BEING vegan is not difficult, the hard part is GOING vegan. Regardless of how someone goes vegan (overnight or gradually) I think the transition period is the hard part. Things like learning to shop at health food stores and farmers markets, explaining to your loved ones that you’re not going to die of a protein deficiency, learning about weird health food (like quinoa, tempeh and nutritional yeast), realizing that not everything that is labeled vegan is healthy for you and finding that you miss milk and cheese more than meat are hard. But once that transition period is over the thought of not eating animal products is no longer foreign and instead a lifestyle.
It’s different for everyone but these are a few things that are not hard but instead annoying or inconvenient about being vegan…
THINGS THAT ARE ANNOYING (BUT NOT HARD) ABOUT BEING VEGAN
-Spending more time in the kitchen. If you’re trying to be a healthy vegan then need to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be cooking more. Unless you live in a city where healthy vegan restaurants are available (and affordable) in every corner or you have a personal chef (which is my dream) then you should get nice and cozy with your kitchen. I struggle with this the most, I know that may sound hard to believe considering this is a health and wellness website, but cooking has never been my favorite. Like, ever. But I do it for my health and fitness goals so it goes hand in hand, it’s truly a love-hate relationship. I find though that this “inconvenience” isn’t exclusive to plant-based peeps, anyone who is trying to get fit and healthy is going to need more control over what goes into their body and the way to get that is by making their own food.
-The never-ending “jokes”. These usually come from distant acquaintances or extended family and most seasoned vegans will tell you that the jokes don’t end and you just learn to get used to them. Comments like ‘oh look at that pig, mmmm bacon’, ‘so you don’t care about all the vegetables you kill?’, ‘you know vegans are sick and weak right?’, ‘you want me to throw some steak on the grill for you? Oh I forgot, here’s some lettuce,’… It’s weird how some people would never think to shame someone for other basic lifestyle choices but think its ok to do so when it comes to what someone chooses to eat. Asking questions or being genuinely curious is obviously completely different and always welcomed.
-Restaurants that don’t have ANY options for a fully plant-based meal (or for certain food allergies/intolerances). This isn’t too common since most restaurants can usually accommodate different eating styles but every once in a while I come across places that are completely lost when I request something a little different from what’s listed on the menu. I’ve eaten at Mexican restaurants that have nothing vegan on the menu but were still able to bring me a giant plate of delicious grilled veggies, a bowl of pinto beans, guacamole and amazing tortillas. So if a Mexican restaurant can whip up a vegan meal then I would imagine nearly any other type of restaurant can make it work. I know this might be inconvenient for business but it’s definitely time to retire iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and one cherry tomato with ranch dressing as the only “veggie” option on the menu.
-The overnight protein and vitamin “experts.” There’s so much terrible information out there disguised by great marketing so the confusion about protein is understandable. So I’m not talking about people who truly care about you and want only the best for you (like when my mom was concerned that running marathons would put too much stress on my body, totally valid). I’m talking about people that become protein and vitamin “experts” immediately upon finding out that you’re vegan or that you’re thinking about going vegan. I’ve heard comments like ‘you’re going to get weak and sick because vegans don’t get any protein, calcium or vitamins’ from a range of people (sometimes from people dealing with things like Type II diabetes and sometimes from people in the health and fitness world that should know better).
BEING VEGAN IS EASY IF:
-You know YOUR why. Like I explained in my ‘Why Go Vegan?’ post, I’m vegan for the animals so there’s not much internal debate when it comes to eating a hamburger or not. Even if being a plant-based vegan was somehow unhealthy or extremely difficult for me I still wouldn’t eat animals. I know that not everyone can understand that and it sounds “hard core” but it’s an ethical and moral issue for ME so it’s not something I struggle with. I believe that unless you go vegan for the animals (unless you’re vegan for religious or cultural reasons) it’ll be harder to stay vegan because trends in the health world are always changing. And that’s ok, not everyone has to go vegan for the same reasons, I understand and respect that. Some people are vegan for health or environmental issues and sometimes as part of a challenge (which are all great!) but even then, knowing your WHY is essential to make healthy eating a long-lasting habit.
-You’re prepared. In order to stay healthy (even if you’re not vegan) preparation is essential. Things like grocery shopping lists, meal prepping and having healthy snacks on hand are incredibly important to avoid situations where you’re starving or pressured to make unhealthy choices. For example, when there’s a special occasion I usually eat a small meal at home beforehand because I know that most of the time the only vegan option available will be fruit or bread. If we make dinner plans with friends and we’re going to a place with limited options I’ll have a small snack or a protein shake on the way to the restaurant. Most of the time I pack my breakfast and lunch the night before a busy day so I’m not left searching for something that will work for me the next day. Yes these things require time and conscious planning but they’re worth it.
-You accept that sometimes you’ll be ‘mostly vegan.’ A vegan lifestyle is not about perfection (for some it is, but not for me) so I know there will be times when it’s not possible to be 1000% vegan. For example, when we travel I don’t have as much control over what’s available and sometimes I’ll eat non-vegan things (like queso fresco in Mexico). There have been times (usually during a legit cheat meal) that I eat ice cream or a cheese pizza and other times I put honey in my tea. And I’m okay with these things because they happen on rare occasions and like I said, a plant-based lifestyle is not about being perfect.
-You’re surrounded by people who love, support and respect you. My husband is not vegan, my dad is a retired meat cutter and none of my closest friends are vegan but they are all incredibly supportive and respectful of my eating choices. I know that we don’t get to choose our family (I’m incredibly fortunate that mine is so loving) but we do get to choose our friends. I’m not saying that you should break up with your friends if they don’t support your lifestyle choices like going vegan but I’m hoping that you surround yourself with awesome people in the first place. If that’s the case they most certainly wouldn’t judge, criticize or shame you for doing something positive like going plant-based.
Whether you’re thinking about going vegan or not please know that anything that requires change is going to feel difficult at first. Most things that are worthwhile, and not just in relation to eating habits, require real effort. It’s usually the things that we know we should do like move our bodies, eat plants and sleep more that are the hardest to get going because those things are completely up to us. No one can get healthy and fit FOR us so it can be hard to figure out what direction we want to take and then stick to it. It’s not hard to BE healthy, fit or vegan the hard part is the transition from where you are and getting to that first step. But the good news is that you’re here, reading this and taking an interest in some plant goodness, congratulations you’ve already done the hardest part and STARTED. You’re already one step closer to adding a salad recipe to your menu this week or to going fully vegan, either way, it’s a start!