Update: I have also made a video on this topic! If you don’t want to read an entire page worth of ramblings by me, and would like to know the basics of how to go vegan and stay vegan in under 10 minutes, please feel free to watch!
Have you decided to take the first steps towards veganism? Well, it’s your lucky day! In 2016, it’s easier than ever to cut out animal products and start advancing towards a cruelty free lifestyle. Vegan brands are sprouting up all over the place, more medical professionals are starting to acknowledge the benefits of eating plant based, and of course the internet has made it so simple to reach out and connect with people of a similar mindset. There’s so much great information out there on how to go vegan, but as you’ve reached my page, I’ll give you my two cents worth.
First things first
Let’s start with the definition of veganism. The Vegan Society words it better than I can, so here’s what they say: “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
So, where to begin? Some people choose to go vegan overnight, but for others, that’s just not possible. For example, I decided overnight to go vegan, but I didn’t want to waste any food that contained animal products that I already had in my cupboard. So the change I made wasn’t instant, but from that point on I stopped buying anything that contained dairy (I was already vegetarian).
The most important thing to start with is making sure you’re committed. Why are you going vegan? Is it because you want to lose weight fast? Because if that’s the case, you’re probably going to have a hard time staying devoted. Try watching some documentaries, or reading some books on the subject. Some documentaries that I recommend are: Cowspiracy, Forks over Knives, Earthlings, and Vegucated. Once you have some facts you’ll feel much more prepared and devoted to going vegan and changing the world!
So the next thing you’ll probably be focussing on is what you’re eating. What can I eat? What can’t I eat? The important thing to remember here is that everybody’s human. If you make a mistake and forget to check a label and cook something that contains milk, please don’t beat yourself up about it. It might seem frustrating at first, checking every label in the supermarket but it won’t take long to get used to what you can and can’t eat.
Focus on what you can eat. So, you can’t eat cheese or yoghurt anymore. So what? There’s an abundance of plant based foods available for you to try! This is the time to start experimenting with new recipes. You may even find your new favourite food.
It helps to plan a few meal ideas in your head before you go to the shop. Write a list of things that you want to get. As a general suggestion, I find myself buying oats, pasta, rice, tinned beans, lentils, plant based milk, fruits and veg on my weekly shop. These are my staples so they might be a good place to start!
In the first few weeks of being vegan you might notice changes in your body. For example, you may start feeling hungrier. That’s okay, just eat more! Plant based foods are almost always less calorie dense, so you need more of them to fill yourself up. You should be aiming to eat at least 2,000 calories a day- that’s a lot of lentils!
Once you’ve adjusted your diet and are enjoying the physical and emotional benefits of being a vegan, you can start focussing your attention on other parts of your lifestyle. Do you wear makeup? What’s your skincare routine? What brand of shampoo do you use? Consider the products you’re using and do some research. Are they tested on animals? Unfortunately, the answer is probably ‘yes’.
However, the internet is a great place to research which cruelty free brands are available in your country. If you live in the UK, all of Superdrug’s products are cruelty free. Superdrug has their own cosmetic range, and lots of great skincare products. They’re normally my go-to whenever I need anything like that. For shampoo, conditioner and shower gel I use Jason, which you can buy from some independent health shops and online. Another popular cruelty free brand is Lush. There are lots of choices out there, it’s just about being well-informed on what you’re funding.
Another thing vegans should consider is what you wear. Leather, wool and silk are all made from animal by-products and therefore aren’t vegan. However if you already own a pair of leather boots or a woollen jumper, it makes more sense to continue wearing them until they wear out. Some people choose to pass them on to siblings/other family members, or donate them to charity, but the choice is yours.
When it comes to buying new clothes, there’s often lots of synthetically made alternatives. In fact, when I used to work in a clothes shop, I found myself preferring the cotton/acrylic jumpers over the wool ones simply because they felt so much softer! When it comes to a specific item of clothing that you’re not sure about, your best bet is to research on the internet. Most things have a vegan alternative.
Meet other vegans
If you live in a town/city that doesn’t seem very vegan friendly, social networks are your friend! There are huge vegan communities on Tumblr and Instagram, and often there are Facebook groups dedicated for vegans in a particular location (I’m part of the Vegan Ísland group whilst I’m living in Reykjavik). This is a great way to get any local vegan advice, to make new friends, and to receive support when it feels as though the rest of the world is against you.
Veganism is about intention, not perfection. Nobody is expecting you to stop taking your prescription medication because it was tested on animals. You shouldn’t hate yourself if you make a mistake, just learn from it and move on. By making the decision to go vegan, you’re already doing so much more for the animals and the planet and you should feel proud of yourself.
If you have any further questions about veganism, feel free to send me a message or leave me a comment.