I remember the times I started on new projects with the at the start of a new year. I also remember finding myself having quit those projects altogether by the end of that same year.
Whether it was going to the gym, learning a new skill, or being more social, I would start out strong and then my positive behaviors that supported those goals would taper into nothingness.
The wonderful thing about Veganuary is that it’s a start to the year and not an end. Even if you don’t find yourself eating a “strict” vegan diet 24/7/365 after January, don’t fret, you can keep the momentum going.
With all the companies that are starting to embrace plant-based alternatives it can be easy to find yourself exploring a new vegan product very often. There’s also a lot of alternatives to try from the stores.
Don’t stress so much over changing completely in a heartbeat. Just let the proverbial candle burn slow and steady and let your new food delights connect you to others, the planet, and the divine.
Find Apps to Empower You on Your Journey
There are apps out there like Happy Cow that can help you pinpoint a vegan restaurant to eat at nearby. Download apps like this and use them, especially if you’re travelling to a new place you haven’t been to before.
There are also plenty of apps that can help you find recipes and plan meals as well. One of my favorite sites is eatthismuch.com which helps you plan an entire day of meals based on the number of calories you want to eat and the amount of meals you want to prepare. They also have an app on iOS available here and one for Android available here.
I believe that transcendental changes come in measured steps and with little reminders here and there. My personal vegan transformation started out as pescatarian, then vegetarian, then vegan, and then eventually vegan without honey. It’s better to leave little “breadcrumbs” for yourself on your phone in the form of apps that you’ll be able to tap into at any moment than to leave Veganuary without an easy way to keep it going!
Keep Experimenting with Food
It can be really exciting to get into vegan dishes. I remember how my world opened up when I realized how many plants I had never tried, and how many combinations I had missed out on. At the same time, I think it’s easy to get laser-focused on eating vegan. I learned this the hard way and I wish I expanded my horizons when I started learning about what I could change that went into my body for the better.
If you want to expand your experiments and experiences, I recommend trying out raw food, probiotics, juicing, and even fasting during Veganuary. There are a myriad of benefits and foot notes that go along with these different modalities.
Do your research on different diets and find out if something like intermittent fasting or probiotics improves your health. Don’t take my word for it, don’t take a “guru’s” word for it, and whatever you do buy books and programs from trusted leaders instead of opportunists.
During your research and journey, don’t go for the “vegan diet” fad books. Not all vegan books are created equal. Go for the books like “Conscious Eating” from authors like Gabriel Cousens M.D. who know their stuff. Go for the vegan cookbooks that are inspired by your heritage and culture. In short, go for substance not for the “I am eating vegan” checkbox.
You’ll be better off with a combination of life-improving changes than by simply going vegan. I also learned this over time, but it’s better to buy books used and spend the savings on quality food. You can’t eat freshly cut trees, but you can eat delicious recipes from used pages.
Listen to your Body and Keep a Food Journal
In order to make the best out of your food experiences, you can keep a food journal to jot how certain food makes you feel. Does it give you energy or does it make you feel sleepy? Does it make your stomach hurt? Did you get gas? Did a certain food make you feel creative or open? Did you feel fuller after eating one type of food over another?
Listening to your body is the best way to get insights into what food is beneficial to your lifestyle and what food isn’t. It can also help you act accordingly. If you want to feel sleepy then maybe you eat a certain dessert after dinner, and if you want to avoid gas during a date you avoid a certain type of food.
Since you’ll be experimenting with new plants and new recipes, it’s a good time to learn from the first go rather than get surprised down the road. If you don’t like keeping a journal then a mental note will do, but you have to make a conscious effort to tune into your body and its state before and after the food.
If you are eating a diet that contains sugar, processed ingredients, pesticides, or GMOs then it’s a good idea to take those things into account too. Alcohol, gluten, and drugs can also impact how we feel depending on what we’re consuming and on how we’re each built.
Share with Friends and Family
If you have the opportunity to share a dish with a friend or family, don’t hesitate to do so. Even if you can’t do it in person you can always take a photo or share a recipe with one another.
When eating with my friends I enjoy learning about what they eat and their own personal experiments with fasting, eating raw food, or other topics. For example, I learned from a friend who was raw vegan for 17 years that I shouldn’t base my concept of veganism on what I see others do, because if they change then my entire world might come crashing down.
At other times I speak with people who are vegetarian, and I have the opportunity to learn about the recipes and brands that they enjoy. My thinking there is that when I speak to other vegetarians, I can share those things with them. I’ve had people say to me “look, I am not going vegan, but I want to cook healthier for my kids because I understand that meat isn’t that good for us, what can I cook?” In a moment like that it pays to have listened to friends and family and to understand what they enjoy in a dish that doesn’t have meat. It’s better to listen than to speak, we have so much to learn from each other especially considering that food interacts differently with us all.
One footnote: from my research into the Essenes, my understanding is that food can become toxic to us if we have negative feelings while eating it. For your sake and for others’, steer clear of negative emotion inducing topics while eating with your friends & family. Debates and eating don’t mix well, no matter how good your intent might be.
If you are presented with a challenging conversation you can steer the conversation out of it and enjoy your meal together. That’s what counts the most.
Explore the Roots of Veganism
Veganism is like a finger on the hand of “Ahiṃsā.” Ahiṃsā is a key virtue in Hinduhism, Buddhism, and Jainism which translates roughly into “nonviolence.”
As you let the seeds of veganism grow in your heart, let the tendrils of compassion and mindfulness encompass it so that you may purify your words, deeds, and thoughts. If you feel judgement, contempt, or other ill-feelings about a situation you find yourself in then you’re in a perfect place to explore ways to “react” to that with love and compassion.
Being vegan or eating a vegan diet can cause a war in one’s psyche, with one’s friends, and with one’s family. If you are standing on one pillar, of veganism, then your foundation is shaky. If you are standing on the pillars of compassion and veganism you will find it easier to navigate the challenges that come with change in a world that can at times be so averse to it.
Oh, Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy – myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes,
so when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit will come to you
american indian – lakota – chief yellow lark – 1887
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