THE 10 MOST IMPORTANT QUALITIES FOR A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION TO A VEGAN LIFESTYLE
10. Culinary adventurousness. There’s a whole world of plant foods and mushrooms (which are technically not plants, but fungi) that you may never have eaten, or even heard of. If you aren’t open to trying new foods, you’re going to be limiting yourself. Have you ever eaten tempeh? Jackfruit? Lion’s mane mushrooms? Enoki mushrooms? Natto (fermented soybeans)?
My strong advice is to try them all, except for natto. I think natto may be the Japanese word for “nasty.” On the other hand, go ahead, try it. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
9. Concern for health. A well-constructed vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans, but not every vegan diet is well-constructed and healthy. The word “vegan” defines only what you’re not eating: animal foods. There are too many who subsist on a diet of vegan junk
foods—highly processed meat alternatives and foods loaded with coconut oil, sugar, and salt. Without a concern for health, you may become a vegan junk food addict yourself. Then you can’t expect to experience any health benefits from your diet, and you may not become as committed to the lifestyle as those who thrive on a vegan diet.
8. Simplicity. A reliance on basic meals not only helps keep you healthy, it also helps you feel that your diet is easy. Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, rice and beans, oatmeal with berries—foods like this are simple, satiating, and nourishing. Don’t try to make every meal complex and time-consuming.
7. Intellectual curiosity. The more you read about nutrition, and the more you learn about the destructive effects of animal agriculture on the planet, the more determined you’ll be to stay vegan. In fact, the more you learn, the more you’ll feel empowered to help others make the same life-changing transformation.
6. Gregariousness. Social support helps. Reach out to other vegans and vegan groups in your area, and find support in vegan communities online. It’s much easier to stay vegan when you have vegan friends.
5. Love of animals. This one’s obvious. It takes an extraordinary act of mental gymnastics to distinguish between the central nervous systems of, say, pigs and dogs, and to justify the cruelty and pain we inflict on millions of pigs as of no consequence, when we would imprison anyone who did the same to one stray dog. Vegans committed to animal rights don’t usually stray from the path.
4. Innovative thinking. Pour a smoothie over your granola. Turn tempeh into the “meatballs” of your pasta—or try chestnuts. Create your own recipes. An innovative spirit helps in the kitchen, but it isn’t absolutely crucial, as there are hundreds of vegan cookbooks to be had.
3. Patience. It may take time to learn how best to construct a vegan diet for yourself. Some people do better eating more raw foods; some do better on cooked foods. Some people find that they need to soak their beans before cooking and eating them. There’s a world of plant milks to choose between. You will learn to love some new plant foods that you try, and you won’t learn to love others. Did I mention natto?
2. Determination. Whether your reason for going vegan is concern for animals, the planet, or your own health, if make up your mind that you’ll never turn back, you won’t. Never allow yourself to lapse intentionally. But if you lapse unintentionally (eating a cracker, say, that turns out to have been made with whey), forgive yourself immediately and move on. If you encounter any difficulties with your new diet, remember what you just read about patience.
1. A healthy indifference to the opinions of others. To be an enduring, thriving vegan, this may be the most important quality of all. You will, after all, encounter skeptics. You will encounter nay-sayers. You may be mocked. You may feel left out when the staff in the office orders pepperoni pizzas. You may feel left out even at the family Thanksgiving. Depending on your personality, you may or may not want to engage with your meat-eating critics. There’s no right or wrong way to handle them; it all depends on the situation and the personalities involved.
The only thing that would be wrong would be to let the skeptics get to you. Stay strong. Stay vegan. You’re likely to outlive the skeptics, anyway.