I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life, but at the start of this year I finally went vegan. I’m still eating a vegan diet now and I feel great for it. I know there are plenty of people out there interested in making dietary shifts, so In this post I’ll talk a bit about some of the obstacles you might face going from a vegetarian to a vegan diet, or in fact in any dietary shift. I’ll also talk about some solutions (yay!).
One of the first obstacles you might face are family influences, or the influence of the people you live with. At the time when I started this trial, I was living with my family (my parents, brother and sister). My brother is vegetarian, but the rest of my family is omnivorous. Some members of my family had strong objections to me removing dairy products from my diet, believing I’d be socially ostracised. This caused a regular conflict at meal times, especially since I wasn’t cooking my own food for dinner, so whoever was cooking would have to prepare a vegan meal as well as a carnivorous one. Not such a big leap when you’ve already been making a vegetarian side meal, but a cause of tension none the less. This situation was unsustainable, and had I not moved out of home a few weeks into the trial I’m not sure if I could’ve kept it up. I now live in a sharehouse (phew) and although my housemate is omnivorous we cook for ourselves so it’s a non-issue.
The lesson here is that to succeed in a dietary shift, you’ll need acceptance from the people around you, particularly the people you live with. It’s quite possible to live with people who eat a different diet, as long as there’s no tension or conflict between you over what you eat. Here are some steps you can take to overcome this obstacle:
- Spend the time to discuss your plans with the people you live with if you think it could become an issue.
- If you’re not already preparing your own meals, begin to do so. Gain some independence, which will give you more control over what you eat.
- If all else fails, it may well be easier to find somewhere else to live. Eeep! If you’re lucky, you will already be planning to move (as I was).
So there’s a few steps to help with family conflicts. The second obstacle I’d like to discuss is eating out. This can be a challenge since most restaurants have vegetarian options but not vegan options, and you won’t always be lucky enough to find yourself at your friendly neighbourhood vegan restaurant. I thought this was going to be a problem until I watched Karen Knowler’s video, where she discussed eating out on the raw food diet, which is off the planet when compared with the Standard Australian Diet. Her approach when eating out is simply to ask for a salad, request that any meat or dairy products be removed, then double or triple the size. If you’re eating a vegan diet, the solution is even simpler: just ask if X contains dairy or ask for X without cheese/milk/eggs.
Doing this comes down to a matter of your own confidence in your diet. Do you feel uncomfortable about what you’re eating, particularly when it’s different from what all of your friends are eating? Do you feel guilty at the thought of asking your waiter for a modified meal? Or are you proud of your food choices and comfortable with the extra attention from your friends that eating a different diet will bring?
I’m still getting the hang of eating out as a vegan, but so far it’s been far less trouble than I expected. That’s largely because I feel really happy, comfortable and self-confident with this diet, something I never expected when I started. That’s great to hear if you’re already comfortable being different from your friends, but what if you’re not? That’s too much to cover in one post, but you might find this article by Steve Pavlina valuable. Have a look at the “Social Shift” section.
So there’s a few solutions to the largest problems I faced in making the leap from vegetarian to vegan: family influences and eating out. I feel a whole lot better about what I eat now after wanting to make this shift for a long time. Good luck with your own changes and let us know how it goes!