Our wonderful MD with her daughter, E, and pup,
In the month since going vegan, I’ve learnt some big lessons that you or someone around you might find useful, especially if you’re just starting your own journey.
Making the decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle was not one that came easily for me. I’ve been vegetarian for a while, and have gotten close to vegan many times, but I’ve never been able to get the logistics to line up with my good intentions.
However, one month ago I decided to commit to the change and this time I am confident that it is here to stay.
Here’s what I’ve learnt so far – I’d love you to build on this list of lessons in the comments below!
Lesson 1: Becoming vegan is easier than you think…
For me, the change from vegetarian to vegan was less disruptive than the change from eating meat to becoming vegetarian. Perhaps because I had already experienced the drastic reduction in my choices (e.g. from having the whole menu of options to having 5 or fewer choices), or perhaps because being vegetarian was enough to help me see just how much of our diet is based on mindless meat consumption.
If you’re struggling to take that first step in becoming vegan, ask yourself this question: What is the biggest thing you think you will miss? Is it roast dinners? Cheese plates? Pub dinners with your mates? How can you replace the feeling that that experience creates for you?
For me, finding one good substitute for my favourite meat-based experiences was the key. For example, I embarked on a taste tour of all the vegan roasts I could buy or make until I found one I loved (Sunday night roast dinner tradition saved!). Similarly, I found a brand of vegan cheese which I LOVE and can’t tell the difference between it and the dairy cheese of my memory (cheese plates with wine and friends saved!). Having a ready supply of these things close by helps when I crave the familiarity of those old feelings.
Lesson 2: But you do have to THINK (a lot…)
Becoming vegan helped me to see how mindless my eating habits had become. Walk past the snack stand at work? Grab a muesli bar (covered in honey and yoghurt). Visit the kitchen, take a piece of chocolate (that’s dairy). Peckish at the café? Buy a muffin (made with eggs). Rushing between meetings? Grab a sandwich from the café (filled with butter, cheese, and probably meat).
Becoming vegan meant that my mindless consumption had to change – but you know what? I feel SO MUCH BETTER for it. I’m eating more fruit, nuts, and veggies for snacks, making my own lunches more often and reading the ingredient list before grabbing a handful of snacks. I’m eating better, feeling better, and loving it.
Lesson 3: Cooking vegan has made me a better cook.
Looking back, I was pretty lazy when I was cooking with meat. There was always a meat-based centrepiece, and everything else was there to support it. However, in my new vegan life, I am learning to cook meals where each part of the meal can hold its own. I’m enjoying cooking more, and more importantly, I’m enjoying eating what I’m cooking more too.
My biggest learning is to recognise that I needed to change both what and how I was cooking to make my vegan lifestyle work. This took some time to research and educate myself, and to find a few new go-to recipes that I can whip up quickly. For me, this means vegan burritos and tacos, burgers, soups and curries. I’ve found a couple of great cookbooks which I am enjoying working my way through on nights when I have a bit more time. Making sure I have a fridge full of veggies and a pantry full of staples at the start of each week means I don’t think twice about the simplicity of the old meat-and-three-veg when I am preparing dinner after a full day of work.
Lesson 4: The price of one’s principles is eternal vigilance.
Not only do I have to read ingredients lists, but I also have to check the ingredients every time I order food, or go to a friend’s house, or go to the supermarket. Often, I find I have to double- or triple-check. As a small example, I’ve lost count (in just a month!) of the number of times I’ve asked for toast with no butter that has come dripping with butter. One time at my local café I was chatting to my vegan server about being vegan, asking her for her vegan breakfast recommendations (which I proceeded to follow) and my meal still came with big globs of butter on the side!
To be true to your principles you do need to be eternally vigilant. Even after only a month, that is exhausting. But I try to remind myself that each time I have to check, double-check or triple-check my order that I am taking one more step towards normalising a cruelty-free lifestyle for those around me. It’s a small consolation, but it helps.
Lesson 5: My friends have had a harder time accepting that I am vegan than strangers have.
This one definitely caught me by surprise, but those who are closest to me have found this change hardest to accept. I haven’t found a solution for this one yet, so my lesson is more of a warning: you will have to justify why you’ve made this change to your friends and loved ones – be prepared for these conversations, and willing to engage openly. You never know – these conversations might just be the catalyst that someone around you needs to start their own vegan adventure.
What are your biggest lessons and tips about becoming vegan? Let us know in the comments
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About the author: Kirstin Hunter
Kirstin is our Managing Director, and gets all fired up about ethic, equality and veganism — particularly as these things relate to animal cruelty, women, the environment, and corporate behaviour.