As the title suggests, what you can expect from this blogpost is a vegan talking about veganism. What else could a vegan be possibly talking about, eh? However, as Wanda kindly gave me the chance to write a piece for her blog and July 2020 marks the month of my one-year anniversary of going vegan, I thought it would be nice to share some of my experiences. So, if you are interested in some first-hand information and tips on transitioning to veganism, how I have experienced the past twelve months being vegan and if I have died of protein deficiency, you are very welcome to read along. One title and one paragraph in, I already dropped the v-word seven times; so, buckle up, tick the first cliché box and let’s do this!

What I have experienced in the past months is that, somehow, The Vegan is a kind of mystic figure that no one can really grasp. What do vegans even eat? Do all vegans do yoga? Are vegans allowed to drive cars or do they only walk on their bare feet? The first encounter I had with a vegan was a few years back at a friend’s birthday party. My friend had arranged a huge buffet for her guests, and we sat around the big kitchen table stuffing our mouths when the girl next to me grabbed her backpack and produced a mysterious Tupperware box from which she presented pieces of raw broccoli, raw sweet potato and a piece of fruit or vegetable I had never seen before (it was an avocado). She then explained that she was vegan and had therefore brought her own food to the party as she did not want to bother the birthday girl with offering vegan options. I felt so sorry for the poor girl missing out on the pizza, the little balls of mozzarella topped with tomatoes, the bread sticks with cream cheese and not to forget the chocolate frosted birthday cake. When I thought the horror could not be exceeded, she started eating her little lunch packet RAW. I am telling this little anecdote from the point of view of a girl that had been vegetarian for most of her life at that point and still could not comprehend even the tiniest bit why someone would want to go through this kind of hell. Therefore, I can very well understand where people are coming from that do not quite understand veganism and I am definitely not judging.

Going vegan is not a thing that happens overnight. I did not wake up one morning and said: what a nice day to stop eating the way I have done my whole life and start pouring blended oats in my coffee instead of dairy milk. The whole transition process – starting at the first thought of there being a teeny tiny possibility that I might eventually end up vegan up to the day that I actually did it – took about a year, if not more. The topic of veganism has gained more prominence in the past few years and this had not gone unnoticed by me. I was fascinated by those people that seemed to share so many of my own values and managed to move out of their comfort zone in order to live in accordance with them. It is always worth questioning why we do certain things that we do, not only when it comes to our diet. So, I started questioning my behaviour: why do I not want to eat meat? Why do I do want to eat eggs and dairy products? The answer is: a lot of the things we do is habit. It’s easy sticking to habits. Deep down I knew that being vegan was the right thing for me – I wasn’t eating meat because I didn’t want to exploit animals for my pleasure; however, I kind of justified eating other animal products – with what? Habit. It was just the way I had been eating almost my whole life, I was used to it, it was easy. And then I thought to myself: if these people can do it, I can do it too. And I did it! So, before I’ll give you the rating of my first year as a vegan, I would like to share some tips that I find very helpful in transitioning to veganism. But, honestly, they are probably also applicable for any habit you might want to re-evaluate:

1. Just try it out

Set a start and an end date and just try it out. This is what I did as well, and it helped me a lot. I knew that I kind of wanted to do it, but I wasn’t ready for the commitment. No cheese ever again? Like, NEVER?? I decided that for one month, I would go vegan. Every time I would crave something non-vegan, I knew that by the end of the month, I was allowed to have it. This helped me a lot in quitting animal products for the time being, as I knew that it was not for forever, just one month. Changing habits takes time and failure to stick to new habits can be extremely frustrating. In setting an end date, you can minimise the risk of falling back into old habits as you do not have to commit to the new ones fully – this is just a 30-day-trial and if it does not serve you, just don’t renew the subscription. If it does, however, good for you! After my vegan month, I realized quite quickly that I actually hadn’t really missed anything and that I could happily live without animal products – and I still do!

2. Don’t focus on the things you can’t have but on the things you CAN have

A lot of people don’t really realize that every day, they actually eat a lot of things that are – believe it or not – vegan. Most people think of sacrifice and loss when thinking of eating vegan: no parmesan, no butter, no burger, no fish, no scrambled eggs, no mac n’ cheese, no milk chocolate, and the list goes on and on, while actually, there are SO MANY things that you can eat as a vegan. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, and have you looked into the ‘vegan substitutes’ shelves at the supermarkets lately? Honestly, today there is basically a vegan version of everything. I remember that back when I went vegetarian, there was about one kind of vegetarian sausage and they tasted absolutely disgusting. What a privilege to be vegan today where there is Beyond Meat and vegan magnum. Try to become more aware of what you are eating: What do you eat that actually already is vegan? What do you eat that is not? Could you substitute it? Is it even that important for the meal? You do not have to do everything at once, maybe start with your favourite meal and slowly veganise your diet. Be open to new things. It is amazing what you can do with food if you are open to think outside the box.

3. Don’t believe everything you hear

And by that, I mean don’t believe all the prejudices about vegans. As a vegan, you are not automatically malnourished. You won’t be automatically healthy either, you could basically live off Oreos and be vegan; does not make you healthy though. It is true that you should be aware of your nutrient intake as a vegan, but this actually applies to every other diet as well. Eating meat, dairy, fish and eggs does not guarantee a healthy diet. A vegan diet does not automatically mean malnutrition. You are perfectly able to lead a healthy life without animal products, trust me ;-) Furthermore, you should not be discouraged by the worry that you might seem complicated or picky to other people because of what you want or don’t want to consume. For more information on that, I politely refer to Wanda’s recent post “The Art of Doing You”.

4. Surround yourself with like-minded people

Having companions makes everything easier. I know that not everyone has a bunch of vegans in their circle of friends – I don’t have that either. However, the possibilities of the world wide web are endless. Follow vegan accounts on Instagram. Follow vegan accounts on You Tube. If you want to try out my first tip of doing a vegan month, maybe you can motivate at least one of your friends to enter the challenge with you. If you don’t – I’ve got you ;-) You are very welcome to always text me on my Instagram account if you feel like it. Knowing that there are other people out there that share your interests and your passion is simply inspiring and encouraging.

Now, what’s my verdict? If you haven’t already guessed, I never regretted going vegan even a little bit. It honestly was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Looking back on the whole process I went through up to the point where I officially declared myself vegan, I can see that long before I really did it, I already had it in me. What I struggled with for such a long time was not if I actually wanted to do it but if I’d be able to overcome the habit of eating these certain things, even though I knew they did not agree with my values. I remember setting up rules for myself like cheese on pizza only when you are in Italy. Eventually, it was such a relief to finally completely switch to veganism because I could stop struggling in between the thing that I actually wanted and the thing I thought I wanted. Honestly, I haven’t missed a thing; I do not crave cheese, I do not crave eggs, ever. I have tried out so much amazing new food and delicious meals since becoming vegan. Believe me, the joy you feel when finding a vegan chocolate filled brioche at Sainsbury’s that tastes amazing is absolutely next level. It’s amazing being passionate about something and live it out. And vegans are just super cool.

So, if you recognized yourself at some point of the text, maybe this is the last push you needed for trying it out. And even if you won’t be doing any of those things, I am still very grateful that you took the time to engage with the topic anyways!

Now, last but not least, here are some of my recommendations of what to check out:

- @veganistungesund for funny and informative content on veganism (German)

- @earthlinged for informative content on veganism and activism

- @jamesahoot for informative content on veganism and activism

- @nikorittenau for nutrition advice for a plant-based diet – he published an amazing book as well as cookbook on the topic which I can highly recommend! It dispels all myths regarding the plant-based diet: Vegan-Klischee ade! and Vegan-Klischee ade! Das Kochbuch (German)

- @bosh for amazing vegan recipes

- The Game Changers documentary on Netflix on vegan athletes

- Cowspiracy documentary on Netflix on the environmental impact of animal agriculture

- What the Health documentary on Netflix on the health impact of animal products

- Dominion documentary on You Tube on animal abuse in our society

- @theveganlifeoflena for obvious reasons ;-)

Special thanks to Lena for taking the time and writing down her personal vegan success story for this guest blog post. You can follow her on Instagram (@theveganlifeoflena), where she posts regular pictures of her (admittedly) very delicious looking vegan meals!