It's been over one and a half years since I decided to transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle so I thought it's about time to tell you how I went vegan. If you haven't checked out part 1 of this series (How To Go Vegan), make sure to read it before you read this blog post. And if you don't have time right now, here's a quick recap:
In my opinion, there is not the one way to go vegan. I think it can be great to get inspiration from stories of other vegans and what they learned or struggled with. So you can learn from their experience. Have some guidance. Or become inspired.
But copying someone else's approach and forcing it onto your current life, your current situation and diet - I don't think that's a good approach. Because everyone is at a different starting point, everyone has different preferences, allergies, reasons and environments. So please keep that in mind when you read my story.
How I Went Vegan
Before I get into the details, let me just tell you that I didn't go vegan over night. I transitioned quite slowly over the course of almost a year. I started with one animal product, searched for a substitute and removed it from my diet. Then continued with the next, following the same pattern.
Starting With Vegetarian
I've never been a huge fan of meat or fish. In fact, I was really a picky eater when I was little. I remember when we ordered pizza, I always wanted broccoli and red peppers on mine. When it came to meat, I didn't eat it too often and if I did, mostly white meats. Never understood the fuss about steak. I also rarely ate any fish or seafood in general because it freaked me out.
I'd say my whole journey kind of started when I moved out from home and into my first own place. It was only a small room in student housing but it was my own place and I had to buy my own groceries. So I bought less meat and therefore consumed less. I remember I used to get fish once in a while (like once a month) because I thought "that's what people do". Crazy how societal norms can impact your food choices.
I didn't switch to vegetarian straight away after moving. I still had chicken because I thought I had to get my protein somewhere and I cringe as I write this because now I know plants have protein, too! But after a while, I bought less and less because it somehow freaked me out and I, quite frankly, had found another source of protein I liked better.
No, it wasn't beans and lentils and tofu yet, it was eggs, and cottage cheese. Which brings me to the next point - ditching dairy.
Switching To Plant-Based Milks and Yogurt
I was never the type of person who drank a glass of milk in the morning. I loved cereal with milk (favorite snack after school!) and buttermilk smoothies and yogurt and baking with heavy cream. Now that I think back, I find it interesting how I found drinking cow's milk was weird (made the connection that cow's milk is for baby cows to drink quite fast) but still consumed other products made from cow's milk where I hadn't made that connection yet.
Switching to plant-based milks was easy for me. Even in the discount supermarket near my apartment they sold plant milk. So I just stopped buying cow's milk and started buying plant-based milks. I don't remember what type of plant-based milk I got, probably just the cheapest they offered.
They also sold plant-based (soy) yogurt at the supermarket I shopped at so one day I decided to just buy these instead. Some part of me knew it was unethical to drink or consume cow's milk and this was a really easy switch for me.
Removing Eggs From My Diet Next
I loved baking, especially cheesecake. I also consumed more eggs after I went vegetarian because I didn't know about all the plant-based protein sources yet. When I switched to vegetarian, I started tracking my macros to make sure I still get enough protein. Also I just love numbers and found it interesting to learn how much nutrients certain foods had.
I had eggs with a lot of my lunches and dinners, but not really because I enjoyed the taste. More so because that's what I put into my calorie counting app to get the protein. I stopped counting my calories and macros after a few months because a) I had developed quite a good intuition about how much I needed to eat and b) I was tired of it.
Then I realized how detached I had become from what I was eating. I was merely eating for numbers, not thinking about what it was I was putting into my body. I started to listen more to my body and what I wanted to eat, and it wasn't eggs. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was weird and disgusting.
I did quite a few experiments then, trying to bake without eggs. But I always enjoyed cooking and trying new recipes and ingredients. So this didn't feel like a drawback. It was actually something I really enjoyed.
But What About The Cheese?
Okay, I have to admit, when I was little, I didn't really eat cheese at all. So I might have had a slight advantage here. Yes, I ate cheese on pizza and maybe had a grilled cheese sandwich once in a while. But never cheese slices on bread. I mean, if I could have nutella or strawberry jam on bread, why would I choose cheese?
There were a few cheeses I really liked, though. Feta cheese, ricotta and goat cheese. These were the last animal products that I removed from my diet. I had a conversation about how the chemicals and growth hormones in dairy are toxic to your body and are eliminated through your skin, causing skin irritation or acne. I didn't suffer from very bad acne luckily but still had some skin problems once in a while. So I thought, why not give it a try?
Initially, I set myself the challenge for one month to see if it makes a difference. Now, my skin didn't magically become glowy and spot-free overnight, but I realized I don't actually miss cheese that much. I then also started to look more into the ethical side of veganism, starting with youtube videos from Earthling Ed. I remember watching parts of Land of Hope and Glory and it made me cry.
Vegan At Home First, Then While Eating Out
At first, I wasn't so strict when eating out. When there was a vegan meal, I would get that. But if there wasn't, I would just get the vegetarian option which they always had at least one. After I became more educated on what was actually going on in the meat, eggs and dairy industries, I knew eating vegan at home (where I had full control and it had already become normal) simply wasn't enough.
It was a little difficult at first because asking for a vegan option made me feel uncomfortable. Now it feels easier. When I can, I go to all vegan restaurants because I want to support them.
From Vegan Diet To Vegan Lifestyle
Currently, while my diet is all plant-based now, I look at other aspects of my life. Like cruelty-free make-up, shampoo and lotions, or vegan clothing without leather, fur or wool for example. I no longer go to zoos or circuses. For me, veganism goes far beyond what I eat. It's about causing the least amount of harm possible, and that relates to all aspects of life.
Now that I've talked a bit about my journey to veganism, I'd love to know about you! What made you go vegan? Did you go vegan overnight or transitioned slowly? Let me know in the comments below!