Over the past decade, my journey through the vegan lifestyle has been a transformative experience filled with lessons, growth, and profound realizations. In the span of these ten years, I've witnessed the evolution of veganism from a niche lifestyle to a widespread movement. While the journey has become smoother with time, my commitment to learning and growing within this lifestyle remains unwavering. The question that often arises is, "What led me to embrace the vegan lifestyle?" The answer, in my case, encompasses a multitude of motivations: animal rights, environmental sustainability, and personal health. For me, veganism isn't just a dietary choice; it's a conscious decision to lead a compassionate and sustainable life.
Coming from a cultural background that holds celebrations and traditions surrounding meat, dairy, and eggs, my transition to veganism wasn't immediate. It was a process that unfolded over ten years. Growing up with foodies for parents and within a fusion of Jewish, Irish, German, Polish, and American diet influences, animal products were an integral part of my diet. However, a turning point emerged during my young adulthood when I faced perplexing gastrointestinal issues. A doctor's recommendation to track my daily food intake and well-being sparked the realization that my body's well-being was deeply intertwined with my diet. This was the initial step towards mindful consideration of the connection between my health and the food I consumed.
The idea of adopting a vegetarian lifestyle began to take shape during my college years. Having a vegetarian friend and roommate made the transition smoother, as it exposed me to the possibilities of plant-based eating. Although I wasn't fully vegetarian during this time, the thought of a meatless diet started to occupy my mind more prominently.
Following college, I moved back to Arizona for a little while and met my then-girlfriend, who was also a vegetarian. The presence of a supportive partner made embracing a new dietary regimen more accessible. My one-year journey as a vegetarian was a period of education, experimentation, and self-discovery. During this time, a documentary named "Vegucated" had a profound impact on me, and my health education came to a head. The sight of clogged arteries from cheese consumption, coupled with years of accumulating knowledge about plant-based diets and environmental concerns, catalyzed a pivotal shift in my mindset (as I loved cheese and ate it every day). Without hesitation, I embraced the vegan lifestyle wholeheartedly and embarked on a path that has forever altered my perception of the world and my place in it.
As I reflect on my 10-year journey as a vegan, here are ten pivotal lessons I've learned along the way:
- Keep Learning: The journey of learning never ends so educate yourself continuously. Study ingredients, read books, magazines, blogs, and watch documentaries. Engage with the vegan community and immerse yourself in the wealth of knowledge available. This is a big one because the vegan community is very close and very helpful.
- Practice Patience: Embrace patience with yourself, others, and the process of transitioning to veganism. Allow yourself the time to adapt, and be understanding of others' journeys and timeframes as well.
- Stay Motivated: Remind yourself of your reasons for choosing the vegan lifestyle. Strengthen your willpower and consider your choices as a form of activism.
- Experiment: Embrace culinary experimentation. Try new recipes, explore diverse cuisines, and expand your palate to the plethora of plant-based options. There are so many vegan food bloggers, groups, websites, and people within the community you can reach out to for help with this. Be brave.
- See the Gains: Pay attention to the positive changes in your health and well-being. Improved energy levels, being part of a loving community, enhanced digestion, and a clearer conscience are among some of the many rewards of a plant-based lifestyle. You can even track your health progress if it helps you stay motivated.
- Think and Shop Mindfully: Practice mindfulness when making food choices and purchasing products. Consider the environmental and ethical impact of your choices. Remember to vote with your dollar and support online and local vegan businesses.
- Go at Your Own Pace: The transition to veganism is personal. Don't rush the process; take the steps that feel right for you. It doesn't matter if it takes you 1 day or 10 years like me, or even if you never go fully vegan but implement more plant-based foods into your diet, that's a win.
- Listen to Your Body: Tune in to your body's signals. Pay attention to how different foods affect you and adjust your diet accordingly. If you need to include more vitamins like B12 or Omega 3 & 6, protein, or Iron, you can take supplements (after speaking to your doctor) and include them more in your diet by adding things like seaweed, nutritional yeast, and more beans & greens. You may need to eat more veggies than you normally do at first to stay full but after 1-3 months, your body will adapt.
- Embrace Imperfection: Striving for perfection can be overwhelming. Understand that slip-ups may occur, but they don't define your commitment to the vegan lifestyle. Some judgmental vegans would say if you ever slip up, you aren't vegan but life isn't black and white - it's all colors and shades and being kind to yourself.
- Cultivate Positivity: Approach your vegan journey with a positive attitude. Focus on the joy of embracing a compassionate and sustainable lifestyle. Staying positive and focusing on the bigger picture will help you on your journey.
Every individual's path is unique, and the choices we make collectively contribute to a more compassionate world. Whether you're fully embracing the vegan lifestyle or incorporating more plant-based choices into your life, know that each step matters. By making conscious choices in our diets and lifestyles, we pave the way for a brighter future for ourselves, animals, and the planet.
So, let's embark on this journey of mindful living together. Whether you choose to explore plant-based recipes, learn about cruelty-free brands, or engage with the vibrant vegan community, remember that positive change begins with one step, and each step brings us.