Changing our diets can be difficult as it is without eliminating an entire food group while at it. Any change will have a substantial impact on our day-to-day activities, big or small. When I first crossed over, I was scared of what other people would think and how I would cope with the experience both physically and mentally. The truth is, I made a lot of mistakes down the line, chiefly due to inexperience and lack of information - and that’s what I’m here for. After just about five years on the path, I thought I’d share my experiences and help others get a clear picture of what’s it like.
Things to look out for before you start
Doing your homework is something I’d recommend to anyone considering making the leap. Don’t be fooled, the change won’t come easy. The hurdles will seem all too common, but persistence is the key. The struggle will slowly turn into routine and, before you know it, you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished. If it’s not for you, that’s okay. Avoid succumbing to societal pressures to convert and getting into this for the wrong reasons will end up hurting you in the end. It has to be your choice, otherwise you’ll most likely flake off the diet in a week or two.
Disregard all and any outspoken people on either side. One of the main difficulties I faced when switching over wasn’t the diet so much as the people around me. We’re a stupid bunch, we tend to ostracize people for just about anything – do not let it get to you. People will talk, they will try to either convince you you’re wrong or try to turn you into one of those holier-than-thou types that no one really enjoys. However, there are people on either side of the fence that will offer support and even cooking tips, these people helped me make the change and they will certainly help you.
When going through everything myself, I never imagined how impactful the changes would be. Immediately after I had gotten used to the notion of a plant-based diet, I kept getting surges of energy. Imagine a sugar rush without the downtime. Apart from this, the other significant change I noticed was how good some food tastes. Without dairy in my diet to essentially clog my taste receptors, I kept experiencing onslaught after onslaught of flavor, coming alive with every bite. On a more personal note, many of my previous PMS symptoms went away and a higher libido set in its place.
Although I completely disapprove of any kind of smug behavior on either side, it is important to note that you do end up feeling good about yourself. As your body adapts and the changes start to arise, your sense of self-worth will skyrocket, at least mine did. The feeling that I’m doing something good on my end that helps the animals and makes the world a better place really got to me. It didn’t set in at first, but it suddenly swept over me and helped give me that extra nudge to stay positive. Time is your friend, wait it out, it will happen.
No sugarcoating, like with all things in life, there are downsides. I’m going to be straight-out honest about this – you become more regular, too regular. With so much fiber in my diet, I ended up visiting the bathroom at least once a day, if not more often. Along with this, there is the discomfort of feeling like a balloon – other seasoned vegans will agree. The new turf comes with increased gases which can be overwhelming for newcomers and it certainly did catch me by surprise. The discomfort can recede with time but it never truly goes away.
The constant cravings. When I first started out, I could not for the life of me manage to keep my thoughts away from things like pizza, spaghetti and eggrolls. These can plague your thoughts and will be the ultimate test of your resolve. Be careful of vegan substitutes for these things, some will do the trick while others will just make the cravings worse (looking at you vegan sausages). The worst thing about these cravings is that they come in waves, to this day I can still catch myself getting overwhelmed by smell alone.
Another beginner mistake I made when starting out is that I never planned ahead. With a spacious garden and almost nothing in it, the thought of actually growing my food didn’t strike me until well into my first year of veganism. When starting out, I sought out places like Hoselink for advice on what to grow and how to do it. I have since amassed a surplus of food and have cut down my costs substantially. The upkeep essentially boils down to having a hose and a water source, and with everything grown in your backyard, two very important words come to mind – GMO free.
Don’t be afraid
The path ahead of you will no doubt be difficult, but keep at it. Time will make any personal struggles go away while your own choices of company will deal with the rest. The best advice I can give you is to make yourself aware of what’s going to happen/is going on and do your best to deal with it in a healthy way. Stick to what you feel is right, get support from your friends and never forget that you are not alone in this.