The road to veganism isn’t easy. In fact, it’s littered with fast food restaurants, ice cream trucks and hot dog carts. Plus, once you make it to your destination, it’s not promised that you’ll remain a vegan. In fact, studies show that more than half of those who go vegetarian or vegan give up on their veggie ways within their first year (a third go back to meat within three months).
As 21Ninety suggests, it does take 21 days to form a habit and 90 to make your habit a lifestyle. However, what most people won’t tell you is making a habit like veganism a lifestyle requires a much longer, gradual transition.
I’ve had many conversations with black women amazed at my new lifestyle (mostly because I was once a woman who framed a Wendy’s meatatarian poster in my house). Some fellow meatatarians admit that they too wanted to become vegan, but didn’t know where to start. Others confessed they have tried, but couldn’t sustain the lifestyle. My advice to those interested in becoming vegan — and staying vegan — is as follows:
Month One to Two: Remove bacon and fried chicken from your diet. To this day, I find these to be the meat dishes I miss the most. I STILL shed a thug tear every time a Popeye’s commercial plays on my TV. Luckily I’ve found a good solution (both grocery and restaurant) for fried chicken, but because of its layered flavors, it’s difficult to replicate the taste of bacon.
Month Three to Five: Transition to a pescatarian. Pescatarians are people who do not eat meat except for fish and other seafood. During this phase of eating shrimp, salmon, crab and so on, you’ll learn to enjoy portions lighter in calories and appreciate the importance of well-flavored meals. Herbs and spices will become your best friend, as you’ll realize just how much they can elevate bland dishes.
Month Six to 11: Transition to a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian for six months before becoming a vegan is critical, and most vegans fail at their new lifestyle without incorporating this period. Why? You need time to learn how to stay satiated (full) in cold and warm weather from fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables alone. You’ll need this time to learn how to cook again, learn about meat substitutes (such as tofu) and increase the number of go-to recipes under your belt. Also take this time to understand alternative protein sources, from simple (whey protein shakes, plant-based protein bars) to modern solutions (cricket flour, seitan).
Month 12 and beyond: Congratulations — you’ve progressed to baby vegan! You’ll still need this time to "work out kinks," hence the reason you’re considered a baby vegan. It’s not your fault; nutritional labels and food menus aren’t always clear on what ingredients are in the food. I mean, what isn’t slathered in butter these days? And honey seems so innocent and natural but remember: it’s not vegan. Over time you’ll understand the rules of the road, keeping go-to staples on your grocery list and signature meals for ordering out at restaurants.
PHOTO: Christine Michel Carter on Instagram
I had multiple reasons for removing meat from my diet. As the picture of me above at six-years-old illustrated, I’d been eating copious amounts of beef, chicken and pork products all my life, and it had begun to take a toll on my health in my twenties. I'd also given birth to two children, and while I knew I’d never afford her trainer, I figured adopting Beyoncé’s post-baby eating habits would help me snap back. Finally, I wanted to exemplify a lesson for my children not taught to me by previous generations: What you eat greatly affects the performance of your mind, body and soul.
I followed the transition period above, but no one provided me with this advice on my journey. If you're interested in clearer skin, a slimmer waist or lower blood pressure, I encourage you to start the journey today. Whatever your reason for transitioning from meatatarian to vegan may be, follow me on Instagram and share your journey with me. Know that the process isn’t easy, but boy is it worth it.
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