I’ve been vegan for around five years, and like everything in life, sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. All in all, being vegan is actually pretty simple, and being honest, there’s not too many things I find difficult about it.
When someone finds out that you're vegan, their first reaction is usually to make a comment about how difficult it must be/ they would find it. So let's explore the most common "hardest things" about being vegan and how to make it easier.
A common misconception among meat-eaters is that readily accessible, tasty vegan food is the hardest part of a vegan diet, but that’s not always the case.
I live in Melbourne so I’m very blessed that there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian specific cafes around, and always lots of veg options when eating out in any restaurant. If live in areas with less access, suggest a vegan/ vegetarian option for them to serve at your local cafe and restaurant. Most places will be eager to expand their market and accomodate you.
When you first go vegan or vegetarian, perhaps cooking a delicious meal at home was tricky, but with experimentation and practise you can soon find your way. I spent lots of time in the kitchen experimenting with flavours when I first started cooking vegan, which opened up lots of delicious tastes I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Many people might think that nutritional issues from a vegan diet would be difficult to manage.
But, in fact, they're not. In any diet, getting the healthy balance of vitamins and minerals (like calcium and iron), amino acids and fats can be tricky - but even meat-eaters can be iron or calcium deficient if they lack other important nutritional requirements.
Vegans are no exception. We all need to know to have vitamin C with our iron so it absorbs properly. We need to be aware we’re getting all nine essential amino acids to make a complete protein. Did you know: together, peanut butter and wholegrain bread is a complete protein, as is hummus and pita bread.
Taking supplements can be a great way to make sure you’re nutritionally balanced while you’re still finding your feet, or if you're feeling a little run down. Personally, I take Armaforce (herbal immune booster), vegan probiotic, zinc (for immunity and skin issues), and occasionally vitamin C, D, B12 and iron. Eating vegan is simple as long as you know that replacing animal products with bread and pasta and a small eating amount of vegetables is not enough to be nutritious.
If you ask a vegan what they think the hardest part is, most will probably answer with something like,
“Negative comments from meat- eaters”.
And I can definitely relate to that - I’ve had hurtful things said to me before in response to finding out I’m vegan, or during a discussion of vegan related topic. After years of handling uncomfortable conversations about veganism, I think these conversations can go very well and not leave both parties feeling negative.
In a way, I can understand why meat-eaters can be nasty when they feel like they’re confronted with their own lifestyle choices. “Carnivores” can get offended when cruelty and animal welfare gets brought up, and needs to be approached delicately, as some can find it as a personal attack of their lifestyle choices and can deflect that feeling with a sarcastic or hurtful retort.
For example, my stepdad is over 60 and has been eating meat every day his whole life. When I first went vegetarian eight years ago, he freaked out and couldn’t understand why or how. As a young person (in biological and vegan years), I was confrontational in the way I handled conversations on veganism and a lot of the time those conversations resulted in nothing but negativity. Which was reflected in his attitude on veganism. At first he was not really open to trying any food I made, but over years of learning how to handle those conversations pleasantly, he now eats vegan meals most days and has limited his meat intake to a few times a week. Which is absolutely brilliant! By supporting and guiding his veg journey he is now excited to try vegan food and very supportive of my lifestyle.
Tips on avoiding negative conversations with meat-eaters
- Try to be non-confrontational when telling someone why you're vegan - people can automatically get defensive if they feel like they're being attacked or judged
- If someones asks, be excited to have a friendly, calm and intelligent conversation about the benefits of veganism
- Give simple examples on animal rights, environmental aspects and health benefits - don't overload them!
- Explain that veganism is a personal choice and there is no judgement from you about their lifestyle
- If that person gets rude or sarcastic, do not engage - politely tell them you’ll only discuss it if they’re open to learning
- Try to keep the conversation light and friendly and talk about something else when it ceases to be so
- Offer to show them aspects of veganism you love and think they will relate to - eat at a vegan restaurant, make them a homemade meal or take them to an animal shelter
I find my experience as a vegan has been much more enjoyable since taking this approach, because there are so few negative comments now.
When talking to a meat-eater, I think small gems of information and enlightenment are better than a boulder of judgement in their face. Plant-based lifestyles are becoming more popular, so chances are this carnivore will be exposed to the veg-way somewhere else.
If all vegans were friendly, calm and rational when talking about our lifestyles choices, the carnivore will stop being defensive and start listening.
Negative comments from non-vegans can be harming, but so too are negative or unsupportive comments from vegans. And if we want to minimise the negative comments meat-eaters say, then we too should limit our negative comments to them.
As vegans, we should recognise anyone’s interest or endeavour of a plant-based lifestyle as a wonderful thing, and be accepting, encouraging and supportive - no matter what.
As human beings, meat-eater or not, we need support from the people we care about and the encouragement to keep going, and any negative feedback someone gets has the ability to affect their journey and make it harder.
Embrace the positivity in a vegan lifestyle and make the most of your plant-based journey.
For me, what makes it easiest for me is the animals- I love them so much!
Visiting and volunteering at rescue or farm sanctuaries is a great way for me to feel inspired and passionate about veganism (see slideshow below - all taken at Edgar’s Mission in Victoria).
Another is cooking vegan food for friends and family, and enjoying it with them.
It can be creating cruelty-free cosmetics, fashion or shoes, protesting, writing, drawing or fighting for animal welfare, the list is endless. Whatever avenue it is that you’re passionate about - do it!
Let’s spread the vegan love!