5 Things You Need To Consider Before Going Vegan
Don’t end up like an ex-vegan. Do it right the first time.
Veganism has come a long way. From the conception of the term by Donald Watson back in 1944 to a wide variety of accessible plant-based products today, veganism is currently seeing its day in the sun.
You’re bound to find vegan options even in the most unlikeliest of places. Like in the Middle-East for example. There’s everything one could possibly need to go vegan available right under our noses today, something that was quite idealistic and out of reach for first generation vegans back in the 90's.
Today supermarkets are overflowing with a cornucopia of vegan essentials and luxuries: cheeses, milks, butters, egg replacements, cakes, pastries, ice creams, doughnuts, mock meat and everything else in between. Basically, you’re bound to find a vegan version of all your cooking essentials at your local grocer, especially if you live in a cosmopolitan city.
For example, Miami was labelled the top vegan city in America in 2019.
Be that as it may, veganism still hasn’t penetrated some of the farther regions of the planet, and this is exactly what prevents many well meaning people from adopting it and proudly slapping a ‘vegan’ label on their backs. It’s the same reason we see a phenomenal rise in the number of flexitarians, people who eat vegan or vegetarian whenever convenient, and consume animal products when not. After all, one needs to possess a huge amount of patience and must be ready to invest the kind of emotional energy and mental effort it would require to stay vegan 100% of the time in 100% of situations.
However, being flexitarian, you get to enjoy a bit of both worlds, convenience and health. And that’s the reason this middle ground has seen adoption in leaps and bounds, especially after the first wave of the pandemic.
Veganism and Practicality
Following a new lifestyle must be practical, whether it be a new exercise routine, moving to a new country, taking up a new hobby, or changing your diet. The transition will be hard. That’s bound to happen with any kind of change. But eventually, that hardship must plateau and living your new life must feel breezy and effortless. You don’t want to be pulling your hair out and cursing under your breath each time you indulge in it. Convenience is the name of the game. You always want to take real world scenarios into consideration before starting any diet plan. It must be able to accommodate every aspect of your life and must not feel like a vexing chore at the end of the day.
Veganism is mentally taxing as it is emotionally exhausting.
Most people lead extremely busy lives and already have their plates full with work, household commitments, family responsibilities, and personal engagements all tugging at their sanity every single day. There is no shortage of obligations for the average Joe, and most people somehow just manage to scrape through this reality without splitting their souls into two. Also, I think I can say with utmost confidence that everyone out there is constantly looking for ways and means to make their lives easier, not harder.
While veganism might manage to bring some reprieve to peoples lives in the form of health benefits and renewed energy, it shouldn’t be the cause of new worries. Food anxiety among vegans is real, and always takes the top spot in the list of daily priorities in our heads.
Here are 5 important things you need to consider before going vegan:
- Social circle
- Living status
Are milk, butter, meat, cheese, eggs, and other animal products a part of your staple diet? Are these just occasional indulgences or items you just uncompromisingly cannot do without? Is it something that puts a spanner in the works so to speak if not accessible?
Remember, you still have to play all the other cards life has dealt you, such as work, kids, family, financial problems, business and relationship problems, along with all kinds of existential stressors. You have to work just as hard as the mainstream meat eating population, but after accounting for the additional inconveniences caused to you by the vegan diet. Think about it real hard. If you had to go out of your way each and every single time just to feel satiated and get on with your day, does it even make sense to embark on this path in the long run? Would it be sustainable?
Food is not just the availability of fruits and vegetables near you, but what you’re craving at that point of time combined with your current emotional state, something AR activists and spokespersons for veganism remarkably fail to understand. The situational aspect of food is undoubtedly the biggest factor that AR activists fail to recognize and remember while doing activism.
“You have to work just as hard as the mainstream meat eating population, but after accounting for the additional inconveniences caused to you by the vegan diet.”
They’ll most willingly and proudly scream from the rooftops: “Most Indian food is vegan!!” And here we realists (who aren’t tripping on any kind of philosophy) are like, No it’s not sis! You need to invest a whopping buttload of mental and emotional energy into making sure your food is vegan in India each and every single time that you dine. If you casually order your food just like everyone else without as much as asking the waiter about its ingredients, you are guaranteed to receive a non-vegan meal.
That’s the reality! We’re not making this up.
“If you had to go out of your way each and every single time just to feel satiated, and get on with your day, does it even make sense to embark on this path in the long run? Would it be sustainable?”
I highly implore vegan activists to go back to the drawing board and introspect for a bit so that they can realize that their sense of judgement of the Indian food scene is largely clouded by their urge to save animals from slaughter, and that humans don’t even figure in their list of priorities.
Last time I checked, we humans are animals too.
The world of Veganism isn’t black and white, and what works for some won’t necessarily work for others. Are you someone who can survive without the way meat, cheese, milk, and eggs currently complement your way of living? Ingredients are just the tip of the iceberg. You have to have access to vegan essentials in the first place to even get started with the lifestyle, right? Not gourmet vegan ice cream, not superfood nut butters, and definitely not expensive lab made mock meat. Just plain old fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals and grains. Having vegan food accessible at an arms reach of wherever you live (even while travelling) is the bare minimum criteria you need to satisfy to even start trialing the diet.
“Food is not just the availability of fruits and vegetables near you, but what you’re craving at that point of time combined with your current emotional state, something AR activists and spokespersons for veganism remarkably fail to understand.”
Living vegan shouldn’t come at the cost of your own emotional, mental, and financial well being. Certain vegan staples can cost double than what you’d ordinarily pay for their non-vegan versions. The very definition of veganism declares that one should aim to exclude animal products from their lives “as much as they possibly can”. Not that they should follow it to the letter all of the time.
If you happen to find yourself going out of your way every single week just to access vegan essentials, whether that be in terms of distance, time, money or mental work, then its worth going back to the drawing board and reconsidering whether you want to continue on the journey or not.
Maybe try being a flexitarian for a while, see how that works and then find out if veganism is really for you.
Veganism must not burn a hole in your pocket. But if you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t mind the occasional indulgence here and there. I always make sure to mentally remind myself of the hidden savings and benefits I’ve accrued from veganism. No sickness, no doctors and hospital visits, no sinusitis and no annual flu. The only reason I visited a pharmacy during the initial days of my vegan journey was to buy B12 supplements. Since those are conveniently available online these days, there’s literally no reason for me to even step into a pharmacy now.
So while I do use the above justification to splurge every now and then, I don’t expect to hear the same happy story from every other vegans out there. Every persons body is different and not everyone is going to get the same benefits from veganism that you do. (Again, something that vegan activists fail to comprehend)
Use your own personal discretion while spending.
There’s prohibitively expensive vegan ice cream, nut butters, mock meats and other decadent luxuries. And then there’s basic fruits, vegetables, dry fruit, nuts, cereals, pulses and grains.
During my vegan journey, over the the tons of interactions I’ve had with vegans from different walks of life, I’ve come to understand that cultural differences play a huge role in our choice of plant-based food.
Westerners traditionally consume meat and it is the centerpiece of any American or British dinner table. Vegan food is generally just an accompaniment or a seasoning for the main meat being served for the day. So while mock meat might just be considered a “replacement” for Americans, it is a luxury for us Indians. After all, our Indian palate is quite accustomed to vegetarian food and the meat eating populace won’t have to learn anything new to go vegan.
If you’re an Indian who would like to go vegan, you should be looking at the cost of replacements for Indian cooking essentials such as curd, butter, milk, cheese, paneer, buttermilk and/or eggs. And for the people who can afford it, the replacements for chicken, fish, eggs and land animals as well.
This is perhaps the biggest factor that will either make or break your veganism. At some point you’re going to ask yourself, “why am I even doing this to myself ?” And if you did, then there’s no bigger hint that veganism is not for you.
So before you take that big bold step to go vegan, introspect a bit into your life, what it revolves around, and see if it’s still feasible. It shouldn’t make you give up certain aspects of your life, or make you abandon your friends just because you’re vegan.
If your plant based life is constantly putting you in situations where you’re forced to choose between hell and high water, its time to go back to the drawing board and see what needs to be changed in order to continue on the current path.
Be aware that when you go vegan, much of your life will be revolve around food and the availability of good quality vegan food wherever you travel. Are you ready to commit to that kind of change?
- Live in a country where there’s fresh vegan food accessible at every main street, corner, and junction. And at every restaurant, cafe and bar.
2. Are someone who is extremely bold, courageous and are the leader of the pack who can bravely make their choices regardless of what others around them think. Someone who’s willing to send their food back no matter how many times it’s gonna take for them to get it right.
Then kudos to you. Veganism is definitely for you. But if you don’t relate with either of the above two statements, then you must reassess why you chose to get on this path. Find your ‘Why’ and it will immediately become clear whether you should continue on this path or not.
Social circle — The political aspect of being vegan
This is just a subset of the above point. I’ve heard many stories of how people have lost old friends over silly debates on veganism and the issue with animal cruelty. Are your friends diehard religious, traditional, and conservative? Will they accept you even after you’ve changed your food habits? Do some or many of them run businesses that sell or trade in animal products?
“Food and lifestyle are two things that go hand in hand, and the two are not mutually exclusive. The third aspect that vegan activists fail to understand.”
After going vegan, you’ll realize that food was one of the biggest things that connected you, and brought you and your friends together. You had the same tastes, or tastes that did not vary too greatly even if they differed a bit. Y’all hung out at the same joints, bonded over the same drinks and food, and generally had a great time together always being on the same page.
That was the comfort zone. Welcome to veganism. You are now outside your comfort zone. Food and lifestyle are two things that go hand in hand, and the two are not mutually exclusive. The third aspect that vegan activists fail to understand.
“It takes monumental amounts of energy and effort to stay vegan 100% of the time in 100% of the situations that life will throw at you.”
It’s like going into a nightclub and trying to bond with everyone without as much as purchasing a single drink.
Are you ready for that kind of de-linking?
You won’t be able to hit your regular joints with your friends anymore. You can’t go on long trips with them without checking on vegan food availability first. You can’t randomly walk into a highway restaurant during a road trip with them and start munching away. It takes monumental amounts of energy and effort to stay vegan 100% of the time in 100% of the situations that life will throw at you.
You can verify this with any long term or ex-vegan you want.
This is a subset of the cost and social circle factor. If you’re old enough, you already understand that theres a price to pay for everything. And that that transaction needn’t necessarily be monetary in nature.
When you leave a job for a new one in which there’s better growth or pay, there’s the emotional cost of leaving your beloved team behind, relationships that took years to solidy after lots of nurturing and caretaking.
When you leave your home country for another, there’s the emotional cost of severing your roots which literally took your whole life building.
When you leave singledom for a live-in relationshiop or a marriage, you’re bidding privacy and solitude goodbye.
Likewise, the same it is with veganism. Before going vegan, you’ll have to take a good hard look at your surroundings. Are you well off to even begin with? That could be either financially, emotionally and situationally. Are you dependent on the government for rations, subsidies or handouts?. Are you mentally in the right place? What if someone who likes you isn’t vegan? Are you going to shoo them away? Do you run a business or are in collaboration with a non-vegan brand? What happens when you go vegan? Do you still support them or break such ties that took years of nurturing and monumental effort to build?
You might have to go out with certain office colleagues or business partners to clinch deals. You might get transferred to a new country where vegan options are literally unheard of. You might find yourself in strange unfamiliar waters in any aspect of your life. What will you do then?
At the end of the day, veganism is a relationship between you and this planet which, just like any other regular relationship, has to be constantly serviced and maintained. Remember, life is highly political in nature, and food is a big part of that pie. Your long term meat eating friends matter much more than your newfound vegan gang no matter how repulsed or disgusted you might be by the sight of animal products.
All these concernts might look triffling and inconsequential. But it’s the smallest things that matter in life. In fact, they’re the biggest things. Because they’re the context upon which all the big things in life revolve.
So make your choice wisely.