Keep on Walking, It Does Get Better
By Maria Erb, Guest Contributor
Coworkers often ask me if it was hard to adopt a vegan diet and I always tell them that yes, it was very hard for me. But lately I’ve been wondering what exactly was so hard about it? I’ve been a vegetarian for my entire adult life, how hard could it be to cross over to Veganville from Vegland? These days, I don’t see the point of making pancakes or waffles with eggs in them when I’ve discovered a much better, tastier, and more satisfying way to make them (credit Brendan Brazier’s THRIVE book for that). And the thought of biting into a gloppy cheese pizza practically turns my stomach though it wasn’t too long ago I thought the same thing was incredibly delicious. I used to eat Greek yogurt every day, and now there’s nothing about it that appeals to me. I didn’t try to change my attitude, I didn’t work on it, These things just happened to me without much effort on my part.
But just a few years ago, I was so convinced that becoming a vegan would be such a long, hard, painful process that I started the VEGANin30 web series (veganin30.mariaerb.com) just to support others who were trying to make this arduous journey. I mean, if it was hard for me, it would have to be nearly impossible for some junk food loving, veg hater, right? When my neighbor would ask me how the “vegan thing” was going, I would answer plaintively that you’d pretty much have to be forced into it via an extreme health condition to be able to pull it off. It just wasn’t something the average person could do. Becoming a vegan was very hard for me, but being a vegan is really easy.
So what exactly was so darn hard about going V? Here’s the short list:
1. I EXPECTED IT TO BE A HARD THING
Before I became a vegan, I had never met anyone else who was a vegan. The one person I did know who might loosely qualify was a hippie-ish fringe-type who described herself as “the kind of vegetarian who doesn’t eat eggs or dairy” and she pretty much lived on bread, peanut butter, and cranberry juice. I’m somebody who needs three square-and-somewhat-gourmet meals a day (plus snacks). I love to cook and the whole peanut butter and bread thing just freaked me out. So I naturally assumed that giving up such luxuries as fresh eggs from my own chickens, thick creamy yogurt, and awesome cheeses would be something that only someone who could survive on peanut butter and bread could do. And that someone sure wasn’t me.
2. I WAS SURROUNDED BY AWESOME ORGANIC FRESH FOOD
A few years ago when I became a vegan, I was living on my own farm in New Hampshire. I had a flock of free range chickens providing me with incredible eggs every day. My own dairy goats produced plenty of milk that was great for cooking, baking, and raw goat cheese. Was I NOT supposed to use this stuff? Chickens just lay eggs, it’s what they do. My dairy goats (Divinity and Zima) were rescues (on their way to market) and just happened to have quite a bit of milk left in them. My animals had a wonderful set up, and were loved and treated well so why wouldn’t I use what they gave me? I knew I would never support commercial dairy or egg production, but on a small humane scale, I couldn’t see the harm in it. It has taken me quite a while to sort out my own thinking on this matter, but I did eventually make the decision not to keep animals anymore and that is what finally opened the floodgates to vegan eating for me. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on what led to that seismic shift.
3. I HAD NEVER HAD GOOD VEGAN FOOD
In a previous post I wrote for this site, I talked about the huge knowledge vacuum that exists between the vegan/non-vegan communities. People just don’t know what vegan food looks or tastes like. In the same way that my mom still thinks vegetarians are people who don’t eat red meat but do eat chicken and fish, the public at large is clueless about what vegans eat. I was part of that clueless public. Are vegans people who eat sprouts and raw vegetables for lunch every day and are fine with that? Are they people who call dinner a pile of quinoa with a few chickpeas thrown in? I know there are a lot of people out there, vegans and otherwise, who seem to be able to go through life with minimal thought or concern for food but I’ve never been one of those people. I like to cook, I am really into the freshness/wholesomeness of the ingredients I use, I’m always looking to try new recipes/tastes, and I need to eat a very wide, balanced, appealing diet. I just can’t dash out the door in the morning after throwing down a bowl of oatmeal, scarf down a PB&J at lunch, and then nuke a veggie burger for dinner and call that LIVING. That is not living to me and I would be miserable after a day or two of that. I need fresh colorful veggies, lots of interesting grains/beans, and new ways of putting them together. I now live in an area that actually has a vegan restaurant in it. Believe me, if I was on the fence about becoming a vegan and was going to make my decision based on how tasty and delicious vegan food is, there is no way I would choose vegan after eating at this particular place. Once I got a copy of “Vegan with a Vengeance,” I began to be able to put “vegan” and “delicious” in the same sentence and that changed everything for me.
4. I WASN’T PLUGGED INTO THE VEGAN COMMUNITY
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on what the vegan community looks like in your locale (if you have one, that is). Seriously, if I had shown up to a vegan potluck and everyone was kind of hippie-ish or spacey, I wouldn’t have wanted to align myself with that crowd at all. On the other hand, finding a bunch of people who respect animals and who know how to make really great food would have given my quest a kickstart for sure. Now that I live in an area that does have a sizeable vegan community, I’m looking forward to trying out one of these get-togethers and to making some new veg friends.
5. I DIDN’T REALLY KNOW WHY I WANTED TO BE VEGAN
I’m a little clearer now on the reasons, but a few years ago when I started to transition, it was just an internal propulsion pushing me. Something that all of the sudden I wanted to do. I still don’t know why it happened at that time. I think it’s got to be a little easier in general if you’ve got a clear set of external motivations like doctor’s orders for example, or very strong convictions around animal rights and environmental issues.
Glad to have made it through those early struggling times. Staying vegan is easy so for anyone new to the journey, keep on walking, it does get better.