Save the cows. Eat more beans. No, you can’t have eggs! If you’re like me, I’m sure that you’ve heard the different taglines and watched all of the movies about how great it is to be a vegan. As a vegan who has enjoyed a plant-based diet for over three years, I can easily admit that it has been one of the most fulfilling decisions that I have ever made while also proving to be among the most difficult.
Eating a plant-based diet affords many nutritional benefits and I firmly believe that eliminating meat and animal by-products from my daily meals has played a huge role in giving me more energy and reducing the chronic fatigue that I suffered with for years.
However, it has become apparent to me that there are many people adopting a plant-based diet as another fad or as a strategy to quickly lose weight.
As someone who has been through all of the biggest fads in the diet industry, I can sincerely say that being a vegan is not a decision that should be made carelessly. It is something that will change the way you live and even how you think.
Before you jump into a vegan diet there are 5 questions that you should ask yourself to ensure that you are fully prepared to make the right decision:
Does this decision fit my lifestyle while supporting my core values?
Adopting a vegan lifestyle is more than just what you consume. It involves the way that you mentally process ideas.
At my core I strictly believe that we are not meant to eat animals or their by-products. Yet, I have nothing against folks who believe otherwise.
I understand that what I value may be different than what others do, and accept that my choices in life will align with the ideas that I support.
Am I prepared to think outside of the box when eating out?
One of the most difficult situations that you will encounter when you become a herbivore is the awkward feeling of dining out with family and friends. When you first start out, it will feel like there are almost no options for you at most places that you go to eat.
You will have to put each server through a quick interrogation to make sure that each element of the dish has nothing that you aren’t allowed to consume.
It might be painful at first but very much worth it. Over time you will learn how to deal with this, create a list of go-to restaurants and even develop relationships with a few incredible members of the staff at the places that you choose to dine.
Until then you must be aware that this is something you will assuredly have to deal with.
Do I have a plan in place to ensure that I am able to satisfy my daily dietary needs?
Almost every vegetarian or vegan faces the challenge of supplementing their diet with enough iron and protein. When you lived your omnivorous lifestyle, it seemed so easy.
A succulent prime rib dinner gave you a robust serving of protein and left you feeling full and completely satisfied.
Now, you will have to be a lot more creative when it comes to ensuring that your nutritional needs are met through other means. You'll have to learn how to be more creative with your meals to achieve all of your dietary needs.
I added organic protein bars and learned how to make high powered smoothies using vegan friendly protein powders that are very nutritious. If you live an active lifestyle this will be extremely important , because you need to have a plan in place or your chances of success will be slim.
Will my spouse/life partner support my decision?
I don’t know what I would have done when I decided to become a vegan if my husband was not fully supportive of my decision.
Although he hasn’t chosen a fully plant-based diet, he has been instrumental in my success by helping with meal prep and even making my breakfast smoothie on days when I’m running late for work.
I can’t imagine how difficult this lifestyle change would have been if he had not been there to lean on during the tough days or even worse, if he did not agree with my decision. .
I know many people who have relationships that suffer when they decide to become vegan because their partner simply doesn’t understand why they’re suddenly acting “differently”.
Having a talk with your spouse prior to making this decision will help you avoid potential pitfalls down the road.
Can I actually see myself eating this way one year from now?
Like many other new things that we try out, starting a different diet will undoubtedly be exciting. You will be amazed at the fresh jolt of energy that you have and feel as if you are making a great difference in the world.
The challenge with this is that all new things become commonplace after a while and the feeling of excitement can easily fizzle out. This isn’t a short-term play or an intermittent fast, it is a lifestyle choice.
It can be so easy to join the latest fads or allow a rollercoaster of emotions to drive you into eating a plant-based diet, but sticking with it long enough to actually enjoy the long-term benefits is another story.
I’ve seen many of my closest friends become vegans simply because they felt guilty after watching heart-wrenching movies but that’s not quite enough to sustain the logistics for a major life change that will become part of the way you eat every day.
Don’t count on emotion or think with a short-term mindset. Focus on the long-term and make the decision that you believe will align best with your life’s goals. If you can’t see yourself eating this way in the long run, then ease into it by enjoying at least one or two plant-based meals a week. A few vegan meals here and there are better than none, and this definitely doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision!
Contributed by Sara Jane Adkins, a writer, food-lover and mother. Founder of Natural Healthy Living, she inspires people to become more nutritionally conscious while still enjoying the foods that they love to eat. Her articles have appeared on Calorie Count, Share Care, Healthy Fit Natural, and the Chicago Tribune. Download her free guide 5 Simple Steps to Naturally Becoming a Healthier You.