I’ve been vegan for about four months now, which sounds really weird to say, since it feels like I’ve been this way forever. I’ve become so ingrained in my new behaviors and I can’t believe I was ever any different. It really is a lifestyle and a commitment, not a diet or fad. I’m going strong and I think I’m well past the point of my friends and family realizing I’m in this for the long run. AKA they’ve realized they’re either going to have to accept their annoyance with me is permanent or just stop caring. And while I mostly deflect criticisms, I’ve realized being a vegan isn’t all pita chips and hummus. There are some obstacles to face, but at the end of the day I am 150% satisfied with my decision and beyond ecstatic for my future in animal rights activism. My life is at all times filled with chaos, and veganism has given me this great sense of stability, an anchor to my principles, the center to my ever-growing life. It has only expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to both the harsh realities of our society as well as the glorious compassion of humankind. I now have this wonderful connection to so many others who share my beliefs, and I definitely feel more connected to the earth and all of its creations. I enjoy having so many diverse interests in life, but it’s comforting to have this one cause I can call my passion. And it’s helped me to discover all of these capabilities I never knew I had! I recently started cooking and have switched to an almost all raw diet (more to come on my cooking adventures later). I’ve discovered animal rights groups in my area, and I’m stoked to reach out, volunteer, and get more involved in the community. I can honestly say becoming a vegan is the best decision I’ve ever made, and all the divine benefits that have come from it are proof. It is now one of my life goals to inspire others to swear off animal products and join me in the light of a cruelty-free life. I encourage everyone to do their research and seriously consider this way of life. First and foremost I want to be honest with any prospective vegans out there. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the issues vegans face, complete with the solutions.
- Haters gonna hate. Don’t be surprised if everyone around you starts acting like they have a degree in nutrition. Your family will ask if you think you were adopted. Your friends will groan when you try to influence where you’re all going for dinner. Random strangers will question your motives. Heck, even a customer you’re ringing up might (oblivious to your choice) obnoxiously declare “I HATE vegetarians!!” while ordering his food. (OK, maybe this one is just me.. #PaneraProbs). People will share their opinions without you ever asking. Just remember, your principles are stronger than this. Vegans can often come off as attention-seeking just because we call for different menus at events. As long as you don’t superfluously announce you are a vegan when it isn’t relevant in the situation, you are doing nothing wrong! Don’t let anyone guilt you into thinking you’re not a majestic animal rights god/ goddess. Others’ ignorance should never get in the way of your ethical bliss. Being confident in your personal decision will leave you unscathed by others’ criticism.
- Operation: Locate food. There’s definitely work involved to being a vegan. Sadly, we can’t all have gardens in our backyard and eliminate the chore of grocery shopping. If you’re already a health nut, it’s become routine to read every ingredient label before buying a food. You’re going to have to do this to ensure you’re buying vegan products. Luckily, veganism is so much on the rise (whoooo!!) that many grocers have specific labels “V for vegan” on their foods and specific areas of the store designated for natural foods. And it’s easy to check if a product has animal products by the allergen labels in bold lettering on the back of a food. When I first became a vegan, I was too intimidated by cooking that I took the lazy approach and bought pre-made vegan dinners and packaged foods. While I did buy organic foods, I’ve realized it is much cheaper and healthier to cook my own meals! This also eliminates any worry of animal ingredients being in your food. It’s actually fun to cook and I feel a sense of accomplishment when my result is delicious. I advise to always make a list before you grocery shop, so you stay on track with the ingredients you need to cook your own meals. Also, find out the best deals for natural foods in your area. I’ve recently fell in love with Trader Joe’s, which is a bit of a hike from where I live, but is totally worth it for the selection. My other favorites? The farmer’s market always has fresh produce for cheap, and Aldi’s prices are unbeatable. Restaurants are another issue. I’ve learned that Applebee’s does not have a single dish without meat, pancakes are almost never vegan (sigh, Denny’s, SIGH), and most dishes are slathered with some sort of buttery spread. You have to be in the know when you dine out. Look up the menu beforehand, ask the servers questions, and don’t feel pressured to order something that seems a little shady. After grad parties abound where my only option to eat was fruit, I’ve realized I have to be self-sufficient on these things. Unfortunately not everyone will cater to all dietary ways, and you either have to bring your own dish or eat beforehand. This is only a small obstacle in the great big world of eating vegan, though. There are so many vegan restaurants now and all it takes is a little research to find cool places near you. Remember, no one is going to completely cater to you. Be independent, and be patient with having to go out of your way a little to get what you deserve.
- You’re going to be the weird one. Veganism is becoming more and more popular every year and I’m confident the future will have a lot more of us, but until then, you’re going to realize you’re in the minority. In my friend group, I have 3 vegetarian/ vegans and in my family, none. (I hope to help change that!) At most restaurants and social events, you will probably be the only vegan. I have come to accept this. At times it can be socially isolating. People feel weird inviting you to barbecues and steakhouses. You’re left out of fun times like eating birthday cake and getting ice cream. No matter how much I’m excluded though, I’ve learned to not let it affect me. I am proud to live cruelty-free and there’s nothing I miss being a part of enough to ever curse my beliefs. I’ll accept being the “weird” one, so long as my loved ones accept me, which they do (for the most part). If you think of any social revolutionary in history, they were deemed the weird one when they were first living out their ideals. Thankfully, vegans are moving on up in the world and there’s quite a growing community out there if you search a little. Never forget the undeniable good you’re doing and revel in your uniqueness; it’s your chance to share with others your world-saving ways!
- The ugly truth will be revealed. Motives to become a vegan include the moral, the health, and the environmental. As you research your cause more and more, you will discover the ugliness of the animal industry, including factory farming, animal testing, and animal breeding. There is so much cruelty to unveil it is overwhelming. I probably don’t even know half of the evil practices that are in effect right now. While this can cause cynicism and emotional woes, recognize it provides our boundless opportunity to change. Leonardo da Vinci once said “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.” You are not going to be able to single-highhandedly take down the animal industry, but by banding together as a community and taking action with petitions, protests, and education we all can take this on. Be active and share your voice. I have so much hope for the future, and we owe it to our fellow animals to be proactive for the cause.
- Other adjustments will be necessary. As a vegan, you commit to not just a dietary choice, but a lifestyle choice. I have learned the sad reality of animal exploitation. There are so many beauty and home products that are made with animal products and/or tested on animals. Animal testing is a serious issue in our society today, and we must boycott companies that use it in order to eliminate it. You’ll also be avoiding leather and wool, and even boycotting the circus and zoo. (I’m on the fence about the zoo, but horse races and the circus are absolutely horrific!) Living vegan means so much more than not eating meat and dairy. It’s truly about not supporting anything that uses animals for our benefit. It’s like a whole new world compared to the ways of the majority of society. But it feels absolutely wonderful. You will realize that if you’re capable of abandoning the ideas and ways you’ve been taught to obey, you are capable of so much more as well. Your strong beliefs and passion put you well on the track to becoming an activist, and making the world a better place. In fact, each day you live as a vegan you are making the world a better place! You are saving lives, discouraging deforestation, and fighting world hunger. You are doing so much good for yourself and the world, and it won’t take long to come into your new kickass, planet-saving self. So if you’ve joined me in my plant-eating, smoothie-making, animal-loving ways, Welcome! I wish you luck on your journey and I will be here for you every step of the way. The truth about being vegan? It is SO undoubtedly worth it.