I began my journey back in 2000, when I initially decided to hone in on my plant-based diet with vegetarianism. I didn’t do it for my physical appearance. I wanted to make the change to have a cleaner, better functioning body and to look out for my homies, the animals of the world. In fact, my boyfriend (at the time) and I decided to become vegetarians for our New Year’s resolution. We planned everything out perfectly for us. Our goal was to be completely vegetarian by January 1st 2000, so we began our transformation during the summer of 1999.
Every month we dropped one type of meat from our diets “for good.” Okay, so I put that in quotes because I certainly cheated once or twice after each meat got the boot (shhh…nobody tell my ex)! The first month we dropped pork, then red meats, then chicken, followed by turkey, and finally…fish (I’m not much of a fish lover, so I didn’t even cheat with that one)! We were actually fully vegetarian before the year even began. I’d never felt so amazing! Like I said, I didn’t stop eating meat to lose weight or to get in shape. However, I was quite surprised when I lost an extra layer of fat that I didn’t even realize I had. I started noticing that I had a lot of extra energy and motivation. My mind felt clearer. OMG…I loved it! It was great to have a partner, as it helped make this transformation SO much easier for me!
Fast forward to July 8th 2007, my birthday! I was still vegetarian and doing my first cleanse ever. It entailed eating a fully vegan (plant-based) diet. That meant no more cheese, no milk, no eggs, or anything at all from an animal. Much to my surprise, my body went through yet another transformation! Even more energy and clarity, great skin, tighter bod, and the satisfaction of knowing that the animals that I love so much didn’t have to die (or work) for me to eat. That’s when I knew that this was definitely the path for me! One of my best friends in the world, John Salley, was my vegan partner in crime. We became vegans together and made it fun! We continue to explore the incredibly satisfying lifestyle.
So now it’s your turn! You’ve decided to make the change. Yay!!! First off, I’m SO excited and proud of you! Maybe it’s your resolution as well. Or maybe you need to go vegan for health reasons. Maybe you chose to be a vegan because you realize that all the cool peeps are doing it now (shout out to Bey & Jay-Z)! Whatever the reason, you’re on your way to an exciting new lifestyle and I want to get you, my new fellow-vegan, hooked up with some tips to make this transition a little easier. So here we go, y’all!
1. Do your research.
We live in an incredible world where we have access to practically infinite information. Invest in some E-books on veganism, do some Internet research about ingredients in foods, and learn about different causes that might interest you. Know exactly what you’re getting into so you aren’t surprised by anything later. Explore restaurants that have vegan options. Trying out new vegan fare is a great way to expand your palate and enjoy new foods. You’ll get an idea of what it is that you like to eat and what you want to try to cook yourself at home. Be brave, but start with the more simple dishes.
2. Take on a new perspective.
Many people perceive vegans with a negative connotation; that we’re people who deprive ourselves of nutrients on purpose. Well, that is not at all what it stands for! I eat a plant-based diet because I love animals, I love the lifestyle, and I love what it does for my body – inside and out. I get all of my required nutrients from places other than animal products, and it’s a pretty satisfying feeling. I’m really happy, healthy, active, and incredibly energetic – what’s more important than that? Make your perspective a positive one.
3. Get a partner
The decision to go vegan is easy for some and difficult for others. Usually it requires significant changes in a person’s everyday life. Having a partner makes you accountable to someone, other than yourself. This always makes challenges a bit easier to conquer. Like I said earlier, that’s what helped get me through my transformation!
4. Indulge with fruit.
In a nutshell, veganism is about incorporating fiber, protein, fats and other necessary vitamins and nutrients into your diet without relying on any animal products. Therefore, vegans eat a lot of vegetables and beans because they contain most of the same nutrients sound in meat and dairy products. But don’t forget about fruit! Fruit is fibrous and full of natural sugars that make you feel happy and energized. Spoil yourself with fruit for breakfast, dessert or snacks. One of my favorite snacks is an organic Fuji apple with Earth Balance peanut butter on top. Mmmmmm!
5. Find new protein sources.
Protein is crucial for producing valuable enzymes, hormones, and repairing tissue in the body. Protein also breaks down into amino acids, which allow for proper digestion. In general, it’s recommended that 10–35% of your daily calories come from protein. Rather than steak, milk, eggs and whey supplements, opt instead for healthy plant-based protein sources like black, kidney and pinto beans, almonds, lentils, hemp seeds, spirulina, quinoa, spinach and broccoli. These are a delicious choice because, over the long-term, excessive animal protein intake can be harmful. Not only is there evidence that it is often stored in fat cells, it contributes to the onset of a variety of congenital diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer, impaired kidney function and heart disease. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
6. Be prepared when you go shopping.
Prepare in two ways: First, make a solid list of things you’re going to buy for cooking. Know what meals you’re preparing each week, so they’ll be easier to whip up after a long day. Second, prepare to read all the ingredients. Whey, a protein derived from milk, often sneaks up in many foods, and many foods you wouldn’t expect contain derivatives of fish. If you don’t want to spend hours in the supermarket reading labels, you can always do a little research online. Google it, boo!
7. It doesn’t have to be any more expensive.
It doesn’t have to cost more to be vegan. In fact, meat is practically the most expensive thing you can buy at the grocery store. Since it’ll be out of the equation, splurge on good produce and even frozen produce, as it’s generally a little cheaper. And going out on the town can still be fun – you don’t have to abandon your favorite restaurant. As veganism becomes more prominent, more restaurants are embracing it and including items on the menu for us to enjoy. In addition, as long as you know your parameters, you can always ask your server to make adjustments to a dish in order for it to be vegan. I do it all the time!
8. Remind yourself why you’re vegan.
It can be a difficult transition, so it’s important to keep reminding yourself why you made the choice. Whether it’s for moral or dietetic reasons, veganism can be an incredibly beneficial lifestyle if taken seriously. Try starting a blog or even just a personal journal, so you can write down your feelings and always look back when you need to.
9. Make it a gradual transition.
Like I said earlier, you don’t need to go from eating everything one day to being vegan the next. I dropped one type of meat every month when I was making my transition. It was great because I had time to learn and adapt to this new lifestyle while slowly weaning myself off animal products. Remember, you can’t rush something you want to last forever.
10. Reach out to the vegan community.
We are a very large and proud community! I’ve met a lot of inspirational people through blogs and Twitter – reaching out to others is a great way to stay excited about your new lifestyle. Start a Pinterest and follow people with vegan meals, desserts, snacks, etc. Be active about it! Talk to vegan friends and acquaintances, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Participate in fundraisers, join a club in your community, and make lots of vegan homies so you can have cooking parties! Be open to discussing veganism with people who may not agree, but NEVER argue with anyone. Negativity isn’t worth it. You’re doing this for YOU.
Congrats on this epic decision of yours! Please keep me posted on your journey via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and here on my blog. Ask me questions, share some recipes, or send in some pics of that hot new vegan bod! Just remember, it’s okay if you fall off the wagon a few times (I sure did in the beginning). We’re all human. Just dust yourself off and try again! I got your back, fam!