So you want to stop eating as many, or all, animal based foods but you’re not sure how to go about doing it. You’ve got to set yourself up for success and the only person who knows the best way for you to go about a big shift like this is you. Go onto any vegan forum on the internet, explain you want to make a gradual shift to going plant-based, and watch a shit storm of hate come at you. Go to your best friends and explain you are going to get off animal products cold turkey and you’ll get called crazy for making such a big change over night. So how the hell do you do it the “right way”? The simple answer is (drum roll please), do what you can handle and screw everyone else. And now the not so simple answer:
Cold Turkey: Ideally, you’d wake up tomorrow morning, your refrigerator and pantry will be empty of all animal products, you’ll feel great both physically and mentally, and skip through the months with ease. Sorry to tell you, that’s not how a lot of people work. Going cold turkey would mean that your body can begin healing with complete optimization right away. You’d stop all promotion of disease and disorder and start reversing any health issues you have, almost immediately. Maybe you can push through the cravings and simply will yourself through it all, and that’s awesome if you have that mentality, but a lot of people don’t. Keep in mind, its about setting yourself up for success in the long term.
There are downsides to this approach. As I mentioned, the cravings will certainly be there, and the mental aspect is one thing, but the physical aspect is a whole other. You see, over decades of eating bullshit, our bodies have gotten used to it; we’ve literally become addicted to what’s causing our bodies untold amounts of harm. Just like when you take away any addictive substance from its addict, there are withdrawals. Yup, you may get headaches, disrupted sleep, irritability, and fatigue for a period of time. But, and it’s a big “but”, these symptoms only last about a week or so. However, if you’re not good with discomfort like this, and only you know if you are, then cold turkey might not be the best approach for you. If you’re the gung-ho type and cant put your head down, grit you teeth, and bare it, then it may be the best option.
Beyond the withdrawals, you’ll have to learn how to properly grocery shop fairly fast. Remember, you’re giving up a big chunk of food that you’d normally purchase and don’t want to end up in the common pitfall of buying plant-based food that isn’t good for you. Just because something is labeled as “vegan” doesn’t mean it’s healthy; too many people make this mistake and this why why you see fat, unhealthy vegans. This is where I, and other nutritionists and dietitians like me, come into play. You need to ask for guidance, accountability, and support (see my exclusive Buy/Don’t Buy grocery checklists for quick and easy tips, which can be requested here). Due to the fact that there is such a large learning curve, you may decide that the Reduction Approach is more viable.
Reduction: You want to go plant-based, you want to get your body as healthy as possible (both physically and mentally), and you want to be 100% plant-based, because after all, any amount of animal product causes bodily harm, but you know you are the type to succumb to cravings. More than the cravings, you are the type to need an adjustment period. There’s no shame in that, despite what the militant vegans say. Well, the reductionist method is probably the best way to go about accomplishing your goal. To beat a dead horse, we want to set you up for success, right? The idea is to weave completely plant-based meals into your routine. For example, let’s say you eat some sort of animal products at every meal; instead, try doing one meal every other day that is completely WFPB. After a couple weeks push for doing 1 day a week that is completely WFPB and so on; keeping in mind that you should only progress when you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of it and it’s not a struggle. The downside to this is that there is a longer transition to going 100% plant-based, obviously. Meaning, you’ll be consuming harmful products for longer than if you went cold turkey. But, and again, another huge “but”, the withdrawals are less severe if existent at all, and it’s a bit easier mentally.
Now it’s time to contemplate which method falls more in line with your personality. Take your time to ruminate on it; this is the foundation for what will become a new way of life. It’s not something to be decided in haste.