Timing is Everything

I chose the worst time to go vegan.

I often make lifestyle changes suddenly, with much previous thought but minimal concrete planning. Around 8 years ago, I woke up one day and decided I’d never eat meat, fish or poultry ever again. I just loved animals too much to want to contribute to their demise. I told my family, who doubted my ability to immediately jumped to vegetarianism; however, I never wavered and they finally accepted that I wasn’t “going through a phase”.

While this was an easy thing for me to do, I recognize that most people can’t operate this way. I really enjoyed meat while I was an omnivore, but after making the switch, I never craved meat or missed it again. I understand that most people don’t feel this way, and even vegetarians and vegans sometimes crave the taste of meat. That’s why imitation meat exists, though personally I don’t enjoy this form of tofu, since I do not want my food to be associated with animals.

I chose the worst time to become vegan. I decided to spontaneously make the switch, as I had done before; however, much more thought and planning had to go into this decision in order to make sure I stayed healthy while I learned how to be vegan. I have also been incredibly stressed with my impending graduation, job search and other aspects of my social life which are straining me mentally. Because of these factors, I have made the reluctant decision to postpone my full transition to veganism in order to do it the right way.

On the first of May, I met with a nutritionist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. We discussed my weight loss within the past year, my upcoming transition to veganism and how all these factors may impact my health. She informed me that most people who “jump” into a restrictive diet such as veganism often find that their health plummets if they don’t begin to rethink the way that they consume their food.

I felt puzzled upon hearing this, because I thought I would simply have to switch a few items around in my diet: replace eggs with beans and legumes and I would be good to go. After all, I hadn’t had milk in many years; I only ate cheese, eggs and some other dairy, so I thought that it’d be a piece of (vegan) cake. But as the nutritionist explained to me, that’s not how this was going to work. She informed me that a completely plant-based diet metabolizes differently, and I was going to be much more hungry, more often than when I was as a vegetarian. She urged me to discard my 1200 calorie per day diet, and instead to eat as much as I needed, whenever I got hungry.

I can do that! I thought happily. It would be a welcome change for me to go from restricting my diet based on calories, to filling up whenever I needed to. It sounded like it meant fewer nights when I went to bed hungry because I was concerned about my weight. Besides, if being vegan leads to me eating healthier overall, then I may feel satisfied knowing that I am healthy, regardless of my body’s shape.

The nutritionist instructed me to rethink the way that I normally eat: instead of 3 large meals a day, aim for 3 medium-sized meals, and at least 3 substantial snacks to be consumed whenever I am hungry. These will all be healthy and protein-packed foods: tempeh, legumes, rice and beans, fruits and vegetables are all good examples of what will need to become a part of my new diet. She also advised me to wait at least a month to become fully vegan, and to begin with a 80/20 diet instead: 80% vegan meals, 20% vegetarian supplements (such as eggs). This tactic will help me to manage some of my stress while I learn how to eat entirely vegan meals.

When I made the decision to go vegan, I wasn’t sure when I should begin. I wanted to stop eating dairy right away, but… there was still a tub of half-eaten ice cream in my freezer. Was I just supposed to throw it away? What about the free-range eggs in the fridge? And I should probably buy that pizza I love one last time, because I’ll never be able to have it again. These thoughts kept spiraling through my head; I felt both empowered and excited about my decision, yet also scared and uncertain if I had what it takes to make this commitment.

Leftover dairy products in my fridge haven’t been my only concern. Instead of waiting for a time in the future when I felt more secure, I decided that I felt ready to go vegan while interviewing for post-graduation employment and struggling to finish my last university classes. I could not have picked a more stressful time during my university life to begin a life-altering change.

I’ll be giving myself one month to adjust. I’m making a list of all that I need to do: cleaning out my pantry, planning lots of vegan snacks that I can carry around with me, and experimenting with tasty recipes to see which ones I enjoy the most.

Timing could make the difference between success and failure on all ventures; if the timing isn’t right, then you could be out of luck. I’m determined to follow through with my new lifestyle, regardless of the poor timing that I chose, and I’m hoping that the support of friends and family (as well as my own willpower) will be strong enough to help me achieve my goal of becoming completely vegan.

I’ll be writing again soon about awesome recipes, vegan restaurant options and more. Thank you for reading!