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The Challenge of Going Vegan

I'm curious whether people who try it find it manageable or if most give it up because of the challenges. The linked NY Times blog relates some anecdotal experiences. What's yours?


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  1. I was vegan for about 4 years, but living in the DC area made it pretty easy to handle. If I tried to do it now, living in SE CT, I'd have to eat almost every meal at home, unless I wanted to drive at least a half an hour. I did do a some cooking at home when I was vegan, but with my work schedule, I'd say about 75% of my meals were eaten out. Actually, my giving up veganism coincided with my move back up here...
    For a great look at the struggles and merits of a vegan diet, this month long journey tells it pretty well.


    1. I've done it at times and I don't find it hard, especially if you make food at home. My diet is often really restricted so when I've been vegan it's not been just vegan but vegan plus other restrictions and I've found it doable. Many restaurants can prepare a vegetable dish or you can put a few sides together to makes something decent. I think a lot of individual circumstances may make it harder or easier, so it really depends on a person's particular situation. I've never been a strict vegan in the sense that I took medications that had gelatin, etc. but as far as food and drinks I consumed I did not take in animal products to my knowledge. Cooking whole foods at home makes it pretty easy to know what's in your food.

      1. I've been vegetarian for about 20 years; I was vegan (other than honey - from below, looks like I'm not the only one) for about 16 years, and I still eat essentially a vegan diet except for small amounts of eggs from people who keep chickens locally and don't kill them for meat. I think it makes travel difficult, especially in countries where one doesn't speak the language, but I don't find it horribly difficult most of the time. It probably helps that I've lived on the coasts -- first in New Jersey / New York, and later in California.

        I think as far as sticking to the diet, for me, at least, it's important to be pretty strict (i.e,. don't let yourself cheat), and at the same time, to accept that you can't control everything. You will have to draw certain lines (beer / wine clarified with animal products? sugar that may have been processed using bone char, etc.).

        I think it also helps in terms of not feeling "deprived" to recognize that this is something you're doing by choice.

        3 Replies
        1. re: will47

          fwiw, Whole Foods carries Vegan sugar.
          i use it for myself and for my hummingbird feeder.

          1. re: westsidegal

            Sure, I always buy vegan sugars, but it's difficult to completely avoid refined sugar if you eat outside your home.

            1. re: will47

              Beet sugar is vegan. It's only some of the cane sugars that are not.

              Common brands:
              C&H and Domino sugar does use bone char in processing.

              Florida Crystals, Sucanat, and Sugar in the Raw doesnt.

              Bone char is not allowed in the processing of organic sugar, so if your sugar is organic, you're okay.

        2. I'm a vegetarian but closer to vegan than omnivore. I rarely consumer eggs and dairy, no gelatin, but I do use honey pretty often.

          For me, the challenge is more about out of sight, out of mind sort of thing. I could shop for a total vegan diet and stick to it. That's easy. What's not easy is that my DH is a diehard omni. He drinks 2 gallons of milk a week and loves eggs. Sometimes I find myself hungry, not wanting to cook or eat an over processed snack, and the cheese he insisted I buy just screams "protein!" Or cracking open an egg is easier than making up a flax egg.

          We've come to the agreement that meat won't be kept in the house. It's taken us 6 months to get to that point. I'm hoping to eliminate eggs next. If I take things slowly, he's less likely to fight back. By fight back, I mean feeding our lacto-intolerant 2 year old grilled cheese and giving him a cow's milk yogurt-eeeeeeeeek!

          3 Replies
          1. re: MamaCrunch

            I don't see why just because you choose a particular way of eating your husband should have to do it too, frankly. I think if he loves meat and has agreed to not have any in the house that is way cool.

            1. re: magiesmom

              I am in the same situation, so permit me to explain from the ethical perspective. I am bombarded by meat messaging every day, all day long, everywhere I go, including on my television. This is genuinely depressing. My husband does not have to eat my way when eating out, though it would be nice if he would (instead, he eats double meat on everything, as if he's trying to cancel out my contribution). But our home is lacto-ovo vegetarian due to a religious vow I made 24 years ago, which he hates, but tolerates (he knew about it when we dated, but thought he could convert me back somehow). Trying to have just one place in the world where you don't have to see/smell meat cooking and being eaten is so very hard, because all of his friends and family have asked him and me the same question, over and over again, "Since it's his house too, why do you not let him bring meat in for himself? He could use a second set of dishes, etc.." My answer? Because he has the entire world in which to eat meat, while I only have my home to guarantee me a small amount of peace away from the disgusting treatment and death of animals capable of feeling pain, who have their own wishes with regard to their own lives, and he would not respect "my" dishes versus his if he wanted to cook something. After he dies, my next husband WILL be a vegetarian or vegan, or I will die alone, because living in a mixed relationship sans real respect for the other's view is not healthy for either person.

            2. re: MamaCrunch

              if you're near a trader joe's the whole undertaking gets much easier. . .

            3. I eat honey nowadays (only organic or local), but otherwise have been vegan for nearly 20 years. Even when I was ovo-lacto I was ordering salads in restaurants much of the time, so for me that wasn't a big change. I do make pretty much all my own food, which means at least 45 minutes in the kitchen before work--I'm used to it, and could be more efficient if I did one big food prep day a week, but I'm bad at planning. Or something like that.

              I think that being committed before making the plunge is a necessity. Also, I made a slow transition (set a date several months in the future to "go vegan"), which I find is helpful for me with changes of all kinds. I definitely felt loads better after cutting out eggs and dairy, and if you make your own food it's no more expensive than any other way of eating--I've gone through some very economically tough times, and rice, beans, and veggies is about as cheap a diet as you can get.

              1. I've been experimenting with a raw vegan diet but taking it very slowly. My thoughts are that this diet is easier to follow in warmer climates and during the hot season.
                I think it can be socially isolating. I'm gratified to learn that bananas are available almost everywhere, wal-mart, gas stations with 7-11 type places attached, and even sold at my local mall at the jamba juice before it went out of business.
                Some people can just switch over right away but I think it's best to take it slowly, especially if you choose the more extreme raw vegan route. The reason I say this is because of the de-tox factor. This is just my opinion, I'm a noob, but when you eat raw vegan your body doesn't have to use nearly the energy to digest your food, so it starts working on trouble spots that need fixing and ridding your body of toxins. When you go into de-tox mode this can stir up a lot of feelings, some of them sad. I think people go vegan or raw vegan, start to feel bad and go right back off. Getting past the initial de-tox period can be rough. I would advise patience and good timing for the initial attempt.
                One of the most hard core raw vegans I know makes a point of eating cooked vegan once every one or two weeks so that his body doesn't get too sensitive. He calls it the canary in the mine theory. He thinks that if your body becomes too clean you will react to everything.
                The movie Simply Raw http://www.amazon.com/Simply-Raw-Reve... illustrates the adjustment period where people feel wonky very well.

                2 Replies
                1. re: givemecarbs

                  I was a mixture of vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, and raw food vegan for more than 5 years. (I switched back and forth several times). I always struggled. I was at my heaviest weight when I was vegan. Then my wife had me read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes. It completely blew my mind..and it took me a while to wrap my head around it. Long story short, I now follow a Paleo/Primal lifestyle. I've lost a considerable amount of weight, and I feel better.

                  My point, though, is I don't believe there is one diet for everyone. I believe we all have to find what we're comfortable with. In my case, that took a few years of experimentation until I finally found something I could stick with. I wish all of you much success with whatever path you choose!

                  1. re: MarlboroMan

                    Glad you found something that worked for ya MM! I guess I've always been interested in food and diets. Back in the day I tried the Stillman Diet for quite awhile. My dad was always giving the macrobiotic diet a shot. Made for interesting times.

                2. When I first started going vegan (1997), it was pretty miserable, mostly because of my ignorance. I ate tofu and rice every day and lost a lot of weight. Later, I cheated a lot whenever I was with my foodie friends, so for many years I was vegan at home and a meateater outside.

                  In the last couple of years, I've buckled down and been consistently vegan outside and inside the house. It's gotten really easy to be vegan, even in countries where I thought I would starve. I did starve at first, when I went to South Korea, until I found an enclave of vegan/vegetarian restaurants in Insa-dong. I'm finding vegan/vegetarian spots in the weirdest places. It's good to be vegan in these times. It's great to be vegan in L.A./OC area.

                  1. Practicing veg(etari)anism by cooking meals at home is the easiest way - so many meal options are very simple to cook, healthy and not very time consuming at all. As many more have adopted veg(etari)anism, finding suitable options when eating outside has also become far easier, even in smaller cities. It is very manageable without much effort - the real trouble comes just when one has a craving for a now-forbidden food! But even that can be tamed :)

                    1. I went vegan for a month in August and found it to be so manageable that I still am today. Not that it hasn't been difficult at times. There was a period after my fiance and I broke up where I ordered vegan pizza or Chinese delivery and eat that for dinner all week. Lunch consisted (and still does) of peanut butter sandwiches...

                      And contrary to what the general populace might think, it is very easy to put on weight as a vegan! I have to make an effort not to rely so heavily on carbs. But as long as you're willing to shop and plan a menu for the week, I think you can do it. Eating out is sometimes a challenge but I don't mind cobbling a meal out of veggie sides. (I don't eat out very often though.)

                      1. Veganism has been a wonderful gift for my family and me on multiple levels. We're going on two years now and are only looking forward.
                        There are numerous challenges in practicing veganism. For me the most disturbing is that the folks in my life who should be the most supportive turn out to be the least supportive. I'm speaking of family who in my case took my turning my back on my childhood favorites as a personal affront. Early on there were consistent predictions that I'd go back which I have no plans to do. Whereas friends are usually happy to plan for our vegan presence, my family does little to accommodate our choices.

                        1. Feeling the differences health-wise has been very important to maintaining it. When I started I thought there'd be no way I could fully give up meat, but now that my weight is down, and I've seen huge improvements in health (everything from better skin and no more dandruff to much better oral hygiene) the idea of eating meat again seems pretty unappealing.

                          One tip for dining out: Japanese restaurants w/ sushi are great. Vegetable sushi is delicious and satisfying, and gives a nice variety of flavors.

                          1. I've been vegan for about 20 years and my husband has been vegan for over 30 years. It can be challenging but we're worth it!

                            1. I've been vegetarian for nine years. I often end up eating vegan because the things I feel like cooking don't happen to contain animal products, but sometimes it's just easier to have some yogurt or something. I also enjoy meeting up with friends over dinner, and it's easier, socially, to be vegetarian rather than vegan. Also also, my meatlessness is 99% preference and 1% ethics, so I'm not really bothered by the thought of eating products that came from animals.