How to Slowly Transition to a Vegan Lifestyle (For good!)


Many people turn vegan over night or over the course of a few days… and there are some really passionate and fired up vegans who will tell you that the minute you see the cruelty, you STOP it immediately, or you’re scum.

Personally? I think that fire and passion for the animals is incredible and I admire it!! But I also think that the fired up approach isn’t going to work for everyone. I think budget constraints, health struggles, and just the mindset we approach life with can really impact our ability to not only “go” vegan, but to STAY vegan. It really is an entire lifestyle shift, and for that to be sustainable some people need to take it in small bites, that’s OKAY!

Ultimately, I think we can all take a step back and understand why those “preachy vegans” are so fired up. They see MASS cruelty being committed against innocent animals and it hurts their hearts. It’s WRONG, and they know it, and deep down we all know cruelty is wrong- so they have chosen not to be numb to it, right? But then they see everyone around them not only sticking their heads in the sand, but RIDICULING them for actually caring. So yes, they are fired up because with all that going on, there are also people who DO see and understand the cruelty and care about it, and still aren’t acting instantly. Every minute, every hour, every day that the dairy and meat industry are alive (and others too) are moments animals are suffering. These people are fired up, because there’s massive cruelty going on and only so much they can do to fix it, and it feels like nobody is LISTENING to them about it. Doesn’t that sound like a horror movie to you?

So while I don’t want to dive down anyone’s throats and I’m not going to shame you for taking your time, I hope you can also understand why some vegans are so ANGRY, and I hope you can send them some love and learn from the aspects of their incredible fire that ARE helpful.

Shake off what doesn’t serve you, and remember that the angriest people are often the ones who need love the most. Their anger isn’t about you.

Now, on with the How-to!

So I’m actually transitioning back to vegan- last time around I did it overnight and sustained it for about 3 years before living in roommate situations where my favorite dairy was around and I eventually caved. It’s been about a year of just being vegetarian and I’m easing back into vegan. :)

Here’s what I’m doing to take it slow and make it sustainable this time- while also working within my personal health and budget constraints, addressing the fact that I still have a roommate who consumes dairy and that’s going to be tempting for me, and making sure I’m getting all the nutrients and such that I need each day.

1 | Focus on what you DO eat (Not on what you DON’T eat)

This one is a mental thing, and it’s a game-changer for me. Rather than focusing on what I don’t eat, I focus on what I DO! Look at the abundance around you, especially things you might not have eaten before going vegan. Instead of looking at it like “I can’t eat-” I say “I’d rather have-.”

There are people in my life who tell me “I wanted to invite you to come with us and then I remembered you can’t eat burgers,” and every time I hear something like that I’m like “yes, I CAN. I choose not to. I don’t want to. But thank you for being considerate of my beliefs.” It’s something that really bothers me to hear because it’s that scarcity/lack focused mindset that gives a vegan lifestyle such a bad rap, but honestly, scroll through the vegan tag of Instagram for .002 seconds, and tell me we don’t eat in absolute abundance when we want to. Veganism is not a limit, it’s not scarcity, it’s not strict.

Veganism is a massive abundance of love and that’s beautiful.

Literally, nothing feels better. So remember that. If you’re still in that “Now I can’t have steak” mindset, look at it again and really think about how you feel. Decide how you want to see it, and start changing the patterns of your thoughts and words around it. It really helps.

2 | Phase things out in categories

When it comes to actually removing animal products from your life, it can really help to take it one category at a time. I went vegetarian about 6 years before deciding to commit to a vegan lifestyle, so I was already really familiar with a lot of vegan products and where to get which nutrients, as well as how to eat enough without meat and dairy. If you’re starting for the first time, think about the many ways this lifestyle will change how your daily life looks.

Beauty products, home products, clothing and shoes, honey, meat, dairy, eggs… These are some of the categories I used and they might make sense for you too. Make a list and decide how long you need for each area.

A note on sustainability- part of the ethics behind vegan look at not creating unnecessary waste for the planet. So… when you go vegan but you have leather shoes, leather furniture, dairy still in the fridge, etc. don’t feel guilty for finishing it or continuing to get the use out of it! Personally, I feel it’s best to use it up since you’ve already purchased it. If it really hurts your heart too much to know where that leather came from, consider donating it rather than tossing it out or sending it to recycling before it’s really been used!

3 | Find inspiration every single day

You can create your own inspiration by writing about it (like I do with this blog!) but it also really helps to have a community, whether that’s online or in person. I’ve found the Twitter vegan community to be SUPER helpful and friendly! Just tag a question #vegan or #veganquestions or #newvegan and people will almost always step right in to help! Instagram is full of beautiful inspiration as well, obviously, and if you like an ethical debate (though they are generally a little immature here after a few comments) the Tumblr vegan community is full of ethical debates and Now-You-Know posts. You can also search Pinterest for vegan bloggers and find lots of new resources for vegan inspiration and insight.

4 | Have a cheat day

For me, a cheat day sometimes sparks more cravings and sets me back from my goal. This is especially true if I approach this in a binge-eating-dairy kind of way. If I have my normal amount of food and just add a tiny bit of whatever dairy I was craving all week, though, I’ve noticed that really helps me to get through the week without giving in- and to also go into the next week feeling focused and committed (and not frantically trying to stop thinking about cottage cheese).

If you decide to try this method, notice how you feel after and adjust it each week until you no longer need the cheat day.

After a while, I forgot about my cheat days entirely and it just became natural.

5 | Think about it!

Spend time with your reason for going vegan AND your reason for taking this slower approach to the transition. Remembering both will help boost your confidence in your ability to do it and it’ll keep you focused on the goal. Choose a habit you already have every day- like brushing your teeth or washing dishes or working out, and intentionally think about this lifestyle change during or just after you do your usual habit. Tying a new habit into one you already have established can really help!

One final tip…

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful! Here’s one more to send you off…

Before you start, take some time to reflect on major lifestyle changes you’ve made in the past. Think about what worked well and what didn’t or what your biggest weaknesses are when it comes to sticking with a change. Based on your reflection, decide which of these tips will suit you best and give it a try! Reflection is a powerful tool and you can always come back to it- try out a new habit for 3 weeks so you can really adjust to it. Then, if you still aren’t feeling it, phase it out or make a change to the habit so that it can work for you.

VeganJessica PenaComment