I’ve been getting quite a few questions about veganism and how I went vegan so in honor of Oakland Veg Week, I thought that I would share how I did it and then maybe some advice on how to transition.
So, I did write about my transition in my very first blog post. But I didn’t share how I did it, just why I did it. And the how is definitely just as important as the why.
How did I do it? Well, I had a bit of a head start. I was vegetarian for a while, like 7 years, before I took the plunge and became vegan. I don’t know exactly how long because I stopped counting after about 3 years. But anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve had meat but transitioning from a meat-eater to vegetarian took me about a year or so. I don’t remember how I did it; I don’t remember the details but I do know that I took my time. I probably did it the way that they say now, I took it slow. One meal at a time.
I also know that I failed miserably some of the time. I caved to the smell of fried chicken, milanesa and those little mini-burgers at McDonald’s (a number 1 with fries, please!). But as time went on, that desire started to vanish and eventually I didn’t enjoy the taste. The thought of eating another animal made me feel sick. And that’s my first how-to tip:
BE GENTLE AND FORGIVING TO YOURSELF!
You are going to do the best that you can every day. And every day will bring a new struggle, that birthday party that’s at your favorite meat-filled restaurant, the fiesta con la familia full of carne asada and even that intimate dinner with your significant other who still eats meat. All of these situations, and so many more, will bring on a case of social anxiety if you are too hard on yourself.
You are doing something against the grain, against the status quo. You are living out your beliefs in your everyday life, whether you become vegan for the animals, for the planet or just for your own survival through health. And even for all the conviction in the world, you’re still going to slip. It’s okay. Just do better on your next food choice. When I went vegan, I didn’t ask if things had eggs, or dairy or anything else. As long as there was no visible cheese or dairy in it, I was good.
I wasn’t ready to start reading ingredients. Now, I do. I read every ingredient before I buy anything packaged that doesn’t have that beautiful “v” on the package. Sometimes I even Google ingredients on my phone if its not a familiar ingredient. You will get to this point, if that’s where you want to head. And this leads me to my next point.
THERE IS NO “ULTIMATE VEGAN”
So stop worrying about being perfect, because you’ll never get there and you’ll just feel bad for “failing”. We live in a meat-eating world. We were taught that eating meat and drinking milk was good for you, that it made you stronger. This was the messaging that we received, and still receive, from media, doctors, and some nutritionists. And so every plate revolves around animals. This is the norm, eating animals is the norm. And so because of this, everything will be connected to the meat, dairy or vivisection (animal testing) industry. So there is no ultimate vegan. Just be as vegan as you can be.
Maybe that means just not eating meat, cheese and dairy but you don’t check ingredients. Or maybe you don’t eat at non-vegan restaurants (if you have it like that, I want to move where you live!) or maybe you go all in and veganize your entire life, from food to clothes to beauty products. Thats great! All of these choices help non-human animals and human animals alike. All of these help the planet and your health. So don’t let others get you down, vegan or non-vegans. As long as you have las ganas to make the change and know why you’re doing it, just let that fuel you. Let that guide you into why you are doing what you’re doing.
The next how-to is:
BUILD OR JOIN A VEGAN COMMUNITY (probably have to build one if you’re not white)
As a person of color, this may be difficult. I’m just going to keep it real right now. Most vegan spaces are white. Like super white. Like blindingly white; Snow White. And that can be uncomfortable. It’s one of the reasons that I was hesitant to go vegan. I felt like the vegan community didn’t represent me. Also the reason I started this blog was because I didn’t see any Latinas talking about being vegan or what it was like; how they did it and kept connected to their roots. I wanted to share my experience on this journey along with just sharing my life as a vegana. The only way I saw to be able to do this was to start my own community.
Just like anything else, food is part of our culture and when you make changes in that, it could feel like you’re isolating yourself, making yourself more marginalized. But I’ve learned that when you connect with other vegans of color, they understand your intersectional struggles. So search Meet Up or Facebook to see if there are already people in your area meeting and being in community with each other. If there isn’t anything close by, then build one! I know that sounds scary but it’s not. Just start a group on Facebook. It’s easy, free and will help you keep on track. Just put yourself out there and watch the magic happen.
Community building is so important. It will be hard to continue without others who understand you and understand why you have made the decision to go vegan. It could even just be a completely online community (that’s where most of my vegan community is) that helps in finding vegan foods, spaces, support and resources. I can’t stress this step enough. Build. Your. Community.
Finally, the last thing is
RESOURCES, RESOURCES, RESOURCES!
One of the main things that keeps me vegan during the hard times, besides community, is the resources that help remind me about why I chose to be vegan. A major influence for me was the documentary “Vegucated”. This is hands down one of my favorite documentaries/films on veganism. I may seriously go watch it after writing this post. Lots of folks talk about how Earthlings is what made people vegan but I haven’t seen it. Don’t tell my vegan friends. Vegucated did that and continues to do that for me. The reason I love it so much is it’s one of the only videos I’ve seen on veganism that has a Latina! I know, I know. Seeing Tesla move through the film and have the film show the dynamics of being Latina and going vegan was really eye-opening for me. I felt her and her struggle, through and through. I felt connected to her. She talks about how hard it was because it felt like she was losing a connection to her family, to her roots. I totally understood that.
Resources are an amazing way to move towards being vegan all the time, or most of the time and to help remind you about why you became vegan. If you become vegan for the planet, Cowspiracy may be your Vegucated; the one film that you watch when you need that boost. It’s great film that touches on how agriculture isn’t talked about when we talk about environmental impacts even though it contributes more to global warming than the entire transportation system!
Another good one is Forks over Knives. That’s a great film on how changing the way you eat, changes your health. And I’m not talking about weight, like how much you weigh. I’m seriously talking about your health. Like do you have high cholesterol or diabetes. That health. No fat-shaming on this post. I don’t believe that weight equals health. I know some skinny people that have terrible health habits and fat people that are active and healthy! Plus, I also care about happiness. But that is another post for another day.
If you like to read as well, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is great! He writes about his journey into vegetarianism. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to convince you to become vegetarian. He’s merely doing research in Big Ag and his research changes the way he looks at food and will change the way you look at food too.
Another classic is called The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Many attribute the changes in how people saw the meat-industry to this one book. It’s also a great book on the intersections of slaughterhouses and worker’s rights.
I’ve watched and read these books and movies countless times when I’m feeling low about being vegan. And that can happen. Maybe I had a rough day finding something good to eat. Or had one too many people crack one too many bacon jokes. Or maybe all I want is to go to a fast food joint but I can’t because they have no vegan options. So when this happens, I take a deep breathe and remind myself why I chose to be vegan. I turn on a film or start reading a book and remember that I didn’t choose to be vegan because its the new cool thing. I chose it because I wanted to live out my true self; live the life that best fit my belief that every sentient being has the right to live out their life. And so that’s what I do with my food and lifestyle choice.
These are just a few tips that helped me get through some of the tough times of being a Latina vegana in a meat-eating world.
Any tips that I missed that have helped you? Write them in the comments!
Feeling like you might need more support? Maybe one on one? Too overwhelmed to start your community? If you live in the Bay Area, I can help!
I am a vegan transition coach and can support you in making more vegan choices without having to do it alone. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info and prices.