Easing Your Transition to a Plant Based Lifestyle by Sara Fortson

In 2018, it is now easier than ever to transition to being vegan.  Ah yes, the dreaded “V-Word.”  We have all heard the jokes (how can you tell someone is vegan?), but adopting a plant-based lifestyle is not a mythical hipster fad that only the rich can make feasible. Celebrities are drawing more attention to veganism than ever, and it’s becoming less and less stigmatized to proudly proclaim yourself a non-carnivorous being. But how hard is it exactly? Another ever-popular response to the word “vegan” is a slew of unsolicited arguments. How do you get your protein? Aren’t humans supposed to eat other animals? I’m not here to answer all of these pressing questions or change anyone’s mind. What I am here for is to help you once you have already decided that plant-based is the lifestyle for you.  


“If I can survive without eating animals, then shouldn’t I?” 


You’ve made the decision to forgo meat and animal products – yay!

The hardest part is over, and I say this with complete honesty. I was an avid meat eater for my entire life. My family ate meat and we liked it. A few years ago, I started to realize that I didn’t feel good about my choices in regards to meat and animal welfare. I suddenly thought, “If I can survive without eating animals, then shouldn’t I?” It was the best choice I’ve ever made.


I quit eating meat cold turkey (pun intended) and haven’t missed it for even one day. My choice to become an herbivore was right for me at that moment in my life and made sense to me. It also unleashed my creativity and passion for cooking. My doctor said I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and honestly, I have never felt better. Once you make the decision to stop eating meat, the rest is a piece of cake.


Being vegan isn’t about what you can’t have, it’s about what you can and choose to have.” 



Can I Eat That?

Now that you’re vegan, people will love to ask you where you get your protein, your iron, and some people might even tell you that they once tried to be vegan and got sick therefore it is not a healthy lifestyle choice. If you make sure that you eat well, stay healthy and eat a balanced plant-based diet, you will get all the protein you need, you won’t be anemic, and you will not have to worry about being malnourished.  


Most of the animals that are raised for consumption get their protein from plant sources, so this means it’s possible. Of course protein is essential to our health and wellbeing, but humans do not need large quantities of it. In fact, a lot of the protein that we eat gets expelled from our bodies anyway (i.e. you pee it out). Tofu is an excellent source of protein, but it’s okay if that’s not your thing. You can get plenty of protein from black beans, oatmeal, lentils, and various green vegetables (there’s a reason spinach made Pop-Eye strong).


Of course eliminating meat is one thing, but dairy products are a whole other ballgame. There seems to be eggs or milk in just about everything, which I’ll admit is frustrating. You will spend more time reading ingredients lists that you used to once you give up dairy, but it gets easier, I promise. Finding substitutions for dairy products in my cooking is actually fun for me, but I understand most people aren’t that excited about making cashew cheese. Cooking, as an herbivore isn’t more difficult or even more time consuming, it just requires a little creativity. Lucky for you, there are all kinds of resources to help you. The Internet is a magical thing and plenty of people have already done the legwork for you (myself included).


Also, don’t worry about family gatherings and holidays. Sure, Uncle Ted might give you some grief when you pass by the turkey on the Thanksgiving buffet line, but Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are soooo easy to modify. And I promise you, you will not miss turkey even for a minute. You just have to change the way you think. It always irks me when food blogs or instagrammers boast that their recipes are easily made vegan or vegetarian if you “take out” certain things.  Being vegan isn’t about what you can’t have, it’s about what you can and choose to have. It’s not about what you take out; it’s about what you choose to put in.


They Put WHAT in Lipstick?!

One of the biggest adjustments for me when switching to a cruelty free and compassionate lifestyle was makeup and beauty products. A lot of drugstore products that I used were tested on animals, to my horror. Most big name brands sell their products in mainland China, where laws require that the products be tested on animals. You can find really comprehensive lists online of which companies test on animals and also lists of which don’t, sometimes specific to stores (there are lists of cruelty free products sold at Target and Ulta, for example). You can still shop at your favorite stores, and you can almost always find a product that is just as good if not better than something you’re used to, only without the animal testing or animal products. Keep in mind, however, that “cruelty free” does not always mean “vegan,” and some products that are not tested on animals may have animal products listed in the ingredients (lanolin and beeswax are common).



Learning to Appreciate “Faux”

Rooney Mara recently said in the October 2017 issue of Vogue that one of the most difficult things for her to phase out of her wardrobe was leather.  Designer shoes and bags are notoriously made with leather and you’ll be hard pressed to find a big-name designer who is completely vegan.  One designer whom I love and does not use any leather or fur in her designs is Stella McCartney, who is a lifelong vegetarian according to her website. If you’re on a budget, don’t fret, because if you’re not concerned with a designer house label it becomes far easier to make ethical and compassionate purchases and still look chic. Nicora, along with other brands, have taken the cruelty out of your fashion and have not skimped on style. 


There is a vegan alternative to just about every single food you can imagine, more and more beauty brands are foregoing animal testing, and clothing can be purchased to align with your compassionate values. Celebrities are endorsing the vegan lifestyle in mass numbers, and bloggers and writers have done a lot of the work for you creating recipes, lists and other resources. It may seem daunting at first to give up foods and products that you have known and used mostly all your life, but once you get past the initial shock of change, I promise you, you’re going to feel so good about your decision.

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