When talking about veganism, I come across one sentence more than any other: “Even though I think it’s the way to go, I don’t think I could ever be vegan.” Having educated themselves on the consequences of the dairy and meat industry for the animals and our planet, people often feel guilty about not following a vegan diet, yet it seems impossible to switch to veganism. This is a gap I am all too familiar with myself. In fact most vegans I know never thought they could be vegan, myself included. When I started university, I was planning to stick to veganism at home but make an exception for social gatherings. Only that I didn’t and instead ended up entirely switching to a plant-based diet. What I am trying to say is that most people don’t go vegan overnight and many struggle to go vegan for various reasons – in my opinion it is therefore crucial to not only think in black and white terms of vegan and omnivore but also include those in between and on their journey towards a more ethical life. So if you are one of these people, this blog post is for you.
First of all, it is great that you are thinking about issues such as animal welfare, climate change and the destruction of the planet.* Awareness and challenging your beliefs is a daunting process, one that leaves you with a ton of mixed feelings. When I first learned about the dairy industry (I had been vegetarian for a long time before then), I realised that I wanted to cut down on my dairy consumption. But I also knew that since dairy was a firm part of my diet, I wouldn’t manage to cut it out overnight. Instead I first switched to plant-based milk in my cereal, then cut out cheese and and eventually all products containing dairy as a by-product but that took me months. One of my tips would be making small changes. If cutting out dairy seems impossible, try alternatives for your breakfast. Experiment with different plant-based milks until you find an option you like. A lot of people I know were discouraged after trying soya and coconut milk and I fully get that. Luckily, there are so many more options nowadays – from oat milk to cashew and hazelnut milk, you name it. Generally, seeing a transition towards a more ethical diet as an experiment was probably one of the best things I did for myself. Instead of guilt-tripping myself for not going vegan overnight, I tried replacing products and went on the hunt for alternatives. Not only was that a fun way to go about it (I felt a bit like a kid on Easter morning), it also led me to discover just how many products I did not have to ‘miss’. Since I went vegan in 2016, this has definitely become a lot easier, there now being excellent vegan burgers, vegan chocolate and vegan Nutella (in the beginning I thought there was no way I could live without Nutella and luckily I don’t have to!). When it comes to replacement products, remember it can be a bit hit and miss. I can’t even begin to tell you how many gross vegan mayonnaises I tried before settling on Hellman (where have you been all my life?!). Online platforms and apps are a great source for finding vegan inspiration, great vegan(friendly) restaurants and others wanting to make a change in their life.
Generally, try to reward yourself for making a step towards a plant-based diet, however small it may be. Don’t get mad at yourself for slipping or for not giving up a diet you have followed all of your life. Going vegan can be hard, there, I said it. Luckily, it gets easier with time but in the beginning it sure feels like a massive change. If your family cooks only non vegan meals, why not start by having vegan breakfast once in a while? Or by only buying vegan snacks out? Or trying to make a vegan birthday cake? Every little bit counts. And in my experience, a lot of things come naturally. I did not plan on giving up cheese just yet but I came to a point where I was no longer craving dairy, it made me feel bloated and somewhat heavy. When it comes to transitioning towards plant-based food, listening to your body is vital. Having struggled with disordered eating, seeing vegan food as nourishment to my soul and body helped me heal. Following a balanced vegan diet, calories became my friend and energy for my brain rather than the enemy. However, this took time and I think it’s important to acknowledge that veganism can be difficult when coming from an eating disorder background. Which brings me to the last section of this post.
Sometimes, making changes to your diet can seem undoable in the situation you are in. In that case, you can help the planet and animals in other ways by changing aspects of your lifestyle not to do with food. I have written two blog posts about it (check them out here and here) but simple things include switching to cruelty-free makeup, packaging free products, recycling, second-hand shopping or raising awareness. There are so many options and so many ways of helping the planet to your own ability.
To conclude this blog post, I want to encourage everyone to do what they can do. Make those small steps towards veganism, with or without the goal of becoming vegan. Look at ways you can help the planet that you don’t involve your diet. And remember, that your situation is not permanent. You may find it impossible to be vegan right now, and that is valid, but you might find it possible in a while. Until then, do whatever you can and support those who are aiming for the same. We are all fighting for the same cause.
Where are you on your journey? Do you have any tips?
*Disclaimer: Not claiming that veganism is the answer to everything although it can be a impactful change.