This was originally published in Plant Powered Planet Online Magazine.
I’m turning vegan. No more meat or dairy is entering my home and I always seek the vegan option when dining out (no matter how poor it is).
But there’s a whole lot more I need to do and many more challenges I need to face. I turned to my lovely Twitter followers to prepare me by asking the simple question:
With over 150 responses, and explosive arguments, I’ve collated the most mentioned challenges into this article. Not everyone will experience all these challenges on their journey. If you’re curious or just starting your journey, may these challenges prepare you and make you feel a little bit less alone.
Not punching people when they ask you where you get your protein from
Your unfit, never-been-interested-in-diet-or-health-before acquaintances will suddenly root out their inner qualified nutritionist and declare your vegan diet is not fit for purpose.
“Dude, where are you going to get your protein from?”
You’ll get asked this question a lot. More than you think. And it will drive you up the wall as they’re scoffing down a tuna baguette from Subway.
To overcome: Be open and honest with everyone’s question.
Unless you’ve taken interested before turning vegan, you’re probably not going to know the answer. If you don’t know, admit it. Say you’ll get back to them and do your research. In the end, it’ll help you solidify the reasons you’re turning vegan, such as not needing to consume animals to be healthy.
In some cases, the asker may be poking fun at you. Take each situation as it is, but don’t be afraid to call out their lack of nutritional knowledge. Remind them that the WHO class meat is a carcinogenic.
I hear the laughs of veteran vegans as I write this…
You’re going to find very quickly that dining out as a vegan is difficult.
Do you like “veggie burgers”?
What about “meatless salads”?
Admittedly, hospitality is getting better at providing more vegan options, but research is paramount before visiting anywhere. There have been a few times where I’ve been forced to eat veggie due to lack of options.
To overcome: find Facebook groups for your local area.
Vegans are passionate eaters. We don’t punish our tastebuds, so, when a local restaurant (especially a vegan-only venue) does an amazing job, we shout and scream about it. Dedicated vegan groups for local areas are establishing on Facebook for this purpose. Find them, use them, and enjoy eating out!
Additionally, I saw this challenge as a positive. To contribute to the community, it became my vegan duty to find all the vegan-friendly restaurants in my local area and try them. Not all at once, mind you.
Hiding your imperfections
“You’re a vegan now. You cannot own anything that isn’t.”
You check every single item of clothing. As your throw-out pile increases, you worry how you’re going to afford a whole new wardrobe – especially a vegan wardrobe. What about if you can’t afford a new wardrobe? What about if you accidently wear those trainers out have leather uppers? People will call you a fraud and you can no longer declare your veganism to the world.
To overcome, you need to remember this one statement:
There is no such thing as a perfect vegan.
The Vegan’s Society definition explicitly declares that we must seek to exclude exploitation of animals “as far as is possible and practicable”. There’s a difference between being lazy and being unable to prevent abuse.
If you can’t afford to replace your leather shoes with vegan-friendly alternatives, don’t. If you’re in desperate need of a new shirt for work and you can only afford Primark, purchase. It is not possible and practicable for you to walk to work with no shoes and no shirt (you’re not LMFAO).
Plus, throwing out good clothes just because they’re not vegan will cause more damage to the environment than saving them. Instead of throwing out, make sure your next purchase is vegan – where possible and practicable.
Missing cakes (and other sweet treats)
Cakes and other confections are an obvious no-go for vegans. Traditional recipes call for eggs, butter, and milk. Whilst there have been some adaptions over time, there’s always the creepy milk powder ingredient waiting to surprise you every time you think you’re close to finding a vegan-friendly cake.
Sugar is the only ingredient humans naturally crave from birth. To live in a world without sugar is bold and brave, but have you seen that slice of cake in the bakery’s window?
To overcome: Shop online and at your local independent specialist
Luckily, vegan confectionary is booming. Your supermarket may be slowly catching up, but that’s just a fraction as to what’s available. Online stores like VeganKind, Vegan Store, and Alleway’s Confectionary offer a wide range of vegan sweets and treats. Check them out.
During Lockdown, home baking has exploded and vegans are not shy. Check out your local vegan groups or neighbourhood groups for anyone selling their bakes. Just remember to find a kitchen that’s registered with the local authority.
Becoming #1 enemy of your entire family
Family and friends can be difficult with your decision to turn vegan. We’ve talked about how to deal with those annoying questions (“where do you get your protein from?”), but there’s one element we need to cover:
Your frustration when they don’t join you.
You’ve seen the battery in the chicken farms, the grinding of piglets, and the forced impregnation of cows. They haven’t. You may be tempted to sit them down and host a cinema night highlighting the trauma you’ve witnessed. When they refuse, you become confused and angry. “Why don’t they see what I do?”
To overcome: Give them time.
Your newfound identity as a vegan is challenging for them too. They see the changes you’re making every day and you share it when they’re with you. Going out for a simple dinner date is now a pain. What was simple is now difficult (as you surely know).
They may attack you and convince you that you’re wrong. It’s the easier choice. You have remain patience and stick to your guns. Where it turns to all out abuse, remove yourself from the relationship. No friend or family member is worth keeping when it turns sour.
For friends who simply don’t understand, accept you’re not going to convert them. Instead, offer to cook for them one night and try out new foods. Laugh about it on the way.
“Did they really think they could pass this off as meat?”
“What were they trying to achieve with this?”
There are terrible vegan foods out there, just as there is non-vegan. Find humour in your journey and they will become an ally.
Feeling guilt about not doing it sooner
Out of all the replies, this one threw me. This self-hatred and disappointment defeats the triumph of making the decision in the first place. Who cares if you’re 72 and only just turning vegan? That’s one more day than other people. That’s one more life saved.
To overcome: Use a vegan calculator
We don’t have time travel yet (do we?), so we can’t go back and decide to be vegan from birth. But, we can measure the impact our personal vegan journey has. The Vegan Calculator calculates the gallons of water, lbs of grains, square foot of forest, lbs of CO2, and animal lives saved for each day we’ve been vegan. If you’re feeling down one day, use the calculator to witness the impact you’re making already!
These were the common challenges faced by vegans when starting their journey. As I progress to a more ethical and vegan lifestyle, I will face these challenges head on and discover hurdles of my own. This tweet reminded me that we’re not alone on this journey. The actions I’m taking may be individual, but it is as a collective we can make a bigger impact.
Starting this vegan confectionary shop forms part of my journey. If you want to share or witness this journey with me, sign up to our email list. I’ll be sharing my tips and hidden finds as I discover and I’d love your input too!