. We just found a balance and made it work, and eventually he joined me, but I'm also surrounded by family and friends in mixed eating households. My father-in-law is vegan but my mother-in-law is not. My sister-in-law is vegan, but her husband is not. Many friends have made the change, and their partners haven't quite gotten there yet. This was the one fear that kept me from going vegan the first time around. I thought Carlos would never go for it. It didn't even occur to me that I could do it on my own, and I didn't even set out to ask him if he minded! When I did, the response was not what I expected, he told me he would be vegan at home too so I didn't have to cook animal products for him, and six months later he was fully vegan, all on his own terms. It could have happened years earlier had I just had the courage to say I really wanted to do this for myself. For some of you, your partners may never go all the way there (or might refuse it completely). All you can do is do your own thing, lead by example and trust that even the tiniest seeds are being planted and that's really all any of us can do. I'm writing an entire post on this soon because I find this process fascinating!
Will I still be able to have my favorites?
Yup! You can make all of your favorites in their vegan version. From burgers with all the trimmings, to vegan meatloaf, Philly cheese steaks, lasagna, pizza, amazing desserts and even delicious goodies on the barbecue in the summer. Check out how varied vegan foods actually are in our "what do vegans eat?" post.
Will it be more expensive?
Just as with any diet, the cost will depend on what you buy. A vegan diet based more on whole foods will be less expensive than one that is high on the vegan novelties like cheeses and roasts, vegan meats and other ready made products. In my experience what happened was quite funny, since I fell in love with cooking even more upon going vegan, my grocery bill went up since I was now buying amazing things like truffle oil for my French potato dishes, or the best sun-dried tomatoes to make my homemade seitan sausages. My restaurant and eating out bills however went from sky high to crazy low! I think if I balance all of those things out, my food budget is probably the same or even slightly less than before, but this will depend on where you shop, what you bought before and what you are buying now. I'm also very rarely sick since going vegan which translated in less sick days off of work (I used to get colds all the time!). Yes, sadly, because of the way government subsidies work, a 99 cent value meal at a fast food place will be cheaper than buying fresh broccoli, but there are invisible costs to your health, the planet and our fellow beings that we simply can't sweep under the rug, and there are always very simple ways of eating a really healthy vegan diet on a budget.
Will I lose weight (if I don't want to) or gain weight (if I don't want to)?
Just as with the money (above), your weight will depend on so many factors, including how you ate before going vegan and how you eat now. You can manage your weight by adjusting what you eat to aid in weight loss or gain, just like with any other diet. Veganism is about so much more than that, but I completely understand this question. A vegan diet is neither a magic pill for miraculous ever lasting weight loss, and it's also not a straight road to being underweight like people think it might be. You can absolutely reach a healthy weight on a vegan diet, and this will depend on what you eat, your activity levels, stress levels, sleep patterns and other lifestyle choices and your own biology. For many it is a very natural way to find their weight equilibrium, and for others, like the countless amazing vegan athletes out there, it was a wonderful healthy way to get strong and empowered. Yes, you can build muscle with plants!
Will I be able to stick to it for the long haul?
If your heart is in it, you do your research, and you make sure to eat a varied, healthy, whole foods-based diet, I believe that this way of eating can accompany you through all the stages of your life. The scariest part is making the change, and navigating the first few months while you find your voice and confidence. After that, it simply becomes a part of your life, of your identity even, and you don't even think about it. It's just another wonderful part of who you are, and you are free to simply live your life and fill it with all the great things you do and enjoy.
Will it really make a difference in the world?
It's in this question where I found my answer to the question "is veganism for me?". You and me (and yes, I believe this even though I might not know you personally), are social, feeling, empathetic creatures. We care about our health and the world we're going to leave our kids, nephews, nieces or friends. We love animals and treat our pets like our babies. We hate injustice, abuse, not to mention cruelty. With every meal you make vegan you are making such a huge impact in this world that it's hard to even phrase. Every meal counts, every choice counts, every day counts, and a lifetime of being vegan whether you're starting at 7, 17 or 77, will impact not only your health, but the well-being of animals, protection of the planet, of our water resources, a shift in climate change, and put an end to the horrible conditions of the workers that we never see, who have to do the unimaginable and in the worst working conditions. One person CAN change the world. One bite at a time. You can find out more about all of these issues in our resource library (link at the end of this post).
These are some of those very common questions (besides the typical nutritional concerns which we'll cover in a future post) that sometimes hold us back and prevent us from even giving it a try, giving it a chance. I want to assure you that the best way to ease your concerns and give you a glimpse of what a vegan diet is like, is to:
STEP 1: Do the research
This stage was critical for me in my journey. I had so many questions, and now I realize that even more than that, I was reading the books, listening to the podcasts and watching the films because I needed a sense of community since no one around me was vegan. Through the button below you'll be able to access all the resources, books, movies, online videos, doctor directories, nutritional resources and podcasts that have helped me and countless others on their journey.
***If you're a "My Brownble" member click HERE to get instant access***
STEP 2: Find your why
Why do you want to make this change? For your own health? For the incredible benefits to the environment? To stop contributing to animal suffering and abuse? It really helps to dive deep into all the information that is out there and to see everything with your own eyes. If you've read the story of my journey to veganism you probably know by now that it was only when I dared to see what was really going on in our animal agriculture system that I made the leap. After that I was a different person. Something had shifted in my core. It was the boost I needed to finally lay all of my excuses to rest and give it a real shot, which I'm happy to say became a permanent change in my life.
STEP 3: There is no vegan police. Do it in whatever way YOU can do it. Start where you can now, and then take another step
Let's face it, our personalities, life circumstances, fears, hopes, dreams, families and possibilities make each one of us a special little one of a kind gem. It's absurd to believe that everyone can make this change in exactly the same way. Do what you can right now, and once you feel you have the hang of things, take another step, and then another. There is no perfection police and there is no vegan police. You are in the driver's seat. It's what makes reaching your goals so much more fun. You'll do it all on your own. Some of you will be more of the cold turkey type and if so, God bless you! You are some brave little future vegans! I was not like that. I needed to start making small changes, then went back to old habits, then I tried again, then I tried being vegan until 6 (it was a thing back then), that was even more confusing. I went back to my old ways. Then I tried again, this time being vegan at home and leaving the animal products only for when I dined out. That lasted a mere two weeks and it fortunately had a happy ending. It took me giving it a real shot at home 100% without any additional pressure to realize it was amazing. Two weeks later I was vegan and have been vegan since then. It took giving it a real try, after I had answered all the previous questions, removed the roadblocks and found my deep and profound why, for me to really do it. I can honestly say, that other than choosing to marry my husband and welcoming my two beautiful furry ones into my family, it was the best thing I have ever done in my entire life.
So yes, I flirted, then I flirted some more, then I was vegan, and I never looked back.
I hope this post has helped you a ton in answering some of your questions, and I'd love to hear about some of the challenges you have faced in the process of flirting with veganism. What are, or what were your fears when you first started this journey?