If you’ve recently decided to go vegan, or at least give it a try, you probably already realize that there’s a lot to learn when making this serious lifestyle change. However going vegan can teach you more than you ever imagined. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned after 3 years of being vegan.
1. Your new diet will save you money.
Somewhere along the way, you’ve probably already heard the inevitable chant of the vegan-ignorant: “But vegan food is so expensive!” And it can be. When you’re first transitioning and you find yourself craving cheese or ice cream, you might be disappointed to find that all of the pre-packed, processed vegan cheese and ice creams cost quite a bit more than the average dairy based equivalent. But you’ll soon realize that these special items aren’t necessary, and that when you find yourself having to stick to a tight budget, it’s a lot easier to get by. Beans, rice, and frozen vegetables are some of the cheapest items around and can comprise most of your day-to-day diet if you need to save money. And if you do want to continue to incorporate the sweet treats and familiar foods in your diet, it can be much cheaper – and healthier – to make these things on your own. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Home cooking is your best friend.
When I first went vegan, the extent of my cooking abilities only really covered boiling noodles and making grilled cheese. But soon after making the switch, I realized cooking was a necessity. But the funny thing is, I was suddenly more interested in learning to cook. Vegan cooking gives you a new reason to get creative, and I recommend taking full advantage of it. You can make your own vegan cheese from nuts, ice cream from bananas, and faux meat from wheat gluten, all right at home in your kitchen. You’l also want to learn how to properly cook tofu, steam different vegetables, and properly cook rice. Invest in some vegan cookbooks and start reading up; it will make the difference between being miserable and looking forward to every meal.
3. Going vegan won’t make you lose weight.
Probably the biggest mistake I made in going vegan was assuming that I would lose weight. Six months after going vegan, I realized that I’d actually gained weight. And three years in, it’s still something I struggle with. A vegan diet can make it easier to lose weight, but just like with any lifestyle, it won’t happen without patience, effort, and consciousness. After all, vegan junk food is still junk food.
4. …But it will make you healthier.
Like non-vegan food, vegan food can still be high in fat, carbohydrates, and calories. But even if you’re stuffing your face with vegan cupcakes and mac and cheese, it’s better for you than the non-vegan equivalents. Plant-based alternatives to your favorite foods are going to be cholesterol-free, generally lower in saturated fats, and usually higher in fiber. So whether you gain or lose weight, or maintain your weight, you’ll likely see positive changes in your health. If you’ve suffered from high blood pressure, osteoporosis, vitamin deficiencies, or have been at risk of diabetes or heart disease, you might find that veganism is the “magic pill”.
5. You will become a more compassionate person.
Whether or not you started out as your typical tree-hugging, animal loving vegan, you might find that your new lifestyle fills you with more compassion than you’ve ever had before. Going vegan opens the door to be more aware of animal cruelty and human suffering in the world, and your new lifestyle, by default, makes you a part of a movement that is working to eliminate suffering. The feeling of being part of something so meaningful is bound to leave its mark on your heart forever.
6. The jokes never end.
As soon as you make the decision to go vegan, you’ll notice that people will take it upon themselves to make you the center of every joke. And they get repetitive, quickly. After awhile, you might start to get seriously frustrated and irritated with bacon jokes. But you have to look at the harassment in a positive light; at least your new lifestyle can work as a filter for sorting out who all the morons are in your life. You have to keep reminding yourself that the jokes aren’t personal, and they most likely stem from the person’s own feelings of insecurity or guilt when it comes to their own choices. And after awhile they’ll just roll off your back.
7. You’ll become a more adventurous eater.
Before I went vegan, I was often told by friends that I was the pickiest eater they had ever met. My non-vegan diet was just a handful of bland, American foods rotated again and again. But going vegan opened my eyes to a whole world of new and exciting foods. I found myself frequently dining out at mediterranean restaurants or my local sushi joint. Foods I had never heard of before – like tabbouleh, miso, and tempeh – quickly became regular components of my daily meals. I started experimenting with new spices and seasonings and developed a new craving for hot sauce. To a non-vegan, a plant based diet might seem extreme or restrictive, but once you open your mind to all the possibilities, you’ll never be bored with your food again.
8. There are a lot of small “secret” rewards to a vegan diet.
After going vegan, you’ll probably notice some small changes in your life that you had never considered before. If you’re anything like me, you might notice that you get fewer headaches and stomach aches, that your bowel movements go quite a bit more smoothly, and you might even notice that your overall body odor isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be. Your hair and nails might grow faster and stronger, your skin might clear up, and your breath might get better. You might also notice some of your health problems clearing up. A healthy vegan diet has proven to alleviate asthma symptoms and skin disorders, and even reverse serious illnesses such as cancer and diabetes. These small rewards will suddenly become some of the most important changes in your life, and will only lead you to appreciate your new lifestyle all the more.
9. It is impossible to be 100% cruelty free.
It’s important to try not to transition into your new lifestyle with the weight of the world on your shoulders. If you’ve been newly enlightened about the truth behind what happens in the animal agriculture industry, or how the consumption of animal products affects the environment and exploits human beings for profit, you might find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed. The most important thing to remember is that you’re only one person, and you need to accept that you will make the occasional mistake or fall into a loophole. Unfortunately, navigating life as a vegan in a largely non-vegan world takes immense courage and a great amount of effort. If you make a mistake, learn from it and get back on the wagon. Make peace with the things around you that you do not have the power to change. But at the same time, don’t let what you can’t do, keep you from doing what you can.
10. You will inspire others.
Whether you live a quiet vegan lifestyle, or put yourself in a big position in the vegan community, you will inspire people along the way. There are people who are more inclined to be influenced simply by observing you modestly living out your vegan life, and there are people who will debate you and challenge your beliefs, maybe even for years, but will eventually understand and thank you for your influence later. Just remember to be yourself. There is no special expectation that you need to live up to as a vegan, and in any case, you’re probably making a bigger difference in the world than you could ever know.