Q: What should I know about being vegan?
A: So you are thinking about becoming vegan. Or you just made the switch to this fun and healthy lifestyle and asking yourself, “What do I need to know about being vegan?” Well, you came to the right place. I have been a vegan for 2 ½ years and vegetarian for 4 ½ years so let me first say, “welcome to the family.”
There are several things that one needs to know about the vegan lifestyle. First, veganism is a lifestyle and not just a diet. A vegan is someone who refrains from using animals or animal by-products in their diet as well as in their personal life, e.g., clothing, personal care products, and home décor, to name a few. Since veganism encompasses your whole lifestyle, please understand that the switch may be difficult at first. You have to develop new habits, new cooking skills, new shopping patterns, learn how to navigate holidays, eating out with friends, and learn about all hidden animal ingredients. This is my advice to you: take it slow and change one thing at a time otherwise you may end up on vegan overload, which may hinder or halt your progress. For example, start with food, then personal care items, then clothes. If this seems like a lot….it is, but I promise you that it will get easier.
The second thing you should know is that everyone is doing it (veganism I mean). According to a poll conducted in 2011 by the Vegetarian Resource Group, 2.5% adults living in the United States consider themselves vegan. Also turn on the TV and you will probably hear about another celebrity going at least strict vegetarian (vegan by diet only) including Bill Clinton, the Williams sisters, Mike Tyson, and Olivia Widle. Since veganism is so popular and becoming more mainstream daily, it is becoming easier to develop your own personal vegan circle. Solidifying your vegan circle will remind you that you are not alone in your lifestyle. Plus it will give you a group of people with whom you can share recipes with, ask vegan questions to, and complain to about the latest crazy thing that your omnivore friends said. Find vegans online, joins a vegan group on Meetup.com, and connect with your vegan friends.
The third thing that I want you to know is simple….no matter how long you have been a vegan, you will make mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I have read the ingredient label of a lotion or lip gloss in the store only to realize that after I have been wearing it for 2 weeks the product contains beeswax!! How did that get in there?!?! Or the number of times that I have been eating a really good meal when I found out the person making it didn’t realize that “meat flavored” meant that there was actually meat in it. Shake it off, give it away, learn, and move on.
Next, you need to get in a car, on a train, or in a plane and go to the nearest farm sanctuary. I began my vegan journey at the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. There, I was able to see and interact with many animals that luckily survived factory farms. When you get to hear their stories and see with your own eyes the effect that the farming industry has on them, you will know that you have made the right decision.
Lastly, educate yourself. Read cookbooks, talk to your doctor about vegan nutrition (make sure that they are veg friendly), research vegan fashion companies, try out new personal care products, learn about vegan parenting, and educate yourself on current animal rights issues. Doing so will allow you the confidence that you will need to continue to feel good about the choice that you made. It will also make it easier to stop yourself from falling off of the vegan-wagon.
Veganism is an awesome choice and we are an awesome group of people (if I may say so myself). This lifestyle does require you to re-examine some of habits that you are used to, but it is so worth it. Veganism allows you to better your health, make a positive impact on the environment, and prevent animal cruelty for the sake of human pleasure. All this with 3 simple words “I am Vegan."
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