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5 Things I Learned In My First Year Vegan

By John Pine, Guest Contributor

Memorial Day marks my one-year “vegan-versary.” A seven-year vegetarian, I made the final choice to choose a vegan life last year on the way home from a Memorial Day trip. I had been considering it for a while, but reading Skinny Bitch put me over the edge.

Instead of writing another “Why I Choose Vegan” post, I decided to share with you the top 5 things I have learned in my first year as a vegan. Some unexpected, others funny, and all interesting; I hope these nuggets of knowledge help anyone who is considering veganism or can be confirmed by anyone who already has.

1. If it’s vegan, I have to eat it.

I have always been chubby. I think I was born wearing husky diapers. The interesting thing is when I decided to become a vegetarian I lost weight; about 30 pounds actually.  Then, 7 years later, I chose a vegan life and gained weight. How does this happen? Simple… When you live in a place that is not overly vegan friendly it is not often that you have a plethora of options. When there are options, you feel the need to try ALL of them because they are vegan and are clearly made only for you. If there is a vegan bakery, I end up ordering half of the menu and the other half to go. Vegan cookies at Whole Foods; of course I need to try one! The grocery store started selling vegan cheese; I need to buy and eat all of it so they keep selling it! I call it the “It’s vegan, I have to eat it” syndrome and it has led to the addition of about 20 pounds to my chubby frame and to the name of my blog.

2. There are always stupid people, and vegans are no exception.

Hear me out. When I chose a vegan diet, the vegan “community” amazed me. On the Internet, at restaurants, and through friends I met some really incredible people who choose a vegan life for all the right reasons. It is like a utopia of cool people that just have love in their hearts. However, there are just some vegans out there who give us a bad name. You know who these people are; the ones who are rude at restaurants, people who make a scene whenever possible, those who get drunk and eat cheese at a party, and the worst offenders of all: vegans who don’t like vegetables. Have you met one of these people? They sustain their life on chips, salsa, and cereal. Oy! As they say in the South, “bless their hearts.”

3. “Animal people” are not necessarily vegan.

I have four rescue dogs that mean the world to me. They are my children and I treat them as such. To me, however, there is absolutely no difference between a chicken, cow, and my dogs. I won’t eat my dogs, so why would I eat a cow? If people kept cows as pets, I wonder if slaughterhouses would exist? I meet people all of the time with an unbelievable love and passion for companion animals (dogs and cats). It is admirable and I am so appreciative of people who devote their time and money to this work. Sadly, so many “animal people” will cry for hours over the loss of a cat but then sit down at Chili’s and eat a bacon cheeseburger with a side of turkey chili. Hypocritical? Perhaps… I just don’t get it. I wish we could translate some of the passion for dogs and cats out there to all animals.

4. People love to tell you how much they like cheese.

Without fail, when I talk with people about being vegan, they say to me, “You know, I could probably give up meat, but I could NEVER give up cheese, <insert list of cheesy foods they can’t live without>.” Studies have shown that ingredients in cheese are addictive and it really is not a big surprise.  I am never a jerk to people because I know that cheese is delicious, I am not scared to say it. But, when you stand on the other side it never fails to give me a chuckle.

5. For at least the first 6 months, if not longer, you live in fear.

I am not trying to be dramatic. The first few weeks of being vegan is an adjustment and you read food labels as if they are instructions on how not to die in the next minute. There are so many ingredients out there derived from animal sources that people don’t even know about. Total truth, it can be a pain in the butt sometimes. Really, does that dough conditioner need to be made from duck sweat glands? Living in fear means you are always wondering if the packaged foods you eat are truly vegan. After a while you hit a point where you realize you do the best you can. If you have some wine that is (unknowingly) made with gelatin, it sucks but you learn. Best rule to live by, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

So there you have it. I have so many more, but this is a good start.  Do you have any to add?

Now, off to celebrate my vegan-versary! Want to join?

Photo: John Pine