Imagine you’re three weeks into your new vegan diet.
You’ve found some killer vegan cheeses and discovered delicious plant-based options at your local restaurants. You’re green juicing like a champ and people are commenting that you look well-rested. Your clothes even seem to fit better.
It’s Sunday and you’re invited to a friend’s house for brunch. You’re excited to reconnect with people you haven’t seen in awhile. You arrive and glance at the buffet table. There seems to be bacon in everything, from the bloody marys to the salads, entrees and even the dessert!
You’re starving, and apart from some garnishes, there’s nothing vegan to eat.
You reluctantly reach for a piece of bacon cheddar quiche and some salad. You’re chatting and enjoying yourself. Out comes a tray of buttery chocolate chip cookies. Since you’re already blowing it, you figure you might as well grab a couple of them.
Everyone raves about the food. It tastes fine to you. But later that afternoon, you feel weighted down, and maybe a bit sad. The food looked so appealing on the buffet table, but it doesn’t feel so good now.
“I screwed up. Maybe I’m not cut out to be vegan,” you say to yourself that evening.
It’s understandable to feel a little bit discouraged or even disappointed in yourself. You’ve made fantastic efforts toward going vegan. You’re even experiencing its benefits. But you slipped up, and because of this, you may think that going vegan isn’t right for you.
Let me tell you once and for all, it’s okay.
I’ve followed a long and winding road to veganism with countless detours along the way. I’m not proud of my numerous (and ongoing) slip-ups, but I accept them and move on. So when I find myself eating that piece of non-vegan chocolate, I acknowledge it and turn back toward the vegan path once again.
Here are some things that have helped me get back on track with my vegan diet.
1. Don’t Dwell In It
So you tried to go vegan, but a week into it found yourself chomping down on a chicken parmigiana. At worst, this is a minor setback, and setbacks are somewhat inevitable when you’re challenging yourself. If you didn’t have any obstacles in what you were trying to achieve, it would mean you weren’t aspiring toward anything, and believe me, that’s far worse!
Not too long ago, a friend offered me a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie she baked. They were delicious, and because she said they were dairy free, I assumed they were vegan. I discovered only after raving about them that they contained eggs, and were thus not vegan.
“Oh well,” I thought to myself, “these things happen.”
I set out to tweak the recipe so that I could make the cookies using an alternative to eggs.
If you need to forgive yourself for slipping up, do so. But honestly, there’s nothing wrong with failing to “perfectly” go vegan. There may be some missteps along the way, but they don’t have to halt your momentum. Try to maintain a positive outlook about the experience, as this has everything to do with your future progress. Viewing this temporary situation as a moment on a larger journey helps to put things in perspective and assist you in moving on.
2. Understand What Happened
There may be something to learn from this experience that will help you on your plant-based journey.
Whenever I didn’t have something quick and easy available to eat after a busy day, I’d order takeout that included non-vegan ingredients. So for me, keeping my kitchen stocked with ready-made, vegan food options was key.
Did you have trouble finding recipes you liked? Did you face social pressures? Are you making other changes in your life at the same time, making it feel like too much at once? Or, did you just forget to plan ahead?
Understanding why a plant-based diet didn’t stick this time is key to getting back on track. Maybe all you need is to invest in a few cookbooks. Or, if you’re under a lot of pressure in other parts of your life, consider postponing your transition until things have settled.
3. Be Kind To Yourself
You’ve already begun to take steps toward eating better. That hasn’t changed, and you have a lot to feel good about. Remember the things you’ve already learned about a plant-based lifestyle—tasty recipes, great restaurants, maybe some new friends. You most certainly haven’t failed. On the contrary, you’ve made great progress!
I secretly used to roll my eyes at certain vegans who seemed to have everything together. They presented themselves with endless restraint and never grew hungry or impatient. But rest assured that even those who appear to be “perfect” vegans have experienced the same setbacks.
Try doing something healthy for yourself. A long walk, a healthy meal or some exercise will help you relax and align your thinking. Or, get re-inspired with documentaries like Forks Over Knives, Vegucated or Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.
4. Make a Plan
There’s no right path on the journey to plant-based eating. There’s only your own, and you can design it just the way you want.
Perhaps the all-or-nothing approach to a plant-based diet isn’t feasible for you right now. You can start with one plant-based meal per day, or one day per week. Or, just eat vegan at home, where you have more control over your ingredients. The fact is, you have options and you can start anytime.
Whatever plan you create, just make sure it’s both enjoyable and achievable for you.
Take the Next Step
Slipping up on a vegan diet isn’t like publicly humiliating yourself at the office holiday party. No bridges were burned. There’s no fall from grace and no shame.
All it means is that you have another beautiful opportunity to make a positive impact.
Take the time to understand what happened, be kind to yourself, learn from the experience and keep moving forward.
Author: Sara Hohn
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Used with Permission, via weareadventurers