I was reflecting today that it’s 12 years since i first decided to stop eating animal products and become a plant-based enthusiast. In truth, it was a gradual process and pretty easy as I was never a big meat eater, had stopped eating dairy when I was 21 and so the final leap to veganism was perhaps easier than it could have been.
Here are 6 lessons I have learnt over this long period that I wanted to share as I know many people are shifting their food choices to a more plant-based diet, driven by a desire for better personal health and environmental health.
Research shows that Australia topped Google’s worldwide searches for the word ‘Vegan’ and we have seen membership of the private ‘Vegans in Australia’ Facebook group grown from 22k member to 53k in 2017. However, the data also shows that it can be hard to stick to a vegan diet. In fact, only 15% of vegans are still vegan after five years.
If you new to veganism, considering a more ‘flexitarian’ diet with at least one meat-free day to start, here are some personal insights gained from the last 12 years:
- Food is a very emotional topic. People don’t like change, so don’t push it down people’s throats, and try to convert people as that can be off-putting. I was super enthusiastic when I changed and my awareness shifted and I wanted to ‘save everyone’. When I calmed down, I became much a much more effective influencer.
- Keep a journal – when you upgrade your diet, your upgrade your whole life as food is the very foundation of who we are. Over time, you forget what you were like before, your normal changes. By keeping good notes you can go back and see how far you have travelled. My physical and mental energy went through the roof after an initial period of detox (horrible), and has remained consistently high.
- Everyone will ask you ‘where do you get your protein from?’, so have a ready answer to this one and don’t get defensive. The truth is that plants have huge amounts of protein which is where the animals get it in the first place. We also don’t need nearly as much protein as the food and fitness industry will lead us to believe. If you want to get deeper into the data, read the China Study: The most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. Read it and buy it as gifts for everyone.
- Avoid sensitive conversations. When i first became a vegan, I was head of marketing for Farmers Weekly, the leading journal for farmers in the UK. I remember attending the 2006 Farmers Weekly awards and was sat between the head of the dairy council on one side and the meat board on the other. I kept my personal views to my self.
- Buy a blender. I bought a very expensive, super dooper, vitamix blender in 2006. I have used it every single day since then and would recommend it to anyone. I use it for smoothies, soups, nut butters, cakes. You need the tools to create delicious foods. Food has to taste good.
- Make it fun. The word veganism has political connotations and that’s why I tend not to use it these days, describing myself as a plant-powered enthusiast who eats every part of a plant. On top of that, vegans are perceived as really boring, living on rabbit food which is far inferior to meat. The truth is very different, but this is how meat lovers will see it.
So, there you have it, a few lessons that will hopefully help you embrace more plants in your diet. My whole family are now plant-based enthusiasts, but that has taken a while! Enjoy the journey!