This is a GREAT book for vegan beginners. Of course Erik Marcus covers the basics, but where this book really excels is his advice on changing your way of thinking and your attitude.
Some of my favorite takeaways …
- Don’t cut out non-veggie foods; crowd them out. Instead of concentrating on removing animal products from your diet, focus on adding veggie foods. Sample as many new veggie foods as possible. Buy a vegan cookbook. Go to a veggie restaurant, if your city has one. Go to Indian and Middle Eastern and Ethiopian and Thai restaurants – explore! Going vegan is not about deprivation, it’s about discovery. (I cannot agree with Erik more on this one! Since going veg, I’m eating a much wider variety of foods than I used to. I’ve tried exotic dishes from different cultures. My cooking is much more creative. I’m intimate with spices whose names I couldn’t even pronounce before. Going veg truly opened up a whole new world of food for me!)
- Acknowledge your fears about going vegan. Eric suggests listing all the fears you may have about going vegan (my health will suffer, my spouse won’t support me, I won’t be able to find food to eat when I travel).
- Realize learning to be vegan is a skill, like learning to play guitar or do yoga. The more you practice, the better you’ll be. Don’t expect to be a “perfect” vegan immediately. (I’ve never thought about being vegan as a skill, but it definitely is! It’s more than just avoiding animal products – it’s learning how to cook, how to read labels, how to navigate social situations, how to be resourceful on the road. You can read every book out there on veganism – I did! – but it still takes practice, and gets easier and easier the more you do it.)
- Narrowly define your limits. In Eric’s case, when he went vegan he didn’t think he was “ready to give up dairy products.” Then he realized he didn’t really like milk and didn’t eat ice cream often, so he changed his thinking to, “I’m not ready to give up cheese.” But did he love all cheese equally? No, what he really loved was cheese pizza, so he refined his thought some more: “I’m not ready to give up cheese pizza.” Finally, he reached the conclusion he didn’t care about all cheese pizzas but just those from his favorite pizza restaurant, and decided he could give up all other dairy as long as he could still eat his favorite cheese pizza. Eventually, of course, he gave that up too, but not until he was ready.
- Try being 100% vegan at home, and vegetarian outside your home until you’ve learned to handle social situations and dining out.
- Celebrate your progress. Every so often, make a list of your achievements. New foods that you’ve added to your diet, a new cookbook bought or new recipes learned, visits to vegan-friendly restaurants. Review your list every now and then to see how far you’ve come.
- Don’t get too caught up in being perfect. “There’s really no way to remove all traces of animal products from your lifestyle, and focusing on microscopic quantities of animal products is counterproductive…Banish the major and minor sources of animal products from your life. And, happily, what minuscule traces of animal products remain won’t deliver measurable profit to animal agribusiness.”
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for vegan newbies and vegan wannabes! You can read this book online or buy the Kindle version for only $.99.
Note: Erik Marcus is also the author of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating; Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, & Money, and A Vegan History: 1944-2010. I highly recommend those books, too, but be aware they are more complex and scholarly reads than the very accessible Ultimate Vegan Guide.
I really love your book reviews Catherine!! Celeste:)
Thanks, Celeste! I’m a huge reader and a bit of a collector. I have shelves full of everything from veggie cookbooks to books exploring the themes of animals in religion. I hope I will have time to write some more reviews soon! Ultimate Vegan Guide is definitely one of my favorites, since it covers how being vegan is actually a skill, and it also covers the need to be kind to yourself. When I first went veg, a loong time ago, there weren’t all the resources there are today and veganism wasn’t as trendy. It was just sort of “accepted” that you started off vegetarian, gradually cut this and that out of your diet, and eventually made your way to vegan. So you had a bit of time to learn and experiment and you didn’t feel so bad if you slipped up. Now the myth is you can change from an omnivore to a perfect vegan immediately – and that’s a lot of pressure for some people.