How to Be Vegan

Here’s a primer on how to adopt and enjoy a long-term vegan lifestyle, which I’ve been doing for 18+ years. I’ll include a little advice on transitioning, but since it’s so easy to find good info on that with a simple Google search, I’ll focus more deeply on the long-term aspects of being vegan as opposed to becoming vegan.

Transition to Vegan Foods

One way to get started with a vegan diet is to turn your favorite non-vegan foods into vegan ones by making simple substitutions. This isn’t necessarily the healthiest way to go vegan, but it’s a convenient way to get the animal ingredients out of your diet. Once you’ve been eating vegan for a while, you can make further improvements from there.

Finding Vegan Replacements – If you’re very new to eating vegan, you could start by learning about the vegan replacements for your favorite foods. Just search on “vegan ___” where ___ is the name of a food you’re used to eating. This will help you discover vegan versions of those foods and/or what vegans eat instead of those foods. So you’d learn to eat a veggie burger instead of a cow burger. Ice cream becomes soy ice cream or coconut ice cream. And so on.

Finding Vegan Recipes – It’s easy to find vegan recipes for any foods you might possibly want to make vegan. Just Google “vegan ___ recipe” such as vegan pancake recipe or vegan cheesecake recipe. If there’s any food you’re craving that you want to make vegan, it’s a safe bet that someone has already shared a quality recipe for it. Many recipes include reviews too, so you can see how people rated them.

Vegan Cookbooks – When I first went vegan during the 1990s, I initially relied on vegan cookbooks for recipe ideas and to help learn the basics of vegan cooking. Today there are many recipe apps too. I don’t think these are necessary though, unless you’re into gourmet cooking or need lots of reference material. There are so many free vegan recipes to be found online with simple searching. I have many old vegan cookbooks, but I rarely use them. Using Google is faster and more flexible. Let the Internet be your cookbook. I like to use an iPad for searching and referencing recipes whenever I need to look something up, like a vegan omelette recipe or zucchini hummus.

Milk – It’s super easy to transition away from dairy products. Instead of consuming the breast milk of animals (which is for baby animals), switch to soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, or any other plant-based varieties. Try different brands and types till you find something you like. You’ll likely discover that some varieties taste pretty bad to you, while others are very good. I used to drink a lot of rice milk when I first went vegan, but my current favorite is organic soy milk. Many vegans don’t drink any kind of milk, but when you’re first transitioning, it’s a good step, and many vegans (including me) like the versatility of vegan milks.

Cheese – It’s also super easy to switch to vegan cheese. When I first began eating vegan in the 1990s, I found the vegan cheeses to be terrible all around; the texture was awful, and the taste was worse. Today’s situation is totally different — there are now some excellent vegan cheeses. My favorite vegan cheese is Daiya, which comes in a variety of flavors (cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack), melts well, and is getting easier and easier to find. It’s also gluten-free. Whole Foods can even make you a take-out pizza with Daiya cheese (just ask for vegan cheese on the pizza), and they sell Daiya-based vegan pizza slices at their pizza counter too. Vegan cheese can still be pretty high in fat, but if you like the taste and texture of cheese, vegan cheese is an easy substitute, especially if you like pizza.

Butter – This would be a good item to drop altogether, but if you really like the taste and texture of butter, you can easily switch to vegan margarine. Earth Balance has some good varieties. Coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature) is also a good substitute for some purposes, such as spreading on toast if you want a texture similar to melted butter. I used to love buttered popcorn, and now I make popcorn in an air popper, spray it with some olive oil via a mister, and sprinkle it with salt and nutritional yeast. It’s much lower in fat than cooking it in oil, and a light mist of olive oil helps the salt and nutritional yeast stick to it.

Eggs – If you do a lot of baking, you can substitute Egg Replacer for eggs; it’s made from potato starch. If you like scrambled eggs or omelettes, learn to make tofu scramble. I used to love making omelettes for breakfast, and tofu scramble was a satisfying way to transition. There are lots of decent tofu scramble recipes to be found online, and it’s pretty easy to make. By itself, tofu is very bland, but it picks up the flavors of whatever you mix with it, so it’s extremely versatile. I like making tofu scramble with sauteed onions or leeks, peppers, and zucchini with fresh chopped tomato on top. If you want a cheesy flavor, mix in some Daiya cheese, or sprinkle in some nutritional yeast. Many vegan restaurants that serve breakfast will have a tofu scramble option. Some Whole Foods stores also have tofu scramble available for breakfast in their salad bar area. Just be aware that there are lots of different ways to make tofu scramble, so it may take some testing to find a variation you like. I find that it goes especially good with hot sauce since I like spicy food.

Sandwiches – During my low-awareness phase, I often had sandwiches for lunch with slices of chicken flesh, turkey flesh, or pig flesh. It was pretty easy to transition to veggie sandwiches. Instead of sliced up bodies of animals on bread, I’d make sandwiches with sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato, and dijon mustard. The avocado really makes it awesome. If you miss the fleshy texture, you can easily substitute vegan deli slices as well. They come in a variety of flavors and styles and are available in many grocery stores like Whole Foods. For sandwich bread, my favorite is Food for Life’s Ezekiel 4:9 Sesame sprouted bread, which is available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and many other stores. Sometimes I include thinly sliced cucumbers, pickles, sprouts, or hummus too.

Breakfast – Eating vegan for breakfast is simple and easy. I often make oatmeal with some kind of fruit mixed in (usually fresh blueberries, raisins, currants, or sliced bananas), and I usually add some vanilla soy milk for a creamy texture. I especially love having a bowl of hot miso soup with oatmeal. If I feel like making a faster breakfast, I’ll make muesli; in a bowl, just put some uncooked rolled oats, dried fruit, and chopped nuts (normally walnuts or pecans) and pour vanilla soy milk on it — you’re done in two minutes. Sometimes I’ll make fruit smoothies or fruit shakes for breakfast too. Some vegans like to start the day with a glass of fresh juice. I’ve done that on occasion, but I usually prefer a more substantial breakfast, especially after exercising. When I’m in a more savory mood, tofu scramble is great. Or for something sweeter, vegan pancakes or waffles are a nice treat, especially with fresh berries, sliced bananas, and maple syrup.

Dinner – There are so many vegan dinner options that you’ll surely find tons of ideas just by Googling. When I first went vegan, I would often make stir fried veggies for dinner because I liked having a lighter meal at the end of the day. These days I often have udon or soba noodles with steamed veggies, pasta with lots of veggies, or my Ultimate Rice Bowl. You’ll probably find that your dinner options explode with variety when you go vegan. Animal eaters tend to eat the same bland dinner meals over and over — they keep eating dead birds, dead fish, dead cows, and dead pigs — but once you began exploring plant-based meals, you’ll see just how much variety is possible. Your dinner meals will probably look a lot more colorful too.

Learn the Basics – Eating vegan can be really easy if you want it to be. While you may enjoy complex meals on occasion, it’s wise to get used to the basics first. Start with simple vegan meals that are easy to prepare and that you enjoy, such as a baked potato, pasta, rice with steamed veggies, oatmeal, a veggie sandwich, or a fruit smoothie. Then you can complicate and extend those meals for greater variety if you desire. A good way to expand your horizons is to search for vegan recipes online, and you’ll get tons of idea for meals to try.

If you simply dive in and learn as you go, you’ll quickly gain experience, and you’ll see the variety in your diet increasing as you move away from the socially conditioned blandness and repetition that animal eaters so often succumb to.

Even after 18+ years as a vegan, I’m still amazed at the endless variety of new vegan dishes. There are always more ideas to try, way more than I could sample in a human lifetime. I can’t see how anyone could feel bored or deprived eating vegan, unless they’re seriously incompetent, living in a cave without Internet access, or just really ignorant about food in general.

30-Day Trials

For a variety of reasons, I recommend a 30-day trial as an effective way to transition to a plant-based diet.

The first significant 30-day trial I ever did was a test of eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 30 days. I did that in the summer of 1993. After 30 days without animal flesh, I never ate animals again. I wasn’t actually trying to become a vegetarian though. I only wanted to try it for a month. But I liked it so much that it was easy to keep going. After about six months, I realized that I no longer thought of animals as food. Eating flesh became even less appealing than eating cardboard or sawdust.

Then in January 1997, I used the same approach to go fully vegan. That worked well too, and I dropped animal ingredients from my diet for good. Looking back, I wish I went vegan sooner and didn’t spend so long in the gray area of lacto-ovo vegetarianism. While it seemed like a big deal to go vegetarian in the first place, going full vegan from there was pretty easy, and it was nice to no longer be stuck supporting the disturbingly disgusting dairy and egg industries.

A 30-day trial is a mini-commitment. It’s long enough for you to learn the basics of eating plant-based foods, and once you gain 30 days of experience, you’ll realize that it’s easy to continue. But it’s also short enough that you can use the psychological trick of telling yourself that you can still eat whatever you want on day 31. Of course, you’ll probably find that it’s easy to keep going with the trial on day 31 and to make it a permanent lifestyle improvement if you so desire. On day 31 you won’t be such a newbie anymore; you’ll have 30 days of experience behind you.

For some transitions it may take multiple 30-day trials before you’re able to make it stick. There are a lot of dumb ways to eat a vegan diet — eating too few calories is among the most common mistakes — so if your first attempt goes a bit wonky, take some time to educate yourself about how long-term vegans actually eat, and prepare better for your next trial. It will probably go more smoothly. I’ve talked to a number of people who told me they tried eating vegan and that it didn’t work for them, but when I asked them what they ate, their food choices always sounded weird to me. I would think, OK, that’s technically vegan, but who actually eats like that?

Imagine if I said that I tried eating an animal flesh diet, and it didn’t work for me. And when you asked me what I ate, I shared that I hunted wild parrots, bears, and porcupines and ate them raw. Then I complained about digestive issues with the feathers, furs, claws, and spines. You might figure that’s a really weird way to eat animals, but if I’d never eaten animals before, maybe I figured it was as good a place to start as any.

A lot of animal eaters figure that since they already eat some vegan foods, they already know how to eat vegan. Just eat only the vegan stuff in their diet, and eliminate the non-vegan stuff. For many people, however, that’s a foolish approach that yields very little chance of sustainable success. To succeed they’ll probably need to include foods they don’t normally eat, not just expand their old side dishes into meals.

Veganism isn’t a singular diet. It’s a lifestyle choice, and within that choice, there are a myriad of different ways to eat a plant-based diet. Just because you’ve tried one way of eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you’ve tried them all. So be careful not to negate the whole approach just because you tried a variation that didn’t flow well for you.

I’ve found that some popular forms of plant-based diets caused negative side effects for me. For instance, eating low-fat (no more than 10% of calories from fat) is popular among many vegans. It’s also a proven way to reverse heart disease. But every time I’ve tried low-fat variations (raw or cooked), I suffered from very dry skin by the end of the second week — so dry than my knuckles would crack and bleed. The dryness would also make me itchy, especially when exercising. But within a few days of adding more fat back into my diet, such as some avocado, the dryness went away, and my skin looked and felt better.

I encourage you to read and learn about all the immense varieties of plant-based eating. Use what you read to inspire your own experiments, especially new 30-day trials. Learn by doing.

Increasing Your Food Intelligence

As a vegan you can expect to greatly increase your food intelligence. When you learn the truth about what you used to eat, you’ll probably begin feeling sorry for the people who are still being duped.

If you still want to buy pre-packaged foods, get used to reading nutrition labels. It takes some practice, but you’ll get used to scanning for animal ingredients. As soon as you identify a single animal ingredient such as milk powder or whey, you can put the package down.

What is whey anyway? Whey is a toxic, foul smelling byproduct of cheese and yogurt production. Disposing of whey was a major problem for the dairy industry. They tried dumping it into sewers to get rid of it, but that was made illegal because whey is significantly more toxic than normal raw sewage, and this caused problems for sewage treatment plants. They can’t dump whey into waterways either because whey depletes oxygen in the water and kills fish.

Eventually technology came to the rescue. The dairy industry, in concert with cooperative government agencies, found a way to dispose of whey by processing it with chemicals to turn it into an essentially tasteless and odorless food additive, so they could dispose of it by feeding it to humans. So the strategy here was to use humans as unknowing biological waste processing units for the dairy industry.

Combined with intensive marketing efforts, this was a huge success for the dairy industry, which found ways to dump whey into lots of products as a cheap filler for use by other food companies. Whey is especially common in bread-like foods such as cake mixes, pancake mixes, and cookies. Flavors and other ingredients were added to compensate for the tasteless whey.

Then the whey scientists went a step further and convinced people to buy protein powder made from whey too. One reason they went that route is that this is a part of the “food” industry that attracts some of the most gullible buyers, and the right marketing can influence people to consume just about anything. Put a big, muscled arm on the packaging. Fund some sham studies with bogus health claims. Buy full page advertising in muscle magazines, and suckers will flock to it. All it takes is money, and there was plenty of that to spend. Of course this worked beautifully, and to this day, lots of people have been brainwashed into behaving as waste disposal units for the dairy industry.

Vegan or not, whey is not something you should ever put in your body. It’s certainly not a health food, despite the crazy amount of marketing that goes into convincing people to help dispose of it by eating it. Don’t let your body be used as waste disposal unit for the dairy industry. Would you buy something marketed as Raw Sewage Protein? Well, that would mostly likely be healthier than whey, and at least it would have a more honest label. So please don’t treat your body as a sewage processing plant.

Some vegans prefer not to eat packaged foods at all. This is a personal choice. The food industry certainly sells some incredibly nasty products that will damage your health in the long run. But I wouldn’t say all the players are bad. I’m okay with buying some packaged foods, but I tend to avoid the major mainstream American brands.

A general rule of thumb that I use is that if I could find the product in the aisles of a major mainstream American supermarket chain, outside of the produce section or the organic section, it’s a safe bet that I should avoid it. So whatever you’d find in those stores, that isn’t something I’d even consider food. They’re okay places to buy toilet paper though.

Also, be on the lookout for bogus, healthy-sounding words on food packages like whole or natural, which are largely meaningless. Organic (or Bio in Europe) is a word that actually has legal meaning. When I see legally meaningless terms that are obviously trying to make a product sound healthy, I usually assume that the product is as phony as its labeling. The products that look like they’re trying too hard to appear healthy are usually crap.

An increasing number of packaged vegan foods are including the V in a circle logo to show that they’re vegan. That’s a nice shortcut. Some products will include the word vegan on their packaging too. But many vegan products don’t use these easy identifiers. And even if a product is technically vegan, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So I always look through the ingredients to get a better sense of what’s in there. If it looks like chemical soup, I’d rather not serve as a waste disposal unit.

As a quick shortcut, look at the cholesterol line on the nutrition label. If you see anything other than zero mg cholesterol, the food isn’t vegan since plant-based foods never contain any cholesterol. Cholesterol only comes from animal ingredients, so if you see any cholesterol at all, it’s definitely not vegan. But if the cholesterol is zero, you’ll still need to check the ingredients since there may still be small amounts of animal ingredients.

If you see an ingredient you don’t recognize, feel free to Google it with your phone. Gradually educate yourself on what each ingredient is. If you can’t figure it out, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it anyway.

In general, if you’re going to eat packaged foods, favor the ones with fewer ingredients and with ingredients that you recognize as real foods. If you see a list of dozens of items and lots of chemicals, even if they’re all vegan, I’d advise you to leave it on the shelf. There are surely healthier options.

I prefer to buy organic food whenever possible, but if you’re more sensitive to price, I wouldn’t worry about pesticides too much. As a vegan you’ll still be ingesting fewer pesticides than animal eaters since pesticides accumulate in animal tissues, so they’re way more concentrated in animal flesh than they are in produce.

Generally I buy food from Whole Foods, Costco, Trader Joe’s, and sometimes from local farmers markets. The farmers markets in Las Vegas tend to be pretty limited and overpriced; if they were like the gloriously abundant ones in California, I’d buy food from them more often. Since Costco is the closest food source to my house, I get a lot of items there. I’m pleased that they’ve been adding more and more organic items lately. The Costco near my house sells organic mixed greens, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, bananas, blueberries, soy milk, rice, pasta, udon noodles, hummus, frozen berries, and lots of other organic items too. I also like that Costco pays their employees well, so I see the same people working there year after year; they have virtually no employee turnover. Walmart, by comparison, seems just downright nasty to me, especially in how they treat their employees; I never shop there.

I’d absolutely love it if there were an all-vegan grocery store in my area. For many vegans, including me, it doesn’t feel so great to support a company that also sells animal products, even if we aren’t buying any of those products directly. You’ll have to discover for yourself how much of a purist you want to be. As more people go vegan, new possibilities will become viable. For now, do the best you can with what’s available in your area.

When it comes to restaurants, I very much prefer eating at 100% vegan establishments. I wish there were more of them in Las Vegas; nearby California makes me jealous in that respect since they have such an abundance of quality vegan restaurants there. When given the option to eat at a vegan restaurant vs. a non-vegan restaurant with vegan options, I’ll automatically favor the vegan one, and I’ll tend to tip more generously there as well. It feels so much better to support a business whose ethics align with my own. I also notice that the general vibe of 100% vegan restaurants is normally so much lighter and more peaceful than places that deal with animal ingredients.

Finding your equilibrium is an important part of being vegan. You’ll surely develop new rhythms and habits that are very different from your old lifestyle. I’m generally happy with the patterns I’ve settled into, but I also like to reassess them now and then, so I can look for ways to keep improving.

Becoming vegan is one step on a long journey. Don’t look at it as some kind of final border to cross. There are many more steps to take after that transition.

Restoring Conscious Choice

I’m sure it’s no secret to you that the foods you see people eating on TV shows and in movies are heavily influenced by the marketing budgets of the animal products industry. When you go vegan and stop eating like the people on TV, you’ll become a lot more aware of those influences and how extremely limiting they are. You’ll also learn to consciously override those influences. Consequently, you’ll likely see a major expansion of your dietary flexibility.

What do you see people eating on TV for breakfast? Cereal with cow’s milk. Chicken eggs with sliced pig flesh. Pancakes. Waffles. Toast. Donuts and pastries. Coffee. You’ll see the same items over and over. It wouldn’t surprise me if 80% of the breakfast scenes on American TV shows and movies could be covered with only five or six dishes.

If those TV foods are part of your diet, then TV and movies will have a greater influence on you, encouraging you to keep eating what you see. And since so many people are similarly influenced, you’ll see the same foods at restaurants and in other people’s homes too.

But when you go vegan and stop eating those non-vegan items, you’ll probably begin trying foods that aren’t commonly shown on TV and in movies. Those marketing messages will no longer be so influential since those items won’t be part of your diet anymore. This will free your mind to begin exploring new directions instead of being so heavily influenced by marketing messages. This will also help you become more aware of how other disguised marketing messages are reaching you. This is one reason that when people go vegan, they typically see ripples of positive transformation that affect other aspects of their lives too.

Don’t be too surprised if you discover dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of different meal options you probably never would have tried if you hadn’t gone vegan. It’s extremely common for vegans to experience much greater variety in their diets once they dump the social pressures that tell them to eat a certain way.

Don’t feel bound to follow the old rules of what you’re supposed to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s very limiting.

Sometimes I like having a green smoothie for dinner… or several bananas for lunch… or udon noodles with steamed veggies and peanut sauce for breakfast.

Realize that you’ve probably been brainwashed to keep eating the same foods again and again. Going vegan is a great way to cure yourself of such limited thinking and expand your possibilities.

Eat Vegan on a Budget

Eating vegan can be very inexpensive if you want (or need) it to be. Rice, beans, pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats, bananas, millet, quinoa, and many other foods can provide plenty of calories at low cost. You can live quite comfortably off low-cost starchy foods, which have been the basis of large modern civilizations for millennia.

The same goes for eating vegan on a time budget. How long does it take to eat some fruit? When I’m in a hurry, I’ll make a meal out of several bananas. Apples are easy to eat while driving. Rice takes a while to cook, but very little active prep time.

If someone complains to me about the financial cost or the time cost of eating vegan, I’d try to figure out if they’re really ignorant, really lazy, or just plain dumb. In my experience, it’s frequently a blend of all three: ignorance + laziness + general stupidity. Fortunately, those are all treatable conditions for those who wish to be cured.

Of course eating vegan is also a lot less burdensome on the environment and on our resources like water, electricity, and fuel. Instead of growing plant foods, feeding them to animals, and then eating the animals, it’s much more efficient all around to eat plant foods directly.

Turning animals into products is incredibly wasteful. It’s been calculated that if the cost to the environment were taken into account, the true cost of a hamburger would be about $200 today.

Eat Vegan While Traveling

Eating vegan while traveling is super easy. If you want to find vegan food nearby, just use HappyCow (the website or the app). I often use the HappyCow app on my phone while traveling in a new city. It uses GPS to get my location and shows me nearby places to get vegan food, including restaurants and grocery stores. I can also see other people’s reviews. When I pick a place, it can launch a mapping app to navigate me there. This makes finding vegan food incredibly easy.

When I first went to Paris in 2011, people told me that I might have a hard time finding vegan food there. That is to say, non-vegan people warned me about that. Experienced vegan travelers know better. Vegan food was abundant in Paris, and the French vegan cuisine was just amazing. I especially liked Saveurs Végét’Halles, which is fairly close to the Louvre.

When I’m staying in a place with a kitchen, like an AirBnB, I’ll find a local grocery store or natural foods store and buy some vegan items there. Some foods that I often buy when traveling include muesli with soy milk, pasta, fresh fruit, and bread and hummus. Muesli is especially easy to find in Europe, and it’s generally better than what passes for muesli in the USA.

If I’m in a country where I don’t know the language, I use my phone to translate the ingredients. The Google Translate app is awesome for this. I run the app, aim the cell phone camera at the list of ingredients, and I’ll see the translation into English appear on the screen in real time. With a little practice, I can eventually learn the translations of words like eggs, milk, butter, etc. so I can quickly scan for them. This also helps me learn the words for common plant-based foods like wheat, soy, etc.

I love to rely on local help whenever possible. I make new friends easily when I travel, and when people learn that I’m vegan, they’re usually happy to help me find vegan food. Even when I could use technology to help me, I prefer asking new friends for help. So if we’re buying food together, I might show them a few packages of different muesli varieties and ask them to help me figure out which ones are vegan. This is very easy for them to do, and it usually makes them feel good when they see that I’m grateful for their assistance. Also, quite often, they end up buying more vegan foods and fewer animal products for themselves as a result.

The same goes for eating out at a restaurant where I don’t speak the language. If I’m eating with other vegans (such as my girlfriend), we’ll usually go to a veg-friendly place where vegan options are clearly marked on the menu or at least where the staff is knowledgeable about vegan options, such as Le Pain Quotidien in Paris. And if I’m out with non-vegan friends and end up eating wherever, I can enlist their help to figure out what’s vegan that I could order.

When it comes to eating vegan on an airplane, my overall experience with airlines has given me the impression that they’re systemically incompetent when it comes to providing vegan meals on flights. Even when I request a vegan meal in advance, they usually get it wrong. Their “vegan” meals often include animal products like butter (sometimes listed right on the labeling when they list ingredients), or they forget to put my meal on the plane altogether, and the stewardess tries to apologize on behalf of whoever screwed up. On top of that, they typically charge around $25 extra per meal now for a vegan option, which seems ridiculous, especially given that the food usually isn’t very good.

So I decline airline food altogether, including on long international flights. I pack my own food in advance. This is more satisfying, and I can eat when I’m hungry instead of following the plane’s meal schedule. I just have to make sure that what I pack can pass through security. When I flew out of Paris once, airport security seized a jar of jam from my bag. Apparently jam is too dangerous to bring on a plane.

Be Unapologetically Vegan

New vegans are often socially timid when it comes to getting their needs met. Some of them act like they should apologize for inconveniencing other people, as if it’s an unfair burden to help someone who doesn’t want to slaughter animals for food.

I suggest you dump that attitude. Being vegan is awesome. You need never apologize for it. By going vegan, you’ve made a decision that’s all around better for everyone. Have no doubt about that.

Don’t buy into the brainwashing that tells you you’re a high-maintenance social outcast. Don’t marginalize yourself. You’ve made an intelligent choice. You’re not a social outcast. You’re a leader. Act like one.

Many vegans adopt the mindset that being vegan puts them on the fringes of society. The thinking is that when you go vegan, you’re no longer a mainstream person. You’re weird, different, and unusual. You’re not like everyone else.

If you’ve bought into that kind of thinking, you’ve inadvertently swallowed some propaganda from the animal products industries. They devote part of their marketing budgets, both directly and through trade associations, to encourage people to marginalize vegans in this way. Why? Because veganism is a threat to their profits. So they manipulate social pressures to try to prevent more people from going that route.

It’s unfortunate that vegans buy into this kind of thinking too. I’ve certainly fallen for it at times.

Instead of seeing yourself as an outcast, get aligned with the truth. By going vegan you’ve made serious progress in improving your lifestyle, not just for your own benefit but for the benefit of animals, other people, and the world as a whole. This isn’t outcast behavior. This is leadership, plain and simple.

By graduating to veganism, you’ve put yourself at the top of the human pyramid in terms of alignment with intelligence, ethics, and conscious growth. Feel good about what you’ve accomplished, and keep learning, growing, and improving.

This isn’t a mindset that stems from arrogance or conceit. It stems from caring. Isn’t it obvious that as a vegan, you’re behaving in a more caring and compassionate way towards the planet? Isn’t it obvious that the world would be greatly improved if more people followed suit? Let the obviousness of that sink in.

Be smart enough not to fall for the massive amounts of animal industry propaganda that will make its way to you, often through people you know. You define what veganism means to you. You define what your place in society will be. I highly recommend that you assume your rightful place as a leader. You could do a lot to help other people learn to behave with greater consciousness, caring, and compassion, both towards animals and people.

If you need to make special arrangements to get vegan food at an event, family gathering, or whatever meal situation comes up, then unapologetically ask the person in charge of the food (such as the catering manager) to hook you up with something vegan. People who work in food services are used to handling different dietary requests, although some are definitely more knowledgeable and experienced than others.

Be friendly. Be polite. Ask for what you want. If the other person gives you the impression that they don’t know what they’re doing, bypass them and make your own independent arrangements. Bring in outside food if that’s what it takes. But don’t act like you’re doing someone a disservice for requesting a nonviolent meal.

In the recent past, I was at an event, and there was a buffet lunch provided with virtually no vegan options. There was another vegan at the event too, and I noticed that he was looking a bit forlorn and awkward with nothing but a few leaves of romaine lettuce on his plate. We got to talking, and I told him that since there wasn’t anything decent at the buffet, I asked someone to make me a veggie sandwich from the kitchen and that they’d be bringing it out soon. He said something like, “I didn’t know that was possible.” I asked him if he wanted one too, and he did, so I helped him request one as well, which made him a lot happier than just eating plain lettuce for lunch. He’d been vegan for only two years, but apparently he hadn’t yet learned that being vegan means asking for what you want. I encouraged him to ask for what he wants if he runs into a similar situation down the road — no need to feel shy about it.

People can always decline to help you, but in my experience that rarely ever happens, and even when it does happen, it’s normally because of ignorance or a lack of accessible vegan ingredients, not a lack of willingness.

My ultimate fallback is that if I find myself in a situation where I’m sensing a general lack of cooperation with my path of veganism, I’ll simply leave. It’s very rare that this happens, but when it does, I accept it, and I eject from the unsupportive environment. For instance, if I’m at an event, and they screw up my meal, and there’s no way for them to fix it in a timely manner, I’d rather not sit around with an empty plate while everyone else is eating. So I’ll excuse myself and go for a walk outside. I’ll find some vegan food elsewhere on my own, or I’ll skip the meal entirely. While I’m out, I shake off the temporary lack of social support, and I turn my attention to my profound love for animals, which always dissolves any personal inconveniences. And when I return later, after everyone’s eyes have glazed over with the fullness of the meal, I’ll be feeling full in my heart, even if my stomach goes empty for a time.

Most of the time, however, that isn’t what happens. Usually I just get a nicely prepared custom vegan meal. And quite often, the animal eaters look down at their rubbery chicken or slimy fish and then take note of my more attractive meal with envy. I often get comments like, “Oh… I wish I had asked for something like that. That looks so much better than what everyone else is eating.”

I remember when I was at a retreat in Bermuda in 2009, I received some beautifully prepared raw vegan meals, and the chef would come out and talk to me each day to discuss what he was going to make.

Don’t feel you have to skip dessert either. If you’re in the mood for dessert, try asking for a bowl of fresh berries. Almost any place can handle that.

Don’t apologize for being on the side of intelligence, sanity, and compassion. When you need help, it’s okay to ask for help, but don’t be too upset when people drop the ball now and then.

Legal Discrimination

This may be a legal gray area, but veganism is probably protected against discrimination in the USA by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This means that it’s probably illegal for an employer to discriminate against you on the basis of your being vegan. At least one U.S. federal court has already leaned in this direction. In that case a vegan woman in Ohio was fired for refusing to follow her employer’s rule that she be injected with a vaccine made from chicken’s eggs. She sued on the basis that such discrimination was illegal. The company tried to get the case dismissed, but the court sided with the woman up to that point. Eventually the company settled out of court. I think there’s a good chance the company would have lost that case if it went to trial.

The legal reasoning is that ethical veganism includes a set of moral guiding principles, so it’s therefore protected against employer discrimination. So, for instance, if your company fired you for being vegan, you could sue them and you’d stand a decent chance of winning because that would be akin to firing you for your religious beliefs, which is illegal. Other countries may have similar laws.

What I’m also curious about is whether a vegan-run company could refuse to hire someone for not being vegan, especially if it was a vegan company and the vegan ethics were wrapped into the business model. As far as I can tell, that would probably be legal since it’s unlikely that the desire to perform animal sacrifice would be protected by law. But you’ll have to check with a lawyer on that.

You may be in the minority as a vegan now, but that will eventually change. If you’ve taken a deeper looking into the animal products industry, then you already know that it’s based on unsustainable insanities and the ongoing perpetuation of falsehood and ignorance. If enough humans keep learning and growing, we’ll eventually correct this unintelligent behavior. I suspect, however, that we won’t fully transition off of animal products until stronger artificial intelligence becomes more deeply entrenched in our society. This is an area where I fully expect that more advanced machines will initially make the problem worse (in the form of fully automated animal slaughter factories to increase production and reduce costs), but then I expect that even smarter machines will eliminate the problem entirely. Whether they allow humans to stick around or not, it’s simply not rational for intelligent machines to continue such insanities.

Eating Vegan Is Just the Beginning

Your animal eating friends will probably give you the impression that going vegan is some kind of huge leap into counter-culture and that once you’ve taken that step, you’re a fanatic and an extremist, and therefore no further steps are needed. Surely you’ve gone way too far already. But if you buy into that nonsense, you’ll stop exploring the amazing growth that follows after you go vegan.

I understand that it may seem like a monstrous step forward in your personal growth to go vegan. How can there possibly be more to do after that? You’re already so far beyond the rest of society. Shouldn’t you stop there and wait for everyone else to catch up?

Try not to fall into this trap. Going vegan can be a huge step forward to be sure, but there are many more steps to take after that. Once you take this step, you’ll see another… and another… and another. Take those steps as they come. Don’t be held back by people who think you’re already impossibly different. Also, don’t be intimidated by those who seem like they’re impossibly further along than you are.

I didn’t go vegan for reasons of compassion. For me it started with a 30-day trial. It was an experiment. I did it mainly out of curiosity and for personal growth. As I continued down this path, however, I found that it gradually transformed how I felt about animals. I used to be as uncaring about animals as the next guy, but once I stopped eating animals and taking their eggs and milk, it became increasingly difficult to continue to relate to animals as consumable products. Now I look back and think it’s just insane to think of animals as products to be bought and sold for their bodies. What a hideous thing to do to such beautiful creatures!

Instead of listening to the people who felt I’d already gone too far, I’m glad that I continued to listen to my heart as its influence grew more pronounced in my life. I took many more steps along this path after going vegan, and as I did so, I felt a lot better about myself and my ongoing path of growth.

I stopped buying leather products. I stopped killing bugs that came into my home. I took more steps to increase my commitment and alignment with this path.

I kept attracting opportunities to explore my feelings of connectedness with animals. I hiked in the woods alone and encountered some black bears, and I walked between the mama bear and her cub. I pet an eagle. I pet a hummingbird. I hugged a wolf. I lived on a Spanish farm for a week and spent time communing with the animals there.

The more I embraced the vegan path, the more beauty I encountered, the more oneness I enjoyed, and the more centered I felt. I now know that at least for me, my first few years of being vegan were only spent exploring the shallow end of the pool. There is so much depth and wonder to experience beyond that.

Don’t let animal eaters slow you down. Once you go vegan, pause for a while if you need to, but please keep growing. Do not fret about the steps you have yet to take.

Going vegan is like walking through a doorway into a whole new realm of growth. Enjoy the transition through the doorway, and celebrate your passage, but be sure to explore the realm inside. I assure you that it’s an incredibly beautiful realm.

Honor Your True Feelings

Once you’ve been vegan for a while, you may find that the strength of your emotions increases significantly, especially if you adopt a high-raw diet. You’ll be much more in tune with your feelings, and it will be harder to ignore them.

This has a major upside. Your emotional highs will be higher than ever. You’ll be able to experience intense love and joy like you’ve never felt before. You may look back on your animal eating days and realize that you were an emotional zombie back then. As a vegan you’ll feel so much more alive inside.

The flip side is that as the highs are amplified, so are the lows. You may become much more sensitive to the feelings of others. If someone around you is stressed or depressed, you’ll probably feel it. There are biological reasons why this is so, which are beyond the scope of this article, but the changes in your emotional sensitivity may cause ripples in other parts of your life. It will be much harder to do work that doesn’t inspire you. It will be much harder to stay in a lifeless relationship. It will be much harder to hang out with negative people. It will be much harder to cause harm to others.

Initially you may try to repress these feelings. You may find yourself drawn to heavier foods. You may find yourself wanting to eat a lot more vegan junk food to dampen your sensitivity. Find your temporary escape if you need a break from those feelings, but in the long run, it’s best to turn towards those feelings. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling, and let your feelings inspire your actions.

In more than 20 years of working on my conscious growth, the #1 most powerful decision I ever made was going vegan. Nothing else comes close in terms of the rippling consequences it has had… not even getting married or having children.

If I didn’t go vegan, I wouldn’t have started a blog about personal growth. I wouldn’t be writing articles to help people grow. I wouldn’t have uncopyrighted my work. I wouldn’t be doing workshops and public speaking. I wouldn’t have cared enough to help people in that way. I wasn’t that kind of guy when I was treating pigs and chickens and cows and fish with such disrespect, as products to be purchased and consumed. I didn’t feel that level of caring. Going vegan changed all of that and profoundly altered my life path.

Emotionally that put me in a real quagmire. I ended up caring a lot more about people, including people who really don’t seem to care much about animals. I found myself in the uncomfortable situation of recognizing that I’m part of a family that’s at war with itself.

You may find yourself in a similar quagmire of emotions from time to time. Sometimes you may not know how to handle those feelings. You may want to withdraw from the world now and then. I certainly feel that way sometimes. I suggest that you do your best to honor your feelings and let them guide you instead of repressing them.

Sometimes I just can’t handle being around animal eaters. The ignorance and indifference gets to me. I feel saddened by their unwillingness to care enough to help alleviate the suffering they’re actively supporting. Sometimes these feelings aren’t triggered by any specific events or circumstances. Just the awareness that so many animals are being slaughtered each day and sold for their bodies can bring me down when I put my attention on it.

I’ve learned that when I need time away from animal eaters, it’s best for me to honor those feelings. I’ll disappear from their world for a while, retreat to my vegan sanctuary, blow off any invitations from them, and spend time only with fellow vegans for a while. I don’t tell them I’m doing this because they wouldn’t understand. Feelings like mine just aren’t a part of their world. These temporary retreats really help. They restore my faith in humanity. They clear away feelings of helplessness. They strengthen my patience. They give me inspiration to continue encouraging people to live more consciously. I feel stronger once again.

I encourage you to honor your feelings on this path as well. When you feel weakened by excessive exposure to cruelty and indifference, take whatever kind of retreat you need to restore your energy.

I really love that being vegan helps me stay conscious. On this path, I’m constantly reminded of my choices and their long-term consequences. I see the contrasts between the path I’ve chosen and my old style of unconscious living pretty much every day. As a vegan, I find it impossible to fall back asleep. This path keeps me awake, especially in my heart. It keeps me from going numb.

Dealing With Animal Eaters

As a vegan you’ll likely be subjected to a great deal of awkward behavior from animal eaters. It’s important for you to learn how to deal with this because it’s likely to be part of your life for a long time. Don’t worry though. All of the issues are manageable.

Pretending to care about animals and semi-apologizing for their behavior is a common reaction you’ll get from animal eaters when they first learn that you’re vegan. Many will try to qualify their behavior with statements like, “I only eat free range / grass fed,” as if that’s supposed to make the slaughter of animals more amenable to a vegan. The terms are also legally meaningless. And besides, such behavioral claims are usually laughably false anyway. Given all the times I’ve heard this statement, I can’t recall a single instance of going out to eat with a meat eater and hearing him/her inquire as to whether the flesh they ordered was free range or grass fed. They just order whatever is on the menu, like they’ve always done.

You’ll probably see countless instances of animal eaters trying to control your perceptions of them, especially trying to convince you that they care to some degree, and then you’ll see that their true behavior indicates a complete lack of caring for the well-being of animals. Get used to it. This sort of thing is extremely common. As a vegan, you’re surely going to see it a lot.

Some animal eaters will pretend to be vegetarian or vegan with statements like, “I’m vegetarian too except that I eat fish once a week.” Be prepared to hear many statements that reduce to: “I’m mostly vegan, except for when I eat non-vegan foods.”

It’s hard to find a long-term vegan who hasn’t been asked the dreadfully ignorant “Where do you get your protein?” question. The animal products industry has done an outstanding job of propagating this level of ignorance. During your first few years as a vegan, you may have the motivation to try to educate animal eaters by taking the question seriously and offering a thoughtful answer to it. But eventually you may come to see that the question is plainly stupid and simply not deserving of a serious answer. When you realize this, it may help you lighten up about it.

Personally I find the protein question so incredibly stupid that it’s hard for me to answer with anything but teasing or sarcasm anymore. I tried taking it seriously for the first few years that I was vegan, but after that, I just surrendered to my baser instincts. One of my favorite ways to reply to the protein question these days is to say, “I haven’t eaten protein since 1993. I should be dead.” Then I’ll invite the person to please tell me about someone they’ve seen suffer from protein deficiency and what the symptoms are, so I know what to expect in the years ahead.

When you encounter sheer stupidity — and you’re going to encounter it a lot — do your best to take it in stride. If you feel like educating animal eaters now and then, feel free to have some fun doing it, but don’t feel obligated to be their nutritional advisors if that role doesn’t interest you beyond the first several years of getting sucked into it.

When you’re in your newly converted to veganism phase and feeling pretty righteous, you may enjoy getting into debates with animal eaters, especially once you’ve educated yourself enough to see that the truth is indeed on your side. If that appeals to you, enjoy yourself. But don’t feel you need to get roped into such debates for the rest of your life just because you’re vegan.

At this stage of my vegan path, it really doesn’t interest me to get into debates with animal eaters about my lifestyle. I’ve had nearly 20 years to hear all their arguments, do my own research, think each point through carefully, and learn the truth to my satisfaction. While I’m happy to help out people who are genuinely interested in this path by sharing tips, advice, and resources, why would I want to waste time debating with someone who just wants to argue with me so as to justify their own lifestyle habits? In my experience, that kind of debate isn’t very convincing to anyone. As the saying goes, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

So as a general rule, I don’t grant permission for pro-cruelty people to debate with me about my vegan lifestyle. Such debates were interesting and appealing to me during the 1990s, but they have no value to me anymore.

That said, it’s pretty common for some animal eaters to assume that just because you’re vegan, they’re entitled to debate you about your lifestyle choices. Because of this, many vegans, especially new vegans, get roped into many such debates. This can be extremely time consuming though, especially if you really get into the debate and find yourself looking up references to back up your points.

Let me give you a shortcut though. You absolutely do not have to indulge such requests if you don’t want to. Animal eaters aren’t entitled to debate with you about veganism just because you’re vegan. You can grant them this privilege if you so desire, but I highly encourage you to decline if you don’t feel that the process and the outcome will be beneficial.

Additionally, you don’t have to agree to be interviewed (formally or informally) about your lifestyle choices either. If you feel like answering questions about being vegan, go right ahead, but don’t feel obligated to answer questions. You don’t have to be someone’s nutritional advisor just because you’re vegan.

A terrific website someone shared with me recently that covers vegan relations with animal eaters in a humorous way is Vegan Sidekick. The site is filled with cartoons that will have you laughing out loud (if you’re vegan) because they’re so true and so common. I’d encourage you to go through the archives there and look at some of the cartoons. It will help you see that the awkward behavior you’ll encounter from animal eaters is widespread and universal. You could seriously spend hours on the site. I think one reason for the sheer vastness of material there is the sheer vastness of ridiculous behavior that vegans encounter from animal eaters.

I’ve found that relating to animal eaters on their terms is a dead end for me. I can’t keep stepping into their world by half-heartedly pretending that I’m just like them, except that I happen to eat a plant-based diet. I find it much more satisfying to invite them into my world. Instead of relating to them with the typical coldness, indifference, and social distance that a world of animal eaters requires to function, I invite them to join me in a world of warmth, caring, and compassion towards animals. I don’t try to persuade them to go vegan. I simply connect with the part of them that’s already vegan, the part that really wants to care more.

If they run screaming for the door, so be it.

Vegan Romance

What about getting into romantic relationships with non-vegans? For a short-term relationship like a few weeks, I think it’s doable, especially if you have good reasons for exploring together. I wouldn’t recommend it for a serious long-term relationship though. I can certainly understand that people do end up in such relationships, but the unfortunate reality is that getting into a long-term relationship with a non-vegan will very likely retard your growth and reduce your overall happiness. For the vegan, such a relationship becomes a huge trap, leading to a lot of repressed feelings. The sadness is palpable.

Love by itself is very powerful. It can create tremendous bonds. But compatibility definitely matters. While a vegan/non-vegan relationship can still be very loving and can have its good times, it suffers on the compatibility side. So much potential for sharing is missed.

You’ll generally be much happier in the long run with someone who has compatible values and who shares your sense of ethics. A true vegan-vegan relationship lets you go so much deeper into your feelings of love for each other, and your shared ethics will help you bond in ways that you’ll never experience with non-vegan. While tolerance has its place, don’t mistake tolerance for love.

What about a vegan-vegetarian relationship? I wouldn’t recommend that either. A vegetarian who still consumes animal products hasn’t made the same commitment. In my view, vegetarianism is much closer to animal eating than it is to veganism. On the spectrum of animal eating to veganism, I’d put vegetarianism at roughly the 20% mark. That other 80% really matters.

Living in a home with zero animal products is very different than living in one with some animal products. What vegan wants to see milk or eggs in their fridge?

I know this is a delicate topic for many people. The reality I generally see in vegan/non-vegan relationships is that the vegan and non-vegan genuinely love each other. The vegan would love for their partner to be vegan too, but if that doesn’t seem likely, they’ll do their best to live with the incompatibility in order to preserve the relationship. However, they normally hide this from their partner, so as to preserve harmony and to avoid an argument that might potentially threaten the relationship. What to do then? Stay in such a relationship, or leave? While it may take a significant amount of courage to leave, that’s usually the right decision in such situations. This is a major lifestyle incompatibility, and it will always be a ghost that haunts the relationship. There is greater happiness to be found on the other side.

Despite voicing a fairly unambiguous stance on this issue, I understand that this is the kind of soul-wrenching decision that may challenge your intellect and your emotions to their utmost limits. That said, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of exploring and enjoying the amazing depths of a true vegan/vegan relationship. It is a wonder beyond wonders, and it is something that only vegans can experience with each other.

Go Fully Vegan

People begin exploring the vegan path for a variety of reasons. Some do it for health reasons. Some do it for ethical reasons. Some do it for environmental reasons. Others (including me) got there by exploring and experimenting, driven by curiosity.

However you got started on this path, when you see that it strongly resonates with you, make a real and abiding commitment to it.

One thing that helped me commit was to deeply educate myself about many aspects of being vegan. I needed to satisfy my mind that this was the right choice for me. I read lots of material about it, including many anti-vegan sources. Again and again, when I looked deeply enough, I saw that the truth favored veganism.

On the emotional side as well, I spent a lot of time exploring my feelings towards animals, towards the planet, towards animal eaters, and towards other people. I came to see that my life seemed a lot better when I allowed myself to care more about other living beings, as opposed to trying to be tough, independent, and indifferent.

Through that process I became a committed vegan. That commitment means a lot to me. It’s deeply woven into my sense of self because I’ve chosen to do that. Much of my life path today is devoted to honoring that commitment and continuing to explore it. It touches all parts of my life.

I think it’s really helpful to carve out a slice of your world that you can control, and make that environment 100% vegan. For me, it’s my home. The rest of the world may not be vegan right now, but my home is my vegan sanctuary.

When a guest wants to stay with me, they aren’t allowed to bring any animal products into the house. If anyone insisted on doing that, they’d be ushered out.

I used to be a lot more flexible about this. I wouldn’t permit animal flesh in the house, but I’d let guests bring lacto-ovo vegetarian food inside if they wanted to. I quickly nixed that, however, since it disgusted me to see eggs or cheese in my own fridge. And the stench of chicken ovums cooking in my kitchen is truly noxious. I felt a lot better when I decided not to allow that in my home anymore. Whether guests are around or not, I can maintain a fully vegan home at all times, and that feels so much better.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to transition to all vegan clothes, and strictly avoid items that stem from animal abuse such as leather. It’s easy to find vegan shoes, belts, and other clothing items with a simple online search these days. Presently I’m wearing a pair of shoes made from hemp, which are pretty good.

Some vegans feel that if they bought animal-derived items before going vegan, they might as well continue to use those items till they wear out. I understand that reasoning, but I also observe that vegans typically feel better when they finally donate those last few items and complete the transition sooner rather than later. One vegan recently told me that she felt better knowing that she wasn’t inadvertently advertising such products by wearing them in public.

When you reach the point where you can reasonably say that you’re 100% vegan, it really is significantly different than being at 99%. In reality, achieving a true 100% vegan lifestyle may not always be realistic, but if there’s a next obvious step for you to take, like letting go of your leather purse or shoes or iPad case or non-vegan cosmetics, then by all means take that step. This also gives you the opportunity to throw some support to those who are offering cruelty-free alternatives.

I think you’ll feel a lot more congruent as a vegan if you make sure that your home and your possessions reflect your true values. If your ability to do that is currently limited, such as if you have a non-vegan roommate or if you live with a non-vegan family, then do the best you can, and let your best be enough. But keep moving towards the goal of having your lifestyle fully reflect your vegan values. This is a very worthy goal and a wonderful milestone to achieve.

How much of a purist you want to be is for you to explore and decide. This will be an ongoing process. In a world that’s so rife with animal abuse, our inter-dependence means that at some point, you’ll probably encounter a gray area. Some of those gray areas may be non-issues for you. Others may challenge you to make new decisions. I can’t advise you on every possibility, but I can tell you that if a certain gray area keeps getting your attention, it’s probably something you need to re-evaluate.

Create Your Own Vegan Rituals

As you shed your old socially conditioned rituals that were brainwashed into you from childhood, I encourage you to create your own rituals to replace them. Create rituals that actually mean something to you.

Most mornings I get up at 5am and go for a run. I love running outside in the morning. I love how good it feels to move my body, to elevate my heart rate, to breathe the fresh air, and to watch the morning sun peek over the mountains.

After my run I usually sit for about 20 minutes on a park bench, in a grove of trees populated with a few dozen birds. Shortly after dawn the birds become very active, chirping and singing to welcome the new day. I sit there alone watching and listening. I smile. I enjoy the sunrise. I feel my connection to the earth and to all living beings.

As I sit on the bench and put my attention on the birds, I admire their beauty and elegance. I watch them effortlessly glide through the air from tree to tree. I take note of the different species present. I feel how good it feels to silently connect with them and to other animals with respect and admiration instead of violence, control, or indifference. I allow myself to care about them. I enjoy how good it feels to care. Caring fills me with a delicious warmth.

During those 20 minutes or so, I reflect upon my existence. I notice how conscious and awake I feel during that time. I think about the many joys in my life that I’m grateful for. I think about how good it feels to get up early and to run. I think about my girlfriend that I love so much and that I’ll soon return home to cuddle with. I think about my current challenges and how they’re helping me learn and grow. I ask the earth how I can be of service today, and I listen for its answer. I dialog with life.

For me this is a very peaceful, very conscious, very beautiful time of day. It’s a simple ritual, more like a pause than a specific activity, but it helps me feel physically, mentally, and emotionally grounded as well as spiritually awake and aware.

What I love about being vegan is that I no longer have to be afraid to care. Instead of preventing myself from caring, I revel in those feelings now. I love the warmth that fills my heart when I take the time to create and experience those feelings again and again. I indulge in those feelings as a daily ritual, without having to be so afraid of the growth they’ll inspire in me.

When I ate animals, I could never allow myself to explore such practices. Caring would have been too risky, so I invalidated it. I’d push myself to grow stronger, but not more loving. But now I can look back and see just how much I limited my strength by not allowing myself to care more, and I can see how much beauty I denied myself.

I encourage you to deepen your own practice of veganism with simple rituals that allow you to experience the full deliciousness of this path in ways that you couldn’t allow yourself to do in your pre-vegan days. Once you shed the practice of eating animals, you’ll no longer be stuck with the cognitive dissonance of treating animals with such indifference and brutality while awkwardly pretending that you’re still a kind and caring person. This will give you the freedom to explore real caring and compassion instead of the old faux compassion. The vegan path is an absolutely beautiful one to delve into, so please give yourself the gift of exploring it.

Care deeply for the animals of this world. They deserve to be treated so much better.