Becoming a Vegan doesn't happen overnight

BY SHARON KLINGEMANN.

I knew deep within myself that I needed to switch to a vegan diet for quite a while before I did. It was about this time last year. I felt an ethical tension within myself eating meat and dairy. At this point I wasnt fully aware of all the aspects that go into begin vegan, I just felt a tug. My moral compass felt off when I consumed animal products. I felt unhealthy when eating meat. But I kept consuming them because I didn’t really know what else to do. I didn’t know where to begin. 

But really, the biggest reason I kept consuming meat is that I was scared of what people would think of me. Being vegan is so countercultural. Even though Veganism has had a huge rise within the last few years, still only roughly 1.5% of the population claim veganism. It is scary going into the unknown alone, doing something TOTALLY foreign to the world you’ve always known. 

My biggest worry was that people would think I was rejecting them when I chose to not eat meat dishes they prepared. I did not want to have to explain to people why I was choosing not to eat their food. I didn’t want to hurt peoples feelings. I didn’t want to disrespect people. I didn’t want to be ungrateful for their efforts. I didn’t want to insult them by rejecting their food. I didn’t want to give the message that I am better than someone else. 

My solution to this tension was to begin making vegan choices. I stopped buying meat to keep at home. I dramatically cut back the dairy I bought. I went from from buying three bags of cheese a week, to only one bag. I would eat meat when it was served to me. I did my best to order vegetarian/vegan at restaurants. This went on for a few months. I wanted to go vegan, I really did! But I just couldn’t channel the power within myself to make it a reality.

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I couldn’t commit to veganism because of barriers within myself. I struggled with the tension of pleasing people, or going with my gut. It was hard to not give into the instant gratification. I was hard to learn to recipes. It was hard to eat the same things every day. It was hard, and I wasnt confident in my decision.

After wrestling with this for a couple months I started to think: “why try?” I couldn’t stop eating cheese (y’all, cutting out cheese is ROUGH) and I still ate meat when it was served. Naturally, I backslid. Thats what I do when I do not fully commit to things, I backslide. I had to fully commit if I was ever going to pull the trigger and go vegan.

So had did I get from where I was, to where I am now? A full on tree-hugging-rabbit-food-eating-vegan? It sounds corny, because it IS corny. I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a quote that said something along the lines “Never apologize for doing something you know you need to do.” And in that moment was when I was going to stop making excuses for why I wasnt vegan, yet. 

By this time, it was the holidays. I knew I wouldn’t have the will power to go through the holidays vegan, so I set myself a new years resolution to go vegan. Once the new year came it wasnt as if I never ate meat or cheese again. I had slip ups, that is for sure. It was challenging. From the time that I decided I was going to commit to veganism it took me a good four months or so to get to the point of it not being a constant struggle. Before committing to being vegan it It took me about 6 months to go from “I want to be vegan” and making vegan choices, to get to “I am committed to being vegan.” 

In this long process when I made mistakes, I got back up and started over. I considered how far I had come from just a few months prior. I didn’t let myself wallow in guilt or shame. I didnt let myself give up, even though I did backslide. I kept trying. I kept pushing. And now I have come to the other side where being vegan is not longer a challenge. Where it is fun to cook new vegan recipes. My taste buds have changed, the thought of eating a steak is repulsive (I never thought those words would come out of my Texan mouth). I have come to the other side where I am confident in my decision to be vegan. I no longer crave cheese as much. I can confidently explain the ethical, environmental and health reasons for being vegan without apologizing 100% times. 

If you are stuck in the middle, where I was just a few months ago, remember that the only failure is to give up. Keep pushing! 

Sharon KlingemannComment