When I graduated from high school, I traveled, like we Germans do, to Australia and New Zealand with good friends of mine. We were in a language school in Sydney, and our teacher made us watch a lot of Ted Talks. Not only did this improve my pronunciation, but it was also the start of my now fully vegan diet. I stumbled over a Ted Talk by Graham Hill, who explained the concept of weekday vegetarianism. The idea is pretty straightforward and pretty effective: If you want to follow a vegetarian diet but are too scared of missing out on your burger from time to time, you keep your weekdays vegetarian while eating meat (if you have the craving) on weekends. That sounded perfect for me because I also used to enjoy a burger or chicken curry from time to time.
After doing this weekday vegetarian thing for some weeks, I quickly realized that my cravings for meat also stopped. I ate meat occasionally, but more like every four weeks and not every Sunday. Since this was so surprisingly easy, I decided to go full-on vegetarian and just see how it felt. It felt good! I have to say here, though, that I was never a big steak lover, so it might have been easier for me than it would be for you. Although I am sure, weekday vegetarianism is something that should be possible for everyone, the fellow veggie eaters and steak lovers.
After the obligatory German gap year, I started my studies in the Netherlands and realized that buying cheese that tastes like more than just gum is pretty expensive. At home, we always had big cheese plates when friends of my parents were coming over for dinner. After I realized it wouldn’t be financially responsible for continuing this tradition by myself, I decided that cheese would be a treat only enjoyed at my home city from now on. Eggs, on the other hand, were still a regular component of my vegetarian diet at that point. At the same time, eggs were also the only non-vegan food I would still enjoy. I never really liked regular milk because I got sick from it as a child, so soy or oat milk has always been in my fridge.
I don’t really remember why I decided at some point to stop eating eggs and replacing them with line seed, bananas, or apple sauce when I was baking. I just know that it took me a really long time at some point to finish a six-pack of eggs, which is probably why I stopped buying them. At this point, perhaps one year into my studies, I would only buy vegan food for myself. However, at home or when eating out, I would still eat that chocolate cake, that cream cheeses veggie sushi role or that bun with butter and marmalade.
When I went on my semester abroad in my second year in January, I made the New Year’s resolution to eat 100% vegan for the three months I would be in California and to continue at home if it felt right and worked for me. Long story short, it did work out for me. I am eating vegan for one and a half years now, and even my cheese cravings stopped. What was essential for me too, and is also why I haven’t gone back to eating vegetarian, or omnivore is that I never used a dogmatic approach. I always allowed myself to eat that cheese, eat that cookie or eat that mousse au chocolate when I really craved it. I gave myself freedom and permission to eat animal products if I wanted to. I rarely make exceptions nowadays, mostly because my cravings changed, and I love to explore new dishes and replacements.
The only thing that has me weak every time is proper Italian Gelato. When I find a right ice cream spot, I order myself two bowls of so not vegan heaven of cream and milk and, if I am lucky, cookie chunks. I don’t think that makes me less of a vegan, but more of a human.
It also links back to where it started for me: the weekday vegetarian. If we all would begin to reduce our meat consumption to two days a week already, a lot is done for our planet. It’s not about perfection, it’s about effort. It’s about trying something new and not punishing yourself if you cannot give 100%. 80% is just as good if that is what works for you.