My sister was the one who was the catalyst for my going vegetarian and ultimately vegan. She texted me that she was watching a crazy documentary and I had some time so I joined along and watched "Forks Over Knives." I ended up becoming somewhat obsessed with stopping animal product consumption and gave up meat that very night. I read books, scoured websites, found support from people who went vegetarian (and later, vegan) and tried to map out a plan for myself that would cut out animal products.
My sister ended up stopping drinking milk after our documentary viewing that night but she still eats meat, cheese, and eggs. In all honestly, I am not fully vegan either. I still eat a few certified humane eggs a week and honey once in a while. I'm still in a phase out phase, I guess. I will cut them one day but for now, I'm not ready yet. The only exception that I feel totally fine with eating indefinitely is goat cheese that is made from rescue goats whose babies are not weaned early and where there is a strict no kill policy (yay for Soledad Goat Cheese!). I don't eat much of it though and we don't have it in the house all the time.
I digress. My sister said that she really could have used a checklist to help her go vegetarian or vegan. She couldn't find one easily so here I shall create my very own checklist of "How to Go Veg*n," only based on my own experiences.
1. When the urge to go veg*n hits, write a lot and reflect about WHY you are feeling like making a lifestyle change.
Going veg*n is huge and everyone has different reasons for making the switch. Try to figure out why you're doing it so you will have a clear reminder when you feel like you want to quit when a craving hits. They WILL hit but don't worry, most go away and if they don't, you can almost always find an acceptable substitute. Also, doing these kinds of exercises will help you as you start to tell friends and family about your new choices. Those conversations will seem to get old at first but then you'll have your answer accessible so you can tell why you're doing it and move on with life.
2. Read as much as you can about other people who have gone veg*n for the same reasons or better yet, talk to people in person.
Being veg*n means putting yourself on the outskirts of what's "normal" for dietary style in America. We are the minority! So, knowing other people or their stories about how they learned to be the "odd one out" is helpful.
3. Listen to people who have gone veg*n before - do a "phase out" method of food if you're uncomfortable with going "cold turkey." (hehehehe)
Many people will say that doing a slow phase out is the best way to go veg*n. That's how I did it. I cut out meat, fish and milk right away, then all cheese, then eggs, then I put eggs back in...it's a process. I only stopped eating meat less than 6 months ago so cutting out all that in less than 6 months (by choice) is pretty intense! Find a method that works for you. Don't worry, you may miss cheese but you'll get over it at some point.
4. Figure out what foods really rev your engine.
Make a list of your most favoritest ever foods that are acceptable to you in your new standards. I LOVE cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, and chives. Mix that up, add some brown rice and you've got sushi in a bowl! I thought I'd eat a ton of hummus now that I stopped with meat and such but I really don't scarf it. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, I love salads and Ezekiel bread is our new bread staple. I loooooove chocolate so finding Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups saved my sanity. I also tried lots of meat and cheese substitutes and turns out, I like tofu and only dig fake cheese when it's on a sandwich or pizza at a restaurant (which I have a lot of in LA). I keep a box of veggie burgers in the fridge just in case but I eat them less now than those first few months. Lean on the substitutes if they make you happy but just be careful not to eat too much.
5. Talk with whoever you live with or dine out with often.
People may or may not know what it means to go vegan. Tell your loved ones what's up and why you're doing what you're doing. If you have great friends and family, most of them will ask you questions (perhaps even ridiculous ones) and then will accept your choices, maybe even admire you for them, and start to be sensitive to your new diet. It barely comes up now except for when my friends ask if there's enough food for me at a restaurant we're going to!
I am very VERY lucky that my meat-lovin' husband has been an absolute saint about my new diet. He only buys milk and deli meat for the house, doesn't ask me to cook meat for him in the house, and basically eats anything I put in front of him when I cook. He is fine eating fake meats and has been awesome in general about trying vegan restaurants or options. I'm lucky and I know it! Not everyone's significant other is as cool as mine. Check out this post at one of my fave blogs, No Meat Athlete, about what to do when you have a resistant partner.
6. Continue your journey based on what feels right for you.
If you go two months and feel miserable because you did everything too fast, then slow down and go a little backwards. My digestive system was a little...wonky...when I first went veg. It DOES get better! But don't overload on beans and whole grains in the first two weeks or you'll just feel miserable.
Remember that it's EASY to be a junk food vegan. Try to nourish your body and make good choices!
I watched every documentary I could get via Netflix, Amazon Prime and online for the first 3 or 4 months. I struggled with not eating cheese and eggs (at restaurants) and needed those reminders about why I was doing what I was doing. Watch Blackfish, Vegucated, Forks Over Knives...whatever it is for you that reminds you.
What else would you add to your checklist?! Are you going veg*n and struggling or really thriving??