Transitioning to veganism? Here’s what to expect
So you’re transitioning to veganism, but you have some questions. How will your health change? What were your loved ones think? Here’s what to expect.
Will my health be affected?
The first thing you’re likely to notice after switching to a plant-based diet is digestive changes. You’ll be eating more fibre, which is exclusively found in plants. This may initially upset your stomach if you were previously eating a low-fibre diet. It should settle down once your body adapts to the increase in fibre. In the long run, you’ll likely find that everything is running much more smoothly than before!
Another benefit which people notice after becoming vegan is increased energy. Whole plant foods are full of vitamins, antioxidants, water and lots of other good stuff. Plant-based diets are also naturally lower in saturated fat and free of cholesterol. These things combined may boost your energy levels.
Some people notice that their skin breaks out when they go vegan. It’s been suggested that this could be because toxins are being pushed out of the body as a result of eating a healthier diet. Most people find that this soon clears up.
If you’re eating a healthy vegan diet (mostly whole grains, fruit, veg, legumes, nuts and seeds) you may find you lose weight. This is because these foods are less calorie-dense than processed foods and animal products.
For more information on the benefits of healthy plant-based diets, check out Dr Michael Greger’s ‘How Not to Die’ and T Colin Campbell’s ‘The China Study’. I’ve also written a post about the health changes I personally noticed after transitioning to veganism.
How will my loved ones react?
A common worry for many wannabe vegans is how their partners, family and friends will react. Again, this will vary greatly from person to person.
You may be surprised by how supportive your loved ones are. I avoided telling my parents I was vegan for ages. But when I did, they were completely cool with it. When I visit my family, my mum is happy to cook vegan food and everyone enjoys it. Better still, they’ve all cut down on their consumption of animal products too.
On the other hand, some people may feel threatened by your decision and become defensive. Others may not understand why you have chosen to eliminate animal products from your diet. Some may also be worried about your health.
The best approach in these situations is to calmly educate people. Perhaps watch a documentary with them, or give them a book to read. You’ll find some suggestions on my ‘Why/How Vegan’ page. However, if someone is very defensive, they probably won’t be interested in being educated! It may be best to leave them alone, for the sake of your own sanity. If someone is giving you too much hassle, try communicating to them that they’re being hurtful; chances are, they don’t really want to upset you. But hopefully you’ll be surrounded by lovely, supportive people, and this won’t be necessary.
Will I feel different?
Surprisingly, many people notice emotional differences when they go vegan. I remember feeling as if an invisible weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Perhaps it was because my values and actions were finally aligned.
Over the next few months, I also found myself feeling far more connected to animals. I had never been much of an animal lover, but suddenly I was awwing over pictures of baby cows. My compassion for other people increased, and I even felt more spiritually connected.
Perhaps the most common emotion people feel after going vegan is anger. When you become aware of the immense suffering inflicted on animals by humans’ choices, it becomes impossible to ignore. Once you understand the reasons for being vegan and see for yourself how easy it is, it’s difficult to fathom why so many people aren’t vegan. Seeing loved ones eat animal products can become almost painful. This can sometimes create conflict in close relationships. If you are struggling with this, try to channel that anger into something constructive. Maybe take part in some animal rights activism. Try to lead by example in your relationships, and remember that was likely a time when you didn’t understand veganism either. It’s possible you might drift away from certain people if they refuse to respect you, but that’s part of growing as a person.
Going vegan was the best decision I ever made, and I hope you’ll soon feel the same way. I may not get on so well with certain people anymore, but I’ve made some awesome new vegan friends who have completely changed my life.
Being vegan has encouraged me to learn to cook, and I now eat more delicious food than ever before. I feel so much healthier and have also become passionate about plant-based nutrition.