6 Lessons Learned In 6 Years Of My Vegan Journey
October marks my Veganniversary. As of 2021, I’ve been on this vegan journey for six years.
I remember the moment I decided to not buy animal-based products anymore.
I was on an 18-hour-ish plane ride heading towards London from Kuala Lumpur.
Maybe it was the sky outside or the background white noise of the plane but it got me thinking.
Perhaps it’s time to put my values into action.
And so I decided there and then that when I step out of the plane, I shall not eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs or buy anything that’s made of animal body parts anymore.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Lessons Learned As A 6-Year-Old Vegan
Throughout my 6 years being vegan, I’ve gone through many ups and downs. But in this post, I’m going to share with you the top 6 lessons I’ve learned so that hopefully you can take away some and apply it early on—or wherever you are—in your vegan journey to help you stay true to your values and stay vegan for longer.
1. Prioritise self care to deal with disappointment
Life will always be challenging.
You can’t really avoid problems in life.
What matters is what you do about the issues that come up.
When I started my vegan journey, I didn’t really know what self care was. I didn’t think it was even in my daily vocabulary. Sad, I know.
But I’m glad that as the years went by and I got more active in the vegan scene, I got acquainted with self care.
I wish I had known what taking care of myself meant so that I didn’t get burn out too quickly and easily when doing vegan outreach.
Sure, in the moment of doing outreach, it’s fun and exciting. You get to meet and interact with all kinds of people and you get to challenge your debating skills.
But such activity will take your energy away.
And if you don’t set aside time for rest or leisure, you will soon find yourself dreading activism work.
Everyone’s self care routine or habit is different.
Here are some ideas:
- Take regular breaks throughout the day
- Sleep early and enough (at least 7-8 hours a day)
- Eat well
- Exercise regularly
- Practice journaling
- See a therapist
- Read books
2. Widen your social circle
As an introvert, I used to cringe at the word “social”.
But as I grew older, I realised that it’s not such a bad thing and it can be very useful.
For example, if you work at a marketing agency and also go to dance classes in your spare time, you’ll add two groups of people to your network. The people would follow you on Instagram, LinkedIn or wherever you’re active at and they would see your vegan advocacy.
Having vegan friends is great because you can get the support you need. But at the same time, you could widen your social circle so that you don’t just preach to the converted.
It took me years to practice social skills but if I as an INFJ can do it, I’m sure you can too.
How to widen your social circle?
- Change your mindset from “people are scary” to “I want to learn more from them”
- Practice speaking with your close friends or in front of the mirror (for me, vlogging helped too)
- Let curiosity lead the conversation—prepare standard questions you can use in every scenario and then form questions as you listen to them
- Always ask for their contact number or email or Instagram handle
- Follow up every now and then or engage with them on social media
3. Don’t try so hard to change people
While your personal wish might be that everyone would go vegan, know that you can’t change people. Well, at least not directly.
This is so important to remember because there will be times especially in the early years of being vegan that you would have the urge to be that annoying person who preaches wherever they go.
Instead of attracting people, you may accidentally push them away.
The trick is to advocate without being pushy UNLESS you’re in a specific situation where you have to be a bit forward, like when doing street activism.
In other situations like a family gathering or night out with friends, you don’t have to talk about factory farming every 5 minutes.
I know—some would say that this kind of behaviour is apologetic or soft.
But based on psychology, pushing people where they don’t want to won’t benefit either party.
You do it smartly or subtly.
If you can cook yummy vegan food, show it on Instagram.
If you prefer to talk about veganism, post videos on YouTube.
There are many ways for you to be a vegan activist without being a try-hard.
Just do what you like doing and people will naturally gravitate towards you in their own time.
4. Learn about nutrition
When I started my vegan journey, the only “rule” I went by was high carb low fat.
But I think the fat part wasn’t that low. Medium fat, to be precise.
Many people practice the vegan diet in scarcity; either because they came into it to lose weight or they just don’t know what or how to eat plant-based.
Because I did some research, I knew enough to not hold myself back.
However, I wish I knew more about micronutrients.
In whatever diet you choose, there’s bound to be a deficiency (or a surplus) if you’re not careful.
If you eat meat, you might have to be cautious of the cholesterol and fat.
But if you’re on a fully plant-based diet, you need to be cautious of your omega-3 and B12.
There’s so much to unpack about nutrition. I shall explore more in the future.
For now, here are some important micronutrients you would need as a vegan:
- B12 for the function of nerve cells. You can get it from tempeh, nutritional yeast or supplement.
- Omega-3 to improve memory and immunity. Omega 3 EPA is available in walnuts but DHA is scarce in plant foods except for algae. So either you include algae in your diet or supplement.
- Vitamin D3 to strengthen bones and improve resistance against age-related diseases. Get out more to get sunlight or supplement. Trust me, you don’t want to be deficient in Vitamin D like I was.
It’s easier to get supplements if you are worried that you might not get enough of the micronutrients.
The one supplement that includes everything for brain health and is plant-based that I’ve found so far is the Heights supplement. I personally haven’t tried it but I will soon and update you on this!
5. Accidents happen—don’t beat yourself up
When I was travelling in Italy, I bought food from the supermarket so I could cook in the Airbnb.
Without realising it, I accidentally bought tomato sauce with minced meat.
Whilst cooking the sauce, I didn’t think much of it because I thought they were either mushrooms or mock meat. My mind was too optimistic.
But when I tasted it, I knew it was meat.
I spat it out and cried a bit.
Yes, it sounds pathetic.
But I felt so guilty eating the flesh of an animal and so stupid for not reading the label properly.
I collected myself after a few minutes and just removed the pieces of meat from the sauce.
There was nothing else I can do as I had no other option at that time.
Instead of starving, I chose to continue eating the food even though it probably had traces of meat that I couldn’t set aside.
The lesson here is to not beat yourself up when you accidentally eat meat or other animal by-products.
Here are some things you can do when your food accidentally contains animal parts:
- Remove the parts and continue eating so as to not waste the food
- If there’s milk in it, you can either eat it if your gut can handle it or ask someone to finish it up for you
- The best way to avoid this kind of situation is to triple check the ingredients before making or ordering any food
6. You don’t have to be an activist or content creator
It’s fun to post your vegan food on social media.
There’s an element of pride and righteousness, yes, but it can also be a form of accountability.
If you don’t have any vegan friends yet, I would recommend posting about your vegan journey online so that you keep yourself accountable.
But you don’t have to continue doing that if there comes a point where you don’t need to keep yourself accountable anymore or that posting it becomes a chore.
Many vegans tend to be food recipe creators and make a business out of it. That’s quite natural because food is important in everyone’s life.
But you don’t have to be that if you don’t want to.
For me, I thought I would be one.
But I realised that I cook basically the same things every day and I’m not very adventurous with my food.
So I thought I might be an activist in some other way.
But again, you don’t have to be an activist if you don’t want to.
You can just happily do your own thing and be a quiet vegan who leads by example.
And that’s really good enough.
Keep Going And Choose Vegan Every Day
Changing a lifestyle is not easy.
But it’s not impossible.
The trick is to make the conscious decision every day to choose vegan food and products until it becomes second nature.
It may be a bit awkward and weird at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
And if you make “mistakes”, learn from them and move forward.
Most importantly, have fun in your vegan journey.