10 Things You Learn After a Year of Going Plant-Based
Anyone who thinks going plant-based is a walk in the park is in for a bumpy ride. Even if you’re 100% committed to the cause and have no intention of ever eating animal-based products ever again, there’s always something out to get you at every turn.
A restaurant dish listed as vegan that’s clearly not, something you thought you could still eat but can’t, the initial temptation to stray when one of your old favourites is wafted under your nose - just a few of the challenges you can expect to face pretty regularly.
Still, stick with it and you can rest assured it will be well worth while. Ask a thousand vegans the same question and chances are not one of them would tell you they regret going plant-based. It just isn’t something that happens - the benefits of going vegan are too huge to walk away from.
But just as is the case with most major lifestyle shifts, you don’t truly appreciate what going vegan is all about until you do it yourself. Of course, everyone who goes plant-based has an entirely different experience, with some finding it way easier than others to make the transition.
Nevertheless, it’s a relatively safe bet that the overwhelming majority of vegans will be able to relate to the following. These are 10 of the countless things you’ll only learn after maintaining a plant-based lifestyle for at least a year, which in all instances are pretty fantastic:
1. You instinctively start to watch what you eat more carefully
When you first go plant-based, you have to meticulously scrutinise more or less everything you eat and drink. You suddenly find yourself in a position where assumptions are you enemy, and you need to know exactly what you are eating. As time goes on, this gradually fades to become a more conscientious and careful approach to what you eat on a long-term basis.
Studies have shown that vegans are statistically more likely to make healthy and conscientious eating decisions than their carnivorous counterparts. Once you’ve been following a plant-based diet for at least a year, you’ll come to realise this really is the case.
2. You can eat more food and still hold a healthy weight
Is it relatively common for newcomers to veganism to lose plenty of weight during the first few weeks? Yes, but this is more about initial teething problems with the transition than anything to do with the vegan lifestyle itself.
In any case, what you come to realise a little further down the line is that by following a plant-based diet, you can eat plenty and still hold a healthy weight. Not that this is hugely surprising, given how eating more as a vegan typically means eating more of the good stuff. There’s plenty of junk food and high-fat food around to tempt you, but you’ll be surprised how infrequently you succumb to temptation.
3. You become aware of the environmental benefits of veganism
For some, the decision to switch to a plant-based lifestyle is predominantly (or at least partially) rooted in environmental concerns. You know you’re basically contributing to the end of the world by supporting animal agriculture, which helps motivate you to do the right thing.
But it is not until you have been vegan for a while that you realise just how much better veganism is for the planet. This has something to do with the fact that during those tricky initial weeks, you may find yourself doing everything you can to reassure yourself that you’re doing the right thing. You get massively into the whole plant-based lifestyle and culture, you study the effects of animal agriculture and you quickly convince yourself there’s no going back. At which point, you’ve well and truly reached the point of no return…and congratulations on that!
4. You feel more energised and invigorated in general
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t adopt a plant-based lifestyle and suddenly feel like you’re ready to tackle an ultra-marathon. In fact, you may find that quite the opposite is true at first - your body needs a fair amount of time to get used to a pretty enormous transition.
As time goes by, however, you gradually find yourself feeling more energised and invigorated on a daily basis. Not as if someone has flipped a ‘healthy’ switch you didn’t know you had - more a general feeling of all-round vim and vigour. By the time a year has gone by, you could find yourself feeling lighter, fitter and most likely much happier than you ever were before.
5. You actually start to embrace the challenge of the whole thing
One of the most off-putting assumptions about veganism is that which suggests it’s basically a non-stop battle. You struggle to find recipes you can really get into, it’s hard to find restaurants that don’t short-change vegans and you spend your days feeling marginalised. Indeed, there are times during the early stages of going vegan that it really does feel like this.
Thankfully, this is all relatively short lived. At some point along the way, you suddenly find yourself embracing and even enjoying the challenge of the whole thing. You become more adventurous with your cooking and eating habits, you make concerted efforts to find only the best places to eat and you take immense proud in your healthy lifestyle choices.
6. You get so much more satisfaction out of everything you eat
As mentioned above, the fact that you become more creative and adventurous with your cooking and eating habits brings a ton of additional pleasure into the whole thing. But so too does the feel-good factor of knowing that everything you do - shopping, cooking, eating etc. - is supporting the cause in some way.
This becomes particularly apparent after a year or so, at which point you take enormous pride in looking back on the whole year where you made nothing but informed and conscientious decisions. The fact that everything you eat is 100% guilt-free makes it all the more enjoyable, so you take significantly more satisfaction out of the dishes you already love.
7. Most people will both support and admire you
You can expect to encounter an initial period of scepticism, during which some of the people you know will assume you’re going through a phase. The decision to go plant-based is often interpreted as something as a temporary fad or fashion statement, which is actually quite tough for some.
For those with the intention of going vegan for all the right reasons and sticking with it, however, it’s an entirely different story. And just as soon as those around you realise it’s a lifestyle you intend to adopt permanently, you’ll be surprised how supportive they can be.
8. Many people have very unique definitions of veganism
“I’m technically vegan as I only eat chicken.” “Well I’ve cut down how much red meat I eat so I’m more or less vegetarian.” “It’s fine, just take out the lumps of beef and eat the vegetables, then it’s a vegan dish!” These are just some of the various quips and quotes you’ll come across quite regularly, as part and parcel of your plant-based lifestyle.
Technically speaking, there is only one true form of veganism - the complete exclusion of all animal-based products without exception. Nevertheless, you’ll be amazed to learn just how many different definitions of veganism you come across. Of course, people are free to make their own decisions and adopt whatever eating preferences they like. Just don’t be too surprised when you’re occasionally (as above) offered a vegan dish, which is actually a super-meaty dish with the offending flesh extracted before serving.
9. You can actually save money
Veganism has always had connotations with a rather expensive lifestyle, which many people genuinely believe they could not afford to sustain. Truth is, veganism can be expensive - if you buy nothing but the most overpriced artisan goods and OTT fad creations you really don’t need. By contrast, adopt a more sensible vegan lifestyle and you could save a small fortune.
Think about it - when were things like seasonal fruits and vegetables ever expensive? How much does it cost to stock up on healthy vegan staples like dried beans, pulses and so on? Herbs, spices, legumes, nuts - all seriously cheap and seriously satisfying. Just as long as you shop for the right things in the right places, you could end up spending way less on your plant-based lifestyle.
10. You just feel…better
Last up, you could write a long list of the potential health benefits associated with veganism. Better digestion, an improved metabolism, more energy and even better moods on a day to day basis. But if asked to sum up how you feel after going vegan for a full year, the only word that comes to mind is ‘better’.
You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you just feel better about pretty much everything you do. Perhaps it’s a combination of the health benefits of plant-based eating and the feel-good factor of doing the right thing for the planet. Whatever it is, it’s intoxicating and a feeling you’ll want to hold onto indefinitely.