The Top 6 Mistakes People Make when Going Vegan
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Just in case you've never met me before, let me start this post off by saying that I'm vegan and that making this change has been one of THE best decisions I have ever made in my life, right after marrying my husband and welcoming my furry dog babies into our family. So this post is all about sharing the vegan love, but it's all about getting real too.
I've helped so many people go vegan along the way, and I've seen what people who stick with it do on a daily basis, and what mistakes others make that make them feel un-well or stop eating this way. Today I'm going to tell you all about the top 6 mistakes I see people making when they go vegan, in the hopes that this inspires you to get back down to basics and tweak whatever you need to tweak in order to absolutely love this new way of eating, and in order for it to be health supportive and make you feel amazing. I know how important veganism is to you if you've decided to take the plunge, but I also know that you're swimming against the current a bit here, and there's nothing wrong with feeling you need a bit of support because some things aren't going as planned.
Expecting everything to be perfect right off the bat is like expecting someone to finish a marathon the first day they head out for a run. It takes time, practice and making lots of mistakes until you finally find your stride, but I'm so happy to talk about these things today and hopefully help you out a bit along the way.
Top 6 Mistakes People Make when Going Vegan
Trying to be an eating superhero
This is quite often the first mistake we make as vegans. As soon as decide to make this change we suddenly start watching every documentary, reading every book, and devouring podcasts and blogs. This means we're constantly bombarded with information about nutrients, the benefits of going gluten free or raw, whether oils are good or sugar should be avoided. We suddenly want to change every single little thing about our diets and we try to be a food superhero right off the bat. We go on juice cleanses, we're raw ´til 4, we start feeling that sugar is the devil and we focus on eating so clean that things become too hard and too complicated all in one fell swoop. It really doesn't have to be, and quite honestly it shouldn't if you want this to become a permanent lifestyle change. Start simple, focus first on just removing animal products from your diet (and this can happen in many different ways for different people) and making sure that you're eating a huge variety of plant-based foods. Lots of colors, textures, make vegan versions of your favorites, start experimenting with new recipes, and take it one day at a time. Keep it simple and let yourself get used to the new foods first, and then you can make adjustments as you go.
Relying too much on processed foods
I blame this one on the terrible options that slowly became the norm in standard meat-based diets. We went from very traditional home cooked meals to TV dinners, frozen everything and pre-packaged meals that you basically just need to open, grab a fork and dig in. Veganism isn't immune to this either. On the one hand it's great that we have so many delicious options available to us where there weren't any a few years ago, but this has also meant we sometimes bring our processed style of eating to our vegan diets as well. Don't forget that the biggest source of your food intake should be nature! This doesn't mean you'll eat rabbit food for the rest of your life, it means you need to re-think the way you look at fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and all the goodies that make up our meals.
You can make the most amazing meat loaf with just some mushrooms, lentils, oats and spices, mac and cheese with cashews and seasonings. All whole foods, all found in nature. This doesn't mean you can't buy some yummy vegan sausages for breakfast, or some vegan cheese for a pizza, simply remember that you can and should rely more on whole foods, and that then you can indulge in the more processed foods from time to time. Read labels, you'll find that many brands of packaged vegan foods are actually 100% natural, choose these over the more processed kinds. If you're a member of our online program you know how much I teach you that you can make amazing comfort food based entirely on whole foods, and that sometimes it's ok to have a vegan grilled cheese sandwich. It's all about balance. It's not about being a perfect clean eating superhero that then quits, nor is it about filling your shopping cart with boxes of processed foods and nothing else.
Ignoring the nutrients you need because you think a vegan diet is automatically complete and perfect
I see this one so often. We feel so confident about what we've read and seen about veganism, we're often going against the way most of our loved ones eat, and we feel so confident this is the right choice for us that we feel the need to give it superpowers. Meaning, we feel there's nothing that can go wrong, and sometimes we're even ashamed of admitting that we caught a cold, let alone the fact that we take supplements. We want to tell everyone that our vegan diet is as complete as it gets, so we eat thinking the diet is magical and no matter what our food choices are, things are going to be a-ok. Although it is true that a well planned vegan diet has been the only diet proven to prevent and even heal many of the chronic illnesses we have today, it's also true that a vegan diet can be unhealthy or lacking in a particular nutrient if you don't eat well. It doesn't require that we major in nutrition or calculate every single bite of food we eat, and that's the beauty of it. It actually is quite simple, but it does require a little information, and taking a good look at what you're eating and how you can tweak things a bit to make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need.
Here's the funny thing about all of this, this is not only true about veganism, it's true about ANY diet you follow, including a meat-based one. I find that vegans usually have a much better grasp of nutrition because they've actually sat down and done the research. This is an important step so that you ensure you're getting enough nutrients through diet and supplementing when needed (and always with vitamin B12).
Our favorite resources:
We've created a very special library of resources for you to explore and learn more about these issues, and if you don't want to do the research yourself, our library also includes plant-based doctor directories and dietitians who you can consult (even via skype!) regarding your specific diet and requirements. It also includes the plant plate, THE BEST visual guide that will help you ensure you're eating a varied and complete vegan diet. Click the button at the end of this post to get instant access to all of our favorite resources. Remember that nothing is a magic pill, and that having a diet that supports your health will in turn support your veganism and sticking to it.
Trying to be perfect and feeling you've already quit if you've had a misstep
We all make mistakes along the journey, especially in the beginning. Sometimes we cave and eat something that isn't vegan because it was simply around. Sometimes we haven't made the connection with all food items and don't stop to think if a baked good might have eggs or dairy in it or not. Sometimes we eat something we thought was vegan and it wasn't. This is part of the ride. I don't know of any vegans who haven't made mistakes along the way, and all the long-term vegans I know who stuck with it, did it in spite of not being perfect. Perfection is always the enemy, and especially when it comes to veganism. Sometimes a medication we have to take has some kind of animal product in it and there isn't another option, sometimes we eat a vegan burger and were unaware that the bread they served it in had dairy. Everything from the framed photos in our houses, to computers, mobile phones and many things we use daily have animal products in them. This can't be an excuse to quit or not make better and better choices each time. Always remember that none of us are perfect, and that if you slip up, all you have to do is start again in your next meal. You'll soon find that as time passes you become a total expert at making choices, and you don't sweat the small mistakes you might make along the way.
Thinking you can't stay vegan if your significant other doesn't do it with you
I wrote a whole post on being in a relationship with an omnivore which you can read here and which is much more detailed, but please don't think that you can't make this choice if other people around you don't. You are your own person, with your own values and beliefs. You can make any choice you feel is right for you as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. I know it's harder to live and share your meals with someone who doesn't want to eat the way you do, but it's not impossible. In fact, as I mention in that blog post, it's as simple as setting some boundaries, keeping communication open and finding new practical ways of doing things. Every new habit takes an adjustment period, but I promise it's so worth it, even if your partner never joins you.
Isolating yourself from friends and family and your social life
I've seen this happen to people especially in the beginning of their journey. It can feel so overwhelming to tell people you've suddenly decided to go vegan. Often times you're the recipient of one too many jokes, many concerns, questions and even resistance and anger. It's so easy to build yourself a little fort like you did when you were a kid, and completely isolate yourself from your social life. Although I do think the initial stages of figuring everything out and reading up on it, is something you'll probably be doing on your own until you get your bearings, it's also important not to isolate yourself. This means both seeing your friends and family, and finding community with other vegans. There has never been an event or function I haven't been able to go to. Some have been better than others when it comes to food options of course, but the more you go and people see that you've stuck with "this vegan thing" the more vegan options will start popping up when you join your loved ones. People will know you're vegan and they always want to see their guests happy! Another thing I love to do is have people over for amazing vegan food, it immediately washes away all preconceptions of what vegan food is, and everything feels more normal, because it is! Find community online, join us here in the comments, go to or organize a vegan meet up, and live your life as you always did. It's not only possible, but it's the best way to inspire others and open their hearts to another way of eating and living. Even if they never decide to join you.
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