Thank you for your compassionate wish to turn vegan. An average non-vegetarian is responsible for the lives of about 70 land and countless sea animals per year. We are sure that the animals whose lives you will spare would thank you too. A vegan diet is one of the best ways to save animals while helping yourself and the environment.
Sometimes people turn vegan and then switch back because of various reasons. This is why it’s important to do it at your own pace and with a clear understanding of the facts. As with every new experience it takes some learning. Here are a few bits of advice to both people in transition and people who are long-time vegans.
- Remember your reasons. Never forget why you decided to become vegan in the first place – whether it was for health or the animals or the environment. This will help you keep your resolve.
- Be positive! Instead of focusing on what you’re giving up, think about all the new, exciting foods you’re discovering. A whole new world is out there ready to be explored!
- Eat what you love. Think about your favourite meals and see how you can veganize them. Replace milk with soya or rice milk, and paneer with tofu, for example. Cakes and cookies can be made without eggs. You may be surprised to learn that some of your favourites are already vegan! Learn new recipes. For some great ideas, look at the ‘Recipes’ section.
- Speak your truth. Do not be afraid of what people may say about your dietary restrictions. Be true to yourself and explain them patiently the reasons that you are vegan. When you sincerely speak your truth, people will be inclined to follow your example.
- Hold your ground. You will be challenged. You will hear things like “I would not want to be an extremist. I prefer to stay on the middle path.” “I don’t want to be so rigid, I want to be flexible.” Do not get confused. Just because the whole world is doing something does not mean it’s the right thing to do, especially when it is causes suffering to other beings. Remember that biggest epidemics are heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer and all of these are related to diet. Be wise. Would you say, “I prefer to stay on the middle path” when it comes to drugs? Is it more rigid to stick to your old ways or change when you learn the truth?
- Be well read. When people question your actions, you should know the answers to “where do you get your proteins?” and “where do you get your calcium?” If you know enough you will be able to challenge them too, with, “where do you get your anti-oxidants?”.
- Keep reading. The more knowledge you have the easier it is to keep on track.
- Be aware of your resistance to change. You may fool yourself into believing something that is not true. For example someone said, “I agree with being vegetarian, but I am not sure about leaving milk. What would the Tibetans do without milk? And what about all the people whose livelihoods depend on milk?” Keep the perspective. Remember that firstly you do not live in Tibet, and secondly, just because you stop something it will not rob anyone of their livelihood because the whole world will take time to change. But it’s a bit like saying what will happen to the butchers if I stop eating meat? Or the smugglers if I don’t buy contraband? Or what about the people in the Arctic? Be real and catch your own resistance.
- Do as much as you can. Just because you can’t go all the way, don’t do nothing! Some people say, “I could never leave, say cheese.” Leave everything but cheese and minimize that. You will see that it’s easier to let go after some time. If you still have trouble, please watch videos on what is being done to farm animals or better still visit a commercial poultry or a slaughterhouse.
- But don’t do too little. When you follow the healthy vegan diet only partially be aware that you cannot expect the same results. Someone told us that he stopped dairy and noticed no health improvements. But he had not stopped or reduced meat, chicken, fish or eggs, nor had he stopped eating refined foods! Dairy is similar in composition to meat – high protein and fat and no fibre so stopping dairy alone will not help.
- Learn to listen to your body. Once you start eating the food nature meant for you your body will talk to you and tell you what it needs. Listen! If you inadvertently or willingly eat non-vegan food, then too, listen to your body. After a period of being vegan you will be able to notice what is better for your body.
- Eat a plant-based diet. Work towards a whole food, unrefined, unprocessed, plant-based diet. This ensures that you get all your nutrients and satisfaction without excess calories. You will also reverse long-standing diseases and be weller in all ways.
- Avoid unhealthy products. Remember that oil, sugar, white rice, white flour (maida) are all refined products. Stop tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol and other drugs if you want to be a healthy vegan.
- Mistrust advertising. A simple way to eat healthy is to get all the newspapers and magazines and see what is advertised. Eat nothing that is advertised. Advertisements entice us to eat things, which we do not need, and believe things, which are not true, like “milk is good for you” or “that eggs are needed for protein”. Essentials do not need advertisements. This is why there are no ads for cucumbers and oranges!
- Watch out for B12. B12 is the main nutrient you are likely to lack on a whole food plant based diet. Since this vitamin is stored, the lack of it may show only after three years of switching. While eating plenty of fermented foods, eating organic, avoiding the use of antibiotics, alcohol and microwaves may help keep your B12 levels a bit higher, it is difficult to get enough B12 naturally in this modern world. Learn how to check your levels and supplement for B12.
- Overweight? Even if you are overweight do not count calories! The beauty of eating what nature meant you to eat is that you can eat all you want. (Did you ever see an overweight horse or elephant?) The fibre helps clean the excesses. Growth, stimulated by growth hormone from dairy and the excess protein will cease. The result? Weight loss.
- Underweight? If you are underweight or worried about losing weight be aware that you are likely to lose some when you make the change. But your body will adjust and you will come back to your ideal weight.
- Keep eating. You may find you are hungrier than you used to be. EAT! We can’t emphasize it more. Remember carnivores eat one large meal occasionally, and herbivores eat all day. Milk is similar in composition to meat (high protein and fat, no fibre) so even if you were vegetarian when you stop dairy you may be hungry more often.