Cutting out animal products from my diet (and life) has not only improved my health, but it’s also helped me be a better human.
Although adopting a whole foods plant-based diet is the best decision I’ve ever made (hands down), there are a number of things I wish I had known before jumping head-first into this new life-changing adventure.
If you’re considering starting a vegan diet, here are nine tips that can help you transition through this important change with ease:
1. Forget about willpower.
No matter how much you want something, if you’re not sure why you’re making the change in the first place, you’ll likely fall off the wagon in a matter of weeks if not days.
If what you’re looking for is long-term success, willpower alone won’t do it. Whether your motivation is based on health, the good of the animals, or the size of your carbon footprint, keeping your “why” in mind is what will help you resist temptations, plan better, and set up this new habit for the long run.
2. Educate yourself (in moderation).
If spending the entire weekend buried under the blankets with an entire season (or two) of Mad Men and some chocolate peanut butter cookies sounds like a good idea, binge watching documentaries addressing the big problems with our food system or environment might not.
The information you’ll get from films like Vegucated, Forks Over Knives,Earthlings, or Cowspiracy is so dense you may want to take the time to process it over a few weeks.
So keep learning, subscribe to blogs, set up a must-read/must-watch list, and go through them slowly. Don’t worry: They’re not going anywhere.
3. Start simple and start small.
Think baby steps here. Even though some of us get to run faster than others, we all learn how to walk first. So don’t rush into it.
Make gradual shifts (like eliminating chicken one week or adding more greens to every meal) and enjoy the process. It IS going to take some work, but it’s worth it. I promise.
4. Keep your health in mind.
There are likely many different reasons you’ve decided to eliminate animal products from your diet. And hopefully one of them is to create a healthier version of yourself for the world and the ones you love.
But if your idea of a plant-based food pyramid is French fries, mock bacon, onion rings, and marshmallows, you may want to reconsider your approach.
5. Accept that you don’t know anything about food (yet).
Proteins come from meat, milk is what your bones need, and fruits make you fat.
Those are some of the myths that have become so deeply ingrained in our minds that you may need some time (and a lot of resources) to think otherwise. Also, you’ll be amazed at the number of cool new words you’ll soon add to your vocabulary (kiwano, spirulina, jabuticaba, and hijiki, for example)!
6. Forget it’s a diet.
Diets are about calorie counting, scales, deprivation, and two to three weeks of suffering before you can go back to your cookie jar.
As surprising as it may sound, the plant-based diet is more of a lifestyle. It’s a gradual, permanent shift toward a new way of nourishing yourself (and yes, shedding a few pounds comes as an extra).
7. Consider doing a cleanse.
Preparing your body with a nourishing detoxification plan could be a real game-changer when it comes to transitioning. Not only will it make the shift smoother, but it will also enable your body to rid itself of old stagnant parasites and toxins and will improve overall digestion and assimilation.
8. Don’t beat yourself up.
You will make mistakes and you will eat foods you’ll probably feel bad about. If you buy the wrong product by error or want to indulge in a blue cheese platter, don’t scourge yourself. It doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t make you a failure.
Remember the big picture, observe how you feel, and get back on track when you’re ready.
9. Find support.
Rest reassured: You are not alone. Whether it is online or offline, there are agazillion groups of people out there who will be happy to help you, inspire you, and share their stories with you so you know what to expect and — most importantly — how to enjoy this new lifestyle!