How to Turn Veganism From New to Normal
When you make the switch from omnivore to herbivore, slip ups are par for the course. It’s inevitable that you will accidentally eat vegetables cooked in butter, crackers made with milk, or bread baked with eggs.
You may also consciously derail from the vegan train. When a coworker brings in a fresh batch of brownies with the butter, milk, and eggs hidden within the batter, chances are you’ll think to yourself, one slice won’t hurt. And eat it.
It took me a good 8 months to get to the point I’m at now, where I eat vegan without even thinking about it, but it didn’t happen seamlessly. I’ve unintentionally and intentionally eaten non-vegan food a number of times, in the form of seafood (intentional) ice cream cake (intentional), and kimchi (unintentional; kimchi has seafood! Who knew?).
So how have I maintained the vegan lifestyle through all the trials and tribulations that come with the transition? By developing and focusing on these four ideas:
1 - It’s ok to mess up.
I'm still helping the cause if I eat vegan 99.9% of the time. A little bit of butter slipping into my meal isn't going to destroy the environment and counteract all the good I've been doing thus far.
It’s important to forget about the vegan label for a moment, take the pressure off yourself and remember that you don’t need to be a perfect vegan to be a good, well-intentioned human. Simply forgive yourself and move on.
2 - It takes time to develop a new palate.
This attitude ties in with the first, and is especially helpful for newer vegans. You shouldn’t feel like a horrible person if you are drawn to the smell of bacon, miss seafood, or crave that snickers bar you see as you peruse the aisles of the convenience store.
It’s not like your taste buds and preferences change overnight—just have faith that the time will come when you will no longer want those foods. Don’t beat yourself up about non-vegan cravings, show self-love, and trust the process.
3 - It's possible to make a satisfying meal without relying on vegan substitutes.
I definitely overcomplicated things in the beginning by trying to replace all the non-vegan foods I was eating before (yogurt, meat, and cheese) with their vegan equivalents (coconut yogurt, tofurkey, and daiya cheese). However, as the months went by, I slowly faded out substitutes, and instead replaced them with more natural foods (e.g. lentils, tempeh, and nutritional yeast). Don’t get me wrong, I love me some vegan cream cheese or Field Roast sausages, but these substitutes are expensive and unnecessary.
It’s completely possible to make a great dish using natural ingredients. One of my favorite meals to make is a ‘nourish bowl,’ which comes with roasted vegetables, baked sweet potato, rice, beans, and avocado, tied together with a sauce like tahini or Asian dressing.
4 - Veganism is meaningful and impactful not just for the earth, but for my own development.
I became vegan mainly for environmental reasons. I wanted to contribute to a more sustainable world, where we don’t waste millions of gallons of water for beef, or emit so many greenhouse gasses that the earth’s climate changes.
Whenever I had doubts or made a ‘mistake’ in the first few months of going vegan, I always re-focused on why I decided to do this in the first place. This always helped propel me back on the vegan track.
As the months went by, I noticed a growing number of reasons to stick to the lifestyle. I found myself caring more about the treatment of animals (I’ve never been much of an animal lover), I paid more attention to my consumption of products beyond food (like cosmetics and clothing), and I became more aware of the health benefits of eating a vegan diet.
I slowly realized that not only are my collective actions contributing to a more sustainable planet, but they are also contributing to a better me. And honestly, that might ultimately be a more compelling argument for sticking to veganism; while I can’t necessarily see that my boycott of animal products is actually making any difference in global warming, I can see how it is shifting my personal growth and development.