How Do I Start Eating Vegan?

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I get so many private messages asking me for advice on how to start eating vegan. I’m literally going to write a book in response. But for now, maybe this helps…

I received this Facebook message from a high school friend:

Colleen,

I have been following your “Waking Up Vegan” posts for quite awhile now and think that I am finally ready to begin making “the switch.” My greatest motivation right now, to be quite honest, is to get the baby weight off and look fabulous again. I am, of course, also concerned about my health, as well as the health of my hubby and kids. This is especially true since my husband and I both have family histories that include diabetes, heart disease, etc. My family wants nothing to do with “eating healthy,” let alone vegan, at this point, but I figure that I’ll take this one step at a time. Once I am in control and they see my amazing transformation, they’ll want to follow suit! That’s what I’m telling myself at least!! 

I guess my question to you is…how do I begin?!? Do you have a list of basic meals/recipes I can use to start, a list of kitchen essentials, etc.?!? I feel
overwhelmed and have no idea what I’m doing

Thanks so much! 

My response:

How to start? Based on what you are telling me, I would recommend that you go 100 percent, and make the commitment for 4-6 weeks. With “weight loss” and “healthy” being primary motivations, this will be the easiest way to accomplish both, and give you time to figure out what agrees with you and what does not. And It’s easier for others to understand and support you if it seems temporary. Everyone’s tried crazy diets and you’ll find sympathy is easier to deal with than “where’s the protein?” explanations or ethical arguments. And, if you make exceptions here and there, you will drive yourself (and others) nuts with too much thinking. Just make the commitment, and let time sort out your motivations. Vegan “rules” aren’t for everyone: eggs, honey and organic dairy have intelligent counter-arguements. But as a parent, you understand that rules provide boundaries, and boundaries provide comfort. Follow them like a map in this ‘starter phase’. It just makes it easier to separate the “yes”s from the “no”s. Invest all that micro-analysis energy into planning ahead. Shopping, cooking, going out, eating with others, etc takes a LOT OF WORK. Failure to plan is planning to fail. 

Also, if you go100 percent, you’ll be very clear on the benefits. But a word of caution. Detox is real, and it can suck. Expect to hit a wall in week 2 or 3…probably feel sludgy and sick. It might be a day or even 3, but once you get there, be proud…you’re doing it right, and you’re almost through! 

Buy a great chopping knife as your commitment door prize. Learning to love chopping is essential, and you can’t love it if you are hacking with a machete. You wouldn’t sign up for a marathon in a pair of Keds, and this is important. I have one good knife. The Cutco Petite Chef. I use it 3 times a day. Every day.

Don’t spend crap-loads of money on substitutes. The fake meats are still processed food, vegan or not. It’s different when you are feeding kids and transitioning, but you don’t need them. A good veggie burger to take to grill parties (yes, bring your own–get used to it) and a vegan cheese for pizza is all you need. And a little goes a long way. Plan on eating a lot of vegetables. 

Carry a toothbrush. Entertaining those around you with green stuff stuck in your teeth gets old. 

I have a really early post about the “formula” I use when I cook. Though it’s over 18 months old, it is still what I do. Which means it stands the test of time. I’ll attach it. 

Get a good multi-vitamin. And a high quality (Ortho-biotic is the brand I use) B-supplement and fish oil. They do make a vegan fish oil, but I use the real deal as you have to take a LOT more of it and it’s triple the cost. This is one compromise that I make. After depression, hair loss and other issues about took me down, I chose supplements over pharmaceutical intervention. I also now take a probiotic and digestive enzymes, but I don’t consider those essential. And here’s the true story: no diet is perfect all the time. Carnivorous folks often lack fiber and have high cholesterol due to high-calorie, low-nutrient, “high protein” foods. A little protein goes a looooong way. People that eat a lot of fast food can be over-weight and malnourished at the same time. Trust that whole and minimally processed, plant-based foods will meet almost all of your needs. And then take a vitamin.

It’s not hard unless you get hungry without a plan. Eat as much as you want. Don’t worry about calories. Don’t worry about protein (I promise. Vegan Honor). Buy a great cookbook (Colleen Patrick Gourdeau’s “The Vegan Table” has amazing and simple recipes and great pictures that will inspire you). Buy a motivational book (Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet” would be my recommendation). Look at both everyday for inspiration. 

For your husband, find the book, “The Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn or “Eat to Live” by Joel Furhman. They are great for men, and the v-word is never even mentioned. It’s “plant-based” for the new-dude crowd, and it’s brilliant. 

What else…Keep a jar of nuts and/or vegan bars in your purse and car. At all times. Just do it. 

Support and camaraderie are important. If you can talk someone into joining you for the trial period, that’s helpful. I convinced my hubby to join me for Lent. He also read the Kind Diet, watched Food Inc., and agreed that if I cooked, he’d eat what I made. Easter came and went with no temptation to turn back. He lost 35 pounds in the first 6 months. Even if your husband only agrees to eat the same as you when you are together, it would be nice. Sharing a meal with another person is very nourishing. It’s not essential, but it’s nice. Another good dude-documentary is Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It’s on Netflix.

You can do this. Please feel free to ask me anything. In fact, I’d LOVE it if you could journal questions, concerns and experiences. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to start, and the more we talk about it, the easier it will be for the next person. If you get frustrated or hit a wall, please reach out. Seriously. 

It’s truly an amazing transformation–literally of body, mind and soul. We have a lot of crazy misinformation in our heads that keeps us addicted to a lifestyle that is creating disease (and profit for big brand food corporations). Waking up to a new reality is the most freeing thing you’ll ever do for yourself. 

I wish you the best! 

Colleen

P.S. Whether you end up “vegan” or not doesn’t matter. Once you make the connection that you are what you eat, and then really “digest” exactly what you are eating, you will choose wisely.

Read my Formula that I still use every day to create meals. And it’s never the same twice…


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  1. paneer says:

    Some popular and mouthwatering dishes are Bhindi Masala, Dum Aloo, Gobhi Mussallam and Kele ka Kofta.
    Well, we have all heard it ??? ???An apple a day,
    keeps the doctor away???. The non-vegetarian fare of the state is simple irresistible.
    You can find Coorg cuisine at Delhi restaurants and Restaurants in
    Mumbai. Once again, we went Seven Descents and they were great.

    Feel free to surf to my web page paneer

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