Watching vegans on YouTube has been a guilty pleasure of mine for about a year now. You may not realize this (because you are a normal person), but there is a great deal of vegan drama on YouTube. It’s no surprise that this drama hooked me; I am a lover of all things Real Housewives after all.
Aside from the entertainment value, these vegans embodied all the terrible stereotypes: angry, preachy, condescending. I suppose they convert some people, but they never inspired me to switch to a plant-based diet.
More recently I stumbled upon a different kind of vegan: the happy kind. These vegans weren’t interested in making you feel like human garbage for eating animal products. Instead, they focused on all the wonderful benefits of a plant-based diet. They talked about how doable it was, how it could be economical, how it was better for the individual as well as the environment at large. I was intrigued but still convinced that if I stopped eating meat, I would starve. A life without meat meant a life of salad and roasted vegetables to me. Why did I think this? I have no idea, but I was very concerned.
When I talked about my goals for 2018, I mentioned that I wanted to decrease my intake of animal protein. When I wrote that post I had every intention of transitioning very slowly. After all, I started my year with a Whole30 round and Whole30 is nothing if not meat heavy. I decided that after my thirty days were up, I’d begin my gradual decrease in animal protein.
Fast forward to day 11 or 12. I felt sick, bloated, miserably full, and generally terrible after eating chicken for lunch. It’s true that some of this can be expected in the first few weeks of the Whole30. This wasn’t a new feeling, though. I could recount multiple occasions over the past several months where I felt exactly this way after a modest amount of animal protein. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and what I’ve come to call meat fatigue. The very thought of having to eat meat three times a day for several more weeks made me want to vomit a little and completely give up on the Whole30.
Making the Switch
Thankfully, there is a vegetarian version of the Whole30, so I didn’t have to give up completely. Even though I was eager to stop eating meat, the prospect of completely overhauling my diet was daunting. Here’s what has worked for me so far and if you’re considering going vegetarian or simply decreasing your animal intake, these steps will make the process go much more smoothly.
HarassAsk for help from other plant-based eaters. I sent messages to everyone I could who had any experience eating a plant-based diet. Former co-workers. Total strangers. Nice vegans I’d watched on YouTube. EVERYONE. What I learned is that I’m like a dog with a bone when I want something, AND people are often thrilled to help you if they can. I got responses from everyone I messaged and they were all incredibly encouraging. Some recommended a few vegan cookbooks or recipes. Some merely assured me that I was making the right choice and that it wasn’t as terrifying as it seemed.
- Gradually transition. Out of everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to, this is the one thing they agree on. Certainly, you can decide to switch to a plant-based diet on Tuesday and start full-force on Wednesday, but that’s not recommended. For one, you will overwhelm your digestive system; you’re eliminating meat and adding a lot of fiber. This will not end well.
On top of that, such a big change can be unnerving. You’re learning an entirely new way to eat; you won’t be an expert straight away. I started by only eating meat once a day instead of two or three. When that seemed manageable, I tried to go an entire day without animal protein.
The More You Know
- Do your homework. How do I prepare plant-based proteins? What options do I even have for plant-based proteins? How much produce will I need for a week? How much is this going to cost me? There are a lot of things to consider, and it’s important to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before making the leap to a plant-based diet. Cliché or not, knowledge is power, and the more you know the less likely you are to be thrown off track. I’m a research junkie, so I love this part, but I spent a considerable amount of time learning about what to expect from my new diet. I wanted to know what I could expect tempeh to taste like and why it was superior to tofu. I wanted to know what the heck a lentil was and how I might vary my vegetable dishes so that they’d function as a main course and not a side.
- Utilize Your Resources. There are countless websites, cookbooks, and Pinterest recipes for vegans or vegetarians. Use them. Minimalist Baker is a great example of this. She isn’t vegan, but the majority of her recipes are vegan-friendly and gluten-free. They all look and sound delicious too AND have fewer than 10 ingredients. A couple of things from her I can’t wait to try are her sun-dried tomato chickpea burgers and her buckwheat crepes.
I have also bought three vegan cookbooks off of Amazon that I’m eager to crack open.
Just to be clear, I am not a vegan, nor do I anticipate that I ever will be. That’s a level of commitment I’m not sure I’m capable of and it goes well beyond diet. Also, my decision to cut back on animal protein is almost exclusively for health reasons. A lot of people do it because they can’t rectify loving animals while also eating them. I don’t really like any animals, but even I think we over-consume them.
For the time being I’m still eating eggs and seafood. Maybe that will continue forever or maybe I’ll eventually eliminate those as well. This is still a very new and evolving process for me, so I plan to see where it leads and not put a ton of pressure on myself. Also, in the highly unlikely event I become one of those people who constantly talks about NOT eating meat or is otherwise obnoxious about food, punch me. It’s fine. I will deserve it.
I want to know: Have you ever dramatically changed your diet (or anything for that matter)? How did you make the switch?