Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is as gentle as real strength.
Ralph W. Sockman
It often happens with a tugging on the heartstrings. A small, quiet voice questioning why and a sense that it doesn’t have to be this way. That’s how it begun for me. My journey towards veganism didn’t happen in a single straight line. It was more like a series of squiggles on a upward trajectory, finally reaching where I am today.
There were moments of awareness over the years where I found myself questioning why I ate meat. I remember being in the Karroo town of Nieu Bethesda, admiring the sweet lambs in the veld and suddenly being struck by a deep sadness, realising what their fate would be. On the flip side, I remember meeting vegans at University and thinking that it was all a bit extreme. My point is that the process to this place can be complicated, and it is often an awareness that grows over time.
I was lucky enough to have had a friend become vegan six months before I did. She was open and honest about why she became vegan, inviting me into her transition. She inspired me not only to become vegan but to also adopt an open and gentle approach to veganism.
So, why I am I sharing this on my blog? I am writing this piece, because I’ve spoken to many people who empathise with veganism but who are put off by a perceived belief that it’s too difficult and too much admin. That was me five years ago. Heck, that was me a year and a half ago. But if you identify with anything I’ve written so far, here are five things to try if that nudging voice inside of you keeps growing stronger and stronger.
Making small changes to your everyday meals is one of the easiest ways to increase the amount of plant-based foods in your diet, and can help stop you from being overwhelmed by too much change all at once. Think about removing meat or dairy one day a week and go from there. Or you could try changing one meal at a time, having vegan breakfasts during your first week, and then adding a vegan lunch during week two.
Experiment and ‘veganise’ some of your favourite dishes.
Vegan versions of your favourite dishes do have different tastes and textures to what you’re used to, which can take some getting used. But to ease the transition, I’d recommend ‘veganising’ your favorite foods, which can make it that much easier to cut out meat, dairy and eggs. Once I discovered some seriously amazing vegan cheeses and that I could still indulge in my pizza addiction, it became so much easier to forget about dairy.
Embrace the fruit and vegetable aisle
The veggie aisle in Tesco has become one of my favourite places, and the aisle that I’ll spend the most time in when doing my food shopping. Before becoming vegan, I would never experiment with aubergine, artichokes or even samphire. But vegan cooking has ignited my passion for fresh and diverse flavours. When I ate meat I often resorted to easy options like chicken with steamed vegetables, avoiding do anything more with my food. While many people believe that as a Vegan you cut out a lot of food, for me that couldn’t be further from the truth. Being vegan has opened up a new world of flavour and discovery.
Do your homework
I love going out to eat – something which surprises many when they also factor in that I’m vegan. I often get asked how I manage to find food to eat when we go out, or do I just end up eating chips and salad. The world is changing with more restaurants either providing vegan options, like Zizzi’s Pizzas with vegan cheese, or Wagamama with a menu that includes plenty of vegetable dishes and tofu. I’ve learnt to do my homework by googling vegan options at restaurants or calling restaurants ahead of time to make sure that there’s something suitable. It takes all of five minutes to check the menu. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Most restaurants can easily substitute eggs for extra avocado on my breakfast plate or take the cheese off of my pasta. It’s becoming easier and easier to eat compassionately.
Be kind to yourself
Veganism at its core is about love and compassion, and that extends to ourselves as well. When it becomes about rules, most people have a negative experience either with themselves or other vegans. Instead of becoming anxious about eliminating meat, dairy and eggs to become the ‘perfect vegan’, relax and embrace the new flavours and adventures with food. For me, it’s not about striving to be perfect, I know I’m not and there are times when I do accidentally eat something that has butter in it. A vegan lifestyle isn’t the finishing line, but an evolving, loving, gentle and kind process towards a more conscious life.
Lastly, I’d recommend reading Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran. It’s an easy to read, delightful book aimed at people, who like myself, sat on the fence for a long time, unsure about taking the next step.
I’d like to end this post by saying that while I wrote this to hopefully shed some light on how easy it really is to go vegan, it’s also been cathartic to share my hope for a gentler and kinder world for all.