Most of the people I speak with about becoming vegan understand the reasons why one would make the choice. Although at times I meet some resistance, most seem to be open to at least attempting to understand my choice. Some even show a willingness to potentially become vegan. However, it's quite a transition – and many people feel as though it's easier to climb Mount Everest than go plant-based. How can one achieve this transition despite the tremendous lifestyle change? Does one have to do achieve their intended veganism right away, or can it be done slowly?
Well, there are as many ways of becoming vegan as there are vegans out there. It's an extremely personal process and one that requires a lot of self-respect. After all, this is a major change, and it's better to make the process your own.
Here are seven different ways of becoming vegan that can help you build your own process.
1. The three-meal method:
For most people, there are three major meals in a day. Therefore, what you could chose to do is eat vegan for one meal each day, to start. Say you start with breakfast, then, when you are used to eating only vegan for that meal of the day, slowly add in lunch, then dinner when you've adjusted.
2. The three-list method:
Many people use a short list of recipes that they alternate on a daily basis in order to cook their meals. Try having about twelve different meals that you choose from. Write down these desired recipes and look for vegan alternatives to the traditional method, or try your hand at veganizing them yourself. It is much easier than most people think. You could replace ground beef in spaghetti, for example, with lentils or make your pea soup without the usual ham. I understand that not all veggie meat products are amazing. Some people try them and find the flavor is too different from animal meat, and therefore give up on taking the vegan route. But there actually are amazingly tasty options on the market and you can also make your own! For example, try these 20 Veggie Burger Recipes at home. The idea here is to find alternatives that you will enjoy. Good habits need to be built and bad habits take a while to break, but you will definitely succeed if you stay persistant. And, if you browse the internet or vegan cookbooks, you will see that vegan cooking is far from boring. Furthermore, this is a great opportunity to try new things. After having tried a few recipes, keep those that you prefer and scratch those that bore you, then find more new ones. With time, you will be used to cooking a plethora of vegan meals that you enjoy.
3. The at-home/out method:
If you are not quite comfortable in the kitchen, you can also consider visiting vegan restaurants, or vegan-friendly restaurants. Give international cuisine a go as well. You could be pleasantly surprised! Meanwhile, continue cooking your usual meals at home. Dine outside about once a week if you're able, and test the waters. This will give you time to experience vegan meals without having to do all of the cooking right away.
Or, try the opposite: Cook vegan at home, and only eat your usual diet when you are out, such as at friends’ places or in restaurants. You need to persevere here. It's not always easy, but you can definitely learn to become vegan by taking it slow. At this point, vegan cooking classes could be a great help.
Now, the last step is obvious – eliminate animal products. After about three weeks, you should feel as though you are accustomed to your new diet.
4. The one-day-at-a-time method:
This method is inspired by the Meatless Monday movement. Stop eating animal products one day at a time. You can try this by eating vegan on specific days of the week, like Monday at first, then add Wednesdays, and so on. Another way is by deciding that you will go vegan two days a week, without specifying which day. After a while, you could decide to eat animal products on weekends only until you are comfortable enough to go vegan all the way.
5. The challenge method:
This method is a full-time, but temporary transition: You go vegan for a period of time, such as one month. Then, you decide if you want to stay or go back to your old diet. It is a popular method and the results are actually quite positive.
Although this method may seem restrictive and radical, it can be taken as a first step. This can be complicated because you do not yet know how to eat vegan. So, it'i highly recommended to have some sort of moral support. Get a buddy! For some, this is the perfect way to kick-start a new and permanent change.
6. The one-ingredient-at-a-time method:
Some ingredients are easier to give up than others. If you have an easier time giving up beef than chicken, for example, then start with that. Meanwhile, start learning vegan recipes and adding them slowly to your diet. Eventually, you will be ready to give up chicken entirely. Some other people feel as though they cannot give up cheese at all. Therefore, give everything up, but continue eating cheese. That's already quite an important step! Do as much as you can. After a while, you will probably feel as though you are ready to fully become vegan.
7. The conditioning method
This is the most drastic method, and it is meant mostly for those who become vegan for ethical reasons. Say you get an urge to devour a bowl of ice cream. What you need to do is to associate eating ice cream with something that is very unpleasant, such as watching a video about dairy farming (one that depicts animal cruelty). It's quite possible that you will not want to eat any more dairy because you will keep seeing these images in your head. But, do this with caution. You do not want to become depressed from watching these videos too often. Some individuals can even develop post-traumatic shock from viewing these images, so know yourself. Get a mentor! Ask someone who is already vegan to help you. Most vegan friends or family members will be very happy to help out, and you can even go shopping together. Join a vegetarian or vegan association together. Last, but not least, try to read up on vegan health. This way, you will rest assured that you are doing everything you need to do in order to maintain good health. Good luck!
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.