Happy New Year and welcome to 2017! Okay so we’re over a week into the new year and you may already be slacking in your resolutions…but that’s okay! No judgement!
Many have made resolutions to eat better or adapt healthier habits – for some, that may mean reducing the amount of meat they eat or choosing to be completely vegan. I’ve been asked to share some of my favourite tips and advice for the new veggies!
First of all, welcome to your new lifestyle! I hope you stick with it long enough to recognize the impacts a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle can have and all the countless benefits that come along with it.
When I first decided to cut meat out, it was meant to be temporary; a few months to let my body heal, and then I would re-introduce certain foods. But once I did the research, educated myself about the various industries, and discovered first-hand the positive way it affected my physical and mental health, I decided this was permanent and there was no way I was going back. Now it has been almost two years!
I am not a health professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. All statements and suggestions are based on my personal experience and are only my opinion. You should never ignore medical advice.
What to Expect
Right off the bat, I’m just going to come right out and say it – you’re going to be gassy. Your stomach is going to be uncomfortable, your poop schedule will likely change… BUT it doesn’t last forever!
Any change in diet is going to throw your body for a loop – the fact that you will now be consuming more plants (which means lots more fiber) means that your stomach and digestive track will need time to adjust. I recommend purchasing some Beano, or maybe even Immodium to help you through it.
There will likely be withdrawal symptoms. The severity is different for everyone but within the first few weeks you may get headaches, experience some nausea, fatigue, and bloating. This is because your body is used to the way you were previously eating. Animal products are known to have hormones, added sugars, different fats and are obviously made up differently than plants and plant-based products. Give your body the time it needs to adjust! In my case it was only a day or so with a headache and week or two of bloating and digestive discomfort.
Once the discomfort passes — and it may take a few weeks — you should start to notice an increase in energy, a decrease in cravings, you might lose weight, your skin may improve, you should be feeling good! If you’re not, talk to your doctor, there might be something you’re missing.
Be responsible in the resources you choose to follow. Be responsible in properly educating yourself. Be responsible in your decisions. Be responsible in how you educate others. BE RESPONSIBLE!
Some more suggestions (from my own experience) for being a responsible vegan include:
- Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist, most won’t oppose it but it’s good to make sure that your doctor is aware. They may have some helpful pointers!
- Get regular blood work done, yes a plant-based diet is a healthy diet but it can also be a tricky diet when you’re first starting out. I requested blood work at 3 months, 6 months, and a year of being vegan to ensure that I wasn’t deficient in anything. I plan to do this once a year now that I’ve established a routine.
- Take b12 supplements. B12 is the only vitamin that is really hard to get enough of from plant sources. It is present in nutritional yeast and spirulina but it’s small amounts and difficult to make sure that you’re getting enough. I was a bit lethargic before I started taking them and noticed a huge improvement in my energy.
No, I’m not perfect and as I mentioned in my disclaimer, I’m not a health professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. But if you are making dramatic changes to your diet — regardless of the reason behind it — you need to make sure that your health comes first. A big part of that is being educated so you can make appropriate decisions, and keeping your doctor in the loop in the event that an issue arises.
Fighting the Hard Fight
Once you get through the transition you might think you’re in the clear, but there is one pet peeve that I want to bring to your attention. I don’t want to focus on the negative though so I’m going to try and keep it short.
Be prepared to frequently be confronted about your choices. There are a lot of people (educated and otherwise) who feel like they need to tell you why what you’re doing is wrong or question every decision you make. There are several ways of dealing with this — some of them not so ‘polite’ — you just have to find the best answers or non-answers for your situation.
You will receive questions like ‘How do you get protein?‘ ‘How do you know you’re healthy?‘ ‘Why are you vegan/vegetarian?‘ ‘Do you really feel like you’re making a difference?‘ As well as comments like ‘You’re so high-maintenance.’ ‘You’re irresponsible.‘ ‘You’re just being picky.’ ‘I don’t agree with what you’re doing.’ etc. etc. etc.
I have several issues with all of these conversations, the first one being that unless I’ve asked you to cook for me, what I eat and the reasons why are none of your GD-business. That being said, a lot of these questions and comments come from a place of misunderstanding, misinformation, and just plain lack of education. So I try to answer the questions honestly and bluntly without going into a whole lecture. I really try hard to not be one of ‘those’ vegans. I don’t want to be preachy – but I also don’t feel the need to stand silent while someone berates me with their unwanted opinions and misinformation.
My favourite answer to the question of “How do you get your protein?/Are you getting enough protein?” is often, “How much protein do you think the average person actually needs?” they may or may not get defensive at this point but again, aside from the fact that it’s really none of their business, I feel like that’s a big question for the ‘un-vegucated’. There are a lot more sources of healthy protein, iron, and all the other vitamins and nutrients we need that don’t come from animal products.
Find Reliable Resources
Find resources that you are comfortable using. There are an abundance of vegan cookbooks, blogs, books, documentaries, etc. that are — for the most part — probably very helpful. But it’s important that you find resources that work into your lifestyle so that you can actually use them. More specifically I’m referring to recipes and cookbooks – there is a lot to choose from that range from 10 minute meals to fancy plant-based dishes with ingredients I’ve never heard of. Some it comes with the territory, as you become more comfortable cooking vegan you’ll begin to see and try new things, but if you’re looking for quick, 30 minute meals for after work, I wouldn’t buy the book that requires hours or days of prep work.
Do you need to use cookbooks? Of course not! I used them — especially at the start — to help ensure that I was getting a balance meal and healthy portions instead of just trying to ‘wing it’ and ending up starving myself. Now that I’m more comfortable with it I frequently go off-book but I still come back to them when I’m looking to try something new or wanting a change. They always come in handy and some of them are just soooo prettyyyy.
In my case, resources often includes inspiration. I get bored of cooking and eating the same meals so I often look for new foods to introduce or new methods of cooking as well as new recipes and combinations of food. Find resources that provide you with this feeling of inspiration and make you excited about your food! Instagram and Pinterest of full of chefs, bloggers and recipe ideas. Use it! Don’t let boredom throw you off track.
Here are some of my favourite resources:
Cookbooks & Blogs
– Oh She Glows: This is a great place to start! Angela has loads of resources for new vegans including how to stock your pantry and foods you should keep on hand. The Oh She Glows cookbook became my bible when I first made the change.
– Thug Kitchen: There’s never a dull moment when reading through the Thug Kitchen cookbooks! I think there are three of them now though I only own the first one. They also discuss some great tips for making the change and the book contains sooo much education and knowledge that it too became a staple in my kitchen.
– Food52: This cookbook has stunning photos and great ideas but I find they require a little bit more work than the other two.
– Minimalist Baker: This blog has some really scrumptious, easy to make recipes that have very few ingredients and don’t result in too many dishes! Not all of her recipes are vegan but there are lots to choose from and things that can be adapted.
– Forks Over Knives: This documentary is about 2 food scientists and their research on how the popularity of processed foods has led to epidemic rates of obesity and disease. They also have their own app and cook book with incredible recipes for a healthy plant based diet.
– Vegucated: This documentary is about a woman who adopted a vegan lifestyle and challenged 3 other New Yorkers to do the same for 30 days, just to see how it would change their eating habits. During the challenge she teaches them what to eat, how to stay healthy, and the impact that a non-vegan lifestyle has on the environment and the animals affected. It’s the only documentary I’ve seen so far that actually describes the struggle of the transition into a vegan lifestyle. A Warning – This documentary does get quite graphic as it takes you inside some of the slaughterhouses and conditions of dairy and egg farms. It was horrible seeing the conditions and the neglect that these animals are subjected to.
– Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead: this one is more about juicing and less about a plant-based lifestyle but there are lots of great points!
I know I have a lot more to say on this subject but I don’t want to overwhelm (or bore) you. So if you have any questions or would like to know more about something please leave a comment.
All the best with your resolutions, plans, goals, and bright new year!
Until next time!