So, in case you’ve made resolutions of the new year kind, and in case they are to do with going more plant-based (or if you are already vegan and want to go in a more healthful direction, i.e. eliminating sugar), then here are 5 pointers to aid your resolutin’ :
1. Only you know you.
You probably have a pretty good idea by now whether you’re a ‘cold turkey’ or a ‘step by step’ kind of person. Don’t try and be a hero and change your lifestyle overnight if this has not traditionally been your way of doing things. If you make a change in the way that really suits your character, it is way more sustainable.
If you are going from meat-eater to plant-based overnight, this is great, only please be sure you have enough information on nutrition and all the incredible foods available to you. Take a week or so beforehand to plan and learn. If you need my help on this, here’s how to get it (there’s lots of other amazing vegan resources online, and in bookshops too). If you make the change quickly and end up only eating the same few things over and over, you will get very bored and possibly ill. You can learn ‘on the job’ as it were, but you’ll need some good varied meal ideas for at least the first few days.
If you’re a ‘step by stepper,’ don’t be afraid to go as slow as you feel you need to. Intention and consistency are key, so if you feel that going meat, dairy or sugar free for one meal, one day a week is as fast as you’d like to go for now, that’s great, as long as you are consistent with that. Set a future date when you’d like to increase that to two meals, then another for three, and so on. Maybe you could be meat/sugar free every other day, or on weekdays – of course there are endless permutations, just find one to suit.
2. Frame it helpfully, in your mind.
Whether you make a big change overnight, or you are making small changes over a longer period, DON’T think of words like ‘eliminating’ and ‘forever.’ You are not so much eliminating as adding an abundance of new tasty food to your life, and crowding the old stuff out with delicious alternatives.
If you are changing your lifestyle in a way you know will be a personal challenge; thinking in terms of ‘forever’ will be intimidating and off-putting. Rather think ‘this is what I am doing today, I’m seeing how it goes, and will reassess tomorrow.’ Yes, I know this is an AA strategy, but if it works – why the heck not apply it? And, as we know, sugar and casein (in cheese) are addictive, so it seems pretty appropriate to me. For those making big changes rapidly, take it hour by hour if you need to.
3. Slip up? Fall off the wagon? A chocolate bar/chicken nugget fall into your mouth?
So what? Yes, you heard. So the hell what?
Listen, if you beat yourself up about it, or feel guilty, you are never gonna live up to your standards, and you’ll risk falling into the mind set of ‘weeell, I’m never gonna be able to do it, I’m not good enough, so why bother…?’ You CAN do it, and you may well slip up, but a slip-up does NOT a failure make. The important thing is to just quietly acknowledge and accept what happened and move on. As in the previous point, you can take it hour by hour, and what you did in the last hour is not relevant to what you are going to do in the next hour. Try and find out why you were tempted, and ensure you are not in that situation again, i.e. making sure you have plentiful snacks on you at times when you may be tempted, or not walking the aisle in the supermarket with the tempting thing that’s calling your name.
Confession: In my first year of being vegan, I lived in Paris, and one day I was walking past a deli that had chickens on a rotisserie outside on the wall. This particular day the smell of them was too tempting, and I caved and bought one. I ate too much of it, was grossed out, and was never tempted by meat again. I think that as slip-ups go, that was a pretty hefty one for a vegan!
4. Remind yourself why.
At times when you feel despondent, or feel it’s too much effort, or that you don’t have the strength to do it, go back and remind yourself why you made this resolution in the first place. If you went vegan – read up on all the health, environmental and ethical reasons. If you are cutting down or eliminating sugar, take half an hour to read of the multitude of health benefits, and diseases that you are at less risk of contracting.
5. Reward yourself!
No matter whether you’re 4, 34, 94, we all need to be rewarded for effort. Give yourself a time period, and a treat to enjoy at the end of it. For example, if you are going plant-based from an average diet, have a dark chocolate bar/vegan cupcake/small pack of beetroot crisps every day or every other day.
If you are already vegan and trying to dodge the sugar, make sure you have a maple syrup, agave or brown rice syrup based treat to enjoy at certain times along the way.