Do you want to go vegan, and think transitioning to a vegetarian diet is the necessary first step? Think again. Going directly to a vegan diet may actually be easier and more effective—here’s why.
After Day One, It’s Smooth Sailing
From a psychological standpoint, there is a tremendous advantage in knowing the first step you take is also the last step you’ll need to take. Knowing that as soon as you decide to make going vegan the first step in your transition, the very next step is learning to cook delicious vegan meals and finding “accidentally vegan” junk foods!
On the other hand, if you start by transitioning to vegetarian, and this proves difficult for you, it might be discouraging to know that there are more steps ahead, and whole new sets of food to give up. Why go from hard to harder, with a chance of failure, if you don’t have to?
You Gain an Immediate Sense of Identity
Now, it can be assumed that someone wanting to transition has a motive to do so, has a “why.” Whether this “why” is “for the animals,” “for the environment,” “for my health,” or for any other reason, if you feel that this is going to be enough to empower your change, then it’s going to be enough right now. Starting as a vegetarian does not increase resolve, nor does it act as a source of additional motivation. In truth, this merely consents to further suffering of innocent creatures, further destruction of our bodies, and further damage to our planet.
If you want to go vegan, you must fully commit to this end goal. You must completely immerse yourself in your “why.” Emphasizing this general concept in his book, How Will You Measure Your Life, Harvard Professor, Clayton M. Christensen, draws on the idea that, “It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.” In the case of vegans, this is because it’s not just a simple shift in our diets, but a complete and fundamental shift in our perspectives, our minds, and our hearts. And it is only after we make these changes, when we no longer have to think about the choice to live vegan, that we will truly begin to identify as part of the community which “vegan” implies.
This method may also make the change more sustainable in the long run, as taking on a vegan lifestyle is one of the few things wherein going slowly, and transitioning gradually, leaves room for error. It leaves time for hesitation, time for backing out, time for convincing ourselves that just being vegetarian means doing enough. For this particular adjustment, it’s more effective to begin the journey with both the mindset and behavior you envision yourself to have at its end.
No Training Is Required
People often think of veganism as an overwhelming and challenging way of life. They think they have to prepare themselves, in the same way a marathon runner prepares, through months of meticulous training. But this is not the case, as the transition is actually quite simple. In truth, all we need is clarity, the realization that the benefits will far outweigh the sacrifices—that this will be worth it.
Every Day Counts
When first embarking on the vegan journey, there are certainly a lot of unknowns, and it can take a while to get the basics down. But starting as a vegan means starting in a situation that lends itself to learning the ropes, it means starting with circumstances that almost force the fundamentals upon you. Do yourself a favor and accept this head start.
Plus, if we want to make a large-scale change, it’s imperative we start now! Start now to save yourself from the consumption of foods such as chicken, bacon, cheese, and butter, which have been linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Start now to save the 1,100 gallons of water, 30 square feet of forest land, and 20 pounds of carbon dioxide wasted every day to house and feed livestock for just one person. And Start now to save the 9.6 billion mammals we’ll slaughter in a single year for food, to save the millions of cows and millions of chickens spending their days being forcibly impregnated in tiny cages for you to drink their milk and eat their eggs.
A year after I went vegan, my older sister Julie decided to do it too, but she didn’t exactly follow in my footsteps. She started out vegetarian, and as a result, her decision to cut out meat ultimately just meant replacing it with excess cheese. Her cravings for cheese didn’t go down after this transition, they went way, way up! She still wanted to go vegan, but months passed by and she just couldn’t bring herself to give up cheese.
At the start of this year, Australia’s wildfires, intensified by climate change, were constantly in the news. Millions of acres were burning, hundreds of millions of animals were being killed, and to accompany these devastating stories were photos and videos of koalas or wombats caught in the flames. Their intense agony brought my sister to tears, and it was at this point that she finally went vegan. The sheer scale of this tragedy overwhelmed her. She was suddenly ready to face the fact that consuming animal products in any form was actively contributing to a kind of hell on earth—global warming, wildfires, and the burning of a billion innocent animals.
Her first couple of weeks were challenging, but she got through it. Since then, she hasn’t looked back, because she has found something better—a clearer conscience.
And me? It’s been nineteen months since I went vegan. A few months ago, I celebrated my sixteenth birthday. Sixteen is an intensely weird age. I worry about little stuff. I’m aware of all my shortcomings. I tend to second guess a lot of my decisions. But I’ve never second-guessed this decision. For me, it just made sense. And it still does.
And it can for you, too.
The hardest part is making up your mind to do it. Yes, there might be some challenge involved, and you might be tempted every once in a while by a particularly cheesy slice of pizza, but don’t be disheartened! Remind yourself why you decided to go vegan in the first place: your love for animals, your commitment to your health, and the health of the planet. Being vegan also does not mean giving up on any form of indulgence—as this movement has grown, so have plant-based versions of your favorite junk foods. You can still enjoy that decadent chocolate cake, or that glorious breakfast burrito, just veganize it. There are endless recipes to be found online, and apps specifically designed to find the best vegan restaurants, bakeries, and cafes near you. All you need is an open mind, determination, and a willingness to try new foods. Don’t overthink going vegan—just do it.
Katie Schwartz is a writer, recipe developer, and high school student from Seattle, Washington. She became a vegan because of its environmental benefits, but through her work, she has also come to appreciate the health and animal rights aspects of the lifestyle. Katie is on a mission to promote veganism and inspire others through her experiences.