10 Things I Learned As a New Vegan Like that vegans don't live off of leaves and fresh rainwater.

Two months ago, I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan. Since then, there have been a number of things I’ve learned through this experience that I wasn’t familiar with before — and there’s a good chance I’m not alone.

1. My body reacts much better to this diet.

I’ve lost weight, slept better, my energy levels during the day are much better, my hair and nails are stronger, and my acne has faded. And I think I’ll take that as a sign that my body prefers this diet over any other.

2. You don’t have to live on leaves. (Nor should you.)

There’s a myth out there that some believe that in order to be a vegan, you must survive on fresh leaves and rainwater and it’s impossible to enjoy any other food. Yeah, totally wrong. Since going vegan, I’ve found some amazing meat- and dairy-free versions of meals I desperately enjoy — and yes, that includes pizza, pasta, burgers, risotto, pastries, and chocolate. While I never believed veganism was horrendously restrictive, I didn’t know about all the amazing alternatives until I made the change.

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3. Animals are severely mistreated by the dairy and meat industry.

Before becoming vegan — or even vegetarian —I had a small idea of the atrocities animals in the farming industry faced, but it wasn’t until I watched Earthlings that I truly saw the horrors that occur within the industry. I immediately made plans to go vegan because I was so disgusted with what I saw that I was in tears the entire time. Once you know the truth, you can’t look back.

4. All vegans are different, and so are their diets.

A lot of people have a certain stereotype of vegans: pasty white, incredibly skinny — you catch the drift. But this couldn’t be more wrong. Plus-size vegans exist, vegans of color exist, vegan weightlifters and athletes exist, and not every vegan eats the same diet. Some vegans (like myself!) love the junk food available, some may prefer a more raw diet, and others have specific diet concerns like a soy or nut allergy, making each vegan and their diet totally different.

5. People love making fun of vegans.

Since going vegan, I’ve seen a lot of teasing and spitefulness toward the vegan community, both online and to myself directly. Whether it’s sending me a picture of bacon, asking me if I eat leaves, or telling me they’re going to enjoy a fat steak, people can be real jerks. For the most part, I ignore it and roll my eyes. But for newer vegans like myself, it can be a bit disheartening having people question your diet, make fun of you, and tell you it’s “silly” or “extreme.” We’re simply trying to make a positive difference in the best way possible, without being subjected to rude and ignorant people.

6. You have to check almost everything you eat.

It’s pretty ridiculous how many products contain milk or egg where it isn’t necessary. I mean for god’s sake, they even put milk in wine! It’s so important to check every single product you pick up because the food industry has a way of sneaking in animal products without us even realizing. Thankfully I’ve gotten to a point where I know automatically what’s safe and what’s not at my go-to stores, but it can be a pain for someone starting out.

Related: This App Will Tell You If an Item Is Vegan in Less Than a Second

7. Other vegans are sweethearts.

Being a huge fan of Twitter, I get to see other vegans on my timeline every day and a lot of the ones who follow me helped me a great deal when I was transitioning. From people DMing me to ask if I need help to tweeting me new vegan foods they found, it all meant a lot and was a huge help for my newbie self. Yes, OK, there are a few vegans out there that may be a little rude or standoffish to non-vegans, but 99.9% of the ones I’ve encountered are amazing.

8. You’ve gotta do your research.

Before officially going vegan, I sat down with a notepad and pen and watched documentaries like Cowspiracy, What The Health, and Earthlings to help me learn new facts. I also watched YouTube videos and found articles that helped me learn about veganism. This really set me up for success, because you’re not just changing your diet — it’s a choice that’s going to affect many aspects of your daily life. Doing research before diving in really helped me be successful once I made the switch.

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9. A lot of people are really uneducated about veganism.

Before going vegan, I knew absolutely nothing about it — it took a lot of research for me to fully understand. Since going vegan, I’ve met a lot of people who are also clueless as to what veganism really is. I’ve had friendly chats with family, friends, and even strangers who were curious about it, and that’s great — the more we speak up, the more people will be informed. (And hopefully even try it themselves.)

10. You can inspire others.

When I met my boyfriend, he was a huge meat, cheese and — for some reason — garlic mayonnaise lover. Now he’s also vegan and is fully enjoying his new lifestyle. My mother also recently admitted she’s willing to try being vegan most days, which is fantastic. This just proves being vegan gives you the chance to inspire others: Once they see how much you’re loving your new lifestyle, they’ll want to see what it’s all about, too.

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