Ten Mindset Changes I’ve Had After Being Vegan for a Year

(This post is part two of a 2-part series celebrating my Veganniversary. See part 1 here.)

As you remember, in my previous post I summed up a few changes in my health since I went vegan a little over a year ago. Today’s post is about the changes that I believe to be even more important than the physical ones –my vegan mindset changes.

Ten vegan mindset changes I've had after being vegan for a yearWhy do I think that the mindset changes are so important? Because they show how far we’ve gone in our personal growth, and ultimately they can influence our decision to stick with something we chose to do, or abandon it. I am sure that everyone who’s ever decided to go vegan has experienced some changes in their mindset, but since they are not as noticeable as, say, the improvement in our energy levels or, ahem, better bowel  movement frequency, we tend not to compare them with other vegans’ mindset changes.

The most important thing that going vegan has helped me realize is that all living creatures deserve to be respected, even if we don’t always understand their ways. In my case, my respect for living creatures goes beyond being kind to animals: it circles them and comes back to us humans, and makes me truly believe that we all deserve equal rights, regardless of our race, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation. As natural as it may sound, it’s still appalling to me that in this day and age, some groups of people around the world still have to fight to prove that they deserve the same rights everyone else has.

Okay, before I get into politics… back to the vegan mindset changes! I’m sure a lot of fellow plant-based people can attest to having similar changes in their outlook on things that we used to take for granted, or not paid a lot of thought to back in our meat-eating days. I’d love to hear how my changes compare to yours, so please share your thoughts below!

One more note: if you aren’t vegan yet and are thinking of making a switch, check out my easy-to-follow guide to going vegan successfully.

And if you are vegan but have been tempted to quit, see my 10 reasons for staying vegan in this post.

10 Vegan Mindset Changes I’ve Noticed Since Going Vegan

1. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation of where my food comes from. Eating plants is more environmentally sustainable and makes us feel better, plus it’s good to know that no living being had to die or suffer in order for me to have a nice dinner.

2. I no longer think of a healthy meal as consisting of ‘a lean protein, a starch, and a vegetable’. All plants contain protein, so it’s not quite correct to diminish them to the status of ‘sides’ served along your main chunk of protein-heavy food. Plus, lots of nations around the world have been making one-pot meals where all ingredients are cooked and served together – think Asian stir-fries, Indian curries, etc. They simply don’t feel like it’s necessary to separate vegetables and the ‘designated’ protein source on the plate, and they’ve been eating that way for generations.

3. I have cravings for healthy foods! Fruit often seems more appealing to me than some heavily-processed (even vegan) commercial junk when I’m looking for a quick sweet fix. Okay, I’m not that squeaky-clean perfect all the time, of course – a girl’s gotta have her vegan cookie every now and then! – but at least making healthier choices comes more naturally to me now.

4. Interacting with animals brings me more joy now because I no longer have to fight a moral dilemma of why I enjoy watching cows in pasture and then go out to a restaurant and eat a steak. When I was a child, I was shocked when I found out that meat came from animals, so I’m glad that I finally don’t have to silence my conscience by doing ‘a normal thing that everybody else does.’

ChickensThese gorgeous chickens live just a short walk away from my job

5. I am sometimes surprised for a split second when I see people buying or eating meat. Please don’t roll your eyes; it’s only a split second! For a moment, the thought sparks in my head and I have to remind to myself: ‘Oh, that’s right, people still do that…’ I wonder if other vegans have those moments too!

6. If some food is off limits, I no longer agonize and hate my life for not being able to eat it. Last October, I was checking out a West Seattle neighborhood with a friend, and we walked into this French bakery with showcases full of amazing-looking desserts. I asked the girl behind the counter if any of their stuff was vegan, and naturally none of it was. I was surprised how easy it was for me to just walk out of that place and never think twice of it. There are at least a couple amazing all-vegan bakeries in Seattle that compensate for all French bakeries put together!

7. In case some temptation does get to me, I now fully understand that in the grand scheme of things, I am the only person who I’ll have to answer to. This being said, I am my own biggest critic because I know that my beliefs in the idea of being vegan are much deeper than the possible enjoyment of eating some non-vegan cake. Will that 3-minute indulgence ever be worth going against my beliefs, suffering an upset stomach, and feeling guilty for days? Not at all.

8. I’m over preaching veganism and judging other people for eating meat. The truth is, I hardly ever talk about being vegan to other people in my day-to-day life. In my first few months of being vegan, however, I felt like I had to convince everyone I cared for to join me on this new journey to health and sustainability, but as time went on, I realized that we all have our different paths. I arrived at the idea of going vegan by myself, without any influence from someone I personally knew, so the most I can do for my close ones is to plant a seed of thought into their minds after they (hopefully) notice my progress. If we try to shame or harass somebody into going vegan, we may just turn them off instead.

HorsesMama horse Matilda and her three-week-old baby – they also live close to where I work!

9. I am more mindful when buying things other than food – clothing, cleaning supplies, etc. There’s still a lot to learn, and I’m nowhere near perfect with my shopping habits yet, but for the most part, I try to make a conscious effort to abstain from buying things that clearly made an animal suffer somewhere, or could add to damaging the environment.

10. Even as one person, I know that I can make a difference. Sooner or later, we all hear this opinion that it doesn’t matter when one person goes vegan because the meat and dairy industry are so big, they won’t ever notice the loss of just one customer. I am confident enough now to say: It does matter. First, each of us can save at least one hundred animals a year from being slaughtered by going vegan. Staying alive matters to those animals! Second, the meat consumption rates per person in America have been going down for a few years now – this is happening for the first time in history! Somewhere out there, people’s conscience is slowly awakening to embrace that all living creatures are worthy of respect, and that we humans can have a healthier, abundant existence without consuming animals.

To conclude today’s post, here’s a quote by Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist who worked in the middle of the 20th century:

“Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Question: What changes in your mindset have you experienced since going vegan? Do share!

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37 thoughts on “Ten Mindset Changes I’ve Had After Being Vegan for a Year”

  1. Alina, its 2018 and I had only switched to a vegan diet five months ago. My regret is not doing it sooner. My partner and I have had made the most critical change in our lives, and I must say THE best! All you said is true, and it’s incredible how one Vegan journey could be so much of an awakening moment for someone.

  2. Thank you for this post! I’ve been vegetarian for 16 years now and have always been interested in going vegan, but haven’t quite made the leap. I’m cooking vegan more at home and I’m trying to transition. This post is really inspiring and encouraging and you’re right that each of us are making a difference! I just read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and cried my eyes out. He makes a lot of important points, but by the end of the book, I just felt so hopeless… I know that preaching vegetarianism isn’t my style, and I’ve seen my family and several other people around me eat less meat (eat meat only on weekends, or go veg altogether) without having to shame them into it. Meat-free food can be amazing and so much more than just lettuce or kale. Delicious food is the best way to convert people to veggies. Anyway, thank you for giving me the much-needed encouragement and for letting me see all the other people out there who care enough to make a change in their lifestyle.

    1. Karen, thank you for your comment! I’m glad to hear that you’re seriously considering going vegan after being vegetarian for a long time. I agree that convincing others with food or leading by example works much better than preaching. Wishing more people understood that. Anyway, good luck on your vegan journey!

  3. I enjoyed reading this. I am coming up on my second Veganniversary. My mindset has changed, too, but I still can’t believe how good vegan food tastes. I find myself “willing” convenience stores to have tofu/tempeh and Daiya cheese – I fully expect these items to become mainstream! I used to feel pretty isolated in my choices but now I feel normal and that meat eaters are weird and I don’t understand them. I feel more blessed in every way – my life has become joyous and purposeful – I feel lucky – good things happen to me – it’s almost spooky. I find myself truly wanting to be able to talk and communicate with animals, maybe sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation with them.

    1. Agreed on the surprising deliciousness of vegan food – as my husband says, vegan food has to be good because it has a lot to prove. Great to hear that you’re enjoying your vegan lifestyle, Kathy!

  4. Hi Alina,
    I enjoyed your post. I can indeed identify with number 5. I can identify with most of them. I admit I am still in the preachy stage at this point. It’s come to the point where I can’t understand why anyone would still eat meat. When I see people doing that, it is just like seeing people who still smoke. All I can think is how much they are damaging their health.
    Also, I live in the Seattle area. Where are these all-vegan bakeries that you mentioned? I’ve been happy just to find vegan and vegfriendly restaurants. A vegan bakery would be amazing. 🙂

    1. Hi Paula! I’ll admit that I go in and out of preachy phases every now and then – I try to control myself most of the time, but sometimes it’s too hard, especially when a group of people I’m in discusses the deliciousness of a Heart Attack Burger from a local diner 🙁 It’s not called Heart Attack for nothing, right?! Okay, as for the vegan bakeries in Seattle, I really love Flying Apron in Fremont (I think they have other locations too) and Violet Sweet Shoppe in Phinney Ridge. Mighty-O Donuts is a great place too! Restaurants: Wayward Vegan Cafe, Veggie Grill, Plum Bistro, Chaco Canyon, Araya’s Kitchen – all are fully vegan!

  5. Thank you for your posts and congratulations on your achieved Veganniversary!! Right now is my one year veganniversary as well. I made the transition overnight after watching Forks over Knives. I can relate to all 10 of your mindset changes and also agree with you about watching Earthlings. A word of caution if you decide to–I could go no further than 8 minutes in before I was in tears and had to shut it off :(( I am encouraged when my family members ask me questions and always try to be helpful and uplifting, always hoping they’ll make a change, or at least give “meatless Mondays” a try. I, like you, am also past being unhappy watching people “grazing” at the meat/seafood/dairy sections. I realize there is nothing I can say or do to convince people that, even if they aren’t animal lovers, being vegan is the best thing they can do for their health. Food is a very personal issue for everyone, and many get very defensive when discussing it. Making this change is the best thing I’ve done for myself, and I’ll never go back 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your insights, Tomie. The part that we can’t convince everybody resonates especially well with me these days – we can do our best trying to explain the benefits of veganism to people, but at the end of the day, it’s their personal choice. Glad to hear that the switch to being vegan has worked so well for you!

  6. Alina, I related to this article. I’ve had the same thoughts since becoming Vegan. It was so heartwarming to read about your thoughts and know they others feel the same way. I really love being a Vegan. It feels so good and peaceful.

  7. Hi Alina. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years but this year I’ve found myself transitioning to veganism. I too am finding that my appreciation of food and where it comes from is deepening. I’m also starting to question further the ethics of my food, not just as it relates to animal rights, but to human rights. I’m quite surprised by how profound the effect has been on my mind-set. A great post. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kim! Glad to hear this post resonated with you. It’s been almost a year since I wrote this post, but I’m still amazed at how my understanding of the impact of our dietary choices continues to evolve. Yes, it all goes beyond eating meat or dairy – in the end, I think how we answer to ourselves for our daily actions is what will keep us accountable.

  8. I started eating a plant based diet in May 2014, and have gradually become a full vegan. The movie Earthlings was a big turning point for me. I mention it to others, but like you I try my best to refrain from being pushy or judgmental. I certainly don’t want to turn anyone off and I remember not long ago when I was consuming animal products myself. My body feels better and cleaner and I feel more beautiful knowing my beauty products are cruelty free. I can totally relate to all you say here. Congratulations on your second veganniversary and best wishes for many more happy and healthy years!

    1. Thank you for such a beautiful comment, Jen! I haven’t watched Earthlings yet – I take everything too close to heart, so I’m afraid it would leave me devastated. I applaud anyone who’s powered through it though, and changed their eating ways afterwards.

  9. I will have been vegan one year on Jan 1 2015 and as this veganniversary quickly approaches, I too have been thinking about how my life has changed since going vegan. Mostly I have been thinking about how eating and purchasing vegan friendly products/foods has become so much more instinctual than it originally was. It gets easier the longer you commit. I still read a lot of labels, though. I can especially relate to #6 of your list. I am soo happy to feel that I really could care less that I can’t/won’t eat those sweet dairy laden (or even hidden-dairy items!) treats that I used to have such a hard time resisting. This life-choice is freeing in soo many ways.

  10. Thanks for the article, it’s expressed many of my thoughts hence I have had similar experiences since went Vegan over 3.5 years ago. I have since not only felt more peaceful and discovered much joy, also I have become aware the true me and the purpose of life, and finally understood the fact that we are all one.

    1. Wow, you’ve summed it up beautifully, Carole! Glad to hear that you’ve descovered so much meaning in veganism – I myself learn more and more almost every day.

  11. I especially associate with number 4! I can no longer understand how meat eaters can love some animals but eat others, and I love being able to love animals without battling with my moral conscience!

    1. That’s exactly how I feel, Ellie! Overall, I was very surprised to realize that going vegan has changed my views and opinion on so many things.

  12. Hey! Plants are living beings too – even if we don’t understand their ways. Great to see your blog and kudos + congratulations on all your hard work :)! In my view plants are just as worthy of our respect as animals, regardless of our diets. Just something for folks to consider!

    1. Oona, one of the best ways to show respect for plants is not to eat meat, since between 60 & 80% of the plants we grow are fed to farm animals. I agree they are living beings, but we don’t have proof they are sentient like animals are.

  13. Ellie
    I’m finding that I’m helping or ignoring more and more insects all of the time and conquering my fears. The other day I watched an ant go on about his business and enjoying his freedom and life and right to live rather than being paranoid that he was going to tell the others where the food is in the cupboard. Still haven’t graduated to allowing flies in the house although I will let them fly out the window or door if I can. Does anyone else love having Daddy Long Legs spiders live in their shower? Like Carol I have been a vegan since November 2013. It fits my philosophy of life and my health which has improved dramatically. I have overcome many physical problems to run again after 30 years of not running. One thing that amazes me is that I don’t get sore after strong workouts anymore like I did when I used dairy and meat. I love my life and diet. It’s no salt too which I think is another killer. You’re doing great stuff here Alina and I love these last two articles.

    1. Thank you Craig, glad to hear that you are so kind to insects, and that being vegan has allowed you to start running and exercising again!

    2. Craig, we love daddy long legs, but try to keep them out of the shower. Certainly don’t want them to get washed away. Picking up and relocating large cockroaches has been difficult, but we regularly relocate mosquitos, flies, mice and lizards. Thankfully, no cockies in our new house.

  14. I just became vegan in Nov 2013. It has been a challenge but so worth it! When people find out I am vegan they always ask, “what do you eat? salad?” I begin to explain all the great things there are out there to eat that are vegan. Some of the people actually look guilty even though I dont bring up the devastation to animals by eating meat! I always tell them that i am saving over 100 animals a year from abuse and torture by eating vegan and I am so proud of that fact! I feel like I have a cause now…to help farm animals live freely without abuse! I am involved in many organizations that are driven to save animals! It makes my life worth living at 59 years old!

    1. Carol, congratulations on your switch! I’m glad to hear that veganism added a new meaning to your life – I definitely can relate to that.

  15. I have taught myself not to kill ants or insects even when they are swarming me. I brush them off myself and leave them alone. It was challenging because my first inclination was to swat them…now I see things differently 🙂

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