When people find out that I’m vegan, they tend to ask one of three questions. The first is “But don’t you miss bacon?” (no, I don’t. I didn’t particularly like bacon to begin with). The second is “But where do you get your protein?” (from beans, nuts, legumes and seeds as well as tofu and plant protein). The third questions is “Is it hard to be vegan?”. And that’s the one that I always struggle to answer.
The short answer is yes. It is really hard being vegan. It’s challenging to transition from a diet filled with meat and dairy to one that is entirely free of those things. In the beginning, your grocery shopping takes a lot longer because you have to check all the labels and find alternatives for the things you’re used to buying. You have to learn new recipes and techniques for cooking, and introduce new foods to your palette. You have to give up things you love (like cheese!) and that’s difficult.
In the beginning it’s a little bit hard on your body too. When you go from eating not much fiber to a shitload of fiber, your gut freaks out and you often get bloated and gassy. You feel hungry a lot because you haven’t yet worked out the right portion sizes, or how to introduce enough calories into your dishes to make you feel satisfied. You feel grumpy and headachy while your body adjusts.
From a social standpoint, it’s really difficult. It’s a challenge to have to explain to your mum that you can’t eat her Sunday roast or the cheesecake she made just for you. It’s awkward to request that you and your mates move your brunch date to a different cafe that has at least one dish on the menu that you can order. It’s tedious to have to field the constant barrage of questions about your dietary choice, even if you’re not the kind of person who is particularly vocal or pushy about veganism.
So yes, it’s really hard. But I truly believe that it’s worth it. A lot of those difficult things get easier as time goes on. My body adjusted and began to thrive on a plant based diet. I learned which products I can buy and how to make substitutions in my favourite recipes and now grocery shopping is as easy as ever. I’ve found loads of new foods that I would never have tried before, as well as a new set of restaurants and cafes to visit. My friends and family know that I’m vegan and mostly try hard to accommodate that.
There are still stumbling blocks, like not being able to eat my beloved cheeses, or the strange vitriol a lot of people carry for vegans, or finding out that a product I love has changed the recipe and is no longer vegan. Being vegan isn’t without it’s challenges. But for me, on a personal, physical and environmental level, it feels worth making those sacrifices to reap the benefits. I completely understand that not everyone feels that way, but for me, the pros of veganism definitely outweigh the cons.