Hello! I’m Nicola, I’m 26, and I’m a brand new vegan. (Hurrah!) It is something which has become incredibly important to me and for the past few months I have felt more inspired by the vegan community every day. But the thought of adjusting my entire lifestyle was pretty overwhelming at first, and it’s easy to feel intimidated by how much there is to learn. It is a big change, but I know it’s the best and most important change I will ever make. And if I can do it, anybody can!
So, what is a vegan? If you asked me that a year ago, I can honestly tell you – I wouldn’t have had a clue. I’d encountered a handful of vegetarians over the years and I can vividly remember rolling my eyes when I saw their lunch, picking apart their meal choices and saying the words “It’s not a proper meal if there’s no meat!” I shudder thinking back on those times, when I knew nothing about the cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industry. But I think it’s so important to keep in mind what I once thought of vegetarians, especially when I’m faced with someone now who doesn’t quite understand “that whole Vegan Thing”.
My sister is a massive inspiration to me. She became vegetarian a few years ago and was the first person to really make me question myself and my choices. I began to ask more questions and my curiosity about veganism began to grow. A few of my vegan friends recommended I watch some documentaries on Netflix… and that was the moment my whole life changed. I still remember the second Cowspiracy finished, and how I just sat there in silence, trying to comprehend what I had seen. I was furious that I had gone my entire life without knowing any of this information and literally spent days afterwards YouTubing vegan documentaries, educating myself on the reality of the meat and dairy industry. There was no way I could turn a blind eye to what I’d seen. I had to make the change.
It definitely felt daunting. I didn’t even know where to start. I had been eating meat and dairy my entire life, so what would I eat now? What would my friends think? Would my boyfriend and I still be able to have dinner together? It is a big adjustment when you’re stuck in your ways and it’s easy to feel intimidated when you realise how many areas of your life you will be changing. But the second I began actually making those changes, I realised that I wasn’t ‘giving up’ anything at all! Instead, I was discovering a whole new world filled with the most amazing food (let’s all just take a second here to appreciate falafel and humus guys) and products, which no one had to suffer for me to enjoy! Win!
Yes, unfortunately you will probably encounter some less than understanding folks. I’ve actually had somebody say to me “You’ll just have to eat the meat Nicola if there’s no meat-free option” and my personal favourite, “So you just live on carrots then?” Most days I can brush it off, but on the days I find myself feeling down, I pick up my phone and remind myself of that massive vegan community out there and the amazing positive impact my choices are having!
So for anyone at the start of their vegan journey, I thought I would share a few little tips that have really helped me.
1. Educate yourself.
Watch the documentaries, as hard as it may be. Realise you’re making an amazing, powerful decision to help save the animals, save the earth and improve your own health. There are so many incredible YouTube videos out there too (like ‘101 Reasons to go Vegan’ and pretty much anything Emily from ‘Bite Size Vegan’ makes). Once you watch footage of what goes on in a slaughterhouse, I promise you won’t be craving those burgers again.
2. Know your stuff.
You will inevitably get questions. (A lot of them.) And that’s perfectly fine! People are understandably curious when faced with a concept so drastically different to what they’re used to. So just make sure you’re prepared with all of the facts so you can confidently state your case. (Oh and try not to get too heated if you can. I’m still practising that one.)
3. Get inspired.
One of the most daunting things for me was thinking what on earth I would eat?! Before, I couldn’t imagine going a day without meat and dairy, so suddenly facing a weekly meal planner felt pretty intimidating. I was recommended lots of amazing Instagram and YouTube accounts filled with delicious recipes (check out ‘The Vegan Corner’ Yum!) and I instantly realised that vegans eat a hell of a lot more than raw carrots.
Realising there was a whole community out there filled with like-minded people was the best feeling in the world. Twitter and Instagram are filled will positive, happy vegans spreading their message and supporting one another. I loved attending Vegan Connections and I remember being surrounded by incredibly inspiring speakers and delicious vegan treats, and it sinking in that I’m definitely not alone in this. Get yourself along to vegan events and get mingling!
Hopefully, this is useful for anyone making steps towards a vegan lifestyle. I know I have a long way to go and a lot more to learn, but I couldn’t be more excited for my vegan journey!