Jul
23

The Hardest Thing About Being Vegan

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“It’s really important to share the idea that being different might feel like a problem at the time, but ultimately diversity is a strength.”

-Carson Kressley

It seems to me that many popular organizations, websites and promoters of veganism  portray going vegan as something extremely simple, and nothing but fun. Although I passionately believe that living a vegan lifestyle is the best choice anyone can make for their own health and the health of the planet, I also know that it takes a lot of courage and dedication, and often has some unexpected downsides.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read articles saying that ethnic restaurants present such wonderful options for vegans. These articles never mention that pasta at Italian restaurants often contains eggs, sweet potato fries are often cooked in lard, vegetarian meals in Thai restaurants are usually made with sauces containing fish stock, Indian food is often cooked in “ghee” or clarified butter, and many “vegetable soups of the day” are often made with beef or chicken broth. The word “dairy” also has different meanings in different cultures, which can make things very tricky.

images-5Although I don’t want to discourage anyone from going or staying vegan (the purpose of this site is to promote veganism), I believe that honesty will better prepare you for what may lie ahead of you if you are considering going vegan or let you know that you are not alone if you are already vegan. I can only speak from my own experiences, and I understand that everyone’s personal experience is different. However, I have always wanted to write about this particular topic and I’ve decided to take a chance and just do it.

For me, the hardest part about being vegan has nothing to do with finding suitable foods at restaurants, on vacation, on the road, or in the supermarket. I love the foods I eat, and I have always been able to find vegan foods just about everywhere (even in a steakhouse!). It has nothing to do with my constant search for fashionable clothes and accessories which don’t contain silk, wool, leather or down, or cruelty-free vegan cosmetics and beauty products.

images-6The hardest thing about being vegan, for me, is the simple fact that I am different from others. This is often accompanied by feelings of social isolation and, unfortunately, sometimes ridicule. No matter which way you cut it, vegans are still a small minority in the world despite the fact that the numbers are steadily growing every day.

images-4My husband, who mostly follows a plant-based diet, has occasionally said to me that I am “taking this thing too far” since I refuse to wear leather shoes or use any other products made from animals. My children are not vegan, and sometimes resent the fact that I will not cook meat anymore in our home or buy the non-vegan food items in the supermarket that I used to buy. They don’t seem thrilled either when they see a vegan lasagna at the center of the Thanksgiving table, instead of the traditional bird. My biggest regret is that I became vegan later in life when my two sons were well into their teens, at a time when I was unable to succeed in changing their carnivorous ways. And, trust me, I tried very hard to do so. The issues that arise within my immediate family are the hardest for me to deal with.

UnknownI could be wrong, but I imagine that living a vegan lifestyle might be easier for young married couples who start out being vegan together and choose to raise their families vegan. Or for young single people who live in vegan-friendly cities, and associate with like-minded people. Or for vegan celebrities who (I am guessing) may get special treatment when they walk into a non-vegan restaurant. Or for vegan celebrities who appear to be hipsters when they become vegan, and benefit from the publicity. Or for vegan celebrities who can afford to have couture designers make them special vegan shoes for walking the red carpet, or who get the vegan designer shoes for free. But I am none of these things.

imagesI am a middle-aged suburban housewife and mother who lives in a neighborhood where chicken is still considered to be the “healthy” meat. I am the only vegan I know, with the exceptions of my brother in New Jersey and Ellen in California. Although I live about 40 minutes away from New York City where there are fabulous vegan restaurants, I am unaware of the existence of any vegan restaurants in or around the area where I live.

When I go out for dinner on Saturday evenings with friends, some of the comments that are made to me (even the innocent ones!) and the ensuing discussions constantly remind me of the dedication and commitment it takes for the average individual to become and remain vegan. You will learn a lot about your friends and family (both good and bad) when you make your life-changing choice to become vegan.

images-5Having said all of that (I really don’t like the phrase “having said that,” but it fits), choosing to become vegan has been the best decision of my life. It has helped me grow and change in ways that I could never have imagined. Isn’t growing and changing at the heart of a life well-lived? If people didn’t grow and change, we would all be smoking cigarettes, eating pastrami sandwiches everyday, and clicking the remote control for our daily exercise.

Thank goodness, I currently have no health issues, other than a few post-menopausal hot flashes, while just about every one of my peers is taking medications for one health reason or another. I wasn’t aware of my own inner strength until I became vegan, and I feel happy and proud every day that I am living my life in alignment with my core values and beliefs.

You cannot put a price tag on the sound sleep you will get every night knowing that you have made a conscious decision to do everything possible for your own personal health, and to avoid contributing to the most horrific atrocities happening in the world today such as factory farming, cruelty to animals and the destruction of our environment.

So please know that, if you are a lone vegan in a sea of non-vegans, that you are not alone. Please don’t ever give up! This article is dedicated to you for your courage, dedication, passion and commitment to an amazing, but not always easy, lifestyle!

Thank you from someone who “gets it,” and truly understands what it takes!

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Click here to read about historic vegetarians who also had the courage and commitment to trust their independent thoughts, as opposed to the thinking of the masses.

Debby

xoxoxo

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Comments

  1. Well, said. I started vegetarian, then cut out leather and other animal products and for the past few months am trying to be vegan. At least everyone these days seems to have dietary issues, but what I like best about mine is that it’s by choice and makes me feel good for sticking with it. Having veg kids, even in Cali, was crazy hard, but I love animals and love my kids so it’s what you do. One of my daughter does fish and dairy and one is vegan. I hope they, like me, will continue to change in positive ways. Good luck to you and yours.

    • Thanks so much Tracy! We really appreciate your positive comment. It sounds like your kids are on the right path, and you certainly are too! Keep up the good work. You should feel very proud of yourself for sticking with your choice. Good luck to you and your family too!

  2. I am not a vegan, but follow a healthy, mostly plant-based diet with organic or pastured foods. I respect the desire of others to follow a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.
    I was in a vegan restaurant in NYC (Cafe Blossom)s and made the MISTAKE of asking for some honey in my tea. Boy, did I get a lecture about the bees. To my knowledge, no bees are killed giving/producing honey. I’m still not certain why the waiter was so offended.
    And, I also would be less than pleased to find a vegan lasagna in the middle of the Thanksgiving dinner table. You can do better than that. I read countless cooking/vegetarian magazines and know that there are many other more palatable, desirable options.
    I am what Peter Brearley has coined a ‘flexitarian’ because I will eat only grass-fed beef, it at all, several times a year, only heritage pork, pastured poultry, eggs, and butter.
    I have read everything from T. Colin Campbell, to Weston A. Price, so I know all sides of the story.
    The take-away I want to leave is that no one diet is good for everyone. (The only thing that is bad for everyone is processed food) And, in the words of Michael Pollan, I try to avoid ‘edible food-like substances’ or frankenfoods. Only whole foods as close to nature as possible is the ideal way to go.

    • You are absolutely right that I could do better than a vegan lasagna at the center of the table. I do have a multitude of other delicious vegetables, homemade soups, stews, and casseroles too! I agree with you that avoiding frankenfoods is an excellent way to go. Michael Pollan does state quite often to “eat whole foods, mostly plants and not too much!” Thanks so much for commenting and visiting the site. Sorry you got an earful about the bees. That is most unfortunate. Please don’t assume that all vegans do that.

  3. Debby, the problem often is that vegans DO lecture people about honey. I don’t get that — bees make honey naturally. They are wild animals and not domesticated farm critters. We simply harvest their extra honey. It does not involve killing any bees and honey is a very healthy, nutritious natural food!

    And vegan lasagna for Thanksgiving? no wonder you have not converted your sons. That really sounds passive-aggressive, like you are shoving your veganism in their faces. Surely on Thanksgiving, you could do better than that? T-day is one of the great holidays for non-meat dishes that are creative and delicious — baked pumpkin, whole grain breads, brussell sprouts, vegan stuffings, chestnuts, mashed taters, cranberries galore!

    I myself do not eat turkey, simply because I hate turkey. So for me Thanksgiving has ALWAYS been a vegetarian delight of unusual foods I do not get to eat or make the rest of the year — rutabaga! creamed onions! that stuff with green beans and mushrooms! don’t even get me started on pumpkin and sweet potato pie, apple pie, and all the yummy desserts.

    So I hope you think about WHY you would serve your non-vegan family a veggie lasagna on a day dedicated to family, good food, variety and deliciousness? What is it you are really saying to them — and why?

    Lastly: I genuinely wish to know, without sarcasm, if you have a dog or cat, and what you feed them? Such beloved pets are carnivores — in the case of cats, OBLIGATE carnivores — and cannot eat a vegan diet in good health. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the comment, but do know that I would never lecture anyone about honey. I encourage and support any changes whatsoever that anyone would make towards a plant-based diet, even Meatless Mondays. Dont assume that all vegans lecture, because that’s unfair. I also make a wide variety of vegetable dishes on Thanksgiving in addition to the vegan lasagna for my family including cauliflower mashed potatoes, butternut squash soup, and all types of casseroles. I have a cat, who is not vegan because I rely on the vet’s recommendations. I have never read the nutritional science about cats.

  4. Hi Debby,

    I was really curious what you were going to say is the “hardest thing” cuz for me it would be something like missing the fats and creams in chocolate and ice cream 🙂

    Interesting that even in 2013 you find it so challenging to be vegan. I have been vegetarian for about 25 years, occasionally vegan too…but usually not for long. I guess the difference between vegan and vegetarian is greater than I realize. But I am often astonished at all the interest (blogs, new vegan foods) in veganism and that it seems like it is becoming the hippest thing. Restaurants have not totally caught on yet….we are not quite to that tipping point.

    For your kids, would you consider a vegan turkey? I have had several. Some are better than others. I haven’t recently sampled any to give you a reliable recommendation. But from a quick Google search, I notice that ‘vegan turkey roast’ yields links about Ellen segments that discuss having a vegan Thanksgiving, with recipes, chefs and all 🙂

    Seems to me that interest among vegan eating is growing leaps and bounds in the last five years, maybe especially among young adults. Probably your kids will migrate to vegan eating most happily if they feel they have more choices rather than less. I don’t know how old your kids are, but even at pre-teen, they could probably learn (with help) to cook some of their own non-vegan foods. Just an idea.

    Love the article, by the way. Very well written. I bookmarked your sight for future.

    Terri

    • Thanks again for your inciteful comments. I have tried Tofurky and some other vegan turkey roasts with my kids. They are 19 and 17 now, and they are stubborn in their ways (unfortunately, the ways I created when they were younger). I have had successes with many vegan dishes for them, especially my homemade soups, so I try and make them a lot. I dont know if you have teens, but they are pretty stubborn. Dont think it has anything to do with their choice of foods. They drive and eat out a lot with their friends. Anyway, I agree that veganism is growing in leaps and bounds, and I hope it continues. For the record, it’s my opinion that the jump from vegetarianism to veganism is a huge one!

  5. I am reading this blog because i am considering going vegan, Im an avid distance runner and i will be running in college, so a lot of my meals will be “to go” per se, do you have any tips? My manager at work has inspired me to go vegan and I was also wondering if anybody knows where to shop for vegan / whole foods while it not being too expensive. Also currently I am on an animal protein based diet… I am actually starting to be vegan pretty soon i will be going to the store as soon as possible to get started, and how hard is it to transition your diet? I am ready to make a lifestyle change for the better and i cant wait to see how this works out!
    Thank you for your time!
    Alexis

    • Hi Alexis!

      There are many world-class vegan athletes including Olympic gold medalist runner, Carl Lewis, so you will be in good company should you go vegan. It’s really not hard to transition to a plant-based diet. You can find quinoa in any supermarket, as well as beans, rice, lentils, tofu, and other plant-based proteins such as seitan and tempeh. All of these foods are simple to prepare. You can make easy substitutes for your regular foods. Use almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, and nutritional yeast to sprinkle on your food for a cheesy flavor. Why don’t you browse through our website, and look under our recipes and recommended products for some simple ideas. Please keep us posted on your progress. We really want to know, and we’ll answer any questions you may have.

  6. Thank you for this blog post. I’m sorry to hear you are struggling with this issue but it’s a comfort to know that someone else faces the same challenges.
    I made the decision to become a vegetarian almost a year ago. After just a couple of months of a vegetarian diet and continued research of the treatment of animals in the food industry, I knew a vegan diet was my next step. I transitioned from the eggs and dairy for several months (mostly vegan during this time but allowing the occasional slip), but on 1/1/2015 I switched to an all vegan diet and lifestyle. Like you, I feel like this is the best decision I have ever made for animals, our planet, and my body. Also like you, I face the daily (unexpected) challenges of hurtful comments, eye rolling and straight out harrassment. It’s amazing to me that a decision that came from a place of love (for animals amd the earth) can evoke such strong and negative reactions from those around us.
    That being said, I have several non-vegan friends and family members that stand by me 100 percent and will even go to bat for me when needed. I am always sure to let these people know how much their love and support really means to me. Maybe this could help in your case? If there’s even a minute amount of support, let the person know that you are grateful for it. Maybe they will be more inclined in the future to be open minded.

    I suppose my comment is long enough at this point, but I just wanted to say stay strong, you aren’t alone, and you never know who you may be inspiring.

    • Dear Kellen,
      We apologize for the delayed reply and we really appreciate your comment! As vegans, we all come in contact with supporters, haters and those that just don’t make it an issue at all. Sometimes it’s difficult and sometimes it’s a piece of (vegan) cake, but it’s always worthwhile and true to our hearts! Reminding ourselves that there are so many that feel the same way we do really helps too, even if we aren’t around them all the time.
      Thanks for reading and commenting and supporting us in what we do!
      Best, Ellen & Debby

  7. Thank you! Tears came to my eyes as I read your story. Vegan powers unite ~ form of ~ a beautiful force of health and love in our world! : )

  8. Some Vegan jokes: What is the hardest part about being a Vegan? Answer: Keeping it to yourself !!

    Why did the Vegan cross the road ? To tell the people on the other side that he/ she is a Vegan !!

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