The journey to a plant-based lifestyle or becoming a vegan doesn’t have to be daunting. Be kind to yourself and see what works for you. Here are some ideas to help you get started and guide you along the way.
Being vegan is more than just avoiding meat and animal by-products like dairy and honey. It’s a lifestyle and a plant-based one at that. But only you can make that switch—that choice. And in order to do so, you’ll need to understand yourself better through honest conversations and experiences.
It has been about four years since I’ve fully embraced veganism and going plant-based. During this time, I found myself going through so many phases of self-discovery—from my relationship with food to exploring how the world around me works.
The Journey Towards Veganism
My personal experience of going plant-based started because of a dare and for health reasons. From there, I remembered feeling this immense pressure of embodying what it meant to be vegan and “doing it right”. But when I saw very clear and immediate results, I was motivated to go further.
But beyond that, I think one of the most critical aspects of committing to the change was shifting my focus to the bigger picture. Initially, I admit that I was worried about using labels—mostly because I didn’t know what it really meant. I just knew that there was some form of activism involved and that there was an entire world of truth that I had to discover on my own.
I didn’t know any other vegans. There was even a time when I made fun of my sister when she chose to stop eating meat and pork. “Why are you giving up bacon, burgers, steaks, and all the yummy food?”, I would ask her in jest. It didn’t make sense to me because I was so fixated on what had to be given up.
Suffice to say, when I decided to start my journey, I wanted to also have a real understanding to keep me focused and committed.
That Eureka Moment
I remember the moment when it clicked and connected in my mind. When I was sitting outside—having coffee in Greenbelt mall with my notebook—I wanted to write down my goals. That way, I could understand why I wanted to call myself a vegan. Being a vegan, you see, is a badge that I want to wear proudly. I didn’t want to just stick to uncomfortably saying, “I’m plant-based,” or that, “I don’t eat meat”.
Making a plan is important for serious goals and changes—that much I knew. I wanted to be sincere and realistic about my reason for giving up all the amazing food that I loved to cook and eat. Thus, it was important to me that I didn’t feel like I was an imposter, mostly because I have probably cycled through so many fad diets and quick fixes that never really stuck or made sense to me. And so, I dug deep to make sense of what I was about to commit to.
Back in 2002, PETA released a short film called, Meet Your Meat. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at that time. But I remembered that after watching it, I was so mortified by how graphic and truthful it was.
Looking back, I can still remember scenes where I couldn’t help but cry and feel terrible. I felt in my core how horrifying the reality for many animals being slaughtered really is. The scenes with their eyes showing immense fear have never left my heart. I even remember watching it with my beloved dog, Tiger. And the whole time, I was holding him, thinking, “What if that were Tiger?”
More Than Just Ingredients
I was so sad and angry—I didn’t know how to fully process all the footage that was seared into my mind. I wanted to just shake it off and not have any of it in my memory. And so, after a couple of days, I just went on with my life.
Now that I think about it, I wasn’t truly ready to know more—mostly because it was too painful to bear or understand the truth. I didn’t want to associate the pleasures of my passion with the guilt attached to eating animals. It was a bit too confusing too because, on one hand, I knew that hurting a living creature didn’t make sense. And on the other side of it, I loved to cook but didn’t know how to start giving up everything that I grew up eating.
I wish I knew back then that there’s always a way to begin. I think I just wasn’t ready to be patient enough to understand nor be accountable for my actions. Because it was overwhelming, I left it alone and eventually just focused on seeing ingredients as food rather than an animal that was killed just like in the film.
Although I knew that I couldn’t fix all the pain and horrors, what I wanted, to begin with, was to stop my consumption of anything that contributed to the suffering. I still had a lot to learn and it isn’t always going to be easy. For one thing, I had to be prepared to answer questions from people around me. Even just brushing off those who’d make fun of my unlikely choice took great courage.
Trust me, if you knew me before I was a vegan, it would have been so ridiculous to see me just giving it all up.
Being a “True” Vegan
As I wrote down my reasons for changing my life, I thought a lot about that time when I watched that short film. I already felt a preview of the positive physical and health effects when going vegan, but I wanted to go deeper. To me, Veganism was more than just a diet. It was a holistic journey—a way of life, even.
The myth of being a “perfect vegan” is so different for everyone. We all have different significant human experiences that may or may not play a vital role in our process. Our uniqueness also makes the concept of perfection unattainable. For some, it’s easier to slowly transition from being an omnivore, carnivore, or pescatarian to a vegetarian. And from there, eventually, go vegan. But for others, their automatic plan is to go cold turkey or bust!
Either way, it’s important to understand is that “vegan perfection” is a myth. Everybody is different—every body is different. Similarly, every person has different levels of access to available resources and support. And on top of it all, cultural aspects and social norms vary depending on where you’re from.
Not everyone will agree nor respect your choice, but you have to remember that their reaction or support is a clear reflection of their knowledge or internal conversation.
The Important Takeaway
The key foundation to it all is to have patience and kindness. For me, this has to be the general rule of thumb aside from not eating anything that comes from an animal. In fact, I’d always joke that I don’t consume food or products that come from “anything with a mother or a face….anything with eyes…anything with feelings.”
Sometimes, that was the easiest way to explain veganism to people who looked at me like I was an alien. But these days, the concept of going vegan isn’t as foreign anymore. This is thanks to popular documentaries like The Game Changers, Cowspiracy, Live and Let Live, VEGAN 2017, Vegucated, Earthlings, What The Health, Forks Over Knives, and also the most recent that brought on a lot of environmental awareness— David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, and also Seaspiracy.
My Favorite Vegan Recipes
Contrary to what most think, going vegan isn’t that difficult. With the right ingredients and recipes, you can make plant-based dishes that taste so good—you won’t even miss meat!
Here are some of my top picks:
1. Meatless Meatballs
2. Vegan Butter Chickun
3. Summer Cheesy Tofu Scramble on an English Muffin Tartine
4. Coco Lime Pops
5. Stress Buster Green Juice
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