Don’t let anyone kid you, going vegan is hard to do. No matter what people glibly spout on Twitter, the journey to becoming vegan is a difficult one. The deck is stacked against you. In our Carnist society, the powers that be have a vested interest in your failure.
And sadly, even other vegans can make life difficult for newbies. We laughingly call them the “Vegan Police” but they are no joke. Now, I know these vegans mean well but their hard line attitude is intimidating to new or wannabe vegans. Not a good way to help veganism spread, in my humble opinion (more on this in another post).
I bring this up because, this week a young lady (we’ll call her Jane) reached out to me for help. She is seriously thinking of going vegan but is worried it will cost too much and that her family, who are EXTREME Carnists, will not be supportive.
She had already watched “Forks Over Knives“. In fact, that film is what got her to thinking about going vegan in the first place, just like it did for us. So I recommended that Jane watch “Vegucated” next. Because both are great movies and both reach the conclusion that veganism is the right thing to do. However, they reach that conclusion for very different reasons.
This exploration is helpful because the reason you become vegan is vitally important to your success along the way. You see, the best way I know to insure you succeed at going vegan, not to mention staying vegan, is to really know WHY you want to do it in the first place.
So I offer up this advice to Jane and anyone else who is considering or is trying to go vegan. Start by asking yourself “Why are YOU vegan?” Watch movies, read books, talk to other vegans until you can answer this question. Don’t worry about what anyone else says, thinks or does. Why do YOU want a vegan lifestyle?
When you can definitively answer this question, when it is firmly fixed in your mind, you can overcome any obstacle in your way. Being vegan will stop being hard and become sublimely simple. It will just be the way things ARE for you.
Based on her letter I know that Jane wants to be vegan because she doesn’t want animals to suffer and be killed for her pleasure. And she is appalled by how animals are raised and slaughtered in our food system. In other words, she’s an animal rights or ethical vegan. Armed with that information it becomes much easier to help Jane find her vegan path and stick to it.
If you really think about it, your goal as an ethical vegan is to reduce suffering! So, every time you make a food choice ask yourself this question, “What can I eat in this situation that will cause the least suffering?” Answering this question before you fill your plate will tell you what to do. Every time!
GOING VEGAN NOTE: Everyone & Every Situation Is Different.
My answers won’t be the same as your answers. Your own suffering has to be factored into the equation, too. If you are “going vegan” you have to find the path for yourself. And, the answers you find are going to be different at different times, situations and stages of a your vegan journey.
In many situations the answer to what will cause the least suffering is going to be a meal that contains absolutely no animal products at all. Naturally, that is the goal of almost all vegans. But sometimes, like when you live at home and have no control over the grocery shopping, you have to do the best you can in the moment.
In that case the answer may mean skipping the ground beef and cheese on Mexican night. By only putting beans, lettuce, salsa and guacamole in your taco you get a delicious meal while keeping both your conscience AND your parents happy.
Another answer might be only eating meat, cheese etc. at dinner when your Mother cooks for you and eating plant based meals the rest of the day. Heck, even having only one meatless meal a week makes a difference. Imagine if everyone did that?
GOING VEGAN NOTE: Shit Happens!
As you begin both your vegan journey just do the best you can and don’t beat yourself up when you falter. Strive to do better today than you did yesterday. But when you stumble (and everyone does), DO NOT QUIT! It’s just a stumble. Tomorrow, do better.
As for costs. I have found that cooking vegan foods isn’t any more expensive than cooking traditional meat & dairy filled foods. Meat is EXPENSIVE! Cheese is EXPENSIVE! Processed foods are EXPENSIVE!
If you stop buying those things and spend your money on whole fruits, raw veggies and nuts you won’t be spending any more than you did before. And if you stop buying processed foods and junk foods too you’ll actually save money. We did!
Of course that means you’ll have to actually learn to how to cook foods instead of simply unwrapping them and heating them up. But that is easy enough. The internet is filled with recipes and folks willing to show you how to cook them. Heck, we even have a few for ya.
I think the reason folks think vegan food is expensive is because they don’t stop buying the non-vegan stuff and add the vegan foods to their shopping lists. Having to shop for two totally different sets of meals all the time would be VERY expensive.
Luckily, even the most ardent meat lovers eat other things too. So if you can’t do your own shopping all the time, teens come to mind here, you’ll still be able to make vegan meals for yourself quite often. Some things that come readily to mind are salads, potatoes, noodles, corn on the cob, peanut and other nut butters…
Find vegan dishes that you enjoy, that you can make with the things the folks in charge of the shopping already buy. Baked potatoes are filling and delicious when topped with pepper, Earth Balance (butter substitute), mushrooms and spinach. Honestly, the list of things that go well on a potato are endless. And a can of corn mixed with a can of chili beans and a diced carrot is delicious both hot and cold.
BOTTOM LINE… Going Vegan Is A Personal Journey!
Don’t let anyone who hasn’t walked in your shoes tell you how to do it. And do not allow yourself to be bullied into quitting either. Your vegan journey is unique. Just remember that every meal you consume that has no animal products in it reduces suffering, helps the planet and makes you healthier. Keep your goals in mind and do the best you can each day.