Going vegan is harder for some folks than it is for others. I admit, I contemplated if writing a full blog post on this topic made sense for various reasons — the main reason being that I thought maybe going vegan for me wasn’t “hard enough”. Why did I think this?
Well, since I went vegan, I’ve spoken to a variety of people who have both inspired and enlightened me. Here are a few archetypes I’ve had the pleasure of talking to over the past several months:
- The “O.G” vegan: This is the person who went vegan way back in the sixties or seventies, long before it was trendy, cool, or even known to have such an impact on health, or the environment. These are the veteran vegans — everyone thought they were crazy for doing it, and maybe they were because they didn’t have the wealth of food options that vegans have today. They were pretty much obligated to be raw vegans (well, they could cook their veggies too). Oh, but they also had tofu. Just tofu (and later seitan around the mid-1970s). I’ve heard their stories of feeling like outcasts because of their choice to go vegan, but I’ve also heard their stories of how going vegan was the healthiest thing they could have done — those were my favorite parts. And ya know, when you’re trying to save the planet and the animals, having a limited amount of food options and being judged by society can pale in comparison, because you know that what you’re doing is for the greater good. “O.G” vegans truly deserve our admiration — they were pioneers!
- The small town vegan: This type of vegan also fancies a lot of raw goodies, but they have also mastered how to prepare cooked veggies about 100 different ways and to somehow turn about three different veggies into 40 different meals (I completely stole this skill and am still honing it!). They are also big on prepared foods like Daiya’s “mac ‘n’ cheez”. The main struggle here is access to and availability of vegan food options other than raw foods, pasta and peanut butter. Small town vegans don’t always have easy accessibility to products which have not become as popular in certain areas, like staple proteins such as tofu and seitan, and also vegan cheez, because not enough people consume them where they live. And even the larger supermarkets or big-box stores which are more likely to carry these products may not be easily accessible, so they have to make trips there every so often and stock up in bulk. **Disclaimer: I am fully aware that this is not accurate of ALL vegans who live in small towns, but is applicable of some!
- The raw vegan: The classic raw vegan. I think this is what most people think of first when they hear the word “vegan”. These days, a lot of people adopt a raw vegan diet for a week or two, in an attempt to lose weight. But for true raw vegans, this isn’t a diet– it’s a lifestyle. So what exactly is a raw vegan? Well the name somewhat explains it: they’re vegan — so no animal products or animal byproducts. But they also consume the majority of their food fully raw or cooked very minimally for the purpose of achieving maximum nutritional value. For a food to be considered “raw”, it can not be cooked above a temperature of 105-120 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of veganism takes a lot of commitment and can be a struggle to fully change over to, especially if you’re going from a full carnivore and dairy diet to a raw vegan diet. And then you also have to worry about nutrition, maybe even more so than vegans who cook their food. But some people swear by it as a great way to improve health.
Each of these groups had or have it a bit hard when it comes to their vegan life. Their decisions were obviously motivated by something greater than themselves, because it took a lot of dedication and commitment to stick with something that may not have come easily. You could be motivated by being passionate about what you’re doing, by feeling obligated to do it, or simply by the main pillars of veganism which are health, animals, and the environment (in no specific order). Like I said, learning from these groups and talking to people within them has enlightened me as to what I can do to make my personal vegan journey better, in spite of any struggles I have had myself, which I still feel pales in comparison to the ones above.
So what have I struggled with?
Here are some that have come about since I went vegan:
- Getting used to cooking all of (well, most of) my meals: Like most people, I have a very busy schedule. I work, I’m in grad school, and I have to take care of everything else that occurs in life — the daily monotonous stuff as well as the out-of-the blue things that always seem to pop-up at the most random times. I didn’t grow up loving to cook, and I actually didn’t start cooking until very recently. I have come to appreciate it now, but it is still in the “greatly admired hobby” stage — except it isn’t just a hobby. It’s a necessity. Being vegan kind of forces you to have to cook the majority of your meals. That is, unless you can afford to eat vegan take-out every night, which I can’t. Heck, even the places I’ve eat out at since I became vegan have been questionable on my finances. Lets just say that a lot of the great vegan fare I’ve been able to partake of has been paid for by some of my ever-growing student loan debt (mom, I apologize for that if you’re reading this). But it isn’t all bad. Learning how to cook is an essential survival skill, and if you can make food that actually tastes good, that’s even better. The issue is that I don’t always feel like cooking every. single. night. I know I can meal prep or make large meals at the beginning of the week, but I have another issue there. I’ve been very adamant about not using a microwave as much — I’m not super strict with it, but I have maybe used my microwave about three-five times in the past month. My goal is to not use it as often because of the radiation it emits when heating and cooking food. Supposedly it’s a very small amount, but I don’t trust that fully and so although I haven’t committed to getting rid of the appliance yet, I’ve been content with not using it as much. And who knows what I may end up doing with it in the future. But the point is, finding the time to actually make a meal when I’m feeling tired, lazy, or really don’t have the time can be difficult. But I’m still pushing myself to do it, and it does get easier with time.
- Getting used to being around family/friends who are not vegan: Earlier this month, I went out with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday — it was my first outing to a non-vegan restaurant with non-vegan people. Yikes. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to eat anything, although my current go-to “non-vegan place” food is always there as my safety cushion — french fries. I looked up the menu before we went, and thank goodness they actually had not one but two vegan options! But I am dreading the time where I have to go out to a place that doesn’t have an online menu or doesn’t offer any vegan food. I am also still in the stage where I can’t expect all of my extended family to know about my new vegan life. Meat and dairy are in a lot of dishes that are common in my culture (when prepared traditionally), so until everyone knows I’m vegan, I might have to bring my own food. My mom has been very supportive — she made me a few things during the holiday season which came about right after I went vegan and I can’t wait to introduce her to the wonderful vast world of vegan food.
- Beginning the transition to all vegan products: In my head I knew that being vegan would extend to other areas of my life, but initially, it still wasn’t a tangible concept. At first I was more focused on finding out what I could and couldn’t eat. Once I became more comfortable with the food part, I started to realize how many things we use in life are not vegan. Things like hair styling products, shampoos and conditioners, body products, makeup, and even floss; most waxed floss is coated with beeswax. I am still in the process of making sure I only use vegan products. Sometimes I forget to look at the ingredients on something, but it happens and I’m sure it will happen to all the other newbie (and even veteran) vegans out there. But soon enough it’ll be second nature to check the label.
- Making sure I’m getting all the nutrients I need: I used to suffer from iron-deficient anemia. I went a decent amount of time without knowing this — being sick and suffering from dizzy spells and not knowing why. Because of this experience along with a desire to take better care of myself overall, I try to make sure I’m always getting all the nutrients I need. Going vegan made this even more important, because as a vegan, if you don’t eat a diverse array of foods it is all too easy to start lacking in key nutrients such iron and B-12. Iron is found in many plant-based sources such as dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and tofu just to name a few– but, there’s a catch. These foods are only high in one type of iron (aarrrgghh!). And getting enough B-12 is a whole other story. Vitamin B-12 is only found in animal meat sources. So for a vegan to get enough B-12, they have to either take supplements or eat foods fortified with the vitamin, such as plant-milks. For the full low-down on these two key nutrients, why they’re important and how I’m currently trying to fit them into my diet, check out this blog post.
* Vegetables cover image courtesy of pexels.com