There are many stages to becoming vegan, and I’ve personally discovered at least eight of those in my own journey to better health. Whether you’re screaming about animal rights at the top of your lungs or disgusted by the state of animal slaughterhouses in the U.S., there are plenty of phases throughout your personal path to veganism. I embraced some of the stages and completely fumbled my way through a few, as well. Learn from your own experiences, and feel free to nod your head in solidarity at some of the things we probably had in common.
Stage One: Denial
After the first time that I watched Forks Over Knives, there was definitely some skepticism in my mind. How could eating animals be bad for your health?! It started to make sense when I realized that many of the people I knew growing up were now sick and dealing with some health issues including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and weight gain. With more research, you begin to realize that the decision to pass up animal products could be a great thing for you, your family, your environment, and for the overall improvement of your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Stage Two: Utter disgust with animal products
Once you make the decision to go plant-based or vegan, you then want to rid your entire life of all forms of animal products, including the strips of bacon in your refrigerator, the tub of butter, the carton of eggs, and every other processed animal products that is lurking in your pantry. In one fell swoop, I cleared out my pantry completely and had to retrain myself for how to shop. Luckily, it’s now easier than ever to run into the store since I’m skipping most of the aisles I used to frequent.
Stage Three: Becoming the annoying evangelical vegan
With the new information I then had, it was only natural to inform everyone I came in contact with during those first few months of how horrible their diet was and why everyone should become vegan. While I tried to sit by quietly as people ate their food, many were curious and asked for my opinion on several animal products. I learned that being abrasive and forward about the food choices in front of others wasn’t really the best route to try when discussing why I’m vegan. Hint: lead by example!
Stage Four: Researching animal rights and evolving into an ethical vegan
Early on in my journey, I picked up Skinny Bitch and was horrified by the chapter that described interviews with the workers from slaughterhouses. What we can’t see can’t hurt us, but it’s turning the blind eye that really takes the guilt out of the equation. Even I couldn’t get more than halfway through Earthlings before I almost cried and was nauseous all at the same time. Waking up to this was truly great for me to bring more peace into my life with my own decisions and beliefs.
Stage Five: Accepting that not everyone will go vegan
While omnivores offer to eat my share of meat for me during dinner, I have come to a conclusion that I can’t convert everyone. There are other vegans out there who will say something anytime there is an opportunity to voice their opinion on someone else’s dinner choice, but I am not one of those people. I am doing this for me, but know that I can’t force change on anyone. Heck, I’ve even tried to change my mother’s eating habits to help her reverse her diabetes, but that is just not going to work unless the other person is open to change and ready to make those decisions for themselves. My energy is better used elsewhere.
Stage Six: Settling in to what veganism means to you
After you’ve accepted that things will be the way they are, you start to realize that your journey may have had some unexpected twists and turns. In the beginning, people would ask me if I cared about animal rights and I bluntly said, “No!” I would say, “I don’t care about the cows or chickens; I’m doing this for my health!” Then, I started to do the research and found that yes, I did care about the animals. And that’s okay! You don’t have to know where your journey will take you, and some will end up on different paths, but each journey will happen on its own, without being forced upon you by others.
Stage Seven: Sharing only when asked
I’ve found great success in bringing in some yummy baked goods or treats to co-workers, family, and friends rather than trying to scream about animal rights to anyone who will listen. Many people are genuinely curious, and it’s my duty to give honest, full answers and not skirt around the issues. I plainly state why I went vegan (dropped 80 points in my cholesterol, lost 30+ lbs. in six months, and gained back some self-confidence). What I’m doing is personally challenging because it’s not the mainstream way of thinking (yet!).
Stage Eight: Becoming your own person
I’m finally settling in to the final stage of veganism, which is finding myself as a person. This month I turned 26, and with that bump into the late 20’s age bracket, I realized that I’m starting to grow up. I’m not who I was ten years ago and I finally feel like I’ve found myself, no matter how cliché that may sound. There are so many things that I’ve learned throughout this journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Things can’t be unlearned, and I won’t revert back to my old diet. Being surrounded by people who accept you is key, so be sure to find those people to help you stay strong in this lifestyle!
Which stage are you in? Let me hear about it below, and tell me which stage you’ve found the most difficult.