We’re excited to introduce you to Heena Modi, Founder of Plant Shift, where she helps people one-on-one to transition to a plant-based lifestyle. Heena was a long-time vegetarian before making the switch to a vegan lifestyle after she found out how dairy was produced. She’s no slouch when it comes to plant-based living, having coached big names like Leo Babauta from Zen Habits as well as many other happy clients. To find out more about Heena, check out her coaching services.
In this post, Heena has been generous enough to share her insights on how you can overcome the common barriers to going vegan.
1. What do I say when someone asks me why I’m vegan?
I used to struggle with declining an invitation to talk about why I shifted to a vegan diet and then lifestyle. However, I’ve since realised that, more often than not, it’s better and compassionate to be open to check whether it’s the right time to discuss it or not.
There have been times that we have been invited to someone’s home for dinner and some of the guests became curious about why we had slightly different food or didn’t eat everything. That resulted in them asking why we were vegan. Suraj (my hubby) would often be quiet but I’d reply. I felt that I should because they had asked. What I do now, is say that I’m happy to explain but maybe after dinner (if we’re eating at the time), because everyone else may not want to hear my reasons right now. This has gone two ways. Either everyone has asked me to share the catalyst right there and then or we’ve picked up the conversation later.
After I’ve shared the reasons that motivated me to make the shift; the usual responses fall into two categories. One being are shock, because they didn’t know and the second being some form of acknowledgement that they know that these practices exist but they can’t go vegan.
There are different reasons, myths and misunderstandings which become a barrier for change. I’ll discuss some of these below.
2. I’m unsure if I’ll get enough nutrients
There’s a lot of media coverage pushing that we need ‘the white stuff’ (dairy milk) in order to absorb calcium needed to make healthy bones. One of the other fears seems to be around the lack of protein in a vegan diet.
Outside of dairy milk, there are many good sources of calcium. Some of these are molasses, almonds, sesame seeds, bok choy, broccoli, kale, okra/ladies fingers, beans, fortified milks, such as, soy, almond, oat, coconut, hemp, and rice milks.
Gary L. Francione & Anna Charlton share that cow’s milk isn’t the best source of calcium, because the body needs magnesium to absorb it. When considering the amount of calcium in cow’s milk, there isn’t enough magnesium to support absorption. This they say, results in calcium accumulating in the body, which can lead to the development of calcium deposits in our joints and kidneys.
In terms of the protein found in dairy products, Gary and Anna suggest that it causes our blood to acidify, which can eventually cause osteoporosis.
There are multiple vegan sources of protein and they are easily available. Some of these include, quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, chia, soy, black-eyed peas, garden peas, runner beans, chickpeas, broad beans, kidney beans, butter beans, almonds, pistachios, peanuts and red, green, yellow and brown lentils.
3. I’m afraid of what people will think of me
For some, the fear of what others will say or think is a big barrier. Will they approve of my choice? Will like me less or even worse; will they dislike me?
Can you think of one thing that you wouldn’t change regardless of what people thought of you? This might be the type of clothes you wear, the places you buy food from, the friends you keep, the books you read, the perfume you wear, the way you style your hair, the music you listen to etc? I think we all have at least one thing which we’re not willing to budge on. This might be because you are in love with that thing, because of a feeling it gives you, because you trust it or have faith in it, because it suits you, or it might even make you feel alive.
Could this be another thing that you’re not willing to budge on? I have found that when others realise we’re consistent and firmly believe in our choices, anything negative fades away and all that’s left it respect, admiration and the desire to learn more about it. This may not be communicated early on, but it will come up one day and you’ll be so chuffed that you didn’t get yourself bogged down with what others may or may not think or say, but that you made a decision and followed it through.
I believe that this makes life easier, smoother, simpler, lighter and minimal.
4. I can’t give up cheese
I often hear this reason and it’s ironic, because I think many people assume that vegans just don’t eat cheese. Most vegans I know, do eat cheese. It’s just not from an animal!
Vegan cheese is a growing business so there are many to choose from.
You may have forgotten but most of us had to try a few dairy cheeses before we found the one that we liked the taste of. You may have ended up choosing specific cheeses for different types of foods. Either way, you probably tried a few and then made a mental note of what you liked and disliked. It’s the same with vegan cheese. The growing selection of vegan cheeses are made from a range of ingredients, including, nuts, soy, coconut. They comes in slices, blocks, as a soft cheese and more. So it’s easy to go vegan and not have to lose the cheese.
5. I don’t know what I’ll eat
I know many vegetarians who say that they wouldn’t know what to eat if they went vegan. I’ve also heard people who eat meat say the same. Yet it’s interesting, because I know meat eaters and vegetarians who have shifted to a vegan diet overnight and haven’t looked back since.
If you’re vegetarian, I don’t believe that there’s much to consider i.e. it won’t be a big shift. There are plenty of alternatives to fill any gaps.
I started as a vegetarian, because although I ate some form of meat now and again, when I was a child; I’ve not eaten it regularly, so I haven’t experienced shifting from a meat diet to any other. However, I know from others that it can be seamless.
In the beginning, whether you’re vegetarian or eat meat, you may need to stop, think and plan a little before buying, but after that you’ll know what to buy, you’ll easily think of what to make, you’ll know which substitutes you like and whether you prefer certain brands of food etc.
There are plenty of recipes and guides to help you in the beginning, so please don’t feel as if you’ll be without support. You won’t be!
6. I can’t get my family on board
I’ve heard mothers say that they want their children to shift to a vegan diet, I’ve heard men and women say that they want their partner to go vegan and I’ve also heard children express that they want their parents to go vegan. The problem being that they’re not up for it!
I say this with compassion for you and your loved ones in mind; it’s worth honing in on yourself, so that you can live with your choice and not expect anyone else to follow in your footsteps. I say this because I didn’t do this and it resulted in hurt, anger, resentment and judgement.
Others may see a change in you and be inspired to go vegan, but I have learned to see this as a bonus, rather than, expect it or wait for it to happen.
There may be other areas where the choices that your family have made differ from your own e.g. someone eats lots of salt and you don’t, you eat lots of sweet things and others don’t or someone buys or cooks lots of fried food and you’re not all aligned with that. I think this can be seen in the same way, to ensure that you live and let live. Keeping peace in tact.
I don’t want to become a preachy vegan.
I guess this fear comes from having met some preachy vegans and I can understand why you wouldn’t want to become one.
I think the solution to this is consciousness. We make conscious decisions all the time.
Many of you may nod when you read that we’re not always consistent. We change how we think, what we say and ultimately, how we behave when emotions fluctuate or when we’re feeling physical discomfort, when we’re feeling got at etc.
During these situations, I’ve seen people who never speak about veganism, seem unable to be quiet about it, while they list reasons for going vegan and how their audience can make the change! I’ve also seen friends who are usually kind and empathetic, become quite blunt and blinkered when sharing why the world should go vegan. Unfortunately, I’ve done it to! I became that preachy vegan! I didn’t mean to, and when I replayed it in my head afterwards, I felt remorse, but without meaning to sound dismissive, it happened and I can’t change that now. However, I can make sure I’m more aware of factors that effect me and ensure that I don’t fall in to making that bad choice again.
I think that’s the way to ensure that we don’t become that type of vegan!
7. I don’t want to get rid of my clothes
All vegans are different and you don’t have to get rid of your clothes, shoes, jewellery, toiletry products or anything else if you don’t want to.
Because there are different reasons for going vegan e.g. health conditions, allergies, weight loss, ethics, the environment; changing your wardrobe or anything else; may not fit in with your choice anyway. That’s something that you will need to decide.
If, not owning items that involve cruelty or death aligns with your reasons for going vegan; don’t worry or feel the need to rush. Some people do everything in one go; others decide diet as a focus, but after researching about processes further, they choose to shift to a vegan lifestyle, and others, make a conscious decision to make additional changes at a slow pace.
When you’re ready to renounce non-vegan items, I wouldn’t advocate throwing them away or destroying them in any way. There are shops that raise money for charity, which you could gift your non-vegan belongings to. Alternatively, you could swap them with friends or family who have a mix of vegan and non-vegan things. Of course, there’s always the option of giving them away without any strings attached.
So in summary, with the right mindset, going vegan or staying vegan is not difficult at all.
Do you have any personal experiences about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle? If so, leave a note in the comments below.