An inconvenient vegan truth: why is it so hard to go vegan?
Chances are you made your way to this post out of frustration, turning to our dear friend Google with some variation of this question: 'why is it so hard to go vegan?' If I could reach through my screen right now and give you a big hug, I would. You know why? Because underlying this question is a frustration with yourself over the fact that it seems like it should be easy to go vegan, but it is hard, hard, hard for you. Trust me, I get it.
There is no shortage of 'vegan resources' on the internet that will give you tips on supplements, easy vegan recipes, all the gory details of factory farming, facts and figures why going vegan makes the most sense for the planet and for your health. They're all out here doing a great job of convincing you, but they're not coming through with the preparation of just how hard it is to adopt a vegan diet for the long haul. They don't acknowledge the intense cravings for meat that you're going to have, the difficulty you're going to encounter completely overhauling the essence of how you feed yourself, the impact your vegan choices are going to have on your social structures.
I'm here. I'm acknowledging it. I'm going to just let you know that this transition is difficult.
Here are the reasons making a transition to veganism is hard:
- Food is so much more than fuel. It is the very fabric that our social structures are woven upon. Food is celebration. Food is comfort. Food is healing. Food is culture. Food is history. When you go vegan, you eschew the way you've eaten your whole life. The cookies your grandma made to welcome you after the long road trip to her house are gone. The cake you eat at weddings is not allowed. Your favorite meal that your partner/grandma/mother makes is off limits. Thanksgiving, Easter Brunch, Sunday Supper. The popcorn you buy at the movies. All of the food that underscores your very history suddenly becomes something you're torn over whereas before it was a beautiful, totally normal thing.
- Your routines are built around food. The breakfast you eat in the morning has eggs. The coffee you sip to get you going in the morning has cream. The go-to sandwich you eat at lunch has turkey, mayo and cheese in it. Humans thrive off of routines. By going vegan, you have to build an entirely new routine. No one tells you how hard this is, how disconcerting it is to replace your entire food routine. How, in certain moments you just long for the comfort of your old non-vegan routines.
- The vegan police is alive and well. Wherever you go on the internet, you will find vegan dogma. Instead of acknowledging how hard it is to go vegan, they will shame you for not having the moral aptitude to stick with it. They will say things like 'I'm sorry your taste buds matter more than animal life.' You see this everywhere. It is pervasive and it is not helpful. At all.
- Vegan food isn't as good as non-vegan food. There. I am just going to say it. Look, I love my vegan recipes I've developed. I think they are absolutely, insanely delicious, but I will let you know that they taste nowhere as delicious as animal foods. It's just a fact. Vegan meats do not taste as good as real meats. Vegan cheeses don't taste as good as real cheeses. Even the most celebrated vegan products do not hold a candle to their animal counterparts. The satiety present in animal foods has been bred into us over generations of evolution. To expect that the foods we've literally be bred to enjoy over generations would suddenly become unappealing to us overnight is just hypocrisy. It is irresponsible to pretend that this stuff doesn't matter.
I hope you feel validated that there is someone on the internet acknowledging how hard it is to go vegan. It is difficult, but I still believe it is worthwhile. It is difficult, but it doesn't have to be lonely.
Does it help you for me to acknowledge your struggles? Does it help if I, some random stranger on the internet, tell you to take your transition to veganism slowly? Does it help if I give you permission to forgive yourself over and over if you have trouble transitioning to veganism? Does it help if I say that it's okay to join me in taking your vegan transition the same way as I am taking my own? Meal by meal, snack by snack? Does it help if I tell you that every time you leave meat off your plate is a victory? That even if you never go fully vegan, you are welcome here? That I truly believe, in the essence of my being, that every little bit helps the animals? That I would rather see someone go 25% or 50% or 80% vegan than do nothing at all?
It helps me just to write it and I hope it helps you, too. We're all perfectly imperfect and all we can do is try our best. The one thing I can definitively tell you is that it gets easier. Over time, it's hard, but it's not as hard as it was at first. The cravings for meat subside. The new routines cement themselves. Your body gets used to its new diet and feels more alive. There is a newfound peace and mental clarity in eating in alignment with your values. It's worth it to try and struggle because it gets better and easier every day. It might never be easy, but it will be easier.
Tell me, why is it so hard to go vegan? What is your biggest challenge?