Going Veggie, whether Vegan or Vegetarian, is easy…for some people. At least that is what is said in the community at large. I have lost track of how often I hear someone claim that it just clicked one day, and the next they were buying all organic, plant based, cruelty free, human rights supportive, upcycled, fair trade everything. The way they make it sound, they woke up in the morning and their entire lives had become a PETA catalog.
Well, for some of us, it ain’t that simple.
My purse, bought second hand long before I made my decision, is still leather. I have been unable to stop myself long term from eating cheese, no matter how much I try. I still don’t have a great grasp on what brands do and don’t test on animals. And when my delicately euphemistic “Time Of The Month” rolls around, I crave red meat like I am a T-Rex and the world is my steakhouse.
A few times I have come across a new Veggie and found them in despair. They gave in and ate some meat. The shampoo they have been using isn’t certified as animal safe. They can’t bring themselves to throw out their favorite suede jacket.
I am here to tell you: it’s OK.
The Dividing Line
You can pretty much break the community into two groups it seems: those who go all out, and those who give some leeway. I don’t think that either is better or worst than the other. But I do believe that the stress and guilt often put onto the people who aren’t as gung ho, or struggle sometimes with the lifestyle, is unfair.
I also think it marginalizes the community enough that it shuts people down who might have otherwise made an effort. Plenty of omnivores become defensive at the very mention of being a Veggie, after all. Considering how self righteous some Vegans in particular can be, can you really blame them?
Knowing what to expect if you aren’t able to just jump right in, good intentions or not, can be helpful.
What To Expect When You’re Expecting….To Go Veggie
This is based around my experience, and the experience of others I know. Those who are able to just give it all up, I salute you. Your self control is a constant source of admiration and, frankly, bemusement from yours truly.
For me and my few examples, here are some truths:
Your Dedication Will Wane.
The first few weeks are sooooo great! Excitement and moral outrage can go a long way towards making a change to your lifestyle. But over time, the desire for something becomes great. Maybe it is cheese (oh God, the cheese…), or ice cream, or even a meat you used to enjoy.
Most things have a replacement readily at hand that you can turn to. TVP and plant based faux meat, coconut or almond milk frozen treats, ect. But it may not be as satisfying, and slip ups can happen. When they do, don’t beat yourself up. Just move on from there, and remember that you are changing a life habit that has been with you since you were old enough to chew.
The Body Takes Time To Adjust
In the beginning weeks of switching to a largely plant based diet, you aren’t going to feel like yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like you will be weak or sick or anything like that. If you are, you need to analyze your diet to see if you are doing it correctly. More than one Veggie has relied too much on carbs and fruit, and not enough on veggies and proteins when they first get started.
For the most part, your struggle is going to be due to fiber. Plants have a lot of fiber, and you won’t be used to having so much. Even if you ate a lot of vegetables and fruit prior to your transition. This could lead to some confusing changes to your, shall we say, bathroom habits.
There might be something you can do about this. I can tell you that I never found a good solution. All you can do, as far as I am aware, is wait for the body to get used to the new intake. This will take around two weeks, and is more of a minor inconvenience than anything else.
You Need To Vary Your Foods
I don’t care how much produce you think you eat. Chances are, you have a rather short list of items you consume on a regular basis. Which can not only get boring, but also potentially inhibit your nutrients. Varying your diet is important on many levels, so it is experiment time.
Each trip to the store for your general shopping, pick up two new items to try. One should be produce, one should be anything not containing an animal product. Going to other stores, especially cultural markets like Mexican or Asian grocers, will be a goldmine for new foods. Maybe you will like what you get, maybe you won’t. The point is you are trying something new, and might discover a few goodies to incorporate into your meals.
Another benefit to this is that it forces you to learn how to prepare something you didn’t know how to cook before. Which means seeking out recipes, which will lead to further ideas, and so vary your diet and meal plans even more.
The Weirdest Things Contain Animal Products
I already did a post about this, so I am not going to say too much on the topic. But animal products are everywhere, in everything. It’s bizarre, what some brands will shove into their foods.
What is more problematic is that different companies will put it in where others don’t. It is the most annoying part about being a Veggie: turning over a product that is a different brand than you usually buy and seeing eggs, or whey, or gelatin. Be wary, even after you have been going at it for awhile.
Processed Vegan Products Also Suck
You might be thinking that because it is Vegan, it is healthy. This is so, so wrong. Animal free processed foods have the same pitfalls as those made with meat and dairy. High salt, high fat, high calorie, low nutrient value. Especially Vegan cheese and butter spreads, which are almost all oil.
Let’s not forget about cellulose, as well! What is this magical ingredient that seems to be on the back of every package these days? Cotton, or wood pulp. Seriously. They grind it up and add it to foods to thicken it, stabilize it, or just reduce the calories that would otherwise be in it if they used actual food.
As far as we know, it is safe. Just like the multitude of chemicals and colors added to those faux chicken strips are safe. But that doesn’t mean they are good for you. Use these products sparingly, or not at all.
You Will Fall Off The Wagon, Climb Back On, Then Fall Off Again
I think it takes a very special kind of person to just make a sudden change like this and then stick to it unwaveringly for years. They exist, and they usually show the same kind of immediate intensity to the rest of their lives. Most of us aren’t going to have that talent, however, and we will need to struggle a bit.
Whether you are doing this for health reasons, moral reasons, or just “ew, meat is icky” reasons, you will fail sometimes. Don’t feel guilty, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty, either. Just pick yourself back up, get back on track, and keep in mind that every little bit you do is actually making a difference.