Going vegan doesn’t have to be a struggle. In fact, it shouldn’t be a struggle. You shouldn’t have to continually fight with yourself, or the little devil on your shoulder, about what you’re putting in your mouth or on your body. Once your eyes are opened to the exploitation and cruelty that happens just to satisfy your taste buds, this will be easy. Once you realize that you don’t need to eat animals to survive or even thrive, this will be easy.
It may seem hard at first, this is normal. We have been conditioned to believe eating animals is normal and that we need them to survive. I remember being a few weeks in and feeling extremely fatigued. I thought “maybe I need to add back in some animal products to feel better”. Luckily my husband was there to encourage me. He told me it was all in my head.
I didn’t realize how true that was until recently when I started thinking about that moment. We tell ourselves we can’t survive without certain things and our body starts to follow suit.
Also, part of that fatigue was probably my body adjusting to a new way of eating and perhaps detoxing from animal products.
So to get started, let’s begin with what being vegan means:
The Definition of Veganism
If you do a quick search on the internet, you will find several definitions of the word “vegan”. At its most basic form, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word vegan as “A strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals”. Also, “one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)”.
While the dictionary gives a basic definition, it is in no way all-encompassing.
The vegan society gives a much clearer picture of what veganism is:
“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
In plain English, if someone were to ask me what a vegan is, I would say, “As a vegan, I don’t intentionally use animals in any way for my own selfish needs”. To expound on that, “I don’t kill them, I don’t have other people kill them for me, I don’t take their milk, their eggs, or their honey. I don’t gawk at them in confined spaces in zoos, I don’t make them take me for a ride, I don’t pay for them to do tricks for me, etc., etc….you get the point”.
As a vegan, I see myself as no more important than any animal. In my opinion, we all have the same right to life. And even if a person does see themselves as “more important”, why would they needlessly cause suffering and death? It truly is needlessly, animals don’t have to die for humans to live.
Why Do People Go Vegan?
- For the animals!!!
- For health
- For the environment
- For weightloss
- For spiritual reasons
Of course, this list is not all-encompassing of the reasons people decide to go vegan, but these are reasons a lot of people give when asked why they made the switch.
For the Animals
I would speculate that the majority of people turn to veganism because they no longer want to harm animals in any way. This is at the true heart of veganism. It is about compassion for animals. Although there are other reasons people turn to veganism, I would say the most sustainable reason is for the animals.
When vegans open their eyes to the cruelty and suffering that some animals go through, they can no longer exploit them like that, let alone eat them.
Imagine if your pets were standing in a kill line waiting to be slaughtered. Imagine seeing the fear in their eyes. They hear the screams of the ones that go before them. They smell the blood and dead flesh. They know what’s coming.
Why are some species held in higher regard than others? Why do we kill cows and pigs and not cats and dogs (of course some people do that too). Farm animals feel the same pain, they have the same fear. They don’t want to die.
Yes…most of us go vegan for the animals.
It is becoming more and more well known that animal consumption is bad for health. Red meat, for instance, is said to “probably” be carcinogenic to humans, whereas processed meat IS definitely carcinogenic to humans. Animal products are also notorious for raising cholesterol levels and being contributors to poor heart health. Excluding animal products is shown to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce the chances of having a heart attack.
Cutting out dairy can significantly reduce inflammation in your body and decrease your chances of getting breast cancer.
My mother recently began eating mostly plant-based foods and her psoriasis cleared up completely. Her cholesterol levels dropped significantly. She also lost weight and the depression and anxiety she was experiencing are basically gone.
The film The Game Changers has so much information on the benefits of eating plant-based. It is a very well put-together film and easy to watch. I recommend it to anyone who wants to start eating fewer animal products and turn their health around.
Although I don’t think going vegan for health is sustainable, I think it’s a good start and it will ultimately benefit you and the animals.
For the Environment
The environmental impact of veganism is huge. Slaughtering animals for food and clothing is extremely detrimental to the environment. In the process of slaughtering the animals, greenhouse gases are emitted in large amounts. These greenhouse gases are a big contributor to climate change.
The wastewater that is created also takes a big role in the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions. The wastewater itself is a problem as it is contaminating our drinking water and the lakes and seas where marine life live.
There is so much information out there on the environmental impacts of factory farming. Please do some research.
While many people do turn to veganism because of the detrimental effects of factory farming on the environment, this is not usually a reason people stick with it. People seem to find a way around it that makes less of a carbon footprint such as eating small farm grass-fed cows. But trust me, those cows don’t want to die either.
For Weight Loss
Some people turn to veganism to lose weight. I should say, some people turn to a plant-based diet to lose weight. Veganism is of course not a diet. It is a way of life and what we eat is only a part of it.
Some people think that vegans are all skinny and losing weight will be easy if they remove animal products from their diet. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, although it can be. Say you are eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), then you cut out animal products yet still eat the same way. You will actually probably lose some weight because meat and dairy are calorie-dense foods.
But say you were eating “healthy” with a lot of fruits and vegetables and whole foods. If you remove animal products and replace them with processed vegan junk food, you will probably gain weight.
So, although people think being vegan will help them stay thin, this is not usually the case and it goes way deeper than diet.
For Spiritual Reasons
Many people turn to veganism for spiritual reasons. Although spirituality can mean different things to different people, a lot of people come to realize through a spiritual awakening, that we are all connected. We, as in, all of us. Humans and all other species. For this reason, they realize that harming another creature is like harming themselves. They also realize that eating dead flesh in no way raises their vibration, in fact, it lowers it. Living in a low vibration is not conducive to spiritual development.
I think spirituality is very connected to veganism although not all vegans see it this way. So while I think spirituality and veganism go hand in hand, for me, I didn’t become vegan because I wanted to raise my vibration. I became vegan because my eyes were opened. I do believe being vegan is helping me on my spiritual journey though, and living in a higher vibration is bringing about more peace and joy in my life.
Common Questions About Veganism
Where do vegans get their protein?
This is probably the most common question vegans get asked. Trust me, it gets old real quick. The short answer is that plant-based foods have more than adequate amounts of protein. You just need to know which ones are complete proteins or how to combine them to make a complete protein.
Why don’t vegans eat dairy or eggs?
A common misconception is that animals aren’t slaughtered for dairy or eggs. The truth is, dairy cows go through a lot of pain and suffering so that people can consume their milk. Eventually, the cows and their offspring are sent to slaughter.
There is so much I could say about the dairy industry. I am actually tearing up thinking abut it, but I will expand on this in another post.
Egg farming is also a cruel industry. When chicks are born that could potentially lay eggs for the farm, the males are instantly killed by either asphyxiation or by snapping their necks.
Egg-laying chickens are almost always held in tiny cages or get their beaks cut off to prevent them from killing each other in confined spaces. Even free-range chickens technically only have to be outside for part of the day.
After a life of confinement and unnatural egg-laying, the chicken will either die prematurely from the strain of extreme egg-laying or be sent off to slaughter when their production slows down.
How do vegans get enough vitamins and nutrients?
Some people think you can only get iron from meat or calcium from milk or omega 3’s from fish. This is far from accurate. While it might take a little more research for vegans, it is entirely possible to get these nutrients from plant foods. The one vitamin that is not abundant in the plants of today is vitamin B12. Most vegans take a B12 supplement. I Personally take a multivitamin with B12 and a DHA supplement because that’s what I feel like my body needs right now.
I also think most omnivores are deficient in certain key vitamins, including B12, so nutrient deficiency is far from a vegan problem alone.
Isn’t soy bad for you?
First of all, you don’t have to eat soy if you’re vegan. Some people are allergic or sensitive to soy and cannot consume it. Having said that, soy is a complete protein and can actually have many positive effects on health.
If you do decide to eat soy, look for organic as it is non-GMO. GMO soybeans use significantly more herbicides than non-GMO, and of course, organic soybeans are not treated with synthetic herbicides or pesticides at all. Since most soybeans grown in the US are GMO, please look for organic.
Why I Don’t Advise a Step-By-Step Approach to Going Vegan
Maybe it’s just me, but any time someone gives me a step-by-step approach to anything, I panic a little. Like if someone says “These are the 5 steps you must take in order to manage your money and have financial freedom”.
Well, what if I miss a step, or one of the steps doesn’t fit my current situation. Can I not have financial freedom then? Or if someone tells me, in order to have flawless skin, I must do these 3 things every night.
But if my skin is different than their skin or I don’t have time to wear a beauty mask every night, I might think I can never have beautiful skin.
Basically what I’m saying here is, you need to do this your way. We are all different. What worked for me may not work for you.
I’m not saying steps are bad. Steps are good. But you don’t have to use all the steps that I or anyone else did, and you can even add your own steps. The more you do this your way, the easier it will be for you.
Different Approaches to Making the Transition
Cutting out one animal product at a time
I’ve heard of this approach being successful for many people. A lot of people start with red meat because, besides processed meat, it is said to be one of the most detrimental for human health. They then go through all of the different animal products they consume depending on how much they like them. They will usually end with dairy or eggs because those are the hardest to give up for a lot of people. The process could take weeks, months, or even years depending on the person.
Going “cold turkey”
Many vegans decide to make the transition overnight, usually after thinking about it for a while and perhaps binge-watching vegan documentaries.
If you’re the type of person who does things on a whim and succeeds then this could absolutely be the right approach for you.
Adding in more plant products
Some people take the approach of adding in more fruits, veggies, grains, and beans in order to “crowd out” the animal products and get used to new tastes. This approach is meant to acclimate you to a plant-based diet before you make the switch.
I think this is a good approach if you’re not ready to eliminate animal products. The more plant products you eat, the more your body will acclimate and want them. You will eventually start to desire plant-based foods more than animal products.
No longer buying non-food animal products
Some people will focus on non-food items at first because it is easier. They will educate themselves on vegan clothing and beauty products and get a good handle on that before switching to food.
Sometimes people who are only focused on changing their diet when they become vegan forget about what’s in their clothing or cosmetics.
For instance, you wouldn’t think the canvas shoes you’re wearing or the jeans you have on would have any animal products in them. But the fashion industry somehow sneakily puts a leather patch on your jeans or a leather logo on your otherwise vegan shoes.
Becoming pescatarian or vegetarian first
I’m not entirely sure how “pescatarian” became a thing. I want to say it stemmed from the Mediterranean diet which is mostly whole plant-based foods and fish, sometimes adding in other animal products in small amounts.
Some people continue to eat fish because they don’t see them in the same light as other animals and they think they don’t feel pain. I once read an article by a vegan blogger who says he goes fly fishing for fun but he “doesn’t eat the fish”. What? I refrained from commenting but I think I’m going to go back and do that.
Anyway, fish have nervous systems and studies show that they do in fact feel pain, but if they are the only animal left in your repertoire, then that is a step closer.
One step even closer is becoming vegetarian first. People love cheese. It certainly does have addictive properties. And people think that if they are not actually killing animals they are doing a lot of good. But as mentioned earlier in the post, eating dairy and eggs does in fact lead to animal torture and slaughter.
But you are well on your way if you have decided to start with vegetarianism. Don’t fret over the steps
Regardless of how you go about your transition, don’t fret over the steps! Don’t quit just because you caved to cheese or ice cream. If you feel you’re not ready to give up fish yet, ok.
Being on the other side of it, it’s difficult for me to see why it is so hard. I don’t understand why taste buds come before lives. But I was there. Giving up cheese was soooo hard for me, but now I am disgusted by it. Every time I look at a cow I think of the suffering and I think of what I’m doing to prevent it. You’ll get there. Adjust your focus and you’ll get there.
Where to Begin
Any vegan will tell you that you should do some research into the vegan lifestyle.
But all you need to know to begin is that vegans try to live their lives in such a way that causes the least harm to other beings. Vegans consume no animal products and don’t participate in or promote animal exploitation.
If you’re concerned about what food you can eat, start with the things that you know don’t contain animal products like fruits and vegetables. No label reading necessary.
Pasta is super easy too. Most brands are vegan. Just look at the label, it should have only one or two ingredients like whole durum wheat flour, or, brown rice flour and water.
If you’re looking at packaged food and you don’t know how to read the labels, look for items that say “vegan” or “certified plant-based”.
Tip: A quick way to know if you’re wasting your time with a product is to skim down to the allergen statement. It will say if it contains milk or eggs. Sometimes it will say “may contain milk” if it is made in a factory that uses milk products. This does not mean the product itself used milk ingredients.
In the meantime, do some research into what ingredients are not vegan. This website has a very comprehensive list of some common ingredients that are animal-derived. It may seem daunting at first, but you will eventually be an expert on spotting animal products in foods.
Vegans aren’t just trying to be picky when reading food labels, we are trying to stop the production of these products. The less people buy, the less the manufacturers will make.
Another good source of vegan information for beginners is vegan documentaries.
Watch documentaries! My favorites are The Game Changers and Peaceable Kingdom. The Game Changers is mostly about nutrition and a plant-based diet. This is a great starting point if you want to learn more about plant-based food.
Peaceable Kingdom tells the stories of several people who were in factory farming and woke up to the abuse they were causing. There are some graphic scenes but it is completely eye-opening. Some of my kids watched it with me, including my 6-year-old. There are so many good documentaries out there, here is a good list to check out.
I know you may not want to watch graphic torture and murder of animals, but getting that through your head…the torture that they are going through, will definitely help you help them.
Get what I’m saying? The more you know their pain, the more you will be able to help them. If you’re really unsure of how to get started you could use PETA’s free starter kit. But I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
It really is easy
The part I said in the beginning about this being easy. It’s easy when you get to the point of not caring about your pleasure in comparison to their pain. Tastebuds and cheese-loving dopamine receptors will mean nothing when you can see the pain it causes them.
How I Transitioned to a Vegan Lifestyle
I had toyed with meatless Mondays for a long time. I had also stopped eating anything with pigs because I was concerned for my health. Pigs don’t sweat so they hold toxins in their flesh. I didn’t want that in my body. I then cut out red meat because of the link to cancer. THEN I watched Peaceable Kingdom.
This is when the real magic started to happen. I started by not eating any animals other than fish. That only lasted about a month and I was vegetarian. Again, for about a month.
My brother, who is not a vegetarian or vegan, but is a proponent of environmental conservation, said that being vegetarian “was dumb”. I was still promoting animal torture and slaughter and the environmental impacts of dairy farming were very significant.
I agreed with him and decided to drop all animal products from my life. Since a new year was coming up I made it my resolution and I have never looked back. I will NEVER look back.
I spent so much time searching for “vegan food near me”, and “vegan recipes” and “vegan products”. It was time-consuming and frustrating, but it was worth it. I know so much more than I did when I started but I still have so much to learn. I never stop educating myself and others on the importance of veganism.
If you would like to become vegan or have questions about how to maintain the lifestyle, I am your girl. There is so much to learn. My biggest piece of advice would be to get your heart into it! Don’t just do it for health or the environment, although those are great benefits! Do it to end suffering. Feel what they feel. Put yourself or your pet in their position and really feel it.
Please let us know your thoughts or how you became vegan in the comments below. Ask your questions to the community. If you have a personal question or would like to ask in private, don’t hesitate to contact me. I am here to help!