The Realities of Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

I’ve been a vegetarian for five years, and I decided that 2020 was going to be the year that I committed fully to a vegan diet. While being vegetarian, I tried to incorporate vegan recipes into my life as often as possible. Being really conscious of those choices made me feel really great, so I figured what’s holding me back from just being 100% vegan? The answer to that is temptation.

         While I have no desire to eat meat, there are still other foods that are just so easily accessible; sometimes it’s hard to remember that they’re not vegan. Take chocolate for example. While vegan chocolate exists, it’s not always an option; whereas, you can find chocolate bars pretty much at any store that sells food. It’s the same with cheese. Yes, vegan cheese is there, but it’s not as good as the real deal, and certain brands really shouldn’t be making vegan cheese at all (suffice to say I’ve spent my fair share of money on “cheese” that was not worth it at all).

         The thing about temptation is that I wouldn’t be half as inclined to eat non-vegan foods if there were more people in my life who were also vegan. Like my parents, for example. I still live at home, and the biggest struggle is that I’m not the only person who does the grocery shopping in my household. My parents are meat-eaters and are constantly stocking the fridge and cupboards with foods I don’t want to eat, but still do because it’s there and easy to grab. It’s really hard to not have support when you’re trying to change your diet. My parents aren’t against me being a vegetarian, although sometimes they still make jokes about me eating meat and even still try and cook fish for me, which is really annoying. They’ve done a little in trying to eat vegetarian meals with me or at least cooking alternatives to whatever non-veggie friendly meal they’re eating. But it’s still frustrating. On the other hand, my friends are really supportive of my veganism, but they’re happy with eating meat. While there’s nothing wrong with that (to each their own), it does make it difficult to go out and eat at restaurants that don’t always have a ton of vegan options on their menu.

         I don’t want to just focus on the struggles of converting over to the vegan lifestyle. There have been really awesome changes to accessible plant-based foods in grocery stores over just the course of a few years. I’ve started cooking at home a lot more because of it, and that’s saved me more money than eating out. Plus, I’m trying foods that I never would have even thought of before! Just the other day, I used a cauliflower crumble as a substitute for ground beef in a taco recipe. I’ve also learned a ton of stuff about nutritional value in foods that I didn’t even care about before.

         Transitioning into a fully vegan lifestyle is something I’m really passionate about, it is frustrating when there isn’t a lot of support for the people in the middle like me. It’s not just those who don’t have the same mindset as you, but also there’s this guilt trip feeling. Not every vegan judges and shames vegetarians, but it can’t be denied that a few people in the community do, and that’s something that always dwells in my mind when I eat something I know is going against my resolution. I don’t think a lot of people realize the self-restriction it takes an individual to convert to a plant-based lifestyle, and I wish there were more people talking about the challenges they’ve gone through and overcome. It’s that kind of supportive conversation that could really help those who are sitting on the fence between vegetarian and vegan diets. Essentially, I guess what I’m trying to say is that veganism is super rewarding, but it takes a lot of effort to reach that reward, and I think that deserves more recognition. So, if you know anyone who’s vegan, remind them how great they’re doing every once and awhile!