By Nicholo Jallores
This is veganism in a nutshell: no animal products – no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Diet-wise, that means no dairy, meat, or fish, not even honey. It’s actually the most no-brainer diet around, as the parameters are very straightforward and unforgiving: simply “no animals.” But the thing about veganism is that it’s not just about what and how you eat: it’s also about how you choose to conduct yourself in the world as a human being. It’s about living compassionately by default. It’s about being constantly aware of how your choices as a consumer affect the state of the planet, and how they will affect the lives of the future generations.
Perhaps what confuses non-vegans about veganism is that ultimately, it is not an act of vanity. Most vegans will tell you that they decided to forsake all animal products for environmental and ethical concerns. That is most certainly the case with me. Here’s another no-brainer: animal farming is destroying this planet faster than any other industry. There are plenty of published, peer-reviewed science and UN reports to back this up. The incontrovertible fact is that the way we eat is literally turning our world into a pigsty, and we need to do something about it now if we do not want our children or grandchildren to end up going to school wearing gas masks.
I always say this: blame it on Netflix. I was #NetflixAndChill –ing at home one day and stumbled upon a film called “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.” That film served as the jump-off point for me. As soon as I finished watching it, I began fact-checking furiously. For days, I read any and all research or study about animal farming that I could get my hands on. Eventually, I arrived at the conclusion that the only way forward for me was to go vegan. I could not go on calling myself a “decent human being” and still eat meat. For me to enjoy meat, I would have to suspend my humanity. It didn’t even feel like a choice anymore.
From what I eat to what clothes I wear to how I deal with people, veganism inspires me to just be better. When I was non-vegan, all I ever needed food to do was to stave off hunger. But now, I feel a deeper, more intrinsic sense of connectedness to what I eat. Now I need to know where my food comes from, how it was grown, and how it will affect my body. This principle of mindfulness and self-regulation resonates across every facet of my character, and with good reason. After all, we are what we eat.
Tips on How to Go Vegan
Reasearch, research, research. And then research some more. I say this because I do not want you to take this decision lightly. Going vegan is a massive change, and if you really must do it, let your choice be backed up by honest information.
Don’t take it out. Crowd it out. Say you’ve already decided to go vegan. Unless you are absolutely certain that you have an iron will, don’t take out all animal products from your diet in one fell swoop. Instead, phase them out slowly and “crowd” them out with plant-based alternatives. For example, if you’re cooking menudo and you normally use 1 kilo of meat, reduce that to half a kilo and fill out the difference with potatoes, carrots, and raisins. Slowly wean yourself out of your taste for meat.
Opt for whole, unprocessed foods and vary it up. Can one be an unhealthy vegan? Definitely. Remember: French fries are technically vegan too. A lot of new vegans fall into the trap of depending on meat analogues like tofu and tempeh, but in that regard, you’re really just replacing one addiction with another. The trick is to go for what your body needs to function in top condition. Choose whole foods like vegetables, fruits and nuts. The less processed the food is, the better it is for you.
Learn to cook vegan. Transitioning to a vegan diet was easy for me, as I know my way around the kitchen. I could imagine how it could be infinitely more difficult for someone who doesn’t. If you’ve never bothered to improve your cooking skills, veganism will challenge you. Accept that challenge.
Have a support system. Face it: you can’t convince everyone on your friend’s list to understand your conviction, all the more share it with you. But having friends who support your choices really does help. Explain to them how committed you are to this new way of living. If they are any friends of yours, they will help you stay on your track, even if they don’t have to join you in your journey.
BONUS TIP! Try going vegetarian first. The difference being, you can still have fish, dairy, and honey. It’s a great way to slowly transition into a full vegan diet while mitigating the chances of backsliding into the welcoming arms of a hamburger. Having said that, it really does help to have a solid but realistic timeline, e.g. you’ll go vegetarian in a week, for 3 months, and then 100% vegan forever thereafter. Be kind to yourself throughout this period of change. You are doing something great for the environment and for the animals! Going vegan should not and does not have to feel like a punishment.