I believe everyone should at least try to make their decisions with a bit of thought and maybe even a bit of preparation. While I think that deciding to “go vegan” is an awesome decision, I want everyone to realize that there is no set timeline to do so. Sustainable diet and lifestyle changes tend to happen incrementally and most long-term vegans I have encountered made the transition over several months to several years. Even increasing the ratio of plants to animal products in a diet is commendable and I do believe it makes a difference to not only the animals, but to the environment and even your health.
I wanted to wrap up the forever vegan tips by discussing some of the more practical aspects of staying vegan.
3. Do not be afraid of supplements and take B12 (because your life actually depends on it).
I want to dramatically emphasize the absolute necessity of taking supplemental B12 to vegans. B12 is a vitamin created by bacteria, which when you cease to eat animals or animal secretions, you are no longer eating things that contain this bacteria produced vitamin. It’s a vital and very important vitamin – deficiency can lead to things like permanent nerve damage, paralysis, blindness and more. I will refer you to registered dietician Jack Norris’ site for more information on B12 and how to take it.
I’ve encountered vegans and omnivores who have an extreme phobia of taking supplements. They feel it is somehow “unnatural” or damaging. Natural is a very subjective term – you can take almost anything we do today and pass judgment on whether it is natural or not. Yes, taking supplements is not something we did 5000 years ago, but dying at age 30 was. Of course, I love to eat more “natural” foods and pursue an idealized sense of nature, but I try and not get attached to the label or the idea of something being natural.
Supplements and isolated vitamins are human-made tools to assist us in preventing deficiencies, treat our ills or make life a little simpler. While taking a multivitamin is no replacement for good diet, it certainly helps, so if you find yourself not eating up to par all of the time (as we all do), it may be worthwhile to take a good quality vegan multivitamin everyday or supplement with the vitamin or mineral you may be lacking. In the case of veganism, B12 takes center stage as a must-have vitamin.
4. Reach out and participate in the vegan community.
Whether it be through blogging, pot lucks, meet-ups, pod casts, websites or protests, there is certainly no lack of activities and ways in which you can connect with fellow vegans. Creating connections helps us feel a part of something greater, which can be a huge help to maintaining a vegan lifestyle long-term. Personally, I’ve found the connections I’ve made through online channels to be invaluable.
5. Read, research and learn.
Unless you have the knowledge base, it becomes incredibly difficult to navigate the non-vegan world as a vegan. I find that the adage of “knowledge is power” rings true in particular for staying vegan. The more you understand your dietary and lifestyle choice, the more personal it becomes and the better equipped you are to deal with the ups and downs. It also helps to learn about your dietary options, discover new recipes or find out where you can buy awesome vegan shoes, plus you may end up creating lasting connections in the process.
6. Learn to prepare your own food and to cook.
Like moving out of the novelty stage of veganism, it’s good to move out of the junk-food vegan stage as well – not just for your veganism, but also for your health. Junk foods and processed foods can still be a part of your life, but on a day-to-day level, you need to be able to make yourself meals or being vegan can become costly and overwhelming very quickly.
I conquered my fear of the kitchen and cooking in general through a very gradual process. I started by watching my husband cook and prepare recipes, then started to help him and eventually, he became the sous-chef and I the cook! Recipe sites, recipe books and having a well stocked pantry certainly help ease the process. Don’t expect to want to learn to cook when you have to start off making a complex and unfamiliar dish, so start simple. Even if you feel you don’t have the time or aren’t all that interested in cooking, you can help yourself a lot by making basic things like steamed vegetables, baked tofu and brown rice. Also investing in time-saving small appliances or kitchen gadgets helps. When you can prepare yourself delicious vegan meals, you are less likely to falter and more likely to feel good about your vegan lifestyle.
Well that’s the end of my forever vegan tips, I am sure I will elaborate and discuss some of these tips more in the future.