Resolve to Make 2011 the Year You Go Vegan

Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on January 3, 2011

Like most people, I’m not very good at keeping my New Year’s
resolutions. I always start out with good intentions: exercising daily,
reading more books, having more patience with my loved ones, the usual.
But as I get further and further into each New Year, I find myself
lapsing into my old habits. Come January 18 or so, who can resist
hitting the snooze button when it’s time to get up at 6 a.m. to go
running? So I’m no saint when it comes to persistence and
perseverance. And yet one of the most life-changing decisions I’ve
ever made started off as a New Year’s resolution. On January 1, 1995,
at the age of fifteen, I resolved to become a vegetarian. In the sixteen years since then, I’ve made and broken a lot of resolutions,
but I’ve kept this one, and it’s changed my life immeasurably.  

Some people prefer to ease themselves into new habits or diets, to work
up to their goal gradually.  I suppose that may work for some people.
For me, though, going cold tofurkey worked. I recognize that everyone
is different, but I’ve found that drawing a clear line makes it easier
to maintain new habits or diets. An ambiguous resolution to “eat less
meat” or to “eat healthier” may be admirable, but it doesn’t provide
enough guidance on a day-to-day basis. The same is true of resolving to
eat only so-called “free range” or "humane" meat,
terms that are ambiguous at best and deceptive at worst.  Resolving to
eat no meat, on the other hand, provides clear guidance. And for me, it
worked.  A few years later, I cut out eggs and dairy from my diet and
I’ve stayed vegan for over nine years now.

So I encourage anyone curious about veganism to give it a shot as a New
Year’s resolution.  Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to
establish a new habit. There’s no scientific support
for that hypothesis, but it can serve as an artificial benchmark: you
can resolve to go vegan for the first three weeks of 2011; you may be
surprised at how easy it is.  

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Get informed: For a comprehensive and readable
    introduction to veganism, nutrition, and animal welfare, there’s no
    better place to start than Vegan Outreach’s Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating (PDF).
    This online pamphlet explains the rationale behind a compassion-based
    diet, provides vegan recipes, recommends meat-free products and other
    resources, and answers common questions about veganism.

  • Find your motivation: Once you’ve decided you want
    to try veganism, you need to identify your motivations.  Vegans aren’t
    ethereal beings devoid of worldly cravings. We’re mortal and human; we
    have temptations, doubts, and frustrations just like everyone else.
    Some of us are tempted by old non-vegan comfort foods, and we’re
    exasperated by unsympathetic friends and family members. To fortify
    ourselves against the smell of bacon or the teasing of annoying
    relatives, we have to constantly remind ourselves why we’ve chosen
    veganism. As with any life-changing decision, you need to know why
    you’re making it. Are you motivated by animal rights, environmental
    reasons, or personal health? If it’s for the animals, are you motivated
    by images of suffering or by images of happiness?
    Having constant reminders of your motivations will help shepherd you
    through the challenging times. Most people can’t stand to watch how
    animal products are produced, but in the words of Gretchen Wyler, “we
    must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their
    bodies.” And those who do consume animal products have a moral
    obligation to see the suffering for which they are responsible.  But if
    you’ve already decided to go vegan, there’s no point in subjecting
    yourself to troubling images unless they motivate you to stay vegan.
    If you find that such images are counterproductive and leave you
    feeling emotionally exhausted, find your motivation elsewhere. (Paula Mullen, my friend and coworker, has written an excellent blog on this
    issue here.)
    For me personally, I find these images helpful.  Over the years, any
    time I’ve felt tempted by the sights and smells of non-vegan foods, I
    need only play back in my mind the horrific reality that stands behind
    the production of such foods.

  • Buy a good cookbook: Now that you’ve found your
    motivation, the next consideration is the more practical issue of what
    to eat.  Many new vegetarians and vegans turn to the internet for
    recipes.  I think that’s a bad idea: there’s no quality control on the
    internet. Instead, I recommend getting one or two quality cookbooks
    from trusted and respected names in the vegan community. My top
    recommendation is The Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The Veganomicon has everything a new vegan needs to start cooking delicious vegan food. Other trusted vegan cookbook authors are Sarah Kramer, Dreena Burton, and Robin Robertson.

  • Be healthy: So you’ve got your cookbook and your
    motivation, but how can you be sure you’re staying healthy? While a
    vegan diet is generally healthier than the standard American diet,
    you’re not doing your body any favors if you eat nothing but potato
    chips and processed fake meats. Do a little research on what you need
    to stay healthy on a vegan diet. I recommend Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis, R.D. and Vensanto Melina, M.S., R.D.  There’s also a great website, Vegan Health, that provides lots of important information on healthy vegan diets.

  • Find a supportive community: It can be tough to
    embark on a new life choice when almost everyone around you finds your
    choice bizarre or even contemptible. I know: I was a fifteen-year-old,
    male vegetarian growing up in Dallas, Texas. Finding others who share
    your values and goals is important.  There are vegetarian societies throughout the world, and the internet can also provide that sense of community and the support you need to keep your resolution. Carol J. Adams’ Living Among Meat Eaters is another great resource for getting along with the omnivores in your life while staying committed to your new diet.

Going vegan is one of the most important decisions I ever made, and it
all started with a New Year’s resolution sixteen years ago to stop
eating meat. I hope you too will resolve to make 2011 a happy new year
for the animals, the earth, and yourself.  

4 thoughts on “Resolve to Make 2011 the Year You Go Vegan

  1. Alyssa Veras says:

    I really related to this article. Last New Years my resolution was to become a vegetarian at the age of 17. This was the only New Years resolution that I actually stuck with. This year I am going to try a become a vegan. I think its going to be a little harder but im going to cut out product that contain dairy little by little. Hopefully by next new year i will be a vegan.

  2. Chelle says:

    Very good article. I have chosen to move toward a vegan life this year, and can’t seem to read enough about it——the health benefits, the animals, the environment. I’ve added a link to this site from my blog. Thanks!

  3. Clayton Engelke says:

    Y’all are so crazy. your thinking is so off Y’all must have been dropped as baby’s or some thin. If there were no animals Y’all would find something else to preach and complain about. Y’all are a disgrace to the human race.

  4. Stephen says:

    @Clayton – if you were purposefully trying to satirize a redneck inbreed, it was amusing.