05 Jun

Motivational speaker, Simon Sinek says when we know our “why” then the “how” will follow with more energy and passion. Whether you are an individual or organization….to increase your chance of long-term success, start with your why.

My husband was not able to eat many foods for about 3 years as a result of treatment from cancer. He became vegetarian by default; he could no longer swallow meat or anything with any texture. Once in a while he was having a bit of cheese, milk occasionally or butter in foods he ate away from home; he had given up eggs easily. He however would not go 100% vegan or call himself a vegan, even though he primarily ate like a vegan.

The other day he told me he resisted going full on vegan because he didn’t identify with the word “vegan.” He said, to him, it implied you might think of yourself as “prestigious – self righteous,  better than others” and he was uncomfortable with that label.

He now goes happily with the label vegan, in fact he turned vegan immediately after hearing Dr Neal Barnard, physician and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), speak on cheese and its addictive qualities. More about that later. 

PS as love would have it, my husband is now more than 8 years cancer free and thriving!

For many people, the biggest challenge is giving up their favourite foods. Cheese, eggs and milk are most often at the top of the list of foods that seem impossible to give up. People wonder….what will I eat? How can I give up my favourite dishes? What will I cook?

Our daughter Meagan became vegetarian when she was 8 and then announced at 15 that she was going vegan. Let’s just say we were not happy. More label reading, more figuring out, what we had already figured out. More changes to our family.

Why was she doing this to us? I said to her…” vegan, what will you eat?” Fast forward 15 years later and now my husband, myself and our daughter, Meagan are all vegan and so happy we made the transition. It’s a process of learning. We love love being vegan. 

1. Cheese, glorious cheese!

Everyone loves cheese, right? Not wanting to give up cheese in all its deliciousness, just might be the number one reason why people do not want to take the leap from being vegetarian to being vegan. 

In fact, according to according to Dr Neal Barnard, of the PCRM, the average American eats 33 pounds of cheese made with dairy, each year and it is addictive. He calls it “crack”. In his highly acclaimed book, The Cheese Addiction, he says the two biggest problems with this addiction is that it can lead to obesity and several other health risks. 

There is great news! In the last few years, vegan cheese has become available almost anywhere in the world. Over seven years ago, I was on the remote island of Roatan, Honduras and I found vegan cheese at the local grocery store! True story. Since that time there are countless brands of non-dairy cheese vying for this quickly growing demand for good quality plant based cheese, that tastes delicious. 

What about making your own plant based cheese? We love to make our own vegan parmesan at home and it now is a “must have” staple in our fridge

2. Love milk?

Do you think you might miss milk in your coffee, or cereal or cooking? Once again, options are exploding in this space too! Its amazing the variety of non-dairy milk that we can now get from our everyday grocer: cashew, almond, rice, soy, oat, hemp, coconut, eggless eggnog, just to name a few.

Cow milk is for baby cows, just like breast milk is for baby humans. If you think the cows are happy and love to get milked (someone told me that once on a plane), I encourage you to watch an eye-opening documentary called “Cowspiracy”. 

Not only can you buy all sorts of non-dairy milk at the store, if you have a bit of time, a blender and a sense of adventure, you can make your own non-dairy milk. It is ridiculously simple.  You control the amount of creaminess in the milk, the type of nut, grain or seed you make it from, and remember your homemade milk will be super fresh. No unnecessary ingredients you can’t pronounce.

3. Let’s talk about eggs.

We no longer need to use eggs in baking and other dishes. We now have access to so many substitutions and creative ways to emulate the purpose of an egg, that using eggs is unnecessary. Next time you are making muffins, why not sub in a chia egg or a flax egg (totally healthy) or substitute in banana or apple sauce. Its that easy.

“What about eating eggs for eggs?” Hey, I hear you. In the past, I would have poached eggs for breakfast almost every morning when I was on the road for work. I loved that dish.

Now I make amazing tofu scrambles, eggless salad sandwiches, chickpea omelettes, and we’ve now had several versions of vegan “Eggs Benny” and we love them all. The vegan egg is the next frontier in innovation. There are just so so many compassionate options to choose from. Go for it!

“I’m too hungry” said one individual who was unsuccessful in their transition from a vegetarian to a vegan diet. “I feel weak,” said another. In fact, one of the strongest men in the world is vegan and the largest animals in the world are vegan: the rhino, elephants, and bison to name a few.

If these athletes and massive animals can thrive on a plant-based diet, so can we. I encourage you to take some time to watch one of the hippest documentaries on being plant based and the impacts on athleticism. The movie, like its name, is a Game Changer.  

4. Eating out.

Eating out can be a challenge for vegans, its much easier for sure if you are a vegetarian.  Restaurants put dairy in everything! For more than 10 years of my life I travelled across Canada, not sure if my opportunities to eat vegan would be fantastic or a challenge.

I learned to travel with nuts and seeds (just in case) and do my research and email ahead to give hotels and restaurants a heads up that “there is a vegan on the way….!” To help them help me, I usually look through their menu and make suggestions of things they could probably make with what they have on hand. You will find most people are kind and really accommodating and will go out of their way to make you something healthy and delicious. You just have to ask sometimes. 

5. What’s my why?

There have been challenges for sure. Once someone gave me a plate of lettuce at a conference, when I requested a vegan plate. No veggies, no dressing, just lettuce. Traveling was difficult, I never knew for sure if I would find vegan food or restaurants that could or would make me something vegan friendly. 

When I knew my why, it was easier. That doesn’t mean simple or easy…just easier. 

I love everything about being vegan What I love most, is how me – one person, all by myself, can make a real difference. Even if no one else wants to play along…I can make an impact all by myself. I win better health for myself, my family, help the environment.

And most significantly, for my most important why, the animals, they win. For my entire life, whether I was eating meat or not, I never felt good about killing and eating animals…even if someone else was doing the killing for me. 

Remember your why as you lean into a vegan lifestyle, be gentle with yourself. Remember the foundation of veganism is compassion. It’s a process, a lifelong journey.Find a support system that inspires you, connect with other like-minded individuals; find your why and be kind.

About the Cathy McLellan

Cathy McLellan, Rouxbe Plant-Based Certified Chef, Professional Coach and Vegan Recipe Designer. Creator of veganonthego.net, an online resource for established and emerging vegans,my mission – to encourage a plant based lifestyle through food that is accessible, delicious and healthy. One meal at a time. Other passions include: my home and family, the outdoors, gardening and travel.