Over a year ago I took the plunge and stopped consuming animal products. I went from being an omni who “didn’t eat much meat” to vegan in a matter of months, with a wee pit stop at vegetarianism. It wasn’t something that happened overnight for me and I was really and truly going in blind. I’d always assumed that vegans were uber healthy and that everything would just magically fall into place. Vegan junk food? I didn’t even realise that was a thing.
I won’t be telling you to go watch documentaries about the horrors of livestock farming or what really happens at a slaughterhouse, because chances are you’ll have already been directed to a few. Maybe you’ve even watched one or two. Maybe you’re like me and had other reasons for becoming a vegan in the first place. I don’t really want to repeat what other vegans or bloggers have already said, so these are just a few things I personally found helpful.
1. Why do you want to go Vegan?
First of all, think of why it is you want to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I’m not talking about what other people say it means to them, I’m talking about YOUR personal reasons. Whether it’s for health, the environment, or the animals, that question can’t be answered by anyone else. I feel like so many people say they’re “vegan for the animals” that newbies almost feel like they have to rattle off that same answer, but remember there really is no right or wrong response except what’s right for you.
I work for someone who has been a strict vegan for almost ten years, and for them, it was entirely for health reasons. The environment? Great. The animals? Well that’s just a happy coincidence. They literally cannot digest animal products after a disastrous operation, so they learned to adapt their lifestyle to a vegan one. Remember that everyone has their own processes, so however you come to that decision just makes that the right route for you. It’s also good to remember that everyone has their own motivations, so we really shouldn’t judge anyone if theirs are different to our own.
2. Ask question. A lot of questions
I found one of the most important things when starting out as a newbie is to ASK. This is pretty much true of any situation, but let’s just use it for this example shall we? That first week I didn’t know anything, but I swallowed my pride and asked my Facebook friends for their advice, knowing that at least a few of them were vegans. I had no idea what seitan was, other than a word that’s fun to slip into everyday conversations. What the hell was a tofu press? There are plant-based milks other than soy and rice? Mind, blown. I also now know why vegans don’t eat honey, why free-range eggs still aren’t cruelty-free, why China is the Big Baddie when it comes to cosmetics and animal testing, and what the hell a “parent company” is. Oh and I also know that if someone tells you they are a Level 10 Vegan, they’re an asshole.
3. Don’t panic buy
Don’t just go out and blindly buy a whole shopping basket full of unfamiliar vegan foods or products. Unless you have loads on money, this will likely bankrupt you and you might end up with a lot of food you don’t necessarily like. So instead of going out of your way to buy vegan versions of things, just replace the fresh produce you already have. Think about what you eat and cook on a regular basis, and look for recipes on how to make these vegan friendly. You might be surprised how easy it really is.
4. What do you like? What do you hate?
You need to figure out what you do and don’t like. It sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but I honestly can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a vegan friend say they really feel like they *should* like avocados, or kale, or Linda McCartney’s sausages. Every other vegan in the world might wax lyrical about a particular brand of dairy-free cheese, but if you personally think it tastes like damp socks? Don’t force yourself. You’ll get disheartened.
Your tastebuds WILL adapt, but if you seriously detest a particular food, don’t force yourself to eat it just because you feel like you have to. There are so many fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses out there. Everybody has different tastes, so don’t feel pressure to like something just because it seems like the “done” thing for vegans to enjoy. If you hate courgettes, don’t eat them. If faux meats make you gag, don’t buy them. You won’t have the same taste in clothes or be looking for the same traits in a partner, so why should food be any different?
5. Social Media
One of the first things I did as a newbie vegan was follow a whole bunch of vegan Instagram accounts. It took maybe five minutes, and then another hour of drooling over their incredible photos, and it really opened my eyes to some of the incredible vegan food out there. Go and check out the #Vegan and #WhatVegansEat hashtags for some inspiration.
I knew very little about animal testing in the beauty industry before I started to follow a few cruelty-free blogs and social media accounts. Twitter is pretty awesome for that, with bloggers and activists using the #CFBeauty hashtag and taking part in weekly chats. Whenever I have a question about which shampoo I should try to keep my hyper-bleached hair looking healthy, or what brand of liquid eyeliner I should try for an idiot-proof flick, these lovely folk are always there to help.
I’ve been working on a list of some of my favourite cruelty-free beauty bloggers, but here are a few of the ones I regularly follow in the meantime. Definitely check out Vivi at Sammy Sans Cruelty, Vicky at Ethical Elephant, and Steph at The Zombie Said. They are all incredible bloggers who really know their stuff when it comes to beauty products that don’t, you know, hurt bunnies. Also if you’re a Korean Beauty addict like I am, this post by Fii at Little Miss Fii is the best I’ve ever read.
If Lifestyle blogs are more your bag, check out Laila at Tape Parade, Jess at Jessthetics, Mo at Mo’Adore, and Nadia at (Not So) Quiet Girl. Laila’s guide to the best dairy-free alternatives to milk is incredible, and I love love LOVE Nadia’s post on why veganism is a feminist issue. Go! Read! Their! Blogs!
In theory, all vegans want everybody to transition. Right? I mean I’m even pretty chuffed when a friend tells me they’re cutting down their dairy and meat intake significantly, or an omni friend comments on my Instagram pic of my plant-based lunch. I’m a great believer in positive encouragement, so I’ll be the one in the corner bringing my friends delicious vegan cake and making them a tasty plant-based dinner. I remember vegan friends inviting me over for food when I was first starting out, recommending the best places for me to eat, and presenting me with the most gorgeous vegan cupcakes. Being nice can accomplish great things.
Having said that, as with any movement, there are some raging douchebags out there. These are the people who will judge you for every little thing, and in their eyes you will never be “vegan enough”. There are *shudder* vegans out there who have zero compassion for their fellow human beings, so PLEASE don’t let these extremists put you off.