I wanted to write this blog because I've been seeing more and more people on Facebook and Twitter going veg or attempting to go veg, and I thought I could share some of the things that I've learned over my 5+ years of being vegan so far. There are a lot of little things that I think add up to giving someone the best chance of succeeding when they try.
- Educate yourself on where your food comes from. Such as what companies control the majority of the food supply and how things are ran in factory farms. You'll not only find the atrocious behavior of humans to the animals in the product line, but you'll also find out about the terrible conditions that the workers must endure to bring this massive amount of meat to the public. The more you know, the better your chances are of finding out what you can not support anymore, and there is plenty in the factory farm industry, as well as the so called "humane" and "organic" meat industries.
- Realize that your tastes will change. Just because you don't like some of the food now does not mean that you won't in the future. As we grow older, our tastes change naturally. You've been used to certain tastes all of your life, and you're embarking on an adventure that will bring you unfamiliar tastes. It's okay to not like them right away. I didn't like quite a bit of the food when I started that I now crave.
- Don't beat yourself up for craving meat or wanting to eat meat. Again, you've practically been addicted to it for your entire life and you have more enablers than any alcoholic could ever hope to have. It might be tough for you, but do the best you can and continue learning.
- Realize that every purchase you make from here on out is making a difference. It's the one thing you can do without having to protest or picket that is making a difference each and every time you go to the grocery store. Money is a powerful bargaining tool in the way animals will be treated in the future, and you're using that tool every time you refuse to buy that which supports cruelty.
- When I still craved meat in the early days of my veganism, I tried to create my own pavlov's reaction to seeing meat. When I would see a burger, I would think of all that I learned about where that cow came from and what it's life was like. This made me hold off my cravings and instead go for something more compassionate. I might not have loved the food at the time, but everything taste's better with compassion. (Oh, so corny, I know.)
- If you ever get the chance, go visit farmed animals or the rescues. If you live near a sanctuary or someone that has animals that are outside of your usual domesticated frame of reference, go visit them and get to know them. One of the things that I've seen that makes people stick with their vegetarian choice is actually meeting the animals they would have eaten. For the first 3 years of my veganism, it was a straight logical decision. I was almost like an intellectual vegan hostage for a little while. "Well, fuck. I guess I can't support this shit anymore," is what I would think. However, after visiting Farm Sanctuary, interning there, and helping raise two adopted pigs, I am not a more concerned and emotionally invested vegan. Seeing the happiness in their faces makes me realize what 50 billion other animals on this planet are going through this year.
- Think of it as getting in touch with your inner child's heart. We used to love animals and care for their well-being. When we were children, we wouldn't dare hurt an animal or let someone hurt an animal. But somewhere along the line, we were changed by the people and the adults in our lives. We lost our heart along the way, and we need to get it back.
- If you're buying meat substitutes, try judging them on their own accord. People make the mistake of expecting meat substitutes to taste exactly like the real thing. I bet you if you try it without that preconceived notion and just try it as it is then you'll probably like it better.
- Some meat is easier to "fake" than others. Slicked turkey, chicken, chicken nuggets, poultry. These are relatively close to the original thing. Tofurkey is a great brand for people just getting into the scene. Their lunch"meat" is quite good, I think. The sausages need to be judged on their own accord.
- Again, don't be ashamed or brokenhearted if it doesn't seem to be "clicking" for you right away. Some people take time to adjust to a new lifestyle.
- If you live in WV or rural places, Kroger's is a great store to check out. They have an entire veg and health-food section. If you're in Fairmont, WV, Speedway market on eastside is ran by vegetarians, and they have fresh produce as well as a vegeterian freezer section. And if you ask them for it, they have a giant cookbook of donated vegeterian recipes. Many that I've tried are really good.
- There are a lot of vegan and vegetarian food and clothing stores online if you ever want to splurge and get something a little crazier or harder to find. I want to go to Whole Foods in Pittsburgh soon and stock up on a bunch of convenience food.
- Convenience food for vegs is getting easier to find. At Kroger's they do have more microwaveable stuff. It's getting easier to find, though. Wal-Mart has started carrying Amy's brand stuff.
- If you go to Barnes n Noble or Amazon or any bookstore, you'll find countless books on vegetarianism and vegetarian cooking. I have the book Veganomicon, and I still use it to try new recipes because it's enormous. There are even plenty of books on quick and easy vegetarian, so you don't have to worry about spending a lot of time cooking.
- Think of this as an adventure. People always ask us, "What do you eat?!" Well, I don't eat meat, cheese, milk, and eggs. Ummmm, everything else, I eat. There is a huge world of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc out there. Trust me, you won't run out of things to try. With the growing veg population in America, there are new things hitting the market quicker now. Think of it as getting out of a meat-rut and exploring whole new cuisines and cooking styles. Have fun with it. Be excited to learn a new dish or show off your new food and knowledge.
- Find people on similar paths. Read, write, talk. Not that going veg is hard, but every thing is easier when you have friends in the same boat. There are plenty of places online that help people on these journeys.
- Don't let other people get you down about your choice. There are a lot of assholes in the world, and they don't want to be threatened with seeing somebody that's seen the horrors and has chosen to act accordingly while they won't. If you've educated yourself enough about where your food comes from, you will feel more confident that you've made the right choice.
- Try making vegetarian versions of some of your favorite meals. You may not like them at first, or you may love them. I still have the occasional "meatball" sub and such. When I started, though, a lot of my favorite foods was just meat. It was hard, or impossible, to make vegetarian versions of it. You can't really find a vegetarian BK Stacker. But as time when on, I've learned to love my new food, and I now have all new dishes that I look forward to and crave consistently. I have more food that I look forward to because my pallet has opened up so much.
- Start visiting Farmer's Markets if you don't already. It's really fun, and you get to meet people that are growing food locally and in season. It probably tastes really good, too.
- If you want to use it as a starting point to being healthier, too, go ahead. As long as you pay a slight bit off attention to getting protein and such, you'll be good to go. You could even track your health progress as time goes on and maybe that'll help you stick to it easier.
Postscript: If you're veg on Facebook, feel free to comment on here and leave any advice that you have that you think I glossed over, or any advice that really helped you start out.