People talk about going vegan all the time, but what does it really mean to go vegan in every aspect of your life? Many consumers need a blueprint for going vegan so they can adopt this lifestyle seamlessly.
That’s what I’m going to provide.
We’re not talking about a fad here. Veganism is growing in popularity all over the world, and many of your favorite celebrities, professional athletes, and influencers have gone vegan.
Baum+Whiteman, a food consultancy, has declared plant-based diets the trend of 2018 and predicts it will continue to grow in 2019. Learning as much as you can about going vegan will help you make smart, ethical choices about the products you consume.
What it Means to Go Vegan
Going vegan means eliminating meat and animal by-products from your plate. By-products like eggs, cheese, yogurt, and honey are all part of animal exploitation, which means they contribute to animal suffering.
Bees, for instance, require honey to survive. When we harvest honey from their hives, we deprive them of an essential nutritional resource.
The same goes for harvesting eggs from chickens and milk from cows and goats. Just as humans produce milk to nourish their babies, animals produce milk to nourish their young.
Vegans believe that animal rights should come first. Human beings can survive and even thrive without taking animals’ lives.
Vegan and Vegetarian Are Not the Same Thing
Many people confuse veganism and vegetarianism. A vegetarian is not a vegan, but a vegan is a type of vegetarian.
Let’s break it down.
Both vegans and vegetarians eliminate animal flesh from their diets. They don’t consume beef, poultry, fish, pork, or shellfish.
The difference is that vegans do not consume or use animal by-products. As mentioned above, they don’t eat eggs, dairy, or honey, while most vegetarians do.
Additionally, vegans carefully select consumer products based on their origins. They don’t use soaps, for instance, that are made from animal by-products, or purchase items that have come to market via animal testing.
Why Go Vegan?
I’ve been vegan for many years now, and I’ve seen vast improvements in the quality of my life. For one thing, I live my beliefs. Since I value animals and their rights, I make sure I don’t contribute to their suffering.
Going vegan is a great way to live out your beliefs when you go to the supermarket. Instead of buying products that contribute to animal cruelty, you choose products that don’t impact animals’ lives in a negative way.
That’s only part of the benefits of going vegan, though. While it’s important to support animal rights, you can benefit personally from the vegan lifestyle.
Better Heart Health
Red meat has consistently appeared in the literature as a contributor to all different types of heart disease. The hamburgers, steaks, and tenderloins with which you fill your plate can have lasting impacts on your ticker.
When you consume meat, the fat contributes to the narrowing of your arteries. Consequently, your heart has to pump harder to spread blood to your extremities and organs. Over time, the narrowed arteries become dangerous, especially if they clog entirely.
Lots of other factors contribute to heart disease, including family history, but you don’t want to add another layer of potential danger. By cutting beef from your diet, you increase your chances of maintaining a healthy heart for the rest of your life.
When you work out — whether it’s walking a couple miles through your neighborhood or lifting weights in your living room — your body needs clean sources of energy to build lean muscle mass and help you recover quickly. A diet full of meat and animal by-products can slow this process.
Many people talk about carbs as though they’re the most dangerous food on the planet. In reality, you need carbs to fuel your fitness goals. Carbs help spike your energy, maintain your lean muscle mass, and recover faster.
Plus, if you combine carbs with healthy fruits and vegetables, your body has the vitamins and minerals necessary to protect your muscles. You also get the benefit of improved ligament and tendon strength and reduced risk of injury during exercise.
Improved Empathy and Compassion
Going vegan forces you to consider your dietary choices far more deeply. Instead of reaching for a carton of eggs or a fish filet at the supermarket, you turn to animal-friendly foods that help contribute to a cruelty-free society.
One way to shift your mindset is to think about the animals in your life. Maybe you don’t have pets or spend much time in the wilderness, but perhaps you know family members and friends with beloved animal companions.
Think about them when you’re shopping at the supermarket. You wouldn’t want them to wind up on display in a refrigerated case. Neither do you want helpless chickens, cows, bulls, goats, pigs, or other sentient creatures to suffer unnecessarily.
If you’re concerned about our planet, consider the impact of factory farming and similar operations have on our fragile ecosystems. Cows are bred not because they’re beautiful, sentient creatures, but because they’re intended to become food for humans.
Factory farmers use tons of finite resources to run their operations, including fossil fuels, and they also spend millions of dollars to water and cultivate food for those animals.
Water and other resources get consumed at astonishing rates by animals that will eventually die for human consumption. They produce more manure than any gardener could need, contaminate their pens and cages with ammonia-laden urine, and when they’re slaughtered, the “unusable” parts of the animal become fodder for landfills.
Going vegan helps contribute to declines in profits for these operations. Consumers have to raise their voices by spending money on products that don’t involve animal cruelty or death.
Understanding That There’s No Real Need for Animal Products
It’s a common argument against vegetarianism and veganism. People think they can’t survive without animal products in their diets. It’s not true.
Superior athletes, such as renowned martial artist Mac Danzig, don’t consume animal products. They’re in top shape, capable of demonstrating amazing levels of focus, speed, strength, and flexibility. This alone proves that there’s no real need for animal products in our diets.
We’ve also seen a major shift in how consumers choose the products they buy. Natural cleaning agents, makeup, soap, supplements, and other products are labeled cruelty-free. Plus, they contain fewer or no harsh chemicals that can damage human skin, eyes, hair, and other body parts.
Going vegan isn’t just about what you put in your mouth at dinner. It’s a mindset that promotes the idea of animal rights and welfare. The more time we spend educating people about how veganism really works, the more people will actually go vegan.
Try New Things
If you try going vegan for a short period of time, such as 30 days, you might discover it’s more satisfying than eating meat and animal products. You become far more aware of the array of produce available at your local grocery store or farmer’s market.
Blending fresh flavors in vegan dishes can make meals far more enjoyable for the whole family. There’s nothing about going vegan that should make you feel deprived. Indeed, you might find that you eat more food at each sitting without gaining weight.
Speaking of weight loss, many people shed pounds when they go vegan. Eliminating calorie-dense foods like steak, cheese, butter, honey, and poultry can boost your metabolism and create a calorie deficit.
This doesn’t mean you should starve yourself. In fact, indulge at every opportunity. As your palate adjusts to the vegan lifestyle, you’ll find that foods taste different. An apple that might have previously seemed bland might suddenly become delicious.
Focus on finding foods you love rather than dwelling on animal products you might crave from time to time. Losing weight can make going vegan extra beneficial.
How to Go Vegan
It’s easy enough to paint a beautiful picture of going vegan, but what’s the reality? How do you prepare for the change? And what should you avoid?
Let’s get real. If you’re used to bacon and egg breakfasts, turkey sandwich lunches, and steak dinners, the change will take some adjustment. You might experience cravings that trick your mind into thinking you need meat.
You don’t. You just want it.
Let’s look at some of the steps to take if you’re serious about going vegan.
Getting your facts straight is step number one. Above, I laid out the criteria for going vegan. Avoid the following products:
- Products tested on animals
- Products containing animal by-products
Other than that, you’re free to eat and consume whatever you wish.
But it’s more than that. Instead of ticking off the list of things you can’t eat or consume, think about the things you can have. The mindset is essential, and it comes from education.
Read articles like this one. We talk a lot about animal matters here at Sentient Media. Learn as much as you can about animals’ plights as slaves to humans. It will make the journey far easier.
Create a Process
Every change requires a process. You might decide to go vegan in stages. Cut out dairy first. Figure out how to eat your favorite meals without cheese, milk, yogurt, and similar products. You might throw eggs and honey out the window, too.
Next, move on to meat. Instead of creating a chicken stir fry, add loads of your favorite veggies to the dish. Make sandwiches out of tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, and other delicious vegetables. Combine fruits and vegetables for your salads to increase the flavor quotient.
The important thing is to set a deadline for going vegan. If you need to take baby steps, that’s fine. Just know that you have a goal to reach.
Change Your Habits
A great way to go vegan without stress is to avoid the meat section at your local supermarket. Don’t go down the aisle full of cheese and deli meat. Steer clear of the eggs and dairy.
If you limit yourself to areas that have vegan-friendly foods, you’ll feel less stress while shopping.
Additionally, change how you cook. Figure out new ways to improve exciting dishes, collaborate with vegan friends, find recipes online, and stay focused on the reason you’re going vegan.
Let Your Loved Ones Know
Disclosing a dietary change to your loved ones can be stressful. You don’t know how to react. Will they make fun of you? Try to change your mind?
Be prepared for some pushback. Some people might not understand why you’re going vegan or question whether you’ll stick with it. Remember that you’re doing this for you — nobody else.
Learn to set assertive boundaries. If someone criticizes your vegan diet and lifestyle, stick up for yourself. You don’t have to be rude. Simply say, “I respect your diet, so please respect mine.” It’s as simple as that.
Join a Vegan Community
We all need community, but especially when we’re going vegan. Joining a community — whether offline or on — creates a built-in support system.
Plus, you can trade ideas, recipes, and stories from your personal lives. You’ll know that others face the same challenges while going vegan.
Learn to Make Vegan Food
Here’s the thing about veganism: It isn’t automatically healthy.
For instance, there are a lot of fake meats out there. Each one is processed heavily and unlikely to contribute to your health goals.
Similarly, if you replace meat with pasta and potatoes, you might see your waistline expand. The goal isn’t to eat comfort food for the rest of your life. Learning how to cook delicious, healthy vegan meals so you always have an idea of what to cook for dinner.
Myths About Going Vegan
Let’s dispel some of the myths and rumors that have stopped people from going vegan. Misinformation results in unhealthy diets and unnecessary cruelty toward animals.
Vegan Diets Are Not Healthy
I touched on this above, but you have to understand that your diet can be perfectly healthy if you select a varied mix of foods for every meal and avoid processed or fake products.
Nobody can tell you that fruits and vegetables are unhealthy. They’re a staple in most diets, even if they’re accompanied by meat and animal by-products.
Similarly, we all have different caloric needs. If you want to boost your caloric intake, you can shoot for high-fat vegan foods, such as avocados and nuts. Try to vary your meals as much as possible so you get the nutrients you need. If you’re suffering from a vitamin deficiency, supplements can help.
Vegans Need Milk for Calcium Intake
There’s no reason to chug a glass of milk, cover your salad with shredded cheese, or start your morning with a cup of yogurt to get your necessary calcium. Tons of vegan foods are packed with calcium and help retain bone density.
Start with lots of leafy greens. Mix them up in your salads and other dishes for color, flavor, and essential nutrients. Calcium is also present in soy and almond milk, figs, navy beans, broccoli, and tahini. Work these foods into your diet to protect your bones while going vegan.
Only Hippies Go Vegan
Who hasn’t heard this one before? It’s true that many hippies are vegan or vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean you need to become one.
It’s Hard to Be a Vegan
Lots of things in life are hard, but going vegan isn’t one of them. When you realize how many foods are available to you without animal products, you might be stunned.
It’s all about mindset.
Let’s say that you’re going on a diet — one different from veganism. You’re more likely to stick with that diet if you’re grateful for the food you eat and if you enjoy preparing and consuming it.
There’s no difference between that scenario and veganism. You’ll fail if you remain in a state of deprivation. If you’re more focused on the plethora of choices before you, however, going vegan becomes far less stressful.
Vegan Diets Make You Weak
If anything, vegan diets make you strong. You’re fortifying your body with healthy, cruelty-free products that provide nutrient-dense satisfaction.
Vegan diets make you strong. They demonstrate your principles and fly in the face of the standard American diet. If you’re feeling weak, maybe you need more calories or better calories. Don’t focus on what you want to have. Focus on what you should and want to have.
Are you thinking about going vegan? Have you made the switch already? Maybe you can help others in the comments section.
We’re always looking for new perspectives on animal matters, whether it’s going vegan or saving wild horses. We want to know what you think about veganism and how it impacts your life.
More people choose to go vegan every day. We’re fighting against animal cruelty and for human empathy. Hopefully, you’ll join us.
What do you love most about veganism? What scares you? Share your thoughts with us!
Grant is the co-founder of Sentient Media. He currently lives in Brazil and has traveled across dozens of countries on assignment.