Stay Vegan: Find Your "Why"
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Do you struggle to maintain your vegan lifestyle? Has stress from the world around you begun to weigh you down and tempt you with old habits? Do you feel pressure from your friends and family to "just eat the burger" at the holiday barbeque? Does it take you longer than you expected to decide on a restaurant for your Friday date-night? Have you considered giving up and throwing in the towel? Wait. Take a deep breath and hear me out… If I could lend you any one piece of advice to help you over this hurdle and keep you on the right path with veganism, it would be to spend some serious time with yourself, reflecting, to find your "WHY."
As someone who has spent the last 10 years of her life "yo-yo-ing" between a vegan and non-vegan diet, I can tell you that you will never comfortably maintain a vegan lifestyle until you thoughtfully examine why you started down this path in the first place. I can inundate with you the facts, I can show you graphic images of animal cruelty, I can connect you with environmental organizations, and I can give you all the delicious vegan recipes in the world. But, what I can't do is be there with you at your mother-in-law's birthday dinner at a fancy steak house, while you're starving, and you're the only one at the table ordering a salad with vinegar and oil, hungrily watching everyone else savor their meals. Even the strongest of people might have wavering thoughts in that situation, and if you're doing this for the wrong reasons, I can almost guarantee you'll fail. How do I know? Because, I have failed…many times.
The first time I went vegan, I just wanted to lose some weight. I didn’t necessarily need to lose weight, but I was a bit uncomfortable in my body (vanity definitely got the best of me) and I wanted to shed about 20 lbs or so. I did just that, and then some, in an 8-week period (I still had a young metabolism at this point). I found myself feeling great and subsequently being more social. But, this meant going out more and eating out more, and pretty quickly after the 8 weeks was up, I found myself eating animal products again because I was over-confident in my ability to shed a few pounds if I needed to.
After a while, I was a full-fledged meat-eater again, but I always carried a deep-rooted guilt with me every time I consumed animal products. But, out of convenience, I would just fulfill my palatal desires and shove the guilt aside, trying not to think about the harm I was doing. I did this back-and-forth dance several times, over many years, with the same results each time.
This most recent and final time I considered veganism, I really tried to dig deep and figure out why this lifestyle was important to me, and why I always seemed drawn back to it in one way or another. There had to be something inside of me that knew this was right and I needed to uncover exactly what that was in order to be successful this time around.
The reasons are different for everyone, and your reason may evolve or grow as time goes on, but in most cases, everyone has one main reason that initially brought them here. You need to break down that reason and recognize every angle of it, write it down somewhere to remind yourself periodically, and start including that reason in your daily mantra until it becomes a part of who you are.
Here are a few of the main reasons
why people transition to veganism:
Are you vegan for your health? What about your health lead you here? Are you concerned about your weight, your blood pressure, your cholesterol, or some other factor? Have you had cancer or are you at risk of cancer? Do you have GI issues or hormonal problems? Whatever it is, think about how you would feel if any of those problems were to persist or get worse. How would your life, your mental state, and your family be affected. Do the research about what animal products might do to your condition. There is plenty of literature out there. Now, think about how you would feel if you succeed in veganism? Seriously try to picture it. Will you be happy? Will you feel good about yourself? Will you have longevity? Will you be there to watch your children or grandchildren grow up? Write all of this stuff down and remind yourself of all of it every time you start to miss the taste of cheese! What is more important to you in the long-run?
Are you vegan for the animals? What do you like about animals? Do you believe that all animals have thoughts and emotions? Now, what about the meat industry bothers you? Think about the harsh reality of how that burger lands on a plate. Put a face to that burger. Think about a cow or chicken or pig that you've had a heartwarming experience with and imagine if it were them on that plate. What were they feeling when they were slaughtered? I could go on and on about this topic, but I believe you get my point. Continue connecting with animals. Seek them out to experience their nature and their spirits. Remember their names and remind yourself of them every day.
Are you vegan for the environment? Why? Isn't recycling enough? Some people buy a reusable straw to stick in their purse and feel like they're saving the planet, but is that all that can or should be done? You know the answer to that question. The data is pretty clear on the effects that factory farming has on the environment. If you need help reminding yourself of that, seek out the data, watch the videos, and learn about the impact that you, as a singular human being, can have on the world's resources. Put a reminder in your phone to re-watch or re-read the facts once a month, or once a week. Volunteer with green organizations and get involved in your community. Do whatever it takes. Take your passion for protecting the planet and make it your mission, every day.
In order to undergo any major life change successfully, you must have a deep-rooted reason for the change in order to make it stick. You need to have a mission that you are trying to accomplish, and you need to be fully dedicated to that mission.
It may sound corny, but I strongly recommend writing a personal mission statement for your life and for this journey. Remember these 5 important points and address them in your own statement, and then go out and live it every single day to the absolute best of your ability!
- What is important to you?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What does your best life look like?
- How do you want to behave?
- What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Answer these questions for yourself and post it in a place where you will see it, and live it, every day.
Here's my personal mission statement:
"I believe that all animals are living, breathing beings with thoughts and emotions. Their lives are more important than my appetite. My goal is to achieve spiritual, physical, and emotional wellness by living a compassionate life. I want to help others learn how to care for their own health while saving as many animals as I (and we) can. I want to be remembered for making this impact on the world."
Yours will look and feel different, but that's the point. This is a very personal discovery. I strongly encourage you to think deeply about your "why." Develop your own mission statement and embrace it, because prioritizing your life is the first step to bettering it!