”Somebody once told me the only thing worse than death is...
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." -George Bernard Shaw
SOMETIMES, in order to be happy and become the best versions of ourselves, we don’t need to add or do more… we need only to stop and change direction.
There are certain things that vegans just don’t need to do – and avoiding them can make a major positive difference.
You can quit slowly, gradually, or immediately – but no longer doing the following is a must!
*Ohhhh, and this blog is pretty long (3000+ words), so if you want a quick infographic of the action, you can GET IT HERE!
Now without further ado...
1. Give up shaming omnivores
"Judgment traps you within the limitations of your comparisons." -Willie Stargell
Trust me, I get it. Going vegan completely changes how you view everything. But at the same time, we have to be able to compartmentalize the world we live in. Eating meat and animal products is so ingrained into society that many people just see it as normal. And even though you and I now know it’s wrong, we have to be able to understand that, as vegans, we are truly blessed – and that many people have yet to receive the gift of recognition.
Try This Instead: Don’t go 0 to 60 to non-vegans with your vegan ways. Start slowly with information. Introduce them to the potential health benefits veganism can bestow. Highlight famous vegans and influencers that may affect their opinion of veganism. And, overall, simply be there with answers to questions and concerns they may have. I guarantee you will convince more people to hear you out being relatable and transparent than lowering the boom on them for their lifestyle choices.
2. GIve up infighting With Other Vegans
"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." -Henry Ford
After some time being vegan and having the chance to hone and master my craft, I came to one very basic and firm rule: I do NOT argue with vegans – ever! It may sound noble to some, ridiculous to others, but I have a very simple explanation: It’s not worth my or anyone else’s time. Vegans, no matter the reason/s they convert, should all be on the same side. People so often show a psychological defect to hurt those closest to them, and vegans aren’t any different. We argue, vilify and bash our own, which simply makes no sense.
Try This Instead: If you must argue and fight, save it for an occasion that really warrants it. A parent who constantly yells at the children has less leverage than a parent who picks and chooses when to unleash an outburst. Save your strength for when it really matters, and/or for a cause that truly deserves your voice -- like human and animal rights!
3. Give up Expecting People To Go Vegan As Quickly You Did
"A life that is burdened with expectations is a heavy life. Its fruit is sorrow and disappointment." -Douglas Adams
How long should you wait for a person to become vegan before giving up on them? Two weeks? Two months? Two years? This is an unanswerable question because the essence of being human is that we’re all unique in how we choose to approach life. Besides which, nobody, including you, likes being rushed, pushed, or bullied into what they should do. Especially when it comes to something as serious and life-altering as veganism.
Try this instead: Be empathetic and put yourself in the other person’s shoes while taking your personal judgment and expectations out of it. It sounds simple enough, but so many of us fail in this. Think back to a time before you were vegan, think about your journey to finally going all the way, and, as best you can replace your frustration with tutelage and patience.
4. Give up beating yourself up over your non-vegan past
"Don't listen to the bully in your head." -Unknown
I wish I had switched to veganism years ago. I wish I hadn’t been brought up eating meat. I wish I had learned all of this sooner. I wish. I wish. I wish. I used to feel so guilty about all the damage I’d done as an omnivore, but eventually, I realized it is pointless to dwell on past ineptitudes. My being miserable wasn’t going to bring any of those animals back, but it was going to make my life that much harder.
Try this instead: Focus on the now. There’s a reason all living beings walk forward and not backward – because the past should be kept behind us. Forgive yourself, acknowledge the wrong you did, and learn from your experiences. Use your history as a tool to help others and become an ambassador for the change you want to see by helping people not make the same mistakes you did.
5. Give up relying on junk food
“Garbage in garbage out” -George Fuechsel
Usually, I don’t particularly care what anyone eats as long as it’s vegan. At the same time, I want people to understand that being vegan alone is not synonymous with healthy eating. Veganism is an ever-growing movement, which means that seemingly every day a new company emerges offering veganized versions of many of the treats we grew up loving such as pizza, hot dogs, burgers, etc. Deceptive marketing and human impulse aside, people shouldn't forget which category these foods fall into. A term we all know called JUNK. Consider this: Cap’n Crunch, Fritos, Pop Tarts and Oreos are all vegan, and not even close to healthy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where a lot of things that shouldn’t be are allowed to be sold and called food. The corporate shadows behind this couldn’t care less about your wellbeing as long as their pockets grow healthier (see what I did there?).
Try This Instead: Don’t rely on processed food for the majority of your diet. A lot of people are hazy on the exact definition. Simply put, it’s food that has been chemically altered; for example drowned in salt, preservatives, highly saturated oils or other unhealthy additives. Once in a while is cool, but do your best to eat mostly whole foods, things from the earth that don’t have an infinite shelf life inside a box or bag.
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6. give up responding to meat trolls
"Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a victory achieved at too great a cost." –Robert Greene
Ever read some version of this online? ‘DUM VEGANS, I LUV EATIN MEET!!!!!!’
Its obvious trolls need a forum and an audience to feel like somebody. Anti-vegan trolls also seem to belong to a part of the internet that has never familiarized itself with the English language. And oh how they love the caps lock button and exclamation points. We may not know much else about them, but consider this: What successful person has the time to go back and forth in pointless negativism? Yes, okay, they hate vegans. A lot! They also probably hate the sun, puppies, and guacamole too.
Try This Instead: This can be easier said than done, but simply don’t respond. There’s no way to come out ahead once sucked into an argument with an idiot. You can give a troll the wittiest, zestiest, most insightful rebuttal ever, and you still lose. Alternately, a defensive, angry, or nasty response just brings you down to their level and will likely fuel continued trolling since they managed to get a rise out of you once. Besides, what do you care about the opinion of some poor guy who probably still lives in his mother’s basement? Just move on. With the valuable time and energy saved, you automatically win.
7. give up making a big deal out of small issues
"Don't sweat the small stuff... and it's all small stuff" -Richard Carlson
Some vegans seem to leap into feeling offended by things truly not that important. For example, becoming upset with people yelling ‘cheese!’ when taking a photo (yes, I’ve seen it). Or letting the news of the Daiya sell-out to a non-vegan company become a cause for anger and boycotting. Big picture, does vegan cheese really deserve that much attention? This isn’t life and death, it’s… non-dairy cheese. Some people can look out a window at a beautiful, sunny day and see nothing but the specks on the glass.
Try this instead: Resist over-thinking and getting caught up in insignificant details. If you start to focus too much on something too specific/little, ask yourself "Is this the most important issue I should be concentrating on? How much will this matter tomorrow/next week/next year?” If the answer is ‘no’ and ‘very little’, let it go. Move on. Be like Fonzi (Pulp Fiction reference) and just be cool.
8. give up thinking you’ll never find a vegan relationship
"It always seems impossible until it's done." -Nelson Mandela
I know for many vegans the thought of finding someone who’s plant-based is like trying to find beach-front property in a desert. In fact, I recently read an online post from a man detailing his recent decision to quit veganism. He did for a woman he'd just met who was opposed to veganism. And because he'd been single for so long he didn’t think his chances of finding someone else were in his favor. Personal judgment aside (as best I can), I’ll simply say this: There are two kinds of people in this world, those who believe and those who don’t.
Try this instead: Remember, the universe has an almost movie-like way of making things we never dreamed of happening happen… IF we’re resolute in never giving up on the things we truly want. Faith comes into play, but so does action. Enlist friends and family for help, join groups, download apps – be as much of a master of your destiny as possible. If we can get a giant metal box to fly, and live on a spinning planet in the middle of the galaxy – you can find a vegan partner.
9. give up using veganism as a deflection
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." -Albert Einstein
Veganism is not a little magic pill. I’ve heard many people say that they, in a sense, went vegan as a distraction from a much bigger personal issue. A failed relationship, boredom – whatever. If that’s your motivation for going vegan then you will certainly fail. Whatever your problems were before going vegan, animal products notwithstanding, will still be there after you go vegan; now (as long as you stick it out) they just don’t contribute to animal cruelty.
Try this instead: Make sure you’re vegan for sustainable, real reasons. It’s hard to hear about former vegans who quit because it was ‘too hard’ or they ‘got tired of it.’ Do your homework on veganism and learn why it has been around so long, and for what reasons an ever-increasing number of people are committing to it. Understanding the history of something is a great way to understand the present -- veganism included.
10. give up turning down non-vegan food rudely
“Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.” -Eric Hoffer
Recently, at a party, I observed a vegan guest that, after being offered something that clearly wasn’t vegan, completely let loose on the host. I cringed to myself because here’s the thing: It’s going to happen – a lot. Unless you tattoo “I'm vegan” across your forehead, people who don’t know any better will hospitably offer you non-vegan foods.
Try this instead: ‘No thank you.’ As simple as that. It’s easy, effective and real. Every conversation or situation doesn’t have to become an exhaustive debate over ethics and preferences. People also remember negative encounters 90% more than positive ones, so after one exchange with an unnecessarily zealous vegan, they very well may conclude all vegans are rude.
11. give up complaining about the lack of vegan options
"Complainers change their complaints, but they never reduce the amount of time spent in complaining." -Mason Cooley
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After making the choice to go vegan, it’s important to be able to accept all the things that come with it. Feeling surprised and unhappy over the realization that omnivores have more food options is like someone going to the North Pole and being shocked that it’s cold. Complaining doesn’t change anything, it only annoys people nearby. A cranky vegan just gives veganism a bad rep and sours people on the possibility of opening their mind to it.
Try this instead: Prepare. It’s impossible to be completely ready for everything in life, but the more preparation you put in, the more self-confidence and sense of control you’ll have. Going to a new restaurant? Do the legwork ahead of time and find out if the place has acceptable vegan options, and if not, eat before. Having a plan is half the victory. Alternately, starve in silence. Just don’t fall victim to complaining.
12. give up introverting yourself
"I intend to live life, not just exist." -George Takei
It’s not breaking news that the vegan community isn’t as large as we’d like it to be, but that doesn’t mean you should quit living in and facing the world. I’ve come across too many vegans who have stopped going out and experiencing life because they feel so disconnected from people. That’s not healthy for anyone.
Try this instead: Focus on hanging out one-on-one or in small groups in places you feel comfortable. Farmers markets, coffee shops, bookstores – locations where the expectation to socialize with others isn’t high, yet still welcomed. Utilize those low-key options if you feel yourself becoming too detached. Better yet, allow yourself to be a little uncomfortable because too much comfort is the essence of a slow death.
13. give up trying to be the perfect vegan
"I never expect to see a perfect work from an imperfect man." -Alexander Hamilton
A person can spend hours reading the backs of packages, be aligned with as many vegan groups as possible, even have been born a vegan who became a world-renowned philosopher on the subject – but here’s the real deal: No one, not even you, can be a perfect vegan. They don’t exist. Even if theoretically someone managed to do everything right, they’d still automatically be imperfect. We’re human, accept it.
Try this instead: Just do your absolute best. Many people, especially early on, fail to understand that being vegan isn’t about some ideal of perfection. Being vegan is about intent and having the conviction to not consume or use animal products. That’s all anyone can ask of you, and better yet, all you can ask of yourself.
14. give up believing the world hates vegans
“A negative mind will never give you a positive life.” -Unknown
I was warned many years ago not to consume too much media because it would warp my sense of reality. Some people on media (especially social) would have you believe vegans are the world’s most hated people. This is simply not true. Yes, some people hate vegans the same way some people hate Manchester United or the color purple, but people’s hate is never the entire story. In reality, for every negative and hateful person in the world there is a crowd of positive people.
Try This Instead: Take inventory of how much media you’re consuming and set a limit, similar to a monthly spending budget. I recommend taking long breaks from media, social and otherwise, and doing something else. The basic idea behind ‘Selling 101’ is that negative news sells 10 times better than positive and many people get sucked into that unproductive world. Understand what you’re up against and take the necessary precautions to not be overwhelmed by too much pointless negativity.
15. give up undervaluing your contributions
"If you don’t celebrate success it won’t celebrate you." –Julian Hall
People have come up with so many reasons to celebrate anything and everything that real accomplishments can get lost in the general haze of it all. I hope you truly understand that going and staying vegan is an incredible and major accomplishment. Parallelling it with other things for which people regularly find excuses to celebrate, it’s obvious there is no comparison. Besides, you wouldn’t skip celebrating your birthday or a job promotion, so why should you give your veganism the short end of the stick?
Try this instead: Acknowledge your veganism as an accomplishment and plan something fun around it just like you would anything else you are proud of and want to spotlight. I’m not saying a weekly or monthly bash, just enough that you don’t take what you’re accomplishing every day for granted - like saving approximately 198 lives per year, including your own. Keep in mind that celebrating real accomplishments is a sign of maturity and self-appreciation and no one can or should appreciate you more than you.
Are you still reading this?
Cause Just in case you missed any of those sexy giveaways, here's a remix. You can get the infographic here and recipe book here!
Thank you! Your support means everything!
(Vegr backer and contributor)
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