Should You Go Vegan Cold Turkey (Um..Cold Turnip? Cold Tortilla?) Or Gradually?

Wild Turkeys from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Robert Engberg, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

It’s a turkey (a wild one!), and it’s in the snow so it has to be cold – d’yageddit? Am I trying too hard?


There’s a lot of debate as to whether it’s best to go vegan gradually, or to jump in head-first.

Hmmmm. I can see it from both sides. I’ve known several people who have cut out a few meats, then all meats, then milk, then other dairy, then eggs, and finally cheese (Ha! It’s often cheese that’s last!).

This definitely works for some. It’s kind of what I did, though my trajectory was really just vegetarian for a short while, then vegan.

The real answer to the above question is – do whatever’s right for you.


The opinions of Dr Neal Barnard (founder of PCRM, author of Reversing Diabetes) , and Dr T Colin Campbell (Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, author of the China Study, Whole, and contributor to the documentaries Forks Over Knives and Plant Pure Nation), which make sense and which I tend to agree with, are as follows –

Giving up animal products can be likened to giving up smoking in the following sense; we know it’s better to go cold turkey than to cut down and try and gradually reduce the amount you smoke…


…If you have even a little bit of nicotine in your system, this is going to want to be ‘fed’ – you are always going to crave more. This is borne out by the fact that if someone attempting to quit smoking cracks and has one cigarette, they often just give up and just relapse back into smoking habitually.

As I’ve written about previously, cheese, and to a lesser extent, other dairy products are addictive due to the opiate -like effects of the casomorphins they contain.

If you have even a small amount of dairy in your system, then just like tobacco you’re always going to crave more at some point.

Yet if you quit all dairy at the same time, your body may at first kick up a bit of a fuss while it detoxes from mucous-forming cow’s milk products (don’t worry if it does, this won’t last long), but then it will adjust to not having it and will become accustomed to the new foods you are consuming.

As your body acclimatises, you’ll realise how much lighter and clear-headed you feel, and maybe other things as well, like better digestion, better skin, your weight will be maintained easier – in fact a whole host of benefits may occur.

Obviously these benefits come quicker if you give up all dairy at once.

Now we all like rewards and pay-offs, and even though the knowledge that you are not contributing to animal cruelty, environmental damage and world hunger may be the prime reason for your lifestyle shift, it doesn’t hurt to have good health benefits as a pleasant side-effect to keep you extra full of positive feelings about your new path.

The other reason it may be better to dive straight in, is because animal products have different tastes, textures, and ‘mouth feel’ to plant foods. It takes approximately 21 days to break a habit and acquire a new (better) one. If you are still eating some animal products, you’ll still be eating a certain amount of fat and certain types of textures. Plant foods tend to have different textures and ‘mouth feel’ to animal products. If you eliminate the animal food textures, you’ll get used to the new ones quicker.

This, by the way, is also the answer to the question – do I need to be 100% plant-based to achieve optimal health i.e. perhaps 95% plant-based is enough (there’s no evidence saying that if you have some tuna once a fortnight you’ll have lesser health than someone who is 100% plant-based), but it’s maybe easier to do it 100% so you don’t keep craving animal products and so your body gets accustomed more rapidly.

Once you are used to the beautiful and varied tastes and textures of plant foods; animal foods will seem heavy, fatty and cloying. If you were to try meat or dairy after a 21 day period of not eating it, chances are very high it would taste disgusting.


– If you can, go 100% plant-based straight away.

– If you can’t go cold turkey, then give up either meat OR dairy.

Then, when you’re ready, give up the other. This is a more effective measure than giving up SOME meat and SOME dairy, as your body will acclimatise quicker to the elimination of a single animal-food group if it’s eliminated at once, rather than gradually.

– If you want to move towards a vegan diet but can’t do either of these things, don’t let this stop you. As I mention at the top of the post, plenty of people have done it little by little in a way THEY feel comfortable with, and succeeded. This could be you, too.


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