Deciding to go vegan and avoid animal products is life-changing. It’s not always easy to change the things you’ve done all your life, but it can be done and it will be one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and those around you.
When I went vegan back in 2000, I did it overnight after facing the reality that the love I showed the dogs in my life was dramatically different from the way I viewed animals raised for food.
This realization came after losing two dogs to illness, and it was an awakening that would forever change who I was.
Since that time I’ve learned that the avoidance of animal products can expand outwards, not only for the benefit of animals but for the benefit of us all.
New Can Be Overwhelming
During the last 16+ years, I’ve been faced with just about every challenge you would expect after making such a big change:
- What do I eat?
- Can I be healthy?
- What can I wear?
- Can I still use this product?
- How will I enjoy eating at restaurants?
- What about social events?
- How will I raise kids?
- What about my ostomy?
You get the idea. But as I asked these questions I began to realize that being vegan wasn’t as hard as most people would lead you to believe. Despite the lack of resources back in the early 2000’s, I found food to eat, found clothes I could wear, learned how to navigate restaurant menus, etc.
Still, there were things that could have made life easier at the time and I only learned about them after becoming more experienced.
Here are some that I’d like to share with new or soon-to-be vegans.
Depending on the reception of this article, I may expand on more topics – let me know if you want more!
Nobody’s Perfect, but Make Each Action an Intentional One
As a new vegan, I wanted to be perfect. But one thing I should have realized at the time is that perfection is impossible.
It’s true that one day we may never raise another animal for food or clothing, but we may still be causing indirect harm by plowing fields to grow crops.
I will say that dwelling on the idea of perfection is toxic. It only discourages, frustrates, and can anger even the best of us.
Instead, focus on being intentional.
To me, ordering an egg salad sandwich is not the same as ordering a veggie sub only to find out later that the bread was glazed with eggs.
Stuff like this happens, and if we beat ourselves up over these mistakes, we will never be happy.
Do your best to avoid animal products, but accept that some things may be out of your control.
As a vegan ostomate, I have to concede to the fact that many ostomy products will contain animal ingredients. Can I avoid that? Often yes, but if I can’t then I have to accept that.
But rather than feel defeated all the time, I could become proactive in voicing my concerns to manufacturers, supplier, and other people who do have the power to change things.
Man, do I ever wish that YouTube was around when I decided to go vegan!
Just doing a quick search on Google for “vegan recipes” brings up “about 25,000,000 results”, too. Back then, I was lucky to have found 25 vegan recipes, let alone entire websites dedicated to vegan recipes!
The best thing you can do when starting out is to learn.
- Learn about where your food comes from.
- Learn how household products are manufactured.
- Learn where to find vegan products locally or online.
- Learn which alternatives to dairy and eggs are available.
- Learn about things or topics that will keep you motivated and informed.
Ask questions on support forums, in the comment section of a YouTube video, on social media, or email your favorite vegan blogger.
I’ll often contact manufacturers directly to see whether a certain item has animal ingredients or not. Most companies already have the answers on their website (usually in the FAQ’s about their products), but nearly all are willing to give you an answer (the ones who don’t won’t get my business!).
The more you learn, the easier things become. Sharing your knowledge, as well as receiving it, can only strengthen the vegan community!
Don’t be shy to ask questions – there are no bad questions when it comes to veganism. I’ve even answered a bunch in THIS video.
Some books I personally recommend (and own) to get started with veganism and plant-based cooking (Amazon affiliate links ahead):
- Becoming Vegan by Brenda David, RD & Vesanto Melina, RD
- Vegan for Life by Jack Norris, RD & Virginia Messina, RD
- How it All Vegan by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer (my copy of this recipe book has been worn by over 15 years of use!)
- The Garden of Vegan: How it All Vegan Again! by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer (we really love these gals!)
Take Time to Experiment
This one is important.
It can be especially difficult to replace a certain product or food that you’ve been used to all your life. My suggestion is to experiment with what’s available and find something similar (and often better) than what you’re letting go of.
If you’re someone who loves drinking dairy, know that there are dozens of non-dairy options to choose: soy milk, hemp milk, cashew milk, quinoa milk, hazelnut milk, rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, almond milk, “veggie milk”, etc.
Not only are alternatives to cow’s milk available, but each brand has their own unique flavor for each of these types of non-dairy milk – you literally have hundreds of flavors to choose from, and you won’t be stuck with the same old taste.
If you use eggs when baking, there are many of substitutes you can use. And if you traditionally love scrambled eggs, there are so many amazing “tofu scrambles” recipes around – try them all!
Love yourself a good burger? Know that some of the best tasting burgers you’ll ever have contains no meat (and they’re way healthier for you!).
You can find alternatives to just about every product around:
- Ostomy supplies.
- Dairy, meat, and eggs.
- Cleaning products.
- Personal care products.
- Wine and other alcohol.
- And more.
You can often find brands and product listings for vegan products or “accidentally vegan” products (did you know that Oreo cookies are vegan?) on many different websites.
If you try a product that doesn’t work for you, try something else. Don’t like the taste of frozen veggie burgers? Find a recipe to try at home.
Veganism shouldn’t be a compromise, so take the time to find foods or products that work for you and you’ll never look back!
Ignore the Drama
I hate to even have to bring this point up, but sadly it’s something that needs to be addressed.
There’s a lot of vegan drama on the internet. When I say drama, I don’t mean between vegans and non-vegans – I’m talking about one vegan publically shaming another vegan’s lack of “vegan-ness”, or nitpicking on certain aspects of another vegan’s life.
While YouTube is often a wealth of information for vegans, it can also be the most toxic, frustrating place to be if you get caught in a public battle between self-proclaimed “vegan gurus”.
My best advice is to ignore it. This drama won’t help you and it doesn’t help animals.
Find people who are passionate about sharing their story, recipes, fashion tips, etc., but avoid the ones who are out to get the most views without any regard for civility.
Going vegan can open up an entirely new world for you – one that’s not filled with guilt and one that’s better for you and the planet.
While there will be challenges, most can be avoided or easily handled by knowing what to look for.
In addition to the tips I’ve listed above please check out some of my favorite vegan resources, YouTube channels, and recipe sites HERE.