I can't believe it's been a full year since I've made the decision to transition to a semi-vegan lifestyle. Becoming vegan has been on my radar for years, but the paint throwing, judgemental extremist always deterred me so, when a very close friend of mine made the transition and created a 40-day challenge (new one started yesterday) at the top of the year, I knew I had to give it a try. The challenge consisted of giving up the consumption of any animal products and going raw for 40-days—raw wasn't and isn't something I have interest in so, I decided to take pieces of the challenge and apply it in the best way that worked for me. That included eliminating meat, dairy, and gluten, and because I have a preexisting stomach condition, it would benefit my overall health. Now, I say semi-vegan because I have not transitioned my lifestyle to completely vegan; I still wear leather, suede, etc., eat [wild] seafood when I need additional protein, and enjoy honey in my tea—doing what works best for me.
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Becoming semi-vegan didn't just change my eating habits and my health, it also changed my outlook on life. I've found myself become interested in holistic medicine and growing in spirituality and meditation. I've also changed most of my beauty/grooming products to be chemical free and avoid anything that is tested on animals. What surprised me the most is the impact it would have on those around me. When I decided to make the switch, I made a commitment to never impose my way of thinking or eating on anyone else, if someone had questions—I'd answer and leave it at that. To my surprise, my partner and mother became interested in it, and both have been meat-free for over six months! While it's only been a year since I've made the switch, I've learned a lot, and I'm sharing with you seven things I learned transitioning to a semi-vegan lifestyle.
I. Learn what YOUR body needs and wants
There's a ton of information out there on what you should eat and what you shouldn't. I found myself down endless rabbit holes time-after-time to only come out more confused than before. I've found the best thing to do is; listen to your body and learn what it needs and wants instead of listening to others half-baked advice. Everyone will have an opinion on what's best for you but remember it is YOUR body and once you become more aware of it, you will begin to understand the inner workings of what benefits it.
II. You don't have to give up your favorite food
When I made the switch, I feared I would have to give up my favorite foods—fried chicken, pizza, and tacos—but after a few experiments, I found great alternatives to those things I once loved. It's easy to become a junk-food vegan because there are a lot of prepacked foods that read vegan, but when you look at the ingredients it's full of nothing but processed chemicals—AVOID THEM. Pinterest became my favorite tool to find ways not to feel deprived and make mealtime fun; use it as a tool to try different foods and finds ways to experiment with alternatives.
III. Explore and learn
Research is essential and can become annoying, but if you want to make this transition long-term, continue to do research. Many products contain ingredients—whey, honey, pollen, casein, and more—that are not vegan so, if you want to meet the requirements for a vegan diet, these are things you want to make sure you don't accidentally buy. Also, explore new foods; jackfruit—something I would have never tried—has become my go-to when replacing meat in my favorite dishes.
IV. Consistency is key
In the first few weeks, it's easy to fall off, but like anything else, consistency will keep you on track and get you results. Many times I wanted to have a small taste of something, but I stayed true to the challenge and did not give into temptation. After a few months, the temptation and cravings went away, and now, the sight and smell of meat makes me nauseous. So, stick with it!
V. ALWAYS prepare
I'm always on the run so, I quickly learned to prepare ahead of time. If I'm going to be out all day, I make sure to eat something before I leave the house and find a restaurant that's in the vicinity of where I'm going. Also, if I'm going to someone's house for a dinner party, I bring a dish or two that's vegan-friendly; this eliminates the pressure on the hostess and avoids you from sitting there with nothing to eat. I also encourage you to outline your meals before you grocery shop because many ingredients are fresh fruits and veggies; this helps you eliminate waste and saves you time during the week.
VI. You will see changes
When I went into the challenge and now the lifestyle, I did not do it to lose weight or for any other changes other than overall health. However, there are changes you will see if you remain consistent.
• Weight-loss - Because you've removed animal products and hopefully processed foods, you will naturally see weight-loss. Your body will adjust in the first few weeks by removing excess waste and toxins; this is normal.
• Clearer skin - I've made it no secret that I struggle with problematic skin, and I've heard the benefits of ditching meat and dairy but remained skeptical until now. Almost overnight, my skin went from weekly breakouts to healthy-looking skin and [almost] no irritation.
• Taste buds & cravings - Now that I'm a year in, my taste buds and cravings have changed. I've noticed, once you give up meat and dairy, you stop craving sugary foods and start craving salty ones. You'll also find that foods you once hated, you may now enjoy.
VII. The hardest part
I've found the transition to be [fairly] easy, but, for me, the hardest part was having to go out and have limited options. I'm a foodie, and I love to eat, but many restaurants do not cater to a vegan-lifestyle so, you often have to create your own meals with the expectation that it will be all sides.
Changing your diet and lifestyle can be hard and overwhelming; I had no blueprint or plan going in, but I stuck with it and happy with the results. I don't believe in resolutions, but this year my goal is to limit my sugar intake and get back to the gym and bulk up. What is your goal for the New Year? Let's chat about it in the comments or over on social!