“Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends”
—    George Bernard Shaw

In the beginning days and weeks of this New Year, our tendency is to figure out how to become our best selves. We foreswear bad habits and weaknesses, and try to march ourselves down the path of righteous living, to gain some traction over our lack of will and to prove to ourselves once and for all that we are capable of change (when we really want it). The problem in sticking to our resolutions is that we sometimes don’t get the immediate reward that we naturally crave to help us alter behavior. Our head tells us one thing, our hearts or bellies or taste buds tell us another!

 A New Year, A New Plan

For this New Year ahead, what if you undertook the goal of trying veganism? A vegan diet means no animal products are consumed including dairy products and eggs. There is probably no better way to address multiple good causes all at once. You will impact your health positively (reduce your risk of heart attack, various cancers, digestive issues like IBS, and osteoporosis, among others), and reduce your exposure to epidemics of food borne illnesses. It can help you lose weight easily (if that is your goal), and improve your skin tone and hair quality. It is also the premier way toshow your compassion for the animals being tortured and abused in the animal agriculture system, help save the planet through the environmental good it will do, and save money on your grocery bills. What one single action could be more meaningful and instantly more rewarding?
Really examining how the food gets on your plate is part of being an evolving, questioning person. All of us alive today are charged with participating in any way we can, the further evolutionary trajectory of our shared planet. If you are reading this post, chances are you are someone who cares about the precarious state of the world, about our role as human caretakers of all that is precious to life on our planet. Nothing represents this effort more than the issue of food, how we eat, and what we eat.

Here are some tried and true tips to help make your journey easier:

• If you are able, you owe it to yourself as a current consumer of animal products, to watch some videos about the animals you eat, the journey they make from farm to fridge. Do this for nothing else than to educate yourself about your choices and to honor the animals who have given their lives for you. Here is a very large collection of them arranged by topic: beef, pork, poultry, dairy. http://www.chooseveg.com/animal-cruelty.asp. It’s never easy to watch innocent animals being subjected to such horrific conditions and ultimately cruel death, but the truth is, this is how your animal food gets on your plate. As Linda McCartney is famous for saying: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian”. By going vegan, you alone will save the lives of 50 animals a year!!

• If going vegan seems daunting to do all at once, then try doing it gradually and in stages incrementally. Try leaving out the meat or eggs in a few meals a week, then try going for a whole day or two in a row without animal products, gradually increasing the practice more and more every week.

• Learn how to cook and prepare food in advance! By mastering a few simple meals that you really love, you’ll be less tempted to go back to your old ways of eating. Always have on hand a big container of brown rice, salad fixin’s , cans of beans, and fresh fruit to throw together for a quick bite when you are tired and rushed and not in the mood to make something from scratch.

• Going vegan does not mean giving up luxurious taste, texture and variety in your food! There are hundreds of great blogs (including this one!), websites, books, and a plethora of supermarket products all catering to vegans so you can start to realize what a joy it is to eat this way. Additionally, every restaurant carries something a vegan can eat on their menus – especially ethnic cuisines such as Indian, Asian and Latin American.

• Even if you don’t go 100% vegan, you can still lean into partially, and will be making a huge difference in the world. If everyone reduced by even half the amount of animal products they consume (currently 25 billion in the US alone), it would help to change the methods in use on factory farms, allow for more oversight, and lead to more sane and humane practices.

• Lastly, going vegan is a much an attempt to fully engage in a higher purpose of living in the short time we have on this Earth, as any spiritual practice. As we care about justice and peace for all humans, so do we care about justice and peace for all animals.

Here’s to your vegan success and good health in the coming year!