When I switched to a vegan lifestyle, I thought it was going to be really challenging. I thought I might fail within the first few months. Despite this, I felt a moral pull towards the vegan lifestyle, and I had to give it my best shot. A few years down the line, I’m still vegan, and I’m happy to say it has been much, much easier than I had anticipated. However, along the way, there have been a few surprising things I’ve discovered about being vegan…
1. Diet is by far the easiest part of a vegan lifestyle
When I first went vegan, I had a vague awareness that it was going to extend beyond my dietary choices, but I didn’t look too far into this at first. Making what I considered at the time to be drastic dietary changes was enough to be focusing on at the start.
As time passed by, I was finding the switch to plant-based eating much easier than I had imagined. It was time to start considering other aspects of my lifestyle that may need to change. This is where, for me, the difficult part of my vegan journey began.
I started to realise just how insidious that practice of using animal-derived ingredients, and exploitative production practices, really was. It turns out this stuff permeates almost every area of our lives. I began to realise it would be necessary to check every cosmetic and household cleaning product I had become accustomed to using.
Then there is clothing, medication, everyday household items and even social activities and entertainment to consider. At times, the scale of the problem began to seem overwhelming. Could it ever be possible to truly live a vegan lifestyle?
I had to remind myself that I had come a long way in a short space of time and made some significant dietary changes that would benefit my health, non-human animals and the environment. It was OK to be patient with myself and simply make changes in other areas as I went along and learned more.
I wasn’t about to throw away everything and start again. Instead, I simply check whether products are vegan-friendly before making new purchases. I am aware that some of my old clothes and household items may not be vegan-friendly, and I’m OK with that. When they need replacing, I’ll choose more ethical options.
2. There is way more prejudice against vegans than I ever realised
From where I was stood when I went vegan, it looked to me to be a rising trend. It was, and still is, but I had no idea just how much scorn there was towards vegans until I became one. This really surprised me. Why would my choice not to consume animal products bother so many people so much?
As you will no doubt have experienced if you are vegan yourself, many people cannot hide their shock and disdain at hearing of your lifestyle choice. They often demand to know why you made this choice, as though it’s something that must be justified. They rarely ask to listen to the answer, though; it seems to be something of a rhetorical question I have found.
Perhaps controversially, I will add my personal observation that the more educated, knowledgeable and intelligent people are in general, the more accepting of my lifestyle choice they seem to be. My guess is that these people have a greater basis of understanding because they expose themselves to information sources, such as documentaries and news sites, which cover issues related to climate change, health and plant-based living.
It seems clear to me that we need to find different ways of reaching people across all demographics and areas of society. We need to find ways to spread the message about veganism that will resonate with diverse groups of people. Otherwise, the lifestyle changes that are so desperately needed will happen at a much slower pace.
3. It’s easy to gain weight on a vegan diet
This is perhaps one of the most surprising things I’ve discovered about being vegan. When I went vegan, I assumed I would naturally lose weight. I’ve always loved food and had a tendency towards overeating. I thought veganism would help me with this. I was ignorant. Perhaps because of media representation of plant-based foods, I thought it was a super healthy way of eating. Of course, it can be, but I was unaware of two important factors:
- Vegan food is really delicious.
- There is an abundance of vegan junk food on the market.
These two factors led me to gain weight on a vegan diet. I was keen to try virtually everything that was vegan, which included all the high calorie, sweet and junk foods I could get my hands on. I’m still tempted now to try every new vegan product launch, whether it’s fast food, chocolate or savoury snacks.
I’m sure that a few decades ago, being vegan really meant eating a whole food plant-based diet. There wasn’t all the plant-based innovation we see today, with new vegan products coming to market all the time. It’s easier than ever before to eat a vegan diet, but if you want to be healthy, you need to have a tremendous amount of self-control. I’m still working on this.
Switching to a vegan lifestyle is a journey of learning and discovery. I’m sure there are things that will surprise me yet. What surprising things have you discovered since becoming vegan? Let us know in the comments.