If there's one thing new vegans ask frequently in the beginning stages of their journey it's this: is this normal? Is this symptom, situation, or change in my physical or mental state normal? I know this because you have no idea how many things I googled on the first few months of my transition to veganism. We want to know if the tummy rumbles are normal, if the crazy boost of energy is normal, if the constant bathroom trips are normal, and if the crazy change in our tastebuds is normal. Yes, we want to make sure, that no matter how many "radical" changes we make in our diet, we remain our beautiful normal selves. Here's the truth: we don't. Veganism changes so many aspects of your life that it's like you suddenly took the red pill and went down the rabbit hole (any other Matrix fans out there?). We discussed all the physical changes you might be going through in this post, but today we're going to reach a much deeper level when we talk about side effects. We'll discuss what I like to call the three emotional stages of transitioning, all the mental and psychological changes we go through, and how powerful something as seemingly simple as your plate, can create such powerful effects in your life. At the end of the post I'm also going to send you over to our vegan library so you can enjoy some really cool resources to keep you company on your journey.
The three emotional stages of transitioning to a vegan diet
When we first go vegan, for whatever reason, our main focus is on the food. Will I still be able to eat all the delicious foods I love? Will I be able to get all my nutrients? Where do I shop? How do I build a balanced meal? What can I use to substitute my usual staples? Once we start cooking some food, we try new restaurants, and visit a health food store, or... here's a big one... we find the plant-based milk aisle, we're pretty convinced that we might be able to do it. We maybe haven't told anyone about it yet, but we feel more hopeful that it's doable. Then, as if a lightning bolt had just hit us, our worry expands into our social circle and we jump straight into stage 2.
We're suddenly extremely worried about our social connections. What our family and friends would say, if our social life is over, if we'll ever be able to go to a restaurant again with friends and enjoy it as much as the next person. This stage was the most scary for me. I spent one whole month in stage 1, experimenting in the kitchen, cooking amazing food, trying new products and restaurants. Everything seemed perfect and blissful until I started telling people. Boy is that hard! Not because the act of telling people is difficult per se, but because friends and family can have the craziest reactions to this! You might find yourself at the receiving end of far too many jokes, serious concerns about your safety and health, and even straight up anger and criticism. So stage 2 is long and it's hard. If you're currently in this stage let me just ease your mind right now by telling you that all of this passes, and as time goes on you'll even find that some of these people are asking you sincere questions about it. Once you really get your bearings and you're feeling confident enough to scream "I'm vegan" from the rooftops, you enter stage 3, the one that is the most full of surprises.
This is what I like to call the "when the dust settles" stage. You've been in that battle, with yourself and making the decision, then you've overcome the "invasion" (yup! no one on this planet has a right to tell you how you should eat), everyone's gone, the dust has settled and you can finally see the forest for the trees. That's where the magic starts to happen.
You now get to experience and live your day to day vegan lifestyle, just like it was any other day, but here's what has changed:
- Many of you might be feeling complete physical empowerment and energy, and that brings about a completely new outlook on your daily tasks and the world.
- You have finally understood deep down in your bones, how it is actually true that your actions matter and that you have the power. You are a special, integral part of this world we live in. Powerful stuff.
- You have given up foods that you probably said time and time again you could never live without. This means that you have now realized that you are in the driver's seat when it comes to your eating. Not a label, or an ad, or mainstream culture, but you.
- You have stood up for yourself and what you believe in. Whether that is the fact that health is everything (it is!), or that the planet needs our help, or that what we're doing to animals is horrifying, unnecessary and goes against our values.
- You have stopped caring so much about what other people think (can you give me a loud hallelujah for this one?!).
- You have learned new tricks, a new way of cooking and eating, you've debunked myths that don't serve you, and you're eating food that is making you feel amazing!
You are a different person. There's no way to go around this, and the effects of this diet go far beyond improving your cholesterol levels. You have changed, and it's very likely that your confidence is higher, that you're feeling less stuck, and that you now have this ease while you go through your life. I think that one in particular comes from realizing that you are able to stick to something that others (including your former self!) think is impossible, and even more so, that you've realized you were probably not the person you thought you were. You've realized you have the power! Patti Smith said it best when she sang "people have the power", and there's no truer fact than that.
My life changed completely after I went vegan. Not only was I healthier, full of energy and found this new amazing love of cooking that was even stronger than before, but I had emotionally and spiritually changed too. I gave up beliefs that didn't serve me, and I finally got that confidence that I had been neglecting for years (you can read more about my personal story here). I had definitely changed, in so many ways I'd need two posts to cover it, and no, what I had experienced was not normal, in the greatest, most amazing possible sense of the word.
If you're on this journey and need some support or guidance I'd love you to check out 2 things:
- Our vegan library! You can get inspired, feel motivated, and especially supported. Community, even if it's just online or by reading a book, is so important. Click the button below to get instant access to our free vegan resource library with our favorite books, podcasts, online videos, films, doctor directories and more.
- Our online program... a video-based online program for vegans who want to stick to their new lifestyle, find balance between eating their favorite foods and still prioritize their health, find support and community, learn how to cook amazing food, find wellbeing in and out of the kitchen and so much more. Take a look at all the details here.