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Ten Mindset Changes I’ve Had After Being Vegan for a Year

(This post is part two of a 2-part series celebrating my Veganniversary. See part 1 here.)

As you remember, in my previous post I summed up a few changes in my health since I went vegan a little over a year ago. Today’s post is about the changes that I believe to be even more important than the physical ones –my vegan mindset changes.

Ten vegan mindset changes I've had after being vegan for a yearWhy do I think that the mindset changes are so important? Because they show how far we’ve gone in our personal growth, and ultimately they can influence our decision to stick with something we chose to do, or abandon it. I am sure that everyone who’s ever decided to go vegan has experienced some changes in their mindset, but since they are not as noticeable as, say, the improvement in our energy levels or, ahem, better bowel  movement frequency, we tend not to compare them with other vegans’ mindset changes.

The most important thing that going vegan has helped me realize is that all living creatures deserve to be respected, even if we don’t always understand their ways. In my case, my respect for living creatures goes beyond being kind to animals: it circles them and comes back to us humans, and makes me truly believe that we all deserve equal rights, regardless of our race, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation. As natural as it may sound, it’s still appalling to me that in this day and age, some groups of people around the world still have to fight to prove that they deserve the same rights everyone else has.

Okay, before I get into politics… back to the vegan mindset changes! I’m sure a lot of fellow plant-based people can attest to having similar changes in their outlook on things that we used to take for granted, or not paid a lot of thought to back in our meat-eating days. I’d love to hear how my changes compare to yours, so please share your thoughts below!

One more note: if you aren’t vegan yet and are thinking of making a switch, check out my easy-to-follow guide to going vegan successfully.

And if you are vegan but have been tempted to quit, see my 10 reasons for staying vegan in this post.

10 Vegan Mindset Changes I’ve Noticed Since Going Vegan

1. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of where my food comes from. Eating plants is more environmentally sustainable and makes us feel better, plus it’s good to know that no living being had to die or suffer in order for me to have a nice dinner.

2. I no longer think of a healthy meal as consisting of ‘a lean protein, a starch, and a vegetable’. All plants contain protein, so it’s not quite correct to diminish them to the status of ‘sides’ served along your main chunk of protein-heavy food. Plus, lots of nations around the world have been making one-pot meals where all ingredients are cooked and served together – think Asian stir-fries, Indian curries, etc. They simply don’t feel like it’s necessary to separate vegetables and the ‘designated’ protein source on the plate, and they’ve been eating that way for generations.

3. I have cravings for healthy foods! Fruit often seems more appealing to me than some heavily-processed (even vegan) commercial junk when I’m looking for a quick sweet fix. Okay, I’m not that squeaky-clean perfect all the time, of course – a girl’s gotta have her vegan cookie every now and then! – but at least making healthier choices comes more naturally to me now.

4. Interacting with animals brings me more joy now because I no longer have to fight a moral dilemma of why I enjoy watching cows in pasture and then go out to a restaurant and eat a steak. When I was a child, I was shocked when I found out that meat came from animals, so I’m glad that I finally don’t have to silence my conscience by doing ‘a normal thing that everybody else does.’

ChickensThese gorgeous chickens live just a short walk away from my job

5. I am sometimes surprised for a split second when I see people buying or eating meat. Please don’t roll your eyes; it’s only a split second! For a moment, the thought sparks in my head and I have to remind to myself: ‘Oh, that’s right, people still do that…’ I wonder if other vegans have those moments too!

6. If some food is off limits, I no longer agonize and hate my life for not being able to eat it. Last October, I was checking out a West Seattle neighborhood with a friend, and we walked into this French bakery with showcases full of amazing-looking desserts. I asked the girl behind the counter if any of their stuff was vegan, and naturally none of it was. I was surprised how easy it was for me to just walk out of that place and never think twice of it. There are at least a couple amazing all-vegan bakeries in Seattle that compensate for all French bakeries put together!

7. In case some temptation does get to me, I now fully understand that in the grand scheme of things, I am the only person who I’ll have to answer to. This being said, I am my own biggest critic because I know that my beliefs in the idea of being vegan are much deeper than the possible enjoyment of eating some non-vegan cake. Will that 3-minute indulgence ever be worth going against my beliefs, suffering an upset stomach, and feeling guilty for days? Not at all.

8. I’m over preaching veganism and judging other people for eating meat. The truth is, I hardly ever talk about being vegan to other people in my day-to-day life. In my first few months of being vegan, however, I felt like I had to convince everyone I cared for to join me on this new journey to health and sustainability, but as time went on, I realized that we all have our different paths. I arrived at the idea of going vegan by myself, without any influence from someone I personally knew, so the most I can do for my close ones is to plant a seed of thought into their minds after they (hopefully) notice my progress. If we try to shame or harass somebody into going vegan, we may just turn them off instead.

HorsesMama horse Matilda and her three-week-old baby – they also live close to where I work!

9. I am more mindful when buying things other than food – clothing, cleaning supplies, etc. There’s still a lot to learn, and I’m nowhere near perfect with my shopping habits yet, but for the most part, I try to make a conscious effort to abstain from buying things that clearly made an animal suffer somewhere, or could add to damaging the environment.

10. Even as one person, I know that I can make a difference. Sooner or later, we all hear this opinion that it doesn’t matter when one person goes vegan because the meat and dairy industry are so big, they won’t ever notice the loss of just one customer. I am confident enough now to say: It does matter. First, each of us can save at least one hundred animals a year from being slaughtered by going vegan. Staying alive matters to those animals! Second, the meat consumption rates per person in America have been going down for a few years now – this is happening for the first time in history! Somewhere out there, people’s conscience is slowly awakening to embrace that all living creatures are worthy of respect, and that we humans can have a healthier, abundant existence without consuming animals.

To conclude today’s post, here’s a quote by Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist who worked in the middle of the 20th century:

“Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Question: What changes in your mindset have you experienced since going vegan? Do share!

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Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats
Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Eventually she embraced veganism as a way to be kinder to fellow living beings and the environment. Alina hopes that this blog helps its readers on their path to becoming vegan and making this world a better place.

Kim

Monday 6th of August 2018

Alina, its 2018 and I had only switched to a vegan diet five months ago. My regret is not doing it sooner. My partner and I have had made the most critical change in our lives, and I must say THE best! All you said is true, and it's incredible how one Vegan journey could be so much of an awakening moment for someone.

Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Monday 6th of August 2018

Hi Kim, congratulations on becoming vegan to you and your partner! I sometimes have regrets that I didn't do it sooner too, but hey, it's better late than never!

Christine

Friday 10th of November 2017

I really enjoyed this article. I feel the same. :)

karen

Tuesday 9th of February 2016

Thank you for this post! I've been vegetarian for 16 years now and have always been interested in going vegan, but haven't quite made the leap. I'm cooking vegan more at home and I'm trying to transition. This post is really inspiring and encouraging and you're right that each of us are making a difference! I just read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and cried my eyes out. He makes a lot of important points, but by the end of the book, I just felt so hopeless... I know that preaching vegetarianism isn't my style, and I've seen my family and several other people around me eat less meat (eat meat only on weekends, or go veg altogether) without having to shame them into it. Meat-free food can be amazing and so much more than just lettuce or kale. Delicious food is the best way to convert people to veggies. Anyway, thank you for giving me the much-needed encouragement and for letting me see all the other people out there who care enough to make a change in their lifestyle.

Alina

Tuesday 9th of February 2016

Karen, thank you for your comment! I'm glad to hear that you're seriously considering going vegan after being vegetarian for a long time. I agree that convincing others with food or leading by example works much better than preaching. Wishing more people understood that. Anyway, good luck on your vegan journey!

Kathy

Saturday 12th of September 2015

I enjoyed reading this. I am coming up on my second Veganniversary. My mindset has changed, too, but I still can't believe how good vegan food tastes. I find myself "willing" convenience stores to have tofu/tempeh and Daiya cheese - I fully expect these items to become mainstream! I used to feel pretty isolated in my choices but now I feel normal and that meat eaters are weird and I don't understand them. I feel more blessed in every way - my life has become joyous and purposeful - I feel lucky - good things happen to me - it's almost spooky. I find myself truly wanting to be able to talk and communicate with animals, maybe sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation with them.

Alina

Monday 14th of September 2015

Agreed on the surprising deliciousness of vegan food - as my husband says, vegan food has to be good because it has a lot to prove. Great to hear that you're enjoying your vegan lifestyle, Kathy!

Paula

Friday 11th of September 2015

Hi Alina, I enjoyed your post. I can indeed identify with number 5. I can identify with most of them. I admit I am still in the preachy stage at this point. It's come to the point where I can't understand why anyone would still eat meat. When I see people doing that, it is just like seeing people who still smoke. All I can think is how much they are damaging their health. Also, I live in the Seattle area. Where are these all-vegan bakeries that you mentioned? I've been happy just to find vegan and vegfriendly restaurants. A vegan bakery would be amazing. :)

Alina

Monday 14th of September 2015

Hi Paula! I'll admit that I go in and out of preachy phases every now and then - I try to control myself most of the time, but sometimes it's too hard, especially when a group of people I'm in discusses the deliciousness of a Heart Attack Burger from a local diner :( It's not called Heart Attack for nothing, right?! Okay, as for the vegan bakeries in Seattle, I really love Flying Apron in Fremont (I think they have other locations too) and Violet Sweet Shoppe in Phinney Ridge. Mighty-O Donuts is a great place too! Restaurants: Wayward Vegan Cafe, Veggie Grill, Plum Bistro, Chaco Canyon, Araya's Kitchen - all are fully vegan!