Yet another day of beautiful west coast (BC, Canada) weather. I spent the day at a meeting with my pseudo-boss/client, then ran errands with my husband (CS) in preparation for our move next week. I work as a virtual assistant/website editor/copy-editor from home, which is pretty much my dream job that I have been able to transition into over the last year. Although I am not “using” my university degree, I am much happier pursuing lifestyle over career.

CS and I have been together for ten years now, since I was 15. We are very close and I am fortunate to have a partner who shares my commitment and passion for veganism.  His family embraced vegetarianism when he was 13, so CS was in part responsible for my transition to vegetarianism in my late teens, when I moved in with him. It was largely my impetus that led us to gradually transition into a vegan lifestyle several years later, so we like to joke that we are even now.

While personally, I’ve never had a hard time living a vegan lifestyle, I struggled as a vegetarian to find a healthy balance. I did not crave or want meat, but I had a difficult time letting go of cheese and dairy. I also ate horrendously and smoked, which certainly didn’t help. It wasn’t until the very real issues of IBS, a medical diagnosis of a casein allergy and lactose intolerance, did I question my attachment to cheese. Once I realized how much it negatively affected me and questioned the disconnect between my desire to do no harm to animals and my dairy consumption, was I able to transition into an animal-free diet with ease. What I enjoyed about cheese was the salt, fat and texture, all of which are easily recreated with plant ingredients.

I think I will have to create a whole other series on transitioning to veganism, but when you have already made that transition, I believe that leaving the novelty stage of the diet is important for long-term “stickability”.

2. Leap from the novelty stage of veganism into the “this is my life” stage.

At the beginning, we tend to focus narrowly on what we do not eat as vegans, instead of what we are eating. We also tend to focus solely on the dietary component of veganism, when the lifestyle component is begging for acknowledgment and thought. Part of making veganism work long-term is viewing it as a part of our identities and our daily lives. The novelty of veganism tends to wear off quickly and I have witnessed many go back to their old habits and omnivore diets, simply because they have never moved out of the novelty phase.

While going vegan for a cleanse or spur of the moment because of a documentary may seem noble, it neglects the heart of veganism and the true purpose of its existence – to reduce and minimize needless animal suffering. Unless it is a part of our identities and represents a conscious choice to embrace a more compassionate existence, it will likely become a passing fad diet or worse, a burden.

How do we leave the novelty stage behind? For me, it was a multi-pronged approach of learning to cook, reading about and researching veganism and reforming my self-identity to include a lifestyle that reflected my beliefs and feelings.

I transitioned from a junk-food vegetarian diet into a junk food vegan diet that relied heavily on mock meats and processed foods, but when I began to view veganism as a part of my core being, I wanted to improve how I lived it. I wasn’t just seeking an intellectual and depersonalized ideal of veganism, I was seeking self-improvement and authenticity.  This personalization led me to learn how to cook, experiment with new and exotic ingredients and flavours and become an arm-chair expert on all things vegan nutrition. I improved my life and felt good about it – something that I am not sure I would have done as quickly had I not ventured into veganism in the first place.