10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Vegan

How do vegans possibly do it?

Even after I became vegetarian, I turned this question over and over in my mind. I knew that I wanted to quit eating animal products but just couldn’t imagine making it work. I had even tried a vegan diet for a month, only to learn in the process that I wasn’t ready.

The commitment to officially say “I’m vegan” was a decision I deliberated about for a long time. In the end, it took two full years before I completely cut out eggs, milk, butter, and cheese. But when the time was finally right, there was no question about it.

Two and a half years later, now that this once extreme lifestyle now feels familiar, I have just enough perspective to wish I could go back and give my pre-vegan self (or someone else in my shoes) a few pointers.

So whenever they give us the promised time machines and jetpacks and I get the chance to go back and talk to that guy, here’s how I’ll help him prepare:

1. The jokes will never stop.

So get used to them, and understand that they don’t necessarily indicate a lack of respect.

My dad’s favorite line, when he tries some of our food: “This would be great with some meatballs!” It’s a joke, of course, and the fact that he says it so often has itself become a joke.

But just about every family or friendly gathering yields a joke from someone who must think they’re the first to make it. “Want me to throw a steak on the grill for you? Oh, that’s right … hahaha!”

An uncle once presented me with a single piece of iceberg lettuce on a plate and announced, for everyone to hear, “Hey Matt, look. Dinner!” I actually smiled at that one.

Get used to the jokes. Laugh them off, or take the opportunity to explain how important your diet choices are to you. Up to you.

2. Giving up the cheese isn’t nearly as hard as it seems.

I’m not saying that losing the cheese is easy. Life without cheese takes some adjustment, especially if you rely on it as an essential part of the few vegetarian dishes you can order in “normal” restaurants.

I thought I’d miss cheese as an appetizer, with a glass of wine or a beer. But it didn’t take long to discover that when I replaced the cheese with nuts or crackers, these foods were just as satisfying for their saltiness between sips, and I felt a lot better ten minutes later.

I thought I’d miss cheese on pizza. I quickly found that cheeseless pizza wasn’t nearly as good as the real thing, but it did the job, and over time, I came to tolerate (and even like) Daiya. Now, vegan pizza is just pizza in my mind, and I haven’t lost a thing.

As it turned out the key to giving up that last bit of cheese — which I clung to for months — was simply deciding to do so.

3. Being vegan doesn’t have to be more expensive, but it will be.

If you do the math, there’s no reason eating vegetarian or vegan should be more expensive than eating meat.

At three, five, or eight dollars a pound, meat is one of the more expensive items you’ll buy in the grocery store. So if you just replace it, say, with beans that cost a dollar per pound, you’ll bank some serious coin.

And yet, I now spend one and a half times or twice as much as I used to on groceries. Why? Because being vegan has led me down the ultra-health-foodie road. I shop at farmers markets and co-ops and Whole Foods more than I ever did before I was vegan, and I pay extra for organic. Going vegan led me to learn more about food, to the point that I’m scared not to be hyper-selective and skeptical about what I buy.

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage by now: “Pay for it now, or pay for it later.” The money we spend on the healthiest food possible is an investment in our future health that will pay off down the road.

4. Most of your meals will be one-dish wonders.

Believe it or not, this has been the toughest part for me — I lost a lot of my interest in cooking when I cut meat and then dairy out of my diet. (I realize I’m in the minority when I say this; most vegan chefs I’ve talked to didn’t discover their passion for food until they went vegan.)

Here’s what happened:

First, vegan food took a little more work to prepare. Second, without meat or cheese to supply lots of protein and fat without carbohydrate, there wasn’t the need to balance it with a high-carb side dish to keep this runner going.

So instead of making two or three different dishes for dinner, I shifted to one-dish meals: pastas, stir-fries, gigantic salads, smoothies, and a grain, a green, and a bean all in one pot.

It was a matter of practicality and simplicity, which, although less “gourmet,” fit perfectly well with other shifts in my lifestyle precipitated by my change in diet.

5. You will impact many more people than you realize.

I didn’t expect friends and family to change as a result of my decision. I didn’t set out to change anybody.

But — completely aside from this blog — I’ve had at least a half dozen friends excitedly tell me about how they eat less meat now. Some have become pescetarian, vegetarian, and even vegan.

People notice, even when your approach to influence is of the “quiet” form.

So …

6. Be prepared for a feeling of responsibility, and the compulsion to hold yourself to a higher standard than before.

There’s a stereotype that vegans are skinny and weak. And it’s a deserved one, because so many vegans have always been exactly that.

As the plant-based fitness movement grows, this is beginning to change. But keep in mind that even though you are aware of this shift because you’re so closely involved in it, most people have no clue about this. To them, vegans are still skinny and weak, by necessity.

Of course it’s your choice whether you want to play into this stereotype or make yourself a stark counterexample. For me, it has been the latter.

The reminder that I’m an ambassador (as anyone who is vegan is, wittingly or not) has been a big part of my drive to stay fit, to go after ultrarunning accomplishments and to make an effort to keep on at least a little bit of muscle, even when running and my body type make that tough.

The need to be an example goes beyond fitness, of course — for instance, I try hard to be the opposite of the stereotypical “preachy” vegan, too. Many vegans find their identity in being preachy, which is cool, but it’s not for me.

7. No matter how much you try to not make it a big deal, it’s gonna be a big deal.

I haven’t met vegans who are more laid back about it than my wife and I are. We don’t try to get people to go vegan, we’re supportive when people tell us they’re eating more whole foods even when their diet is more Paleo than vegan, and neither of us is the type that enjoys debating about how anyone “should” eat.

And yet, even with such a relaxed attitude and an avoidance of anything that could be considered pushy, I’d estimate that after we went vegan, we started eating dinners with family and friends about half as much as before, maybe even less.

Being vegan is a big deal, whether you make it that way or not. Some people will think you’re judging them and won’t dare try to prepare a meal for you, even if only because they’re afraid they’ll do a poor job of it. Others just don’t want to make the effort, and that’s totally understandable. And while there’s no reason we couldn’t invite those same people over to our place just as often as before, I can see how a vegan dinner would be unappealing to less adventurous eaters, and as a result I think I extend the invitation a little less often than before (note to self: I need to work on this).

8. You will be pleasantly surprised at who your biggest supporters are.

The flip side of eating less meals with friends and family as a whole is that it will become delightfully obvious who thinks it’s really awesome that you eat this way, who will go out of their way to make sure you’ve got something to eat at any event they host, and who will be eager to try your food and ask you intelligent questions about how you eat.

This has meant a ton to me. It’s a new and wonderful quality you’ll discover in people you already know well and love — and when someone treats you this way, you feel recognized, respected, and loved in return.

9. Sometimes it feels lonely, but you are not alone.

I’ve never had a strong desire to “cheat” for pleasure. More often that desire has been rooted in convenience or not wanting to make a scene, and tiny allowances in these situations are something I recently decided to take more seriously and abstain from entirely.

But over the past two years, there have been a few points where I felt like I was alone in the way I chose to eat, and those moments were tougher than any fleeting desire for gustatory pleasure or convenience.

I’ve gotten through those times by reminding myself that I’m not at all alone. Thanks to the connections technology affords us, there is a huge and supportive community that will make you feel ecstatic about your choices, whatever they are. You only have to look for these people — and sometimes, you don’t even have to do that. (You know the joke about how to find the vegan at the dinner party, right?)

Long-term, it has been this connection with people of similar mindsets, in person but mostly online, that has made moments of doubt increasingly rare.

10. You don’t have to get weirder when you go vegan, but you will.

The fun part. Being vegan has changed so much else about me, encouraging me to explore my uniqueness and pushing me towards and beyond the edges of what’s considered mainstream … from ditching the microwave to putting broccoli in smoothies to owning very few things.

There’s no reason that I had to become vegan before I embraced weirdness. And there’s no reason the choice to go vegan has to be the choice to go weird (outside of your diet). But for me, that’s how it worked out.

And I love it that way.

Yay? Nay?

I’ve learned — mostly from blogging about my journey — that in many ways I’m not the typical vegan. So I expect that there will be plenty of agreement and disagreement with this post, and I’m looking forward to hearing it. Let me know what you think!

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Comments

  1. When I went vegan I was in a relationship with a guy that was vegetarian, so the switch was pretty easy. When we broke up I never realized how hard dating and being a vegan was going to be. Some individuals just aren’t as open-minded about these things and I was put into the stereotypical vegan category. I would try not to mention my dietary choices for as long as possible so that they could get a chance to know me before placing judgement. There were some guys that never asked me out after finding out. I found out very quickly that being vegan is a great way to weed out closed-minded and judgmental suitors:)

    • Great outlook! My boyfriend made the switch to vegetarianism around the same time I went vegan, so I’m very grateful for that and can’t imagine how much hard it would make dating again. But you’re right, just keep weeding out those less willing to be open-minded :)

    • I’m going through this right now!

      How do people do it?!

      • Chelsea Jordan says:

        Hi Laura,

        ME TOO! I’m going through it as well! I really wanted to be vegan, so I did it for five months. I felt great until the fifth month and suddenly, I felt SO weak. I love cooking, so I cooked so much vegan variety and snacked throughout the whole day on nuts, seeds, chickpeas and chopped veggies…but suddenly and consistently for an entire month my body was screaming for something more. No matter how much quinoa salad, peanut butter toast, beans or bananas I ate, I could not feel satisfied. When I went to the city (a rarity, since I live in rural Botswana) I was on the verge of passing out, so I gave in and ate fish at the one restaurant that has it. After, I livened up immediately and felt so much healthier. I hated doing it, as my main reason for going vegan in the first place was because I don’t want something to suffer and die for me if there are other alternatives, but I didn’t know what else to do. It was an incredibly frustrating and sad moment for me. Now, back at my house I continue to cook vegan, but the fish cravings are getting worse and worse (luckily there is no fish here!)

        Are you experiencing anything like this? Maybe someone on here can help us!

        • When i first went vegan i also had fish cravings. I found though once i was dilligent about having ground flax or chia every day (1 tbs) in something like my breakfast cereal or smoothie that craving went away. So i think i just needed some omega 3.
          Are you having chia or flax everyday?
          Another tip would be to track some of your days on Cron-o-meter and see if you are not getting enough of any other kinds of nutrients. I find i’m extra hungry if i’m missing out on something. Hope that helps!

          • Chelsea Jordan says:

            Actually yes! My mom just sent me my first big bag of chia seeds in a care package, which I received two days ago! So I’ll be sure to have some everyday and see what happens to the cravings. So far I’ve made energy drinks out of them and jarred some chia coconut gel I made (but I’m not sure what to do with it now that I’ve made it!) I really hope it works out. I want my body and my mind to be in line…if my mind says, “I don’t want to eat animal products”, I want my body to say, “Neither do I!”

            It’s a difficult process switching to vegan, but I’m going to keep doing my best and not beat myself up for the few times I slip. From what I read, it can take a while to adjust and truly be a healthy vegan (meaning learning how to balance all the nutrients we need and how to cook delicious food without lazily adding cheese and milk). But how could anyone not love the concept of being the best we can be and reducing as much harm as possible? Of all the controversial life choices in the world, being vegan should not have such a negative stereotype.

            I love this blog!

          • It might be more Vitamin B 12 deficiency than an iron or protein lack. It’s difficult to become B 12 deficient, but it does happen. I occasionally take a sublingual Vitamin B 12… I have to say I have been vegetarian for 30+ years and have never had any meat or fish cravings, nor felt weak. The cheese is difficult when I travel, since I travel often to developong countries where not eating meat by choice is very difficult for people to understand, no cheese is almost impossible, but I still try, because I just feel better with out cheese…

        • ” After, I livened up immediately and felt so much healthier. ”

          Your symptoms were most likely psycho somatic, as it takes hours to digest and benefit from anything you eat. Heck, it takes about an hour for your stomach to realize you’ve even eaten anything and start to ‘feel full.’

        • Emarn Cookson says:

          I’m also in Botswana! Unfortunately I’ve only just discovered the awesome vegan way, but luckily my internet works well enough to discover life outside Maun :)
          Personally I’ve found the Africaans friends I have (opposed to expats from further afield) are extremely difficult to even talk with about why I eat how I eat.
          LOVE blogs on food/recipes and preparing fab meals of with what is available in Northern Bots, cannot believe I haven’t discovered this lifestyle earlier.

        • You know, you might also look into iodine sources… Iodine deficiency manifests itself in some pretty strange ways, and can make you feel really crappy as well… We found that when we switched to a plant based diet, we also quit using so much salt which can be a significant source of iodine at least in the US. We started incorporating more sea vegetables and kelp pills and problems went away for us. It may not be it, but it is relatively easy to try…

          • swimbikerun says:

            Thanks Ralf! I also do not use a lot of sodium. I must be the only American who actually has had low sodium on bloodwork, or it be low normal. So this comment was appreciated – thanks for giving me something to look out for.

        • sediqua22 says:

          Yes, I’ve experienced this. I am an athlete, people say I should enter body building shows. My children are also giants, (my son is 7 feet, and my daughter, I think is going to be taller than me) They are very active.

          Unless I supplement with a whole food shake, every day, its nearly impossible to keep up the vegan life style. Just like you, every now again, my body breaks down, and eating a burger, (gasp, i know) does the trick.

          Its a sad thing for me, because I know I feel better over all, not eating burgers. But then, every once in a while, like every few months or so, my body will act like its craving it.

          My son is an avid Vegan too. He’s converted his b-ball team it seems, because he just doesnt have the physical ailments they have. (ie, his skin glows, while they have acne, he is always awake for their 6:00AM practices and games, and he will give his secrets, wheatgrass, veganism, juicing, etc..A lot of players have come around.)

          But then, on the other hand, sometimes, he needs meat. With his workout schedules, and physical demands of growing, after a while, eating a burger is just what the doctored ordered.

          Granted, he does so on occasion. I am talking, a few times a year. I still feel bad because I feel I havent made the right enough vegan protein combinations for him not to be deprived.

          But everyone is different. I would think that meso morphs and people that put on weight and mass easily would feel this way. I know I do, even though I still believe vegan and raw is the best way to be. I treat eating animal products twice a year as a catch up to all those times I just did not eat enough, period.

          • Oh…after reading these comments, I feel somewhat better. I struggle with being vegan; my body can’t handle it at times. I am hungry ALL the time and there are days when I feel like I need more protein, but can’t bring myself to do it…and I end up just feeling crappy. I haven’t eaten meat in 20 years, but I have eaten shrimp and tuna the last times my body craved it and I felt so much better. The last time I made the attempt at being vegan, I relied a lot on convenience foods and it’s a bit harder when trying to eat whole foods ( at least for me…I overdosed on broccoli and can barely stand eating steamed broccoli now)

  2. swimbikerun says:

    I thought you were going to say how much fun it was for #1.

    Congrats on the 100 miler! I had a friend do Leadville 100.

  3. Another great post! I can relate with everything you’ve written here. But I didn’t have such a hard time with cheese. Prior to becoming vegan I ate A LOT of cheese, but as you said, as soon as I said “no more” it wasn’t hard at all. I think nothing of ordering a veggie pizza with no cheese! And I find I can eat a lot more of it because I don’t get filled up and bloated on the cheese.

  4. Eliot W. Collins says:

    Colin Wright recently explained to me, “Veganism is absolutely not a diet, under any circumstances. Veganism is a philosophy. If you stop eating animal proteins, but do not follow any of the other ideals of Veganism, you are not a Vegan at all. You are simply someone who chose not to eat animal proteins to be more healthy.”

    I tend to agreee. Although I do not eat meat, poultry or seafood, I am not a Vegan. Since I eat Jell-O (derived from collagen obtained from various animal by-products) I am not even a vegetarian.

    • Don’t be so hard on yourself. Labels keeps people attached to things that ultimately do not matter. Your choices are positive and are helping not only your body but the planet. It took me 2 years to become vegan after becoming vegetarian and I even was given a Gucci leather purse for my birthday before becoming vegan that now I know is not the best idea, but I also get that awareness is what really matters in the end. Hug yourself!!!!

      • Steve Navarra says:

        You said it all, Bree! “…awareness is what really matters…” What we do, what we eat, how we treat each other…and, when we TRULY become AWARE, we do those things BETTER!

    • Jon Weisblatt says:

      Eliot,
      try Ko-Jel. It’s Kosher jello, i.e. vegan.

      • Steve Navarra says:

        Forgive, Jon, but kosher gelatin comes from fish:
        (from Wikipedia, “Kosher Foods”): Today manufacturers are producing gelatin from the skins of kosher fish, circumventing many of these problems. (Dr. Bernard Cole Pr.Sci.Nat. “Gelatine – Consumer Information”. Gelatin.co.za. Retrieved 2011-12-03.)

        If it’s going to be considered Veg*n, there can be no meat/animal product contained therein. I’ve worked in a kitchen where the so-called chefs would make a perfectly Veg*n item…then deep fry it in a deep fat fryer in which they had cooked chicken, beef, bacon…and STILL consider the falafel or tempura Veg*n. “Seriously?” I’d ask…”You think that’s Veg*n?” “Aw, it’s just a LITTLE meat fat…what harm could it do?” I would then argue that if I was keeping kosher, would they say the same thing? “It’s just a LITTLE trafe; what harm…?”

        • Yeah…labels. I am sure some people would not approve of my boyfriend: he’s a butcher. Then again, when we met, he was curious and genuinely curious about it. He never once, made fun of me and made several vegan meals for me. Heck, he fights some of my battles for me too…So, I don’t pay attention to labels..we do the best we can.

          • Vegan for 20 years?! Interesting claim.

            Anyway, I am a bit worried about you. It seems to me that you may not be emotionally happy w/ your vegan lifestyle. We humans should do the things that make us happy, as long as those things do not cause us or others harm.

            If you are physically healthy and if you are not 100% emotionally happen w food, then perhaps you should eat what your body desires. It is wrong to eat animals for PLEASURE, but if your body genuinely needs it for you to be emotionally and physically HAPPY, then it may be permissible for you to eat it.

            I will continue vegan for as long as I can. I am 23 now and my meat consumption has historically been very low (i.e. 2lbs per month) , but if I ever feel like eating meat in the future, I may as well go eat it. I only need a few lbs of chicken or shrimp a month anyway to be HAPPY w/ meat.

            Good luck and I hope that you are happy w/ your food consumption.

  5. Giving up cheese was easy because I never ate it before anyway. I was traumatized in my youth by my parents’ penchant for extremely stinky cheeses! Thanks, Mom & Dad!

  6. This post could not have been timed more perfectly. It’s been about 5 months since I made the switch toward veganism (with some minor setbacks that usually involved some dairy and stemmed from not wanting to make a scene at a dinner gathering). However, lately I feel slightly disillusioned by the stigma of vegans and find myself trying to defend my choice like “It’s not that I don’t like meat and cheese…” or saying to people who ask about is I eat certain things- “Well, don’t worry, I’m not THAT crazy or strict about it.” Or I just try to avoid the subject at all costs. Maybe I just need more frequent reminders of why I’m choosing this lifestyle. One question though- I’m sure many of us do it for the same reasons, but what do you find to be the most succinct and least-“preachy” explanation when asked the infamous question “Why are you vegan?” Like you said, I’m sure with time I will get over trying to appease people and let the judgements/jokes/etc. slide. All in all, this article was the perfect read to revamp my motivation, so thank you!

    • Great question, Alison. And I’m really glad to hear that this post came at a good time for you and is helpful.

      My answer to “Why are you vegan?” goes something like this: “Because I started to not feel right about eating animals, and as I looked into it more and actually tried it out, I noticed how great I felt. And although I had expected my running to get worse, I actually got faster. I’m not quite sure if the diet was responsible, but it sure felt like it was.”

      I like that because it’s 100% honest and it implies that I used to feel differently (and ate and thought just like the person I’m talking to, so they can relate) and that I had assumed the same as everyone else, that you couldn’t be fast/strong as a vegetarian or vegan.

    • I like to ask “why do you eat meat?” Usually throws them :-) I did post about talking vegan here http://herbifit.com/2013/06/10/talking-vegan/

      I do like Matt’s response below. Might memories that one :-)

      • Love that “Why do you eat meat?” response, Herbifit! Haha! I usually say “I don’t like to talk about this over a meal, but if you still want to talk about it later I’d love to!” I’ve had MANY people private message, email, or text with legitimate curiosity and seeking advice, so for me that’s been the best approach. :-)

        Matt, this is a fantastic piece! Love it!

    • Amba Waters says:

      My response to the question “why are you Vegan?” is that consuming the flesh of another creature does not appeal to me!!
      I do not try to convert meat eaters to Veganism, but I’m not offended in the slightest if anyone questions my Diet.
      I’m proud of my Vegan lifestyle and love my Vegan Diet and so should you.

    • I am shocked that you do not know the #1 reason why most people become vegans: it is the humanitarian reason. Basically, billions of animals (cows/pigs/chicken/fish/etc.) are slaughtered and eaten by humans yearly for PLEASURE. These animals are abused and go through unimaginable suffering, and the ONLY people on Earth that actually care about these animals are “most” vegetarians. These animals are enslaved and murdered to satisfy the pleasure of meat/dairy/egg lovers. Cows and hens are literally slaves that are worked to death until they cannot produce more product, and then are killed for meat.

      I am absolutely SHOCKED that there are vegans that go vegan not for humanitarian reasons or serious health reasons (i.e. diabetes or morbid obesity).

      Do research on the meat industry, on the animal suffering that goes on. Give this argument the next time you are asked why you became vegan and the people who asked you will understand.

      • Don’t be SHOCKED. Most of the people that I know who eat a plant-based diet do so because they feel that it improves their athletic performance.

        I always thought that the #1 reason worldwide that people are veg*ns (as opposed to becoming veg*ns) was because of their religion.

  7. Great article. Great advice. Thanks for doing what you do. ~B

  8. Great post! So much of this applies to any dietary change, whether it be veganism or a medically-necessary shift to gluten-free or dairy-free, etc… Thanks for this.

  9. Desiree1980 says:

    25 years vegan, 33 years old. I ate margarine and bread for a year, at least it feel like it. I didn’t even know I was ‘going vegan’ I just had always hated the veins, muscle tissue, so gross. I also loved pets, still do. 13yr Certified Vet Tech.

    • Desiree1980 says:

      If there is something you want to know any of you, I’m pretty sure I’d have the answer!

      • How have you been vegan since you were 8 years old?

        • swimbikerun says:

          He had intelligent parents …

        • My daughter came home in first grade, declared she didn’t want to eat animals anymore because she loves them. We thought it was a phase, and now 5 years later, she’s still going strong. It’s possible….

      • Hi, I’ve been vegan for more than 3 years now and I love it, the only problem I have is I trow up violently after eating in restaurants, I just got a meal from an Indian restaurants, Chaat Cafe and they assured me the potato pancakes was vegan but minutes after I ate it I threw up, I ate a falafel sandwich the other day in a totally vegetarian place and also got sick could it be the veggies where old? I even had a fruit shake at a juice place that also made me sick, I am so scared to eat out and not sure what is causing me to get sick it’s very frustrating when my friends wanna take me out to eat and I can’t

        • You might have a gluten sensitivity, get checked. My friend would throw up and get violently ill if she ate french fries that were fried in grease that had had something with wheat in it….

  10. Excellent article! Thank You!

  11. I feel so good from reading this amazing post, its almost as if you were reading my mind when you wrote this. I am currently pescaterian slowly pushing towards vegetarian, I cant get over the whole lack of protein thing so I choose to eat fish. I would really love to be vegan though because I think it is an ideal diet for the more spirit conscious person.

    • Mo, why do you have a lack of protein??? A vegan diet provides more than enough protein for the average person. Don’t use the “protein excuse” – just say NO! :)

      • Eliot W. Collins says:

        Most people need far less protein than they think that they do. Even if one becomes a veg*n they still remember what they have been told all their life by the meat and dairy industries.

    • Just ate over 100 grams of protein in a day- less than 2000 calories- all vegan. It’s easier than it seems. (Not saying I NEEDED that much protein, just that that’s what I did.)

      I’m a vegan for health reasons (controls my MS symptoms) and I can so relate to it being a big deal even if it’s not a big deal. I went out of my way to stress my laid back attitude about it. Didn’t help. It’s just too foreign to people. Now, I’m just more matter of fact about it.

      And serve really great pasta dishes and bread to guests- and chocolate. I’ve found that goes over the best. It might not have as much protein as a more balanced meal, but it’s familiar and tasty.

  12. I feel like I’m about a year behind you, but on the same path. I discovered a love of running almost a year ago. That love has initiated so many positive changes, from quitting smoking to a near total elimination of meat and dairy from my diet. I still eat a very small amount of seafood, but I know it’s going to go. And the only thing I occasionally miss is eggs. I’ll get over that too.

    This post is particularly pertinent today as just last night I had my first restaurant nightmare when I met some friends out at a local pub/restaurant after uttering the “I’m sure there’s something there I can eat” line. I was wrong. Ended up with a very lack luster side salad (looked like burger garnish with cup of dressing next to it), and a insanely overbaked potato that I suffered through without the pile of bacon, cheese, & sour cream. I prefer cooking my own food and last night was just a glaring reminder that I’m going to have to keep doing that for a while…and politely suggest I just meet my friends for drinks after dinner from now on. I’ll live…healthier. It’s worth it.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the rest.

  13. I totally agree with all of your points! Especially number 3 and 9. There is something about being a vegan that causes you to eat weird, expensive food. I don’t go around bragging to non vegan friends about how I scored a good deal on a big bag of nooch… weird.

    #6 hit really close to home for me because I definitely feel this way, but never really said it out loud. I feel more pressure to do well when I am competing in my NMA tee shirt. If I don’t do well, I don’t want any non vegans saying something infuriating like, “maybe you need more protein…” I don’t want the assumption to be that I ran a bad race because of my diet.

    #1 is totally true. The jokes will NEVER stop. My dad used to make this joke about how I couldn’t eat anything because he sprinkled meat powder on everything… Eww. When I found out that McD’s fries literally have a beef seasoning on them (from NMA) I laughed because who knew meat powder was a real thing and my dad wasn’t just being an idiot?

    Thanks Matt! Awesome read; I love when you post stuff like this. It has such a vegan community vibe, like only we would really understand.

    • Leigh-Anne says:

      McDonalds french fries have beef seasoning on them… *gasp*! The only time I’ve eaten them is when i was pregnant… One of those weird cravings, along with peach rings. I know, gross, right?!?! Now I def wont be eating the again!

  14. I also wanted to add Daiya is BETTER than cheese. That stuff melts so friggin’ good and it is so creamy. I don’t miss cheese at all. The only thing I find frustrating is the availability… my grocery store only carries it occasionally.

  15. I cannot believe how on-the-nose this list is! I identify with every single one of these. I was a vegetarian who became more interested in food, then that turned me vegan, then that turned me into an athlete. I like reading about everyone’s journeys in the comments, and then seeing that we all ended up in similar places!

  16. Great post! Loved the link to the jokes. We have a long story of how our family is slowly becoming plant-based…all starting with our daugters’ food sensitivities to things in my breast milk. Hope you make it to the Denver area during your book tour. Congrats on the 100-miler. I have two friends that have done the Pikes peak and Leadville, sheesh! Way to go! Also, congrats to your wife being on your crew and toting around your little one!

  17. I wish I knew – beforehand – that TVP tastes like $hit. And that it is impossible to fake the texture of a hamburger (meat) pattie with anything else. I’ve tried about 63 ways.

    One thing I did know and would advise other would-be vegans to get to know before making the change: it’s a breeze being a vegan if you like beans!

  18. I completely needed to read this right now. I have a hard time with the jokes and living in beef central of Texas, I hear them A LOT! I need to learn to accept that people are going to make them no matter what and handle it gracefully. Thank you for making me feel much less isolated :)

    • We all go vegan for various reasons, but what seems to help me is not only the enormous vegan community, but also being able to finish a meal and say, “nothing was harmed or had to suffer in order for me to eat dinner” and it always makes me feel better and more confident in my choice to be a vegan surrounded by meat eaters.

      • Plants were harmed. They might not be sentient beings, but there is no way to be a living thing on this planet and not eat other living things, unless you’re a breatharian. It’s the nature of the dual world; if you’re alive, you either eat, or be eaten, or both.

        • Plants don’t have a nervous system. Not inflicting pain = not “harming” in my book :) Also, I think it’s pretty obvious that there is a huge difference between harvesting from a plant and harvesting from a conscious being.

  19. Thanks for this helpful and timely post! I’ve told my friends that for the month of September I was going to try going vegan, but actually already am. The original plan was to see if I could do it, but in my head I already know that not being vegan is no longer an option. Your post and the comments that followed show that while it often feels like a lonely journey, it’s a journey that a lot of other people have experienced and it’s great to hear their stories.

  20. Excellent post Matt.
    I went vegan after reading your blog 18 months ago. I had been thinking about it for a while but wasn’t sure I could make it healthy and make it work with being a runner. You helped me to see that it was so thank you :-)
    Your experiences you have written about here echo a lot of mine. All apart from the one about cooking. I have loved experimenting with different foods and dishes and blogging my favourite recipes http://herbifit.com/spice-rack/ Going vegan has definitely made me a better cook.

    Mark

  21. Thanks so much, Matt. Your candor and humor make me smile. You certainly hit the nail on the head. My daughter and I are vegan, my husband and son are vegetarian, so we have a nice little insulated support system here, but my heart goes out to all those who feel like they are going it alone. It is a powerful choice, for your own health and the lives of those you choose not to eat. Thanks to everyone for making the effort one meal at a time. Thanks to Matt for letting feel connected.

  22. Could. Not. Agree. More!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

  23. Long-time reader, just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for helping me find the food I need to keep my body running well, even if I’ve been sidelined by injuries and unable to really take the label “Athlete” to heart. Thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone.

  24. Great post. In fact so great I think it’s one of the best I’ve read. I felt like you were writing about me! They are exactly the kind of things I can tell people when they invent the time traveller and I can go back and tell myself.
    Particularly the jokes – I get them every meal, and the way I influence people without really knowing. It’s only when friends/acquaintances come to me later asking questions that I began to realise that they are interested and looking to me for information.
    Can I say it again? Great post!

  25. Brilliant post.

    I became food aware when I gave up meat for Lent/Easter. Being vegetarian made me aware of how much crap I was eating. I am now paleo but trying to place emphasis on vegetables.

    Resources like this are so helpful, please keep posting.

  26. #1: “Vegetarian is an old Indian word for bad hunter.” Hahaha- never gets old for some folks.

    #8. I can’t even tell you the # of times I’ve gone to a get together with the expectation of snacking on the fruit and veggie platter and having a host make something special for me. I’m always so surprised because I’ve never been one to except someone to go out of their way for my dietary choices.

    #9. I feel this way most often when I’m with other people (work meeting recently) and I’m hungry and everyone else is chowing down on cheesy pizza and I’m praying for the meeting to be over so I can go home and eat. It’s moments for me when I stick out amongst everyone else and I’m “different” that make me most lonely.

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      I do not like it when something is made special for me, because it may create some tension if I do not want to eat it. For some reason others think that I like cheese, eggs, fish or even poultry. I do care for any of these. I do not care for fake meat or foods high in fat or sodium either. I simply say , “No thanks” when these food are offered. That’s it.

      • Leigh-Anne says:

        Ditto… And im always worried that the “special dish” is not really vegan… And i hate nagging by asking what is in it, and hate feeling obligated to eat it since it was made special for me! Pas the fruit/veggie platters please!

  27. Number 10, definitely hits home with me. Embrace your weirdness. It is a lot of fun!

  28. haha so true! Thank you for this post!
    I’ve been planning to do a similar post on my blog (in german) :D

  29. Awesome post Matt!

    The first part about the jokes really resonated with me. I ended up in a situation with my dad making a joke to our waitress in front of me about me. I confronted him afterwards about how shitty it made me feel. I know that he’s been supportive of me and that it’s his choice not to be a vegan, but when he makes a joke out of it, it makes it easy for people who don’t understand veganism to joke about it.

  30. Growing up loving my mom’s cooking (and dad’s grilling), I was one of those people that always thought going vegetarian (or vegan) was a silly idea and definitely not for me. Though in the past few years, I have transitioned to a pescetarian diet (but, eating vegan 2-3 days/week) as my running has increased. I am running my first marathon in October and I am completely confident that this diet will help me get to the starting line! Absolutely fantastic post – thank you.

  31. Thanks Matt! I have been flirting with both running and veganism for years and your post is one of the major tools I have used to improve with both! I run my first ultra (a 31 miler) in October and my first 50miler next year, all with more and more of my diet becoming plant based along the way. I feel like I’ve rolled back middle age.

    What makes your blog stand out from all the other good information out there is your attitude. Frankly the biggest obstacle I had faced is the whole vegan ”evangelism”. I prefer a teacher to a preacher any day, and you sir, are an excellent teacher. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  32. Hi Matt

    I am the only non animal product eater in my family (including extended family). My husband’s family already think I am a bit weird for running so I really try to play down the plant eating side as I can already see the eye rolling! So I have eaten things I would not normally eat to just not cause a scene or to be deemed difficult at family dinners.
    Your post really hit the nail on the head though and I am sure I will get there. I will keep it and re read when the going gets tough.
    The process to get to where I am now has been a long one but totally worth it. I really find my recovery is so much faster and I sleep much better!

  33. Eric Middleton says:

    Hi Matt,
    I’ve enjoyed the discussion very much, particularly your exchange with Javier. I’m writing because of an ethical question that I’m dealing with. I’m vegan (stopped eating meat in 1973) my wife is mostly vegan, and our two children are vegetarian. For two years now we have had eight chickens that are treasured as much as pets as they are for their eggs (we were up almost all night two nights ago nursing one of our hens, Snowy, who was not feeling well). They have a very nice large run and garden area to roam around, and we feed them a good healthy diet of organic feed and vegetable/fruit scraps (they go nuts over chard!)

    My family keeps trying to convince me that it would be okay for me to eat our hens’ eggs, since we treat them humanely, we know what their food source is, and biology forces them to lay eggs almost every morning anyway. Ive been struggling with this for the two years that we’ve had our beloved hens. What do you and your readers think?

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      The reason that I do not eat eggs is that they are a too highly concentrated source of protein. Most of us really do not need that much protein, and I get all that I need from other sources. The egg industry promotes its product very well.

      I have been told by someone who keeps chickens as pets, that the chickens will eat their own eggs, and some Vegans feel that that is the right thing to do. Other Vegans think that even owning pets is wrong.

      • Eric Middleton says:

        Hi Elliot, thanks for your response. I’m not worried about protein either-I’ve been dealing with that for the 40 years I’ve been vegetarian/then vegan. We have not yet tried to feed our chickens their own eggs. The calcium that they may or may not lose by laying eggs is offset by feeding them oyster shells, which is also an ingredient in their feed. I don’t see what’s wrong with pets-our 3cats are from a Siamese and humane society rescue.

        • Eliot W. Collins says:

          See http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/faqs/ for an answer to this question:

          Question 3: Does the institution of pet ownership violate animals’ basic right not to be regarded as things?

          • swimbikerun says:

            I look at it this way. The animal out in the wild would have to fight to survive, can go hungry, thirst, be sick with no help. They’ll lead a shorter life. They’ll have to watch over their shoulders every step of the way. They could get maimed and be left to do a slow, painful death.

            Or they live at my place where they get good food, medical care, loved on. They’re given toys, shelter, and safety.

            Which would you choose if you were a sentient being? The dog didn’t mind his custom, mahogany, satin covered, waterbed. The bunnies don’t want to go any where.

            Just because someone has the freedom, doesn’t mean it is good for them, healthy for them or that they’d want to trade safety & security for a shorter, scarier life span. Criminals will commit crimes to get 3 pots (food) and a cot (shelter & a place to stay). Some animals are domesticated and have lost the ability to survive in the wild.

          • As a vegan and pre-vet grad; I honestly don’t see anything wrong with having domesticated pets. I feel that it would be cruel to do otherwise. We have put many animals in a very vulnerable state with our desire to breed certain qualities such as docility, color or size. My incubation lab always received eggs from local hatcheries for the large poultry producers that always resulted in huge chicks that were built to grow rapidly. Even the ones that were hatched by the free range hens refused to groom themselves, flee from the unknown or display any curiosity. They just knocked the other chicks out of the way when it was time to eat and grew until their breasts dragged the ground causing their legs to bow. 2 generations later and their offspring still exhibited the same behaviors. I know that that was an extreme example but imagine tossing these chickens out into the wild or a yorkie/English bulldog/teacup whatever. It would be cruel. We need to deal with these “creations” of ours but breeding restrictions might be a viable option.

      • Eggs are full of cholesterol and salmonella that’s why I don’t eat them

        • Lamont Cranston says:

          Salmonella in eggs is on the shell, not the inside, and we need cholesterol for brain function.

          • Eliot W. Collins says:

            I never heard of a cholesterol deficiency even among strict vegans.

    • I’m pretty sure sanctuaries feed the eggs back to the chickens. (see Farm Sanctuary’s response here: http://farmsanctuary.typepad.com/making_hay/2009/07/what-about-eggs.html) Because chickens have been bred to produce an egg a day they lose too much calcium and it is actually detrimental to their health! Feeding the eggs back to them helps protect their bones. You shouldn’t eat the eggs because they need them more than you!

    • Hi Eric!

      For what it’s worth, I’m in the same boat as you–my neighbors have rescue chickens that they adopted from a shelter, and the hens produce far more eggs than they (both my neighbors and the chickens) can consume. I feel comfortable eating these eggs because it falls within my own ethical standards, which is to eat a diet that comes from as little suffering as possible. But I bet if you asked 100 vegetarians, you’d get 100 different answers and justifications! At the end of the day, it’s what *you* feel comfortable with, and I believe that any decision made with reflection and loving kindness is the right one.

  34. Wonderful post, Matt, thank you. I’ve been vegan for 2 1/2 years now as well, but I went from omnivore to vegan in just a few days. I just decided to stop eating animal products and did it. The first and probably only time in my life that I ever went through with anything that thorouhly.

    A few months later I started running, in part also to show my family and friends that I could do it. It shut some of them up when I finished my first 5 and 10k races. ;)

    I still struggle with the jokes, depending on who makes them and in what sort of group I am. But there are also a lot of great (omnivore) friends who accommodate my choices and cook vegan meals with me.

    I’m looking forward to your book!

  35. Melanie Gulliver says:

    Can I ask why you think making small allowances is such a BAD thing? I do it.. I eat vegan at home 5 days of the week.. I’d love to eat vegan ALL the time.. BUT, when I am one of only 3 people I know who are vegan around me, and when I live in a country like France which hardly knows what vegan is, and when I want to actually socialise with other friends, I DECIDED that I wasn’t going to get too ‘uppity’ about cheese, and yoghurt, and fish, and even some meat.. so that I can still be seen (I hope) as a person who fits in when I need to.. and I really don’t think that a couple of animal protein meals a week are going to have a serious effect on my overall health.. I’m more concerned about ensuring I eat organic.. that is also something that I have to let go of at times in other people’s houses..

    • Melanie-
      Yours is the most common sense thing I’ve read in a long time!
      Imagine if everyone on the planet went even 80% vegan and didn’t beat themselves up that they weren’t 100% (whatever that means, as there are obviously different philosophies)!
      I’ve heard of a recent movement, “Vegan until 4pm” that I think is fantastic; what a difference it could make if we didn’t expect anyone (ourselves included) to have to be “pure”
      I applaud your attitude!

  36. Michelle Black Lewis says:

    GREAT read! I’ve been V for 7mnths. All of this is SO true for me! Thanks:)

  37. Matt, like the other commenters, thanks for this post! My husband and I are the only plant-based eaters in our extended families, and we feel a lot of pressure to eat “normally” to not make a scene. He’s more open to eating what everyone else is to “go with the flow,” but I’d prefer to eat selectively, since I know how I feel afterward. Our families just don’t quite get it, and since they’re not adventurous eaters, I feel pressured to cook “normal” food when they come over for dinner for birthdays, etc. I’ve come to the point where I don’t even want to handle meat anymore and hate having cheese in the house for just one recipe since the rest will eventually be thrown away. What’s everyone’s go-to meal for serving non-plant-eaters? Most of our family would run screaming from kale or beans.

  38. I agree with a lot of that! Except the cheese – I’ve never been fond of melted cheese and when we had pizza night growing up, I’d put as little as possible on my pizza (for some reason, my step mom ingrained in me that pizza needed cheese…I know better now!). I love posting pictures if my latest meal on instagram and FB. I started doing that to show my friends and family that a vegan doesn’t just eat plain house salads (I can’t stand those at restaurants, they’re too boring lol). I’ve had a lot of recipe requests and noticed more of my friends are making healthier and fitter choices. Although “it needs bacon” has now become the running joke with my friends regarding my food pictures. I think it’s absolutely hilarious and can’t wait to see what meat-joke lands in the comments :)
    As for being weird, I’m already there. I’m a vegan country gal who loves steampunk, masquerade balls, reading and drawing sci-fi, driving big trucks and riding a motorcycle. I even wear boots and plaid on my motorcycle. And now I’m adding fitness nut into the mix.
    Like you, I did research before I jumped headlong from being vegetarian for 21 years to now being vegan for a year and a half. It was an easy transition for me, since I realized I never bought real-dairy products anymore and I was leaning farther and farther from eggs. I even went cold-turkey on caffeine 3 months ago…and I don’t miss it. I quit alcohol, too, but since my beer intake equaled a bottle a month, that was hardly a stretch for me.
    I’m lucky in that I don’t have (nor am I inclined to have) a significant other to argue about duets with. I do plenty of that with my family who are concerned about my health, but they don’t see me often enough to realize how far along I am on thus journey of health and fitness. They think it’s a passing fad and that cutting out the pleasurable foods and drinks in life is a terrible decision. But the things I can do with kale, sweet potatoes, or quinoa are so pleasurable to me, I don’t think twice!
    I know diet is a huge, and rather touchy subject, and making the leap to being vegan can be a daunting task, but there is so much to be gained, and so much good food to explore. I’ve noticed, as you have, that vegans take to adventurous meals with gusto, whereas the meat-and-potatoes type stick to their meat and potatoes. There’s only one thing I hope to encourage my followers on instagram and FB, and that is to play with their food! :)

  39. A friend of my linked this to me and I am so happy she did. I am in the beginning of my vegan Lifestyle. Started in January 2013 – and can regocnize almost all of what you have written. It has been very interesting and heart warming (!!) to see whom is making sure to support me on my journey! Totally agree as well on the fact that you educate yourself about food and now I am making sure to get as much organic I possible can. But thank you for sharing your wise Words! And so happy I found your website. Many hugs from Ghana!

  40. Jessica Putt says:

    I love this post! I agree with alot of what you have to say. I have been a vegetarian for over 3 years now with months at a time being vegan but daisy is my weakness. I always go back to it mainly for convenience but I never feel as healthy when I am eating it. I know I will kick it once again but like you said you just have to make that decision. You are abosolutely right the jokes never end just this morning I recieved an E-card from a friend making a joke about being vegan. Its all in good fun though. I agree about not being pushy I only feel the need to explain my dietary choices when someone asks other than that I usually keep my opinions to myself. I believe people should do whats best for them not because of what someone else says or does. I have found who my supporters are and who arent and the ones that do support I find are more open minded in all aspects of life. Those that arent supportive I believe are comfortable in their way of life and dont like change, but thats fine, thats their choice. The things that I have learned over the years through personal research and my own experiences I have found have really impacted those closest to me. I have many friends and family members that have made changes to their diets and I am thankful to have been able to impact their lives for the better. Thank you for all your posts, you are a great inspiration especially for someone just starting a running journey. Congrats also on completing such a huge goal of 100 miles. -Jess

  41. Thanks for another great post! I chuckled at #4…I was just saying this to someone the other day!

    When I went Vegan (or I say adopting a Vegan diet – not lifestyle) it was because I heard it would greatly improve my running/recovery. I felt the results immediately! And then other things started happening. I no longer needed to run with my asthma inhaler, the digestive issues decreased dramatically as well as my allergies, I felt light on my feet, my recovery times were immediate, my back pains – gone! I had been struggling for years with digestive issues. I couldn’t eat a lot of things, one of them hot sauce, which is now a staple for me. Avocados gave me terrible gas…not any more! I realized that dairy and eggs were the main source of all my issues.
    I’ve never felt better since switching to a Vegan diet, and I continue to maintain that diet because I can’t imagine going back to feeling like crap all the time. I can’t believe I lived with ailments for so long and didn’t know it was just in the food I was eating.
    p.s. It’s hard not to have cheese once in a while! It’s my weakness! =)

    • Eliot W. Collins says:

      Just think of cheese as an addictive hunk of concentrated milk fat with a lot of sodium. Hope that helps.

      • Mmmm….milk fat LOL. I’m visual so I think I need to see a big hunk of mildewed cheese (or something) to keep me away.

  42. Thank you for sharing all of your insights. I have only been a vegetarian for a short time. Like you in the past, I have been going back and forth about being vegan. Because you are a non-preachy and non-pushy vegan, you are helping me towards that decision. That was something that I never want to be. I do not think that I am quite ready yet, but I am sure that I will get there. It helps me to have you blogs to learn.

  43. I love the article although I am not vegan, just vegetarian, but even being vegetaraian makes my family look at me sort of like I’m an anomaly so I could relate a little. I don’t like meat or fish, never have. I think I could give up cheese, but I’m not sure about eggs. Actually, maybe I could, I don’t eat either that often.

  44. love this list! My two hardest are the jokes and the one-pot dinners. I’m so glad I’m not alone! And, i do doubly appreciate my friends who make sure there’s food for me!

  45. What are your thoughts concerning the inability to get B12 naturally on a vegan diet? It’s necessary for the body but a vegan diet only seems to get B12 through fortified foods and supplements. Also, what about grains? It seems that a vegan diet relies on a lot of grains (bread, pasta, cereal, etc.). Recent research and acknowledgement of our anthropological history point to the idea that our bodies were not mean to process grains (especially gluten-based ones).

  46. I think I like the term plant based diet more than vegan. I’m in process of transitioning as well and doing a bad job. I chose a recipe the other day from a veg cookbook and it tasted like shit. I’m not a very good cook. But having said that not going back to eating meat. I need more variety that’s for sure…

  47. I still haven’t gone Vegan (may never). But I have been cutting back my dairy intake significantly lately. Over time a lot of my wife and I’s’ go-to easy to make things contained cheese. One day I realized we were having cheese in our meals several days a week I decided it was time to cut back. Not missing it terribly either. Oh, and I will say Amy’s makes a mean vegan pizza, only sad part is it’s super expensive for the size.

  48. With all the resources at my fingertips, I too, have lost the desire to prepare and cook meals. I follow alot of the vegan websites, pinterest, and the vegan twitter accounts too, but I don’t know what to fix my wife and I. I feel stuck preparing the same few dishes everytime.

  49. Hey Jennifer. You made some pretty good points, which I can really relate to. I have been Vegan for the past month and I feel so much better. It was pleasantly surprising to read your blog, I now feel even stronger in my quest. Any recommendations on the best way to stay vegan while traveling to Europe?

  50. I especially like your point about it being a big deal. I can struggle with this one, and I can trip myself up about whether someone will accept my invitation for a vegan meal, or whether I should suggest an all-vegan restaurant for a group of omnivores, when really, it is not my job to protect them or make assumptions for them. What’s weird is that all of us have become so comfortable and non-questioning about being served food in all kinds of environments without having any idea what we’re being served. Now, THAT is weird. But alas I certainly didn’t stop to think about what I actually eat for most of my life, so others are often responding in ways that feel totally reasonable to them and within their scope of life experience. Thanks for a really thoughtful post.

  51. Matt – as always, a wonderful piece and you hit on so many important points. As a vegan (and a vegan chef & instructor), I cook for and teach people who are on all parts of this spectrum. One thing that I’ve found that’s important to others on the journey is that they seem to want feel less alone. While there are so many vegans (and vegetarians) and the numbers are growing, its often within our own families and social circles that we feel most alone. Connecting with others to hear that they too, struggle with the jokes and questions, being ostracized and having personal challenges and dilemmas with this path they have chosen are all important things to share and think about. Thank you for being an important voice in “veganville” for so many people. Kudos to your commitment, courage and sense of humor.

  52. Heather Jade says:

    I’ve been vegetarian for a while. Been eating fish, but giving that up soon too. I wasn’t eating cheese or dairy for a year or so, then started eating it again recently, lot’s of it… cheese and yogurt mostly. I also wasn’t eating wheat for a long time, now do occasionally… I believe that wheat is unhealthy. I feel like a little kid who was denied candy so long that just one piece led to a constant desire for more, making it a daily food item and even staple.

    I feel that organic dairy obtained in a caring way from the cows/goats is not unhealthy, the same for eggs. The thing is that it IS strange to do… and I wonder how “ethical” we can really be about it, even we are trying our best in every way, not just for the animals, but for the environment.

    I may continue to eat eggs, but will likely be giving up dairy again soon. I might still eat some local goat and sheep milk products… It is difficult when I live in an area full of local farms, farmer’s markets, and friends and boyfriend eat cheese often… Where does your “strength” come from for turning down these things? I used to have it and have since lost it. I think I need help learning to combine foods and eat correctly to feel and be healthy. I was lacking something when I cut out animal products all together before and it led to just over eating the things I did eat and pouring oil and nuts on everything… eating tons of veggies and beans… I had more digestive problems then than I do now eating more cheese and things… maybe it was the fiber?

    Sorry for the inconsistent ramble, I think I just needed to let that out somewhere that people might understand. ; )

  53. Great post Matt! This truly is how it goes when you choose this lifestyle. I wouldn’t do it any other way. On a side note, dropping cheese was really hard for me. Once I got past that the rest was easy.

  54. Thanks for sharing your intelligent thoughts! your analysis is equally valid in Spain.
    My path to vegan was a little different. Over one year or so I stopped eating milk, butter, and cheese, anything sweet, and pork. By the second year I had also cut out meat, eggs and most fishes (large ones). I stayed practically vegan during almost two years. Now I combine a vegan diet with small fishes sometimes, or clamps, shrimps. I found the biggest impact in my wellbeing to be the sugar and milk/butter/cheese.

    Great blog!

  55. Any vegan lady athletes out there have trouble around their period?

    I’ve been running since I was 8 and have never had cramping around my period until I became vegan. I had no problems while training for and competing in triathlons and half marathons as a vegetarian for the past 6 years, but whenever I go vegan the cramps come.

    I just had a bad cramping experience during my last race and am feeling discouraged. I have an appointment set for some blood work, but wanted to see if you all had any ideas about what I might be missing that I can try now.

  56. Swimbikerun says:

    Ok, this has been enlightening for me.

    I do eat poultry, honey & eggs. However, trying to live as much a vegetarian life as possible around that, I am grateful for the suggestions made here. These comments make it much more helpful to eat a healthier lifestyle and get what I can from the ideas here. More so is the support of living a lifestyle that doesn’t center around McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and … whatever the alternatives are. LOL. I haven’t eaten fast food or what the equivalent is now for about 20 months. I also don’t do sodas but drink water or vitamin/mineral type of waters. I do some sips of apple juice now and then and some coffee in the same way.

    So I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who, although I don’t lead the lives you do, you all have still helped and supported in living a much healthier and cleaner lifestyle. Even if people aren’t vegan or vegetarian, my suggestion to everyone is to work on supporting people for at least not eating fast food and its ilk every day and eat vegetables now and then. Even one day without meet is possible. That doesn’t mean cheese pizza for lunch and dinner either.

    I think that sort of help would probably be greatly appreciated by a lot of people who want to lose weight, get healthier, are concerned over the environement &/or animals. Even a little bit helps.

    Thanks,

    Vic

  57. Gene Sacks says:

    Matt,

    Great web site and great information. I went Vegan 11 mod ago in preparing for a 300 mile bike ride through the Negev desert in Israel. Have been biking a great deal in the MTS of Colorado and have lost 25 lbs, feel great. I am not philosophically wed to Veganism, have read the books and seen the videos, and now have added fresh salmon to my diet as I see advantages to the added healthy protein. All my best, Gene Sacks

  58. Roz Brown says:

    I totally relate to what you are saying. This path I have taken has saved my life. I love telling the story how I became a vegan, but I won’t here. I am a diabetic type II. I was on insulin, and three other oral medications. Now after four months I am off insulin and only take one med a day and as a bonus lost 17 pounds to date. My daughter is the one that guided me and still does, to go vegan. It works for me and will be a life long path I will take. I am learning everyday. I stopped telling people I am vegan, I just let them notice the changes and when they ask what I have done as I look amazing (LOL) their words, then I tell them my story. My sister while visiting ate what I ate and commented she felt better. But no commitment to change. I have learned that if you show by example, more people will make a conscious effort to at least think about it.

  59. Excellent post! Word for word, what you wrote is completely true to my own experience.

  60. One thing missing from the post is the environmental effects of the meat based food economy.

    Water use – 2400 gallons to grow one pound of meat, 10 gallons to grow one pound of produce
    Carbon footprint – It varies, but animal food production, especially beef products, have about twenty times the carbon foot print to grow the equivalent amount of produce.
    Land use – over 70% of the world’s food producing lands are used for animal food production. This includes areas used to grow supporting crops, namely grains.

    Animal food production and consumption is a very unsustainable system. Animal foods are the easy way to produce calories, not the best.

  61. This is a fantastic post! Enough said.

  62. Your points had me laughing with recognition.

    All right on, in my experience. Embracing my inner weirdness has been an unexpected “benefit” of becoming vegan. In my case, I became vegan in the same year (2010) I took up ultramarathoning–not sure now which weirdness caused the other.

    Love your blog, by the way.

  63. Wow! Every point felt like it was coming directly from my own mouth. I have been Vegan for 5 years and still relate to each of these issues. A fantastic article for everyone to read but I’m not entirely sure people will really understand it until they have been Vegan for a while.

  64. Great blog, I am a professional athlete myself, and I follow your regularly. Keep up the good work!

  65. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I don’t find eating out and being vegan difficult. I’m also gluten free. Granted, I eat a lot of salads and usually have to order appetizers as main dishes. I do have to do a lot of calling ahead and asking questions. If I’m tossed into a situation where I don’t know the menu (and it isn’t Mexican place) I eat a salad. Italian is the only time I have an issue and I’m Italian. ;)

  66. just went vegan this month after being vegetarian for a while and i am going through the exact same things ;A; especially the jokes and hunger pangs for more food

  67. This blog was spot on! I was THE baker. If it was a cake, cheesecake, pie, bread then everyone looked to me to for that little slice of happiness. The first thing that anyone said upon hearing that I’d ‘gone vegan’ was “So…can I have your stand mixer? It’s not like you need it anymore”. Really people?! One even asked for my cookware since I “only eat salad and beans” now. I made a killer mac and cheese. No seriously it had 3 cheeses, heavy cream and chicken stock. It was so good that I could stop time…or your heart with it. Some things are just better non-vegan. I don’t like the vegan remakes of cheesecake and a few other things so I just cut those out entirely.

    On weekends I have fun days and try some of the more processed things. I’ve got a large amount of people(Vegan/Non-Vegan) hooked on the vegan crab cakes at WholeFoods.

    I remember visiting some family and friends who were still skeptical about my choice. They asked about the health benefits. I didn’t want to be “that militant vegan” and gave them an example that they might relate to. One of the things that I really love is the fact that I don’t feel like taking a nap right after a meal (we call it “the itis”) We began to eat (I’d brought mine with me and went into the room to work on the computer) and I overheard one say to another “You went a little heavy on the meat tonight.” Another called me back in there when she noticed that a couple of them didn’t have the energy to do anything aside from sit there. That’s when we had the real discussion and I was glad to answer anything that they genuinely wanted to know about. Ethics weren’t a huge issue for them but health concerns had them questioning a lot of what they had been doing.

    I went to college for pre-veterinary medicine and was prepared to work with run of the mill cats and dogs. Boy was a wrong. We took lectures and labs on farm animals. Horses, cattle, poultry, goats and swine. We raised them, breed them, vaccinated them, sterilized the males and even slaughtered the “food” animals. I didn’t make it through the first slaughter and thought of all of the burgers out there…and my brand new calf-skin wallet. That was NOT what I’d put in 4 years of study to do! My beef instructor (Yes the class was called “Beef” not Cattle or Bovine management) assigned a paper on general meat preservation. He actually smiled when I turned in a paper on carbon monoxide use to make meat look fresh even when it wasn’t. Going to the meat department is like going to a little cemetery with see-through coffin lids complete with a gassy embalmed body parts. Does anyone know if the FDA ever did anything about that? Hmm, I’ll have to look that up after I post.

  68. I started going vegan a little over a month now, but I’ve been vegetarian for quite some time and honestly, I love the jokes but not so much the really weird questions (while I was ordering food one day someone said: “wow! You’re vegetarian? So do you eat turkey?”
    Most of the jokes make my day because they keep me laughing and wondering about everyone’s views of vegans or vegetarians. By far, my favorite was when a relative visited and ordered food for the family and said: “I have chicken and fish for the fam, and I brought extra napkins for you”
    Weird but funny. :)

  69. dave knappett says:

    I started to eat an animal free diet for two health reasons.
    1. Mine.
    2. The animals’.

  70. Interesting, partly for the American idea of English (traditionally and where I come from, the past of ‘fit’ is ‘fitted’, and ‘impact’ as verb remains as inelegant as ever in its short newfangled life: I prefer ‘affect’). But more importantly, there are distinct parallels in your account with learning to become celibate. The difference is that I seriously doubt that I could ever become vegan — and even less that I would ever like it. Perhaps becoming celibate is sacrifice enough for me. I don’t need yet another arena of asceticism. Eggs and cheese are two of the greatest gifts ever given to mankind, in my view. (And milk, though I hate the taste of it plain, is important as an ingredient in any number of baked dishes and breads.) I also really like plain yoghurt mixed with my own choice of heated, juicy fruit. Dairy foods are part of what make life enjoyable. But I’m talking like a sex person to a celibate, aren’t I? And I know what the celibate’s answer is : )

    • Not quite grammatical comment there. ‘Makes’ life enjoyable, I probably should have said: never mind. And milk for tea: let’s not forget that. Softens the tannins as nothing else can.

  71. About a year ago I decided to start on the long road to eating healthier and becoming vegan. I can say from personal experience that this list is so true. Making healthy choices is especially hard as a college student, where it seems like everyone around me is not making healthy choices.
    I specifically want to comment on number six in the article. Number six talks about how vegans are known as being “skinny and weak”. It is hard for me to break that stereotype when it fits me perfectly. I have always had a very high metabolism, and have never been much into strength training, so most of my life I have been skinny and lacking upper body strength. I have never been at an unhealthy weight, just skinny. I am also a runner. Adding running to someone who already has a hard time keeping weight on makes it hard to eat enough food. I managed to do ok until I started to become vegan. My journey to becoming vegan has made it even harder to consume enough calories. Relying on college eating options (I live in the dormitory), it is hard to find healthy vegan items besides fruits and vegetables. Because of this, I often simply don’t consume enough calories in a day. Not having enough calories has made it very hard to continue training as a runner.
    To keep this post short (or shorter than it already is), I simply want to say that I am inspired by reading about you choosing not to fit the stereotype of being a “skinny and weak” vegan. I hope to find ways that I can eat a plant-based diet and still consume enough food to help give me strength to become a better runner.

    • heatherjade says:

      I run for fun and exercise, so I am not sure if you have a more complicated thing going on here and I am sure that you run A LOT more than I do (maybe a mile at a time most days of the week so far). I love running, and I love eating… most of my diet is vegan and I eat too many calories, mostly in the form of oils and nuts or nut butters. Coconut oil is excellent, having ground pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds in the fridge is too. Soak some raw nuts, they are easier to digest and chew soaked. Use nut butters of your choice, high in calories, vegan (read ingredients to avoid added sugar/oils if you don’t want them). Again, you may be burning a ton more calories than I can understand right now… I’ve been vegetarian for two years and am still transitioning to “vegan”, working on ditching eggs and fish now. I found that I gained weight when I cut out animals and most animal products… maybe it’s all the oils and nuts ; ) Good luck!

  72. Vic Nicholls says:

    Just saw the post about B12. I have gone B12 low, anemia, Vitamin K low, zinc, at various times. I still eat clean as much as possible. I’m still healthier than I would be otherwise. The other thing I have been doing is using Vega. Used to use Garden of Life. That’s not a “I’m a sales person” just what I do.

    Vic

  73. Elsje Massyn says:

    I first became pescatarian, then vegetarian and thanks to the information that was posted on Facebook about cruelty against farm animals, the fur-trade (dogs, cats & other animals) etc. I switched to veganism and I am not looking back. My husband followed not long after that – the same sequence – Pescatarian/Vegetarian/Vegan. This has isolated us from real staunch meat-eaters and yes the teasing that goes with it, but it also sparked the interest of so many others that have crossed our path (even some family members are beginning to look at food differently after 5 years of checking us out). Today I look at cheese and think of the cruelty against calfs separated from their mothers and sold off for veal and their mothers having to endure rape-racks season after season. When I look at eggs – I see battery hens cooped up in tiny cages, and their chicks being grinded while still alive and used for dog-food.

    I dont care if people love me or hate me for my decision to be a VEGAN. I am the one who has to live with my conscience. My life has become simpler. We make meals in under 30 mins and bargain shop at fruit and vegetable stores for special prices on fruit and veggies.

    We found out that you can make bread, cake, muffins & almost any other sweet food by replacing sugar with dates and replace the use of eggs by using bananas and apple mouse as binding factor.

    We save on dish washing liquid as we don’t have to struggle to clean greasy pots and pans stained with animal fat anymore.

    I have cats and even the fleas stopped biting me, maybe because I dont eat animal flesh & blood anymore, he he.

    No who says being a Vegan is not exciting!!

  74. Elsje Massyn says:

    Matt – I have just 5 minutes ago received a message from a VEGAN hater who told me to go and hang myself – animals were made for eating!!

    So we live a dangerous life and many peace-makers are killed because they are just that: peace-makers. Ghandi was killed and so was Martin-Luther-King. If Mandela plight for freedom and peace caused him jail-time for 27 years.

    So yes – many meat-eaters are blood-thirsty and will kill to protect their habit and trade.

    Its nice not to make waves and cause a stir about being a VEGAN, but many times we will have to jump in and intervene and save an innocent animal from the human claws of an animal abuser.

  75. jay ben says:

    This whole thing is sad, im a vegan BY BIRTH, not by choice, do you understand that, if humans stopped eating meat, the worlds population would decrease cos first off many would strave, you need to do studies into ecology and farmland, much farmland cannot be developed, and ecologically, many natural habitats, preserved for the use of using animals for the purpose of sustenance would cease to exists, it would revolved around 20% of humans left, eating gmo, factory farm sources of plant protein, this is absolute fact…..there is not enough natural developed farmland available, with the correct, climates, nutrient rich soil and predictable weather patterns to ensure even those lastly 20% of humans surviving, and before you give me a study of some aborigines that lived off berrys and the bark of trees till 75yos, they might have but their nutrient depleted offspring wont last long….and their offspring definitely wont…..

    Eating meat is not bad, as I said im a vegan by birth, I detest animal protein in any form, eggs cheese meat, fish YUCK I hate it all, does that mean im better than you? Or saving the planet? NO, And neither are you by denying your body what it wants, and is crying out for, when you say, oh i really love meat, oh I felt so much better eating tuna, fish, meat, eggs, then listen to your body, im not a vegan through ethical choices, shit my ethics are low, I might just kill and eat my neighbour if nothing else suffices (half kidding), but yes plz follow your body,

  76. Leslie Ackerman says:

    Food is killing me. I really do not know what to eat. My body wants something with sugar or protein I think. I know it hates red meat but some vegetables I can not longer eat like broccoli to beans. So if I went Vegan I really do not know how to start. You all are all right what they do to animals are cruel. The Tyson plant in Plymouth NC makes the whole take smell like sulfur when we passed by. I have stuff animals of every species on my desk. Cheese though yeah is my draw back is their an easy step by step way to ease in to vegan . You know are Vegan cookbook for dummies you can buy at a store or can you suggest a book I can find something I could start on
    My body is always covered in hives and all the doctors do is medicate me. I want a new me! Thank you Leslie Ackerman Ps I love your blog!!!

  77. Hello,

    Please hear me out and try not to cringe.

    I loooove meat. Chicken, pork, bacon, all of it. I was raised eating it, and pretty much everyone in my family eats it as well. It never occurred to me that there was something bad about eating meat or killing animals for food…if we could kill fish for sport, hunting, etc, why not for food? Animals in the wild kill and inflict pain on other animals for food….so what’s the big deal? Or so I thought until I read this blog and all of your comments.

    As I type this, I am a meat eater. However, I have always been grossed out by meat on a bone, veins, etc. and have been told that I waste food for these reasons. For the most part, my diet consists of chicken, turkey, and fish in forms that I can’t see all of the gross clues that it actually was alive i.e. Nuggets and such. However, I have been considering a healthier lifestyle, and crave more variety in my meals. I have been experimenting with limiting my meat per meal and increasing the vegetables. This has certainly made me feel generally better, but I have also limited fried foods, starchy foods, etc. I am not sure how I will ever make the big leap, but everything you all have shared about your food choices is inspiring and helpful. Your comments are so uplifting and positive…i don’t really see any meat eater bashing, and for someone who is considering the transition, it’s nice not to have to also feel bad about your previous choices.

    This blog just made me feel so much better about my decisions to change the way I eat. Little by little, I now know I can enjoy a meal without meat.

    • For you it may be incredibly hard to quit meat permanently; however, you can definitely come to significantly reducing the amount you eat by as much as 90-95% for a lifetime; however, it may not be possible to quit 100% for the entire duration of your life (your brain will eventually defeat your will).

      From a biopsychosocial perspective, it is clear that you have been raised socially and biologically to become a meat-eating machine. The human brain adapts to the lifesstyle we are exposed to as we are growing up; your very neurons and synapses have meat written all over them. Synapses are ultimately responsible for human behavior. As we grow up, some synapses form and survive, while others die. For example: a person exposed to eating meat and consuming alcohol while growing up will develop synaptic connections to neurons about meat and alcohol, but if that person was never exposed to vegetables while growing up, then that person’s brain will turn the person into a meat-eating machine and a potential lifelong drunk, but also a vegetable hater. Your neurons (brain cells) last a lifetime (unless you get i.e. schizophrenia). Whatever neurons and synaptic connections you developed while growing up, will last you a lifetime.

      But, it is possible to develop new synaptic connections (i.e. by becoming vegan), but this will mean having to fight your very own brain chemistry! It will be a very tough battle. It is not an impossible battle, but it is very difficult (i.e. addicts of alcohol/smoking/drugs/food).

      I have a degree in psychology and biology, and I have studied eating from a a biology and psychology literature, so based on what I have learned I have to tell you that it will be an incredible challenge for you to go against your very neurons and synapses, but you can do it, w/ a very strong will.

      In contrast to you, I grew up w/ a diet high in carbs and very low in meat+dairy+eggs, and very low on lots of other things. I went vegan two weeks ago and so far it is easy, but of course, only time will tell how long I can keep it up until I fall for a nice piece of fried chicken or fried shrimps from Popeyes :), or a non-vegetarian pizza. I love carbs! I became vegan because I love carbs to death and rarely (if ever) desire meat/dairy/eggs, but also equally because of humanitarian reasons (watched many documentaries).

      I love carbs, but it actually is possible to quit eating what you love. I did the ketogenic diet for two years (you eat < or = 30 net carbs/day, can eat anything else, but I kept it low-cal) and it worked for me, and I lost over 100lbs of fat and got super fit, but eventually I decided I was physically/emotionally/psychologically ready to love carbs again :). Few years later I am now 21lbs fat again and I am now on my new and improved: low-carb-low-cal vegan diet :) (<=500cal/day; only eat fruits/vegetables/almond milk/water/and powder zero-cal sodas). I have 5 weeks left (started a week ago). I love carbs and although it was hard to stop eating the carbs, I did it, and in 5 weeks I'll be done. After I am done, I'll go eat lots of carbs again :). Being vegan is easy for me due to my brain chemistry that resulted from my upbringing. Did I mentioned how much I love carbs?

      Anyway, the point is this: it IS possible for you, a meat-lover machine, to significantly reduce your meat consumption, however, it may not be possible to quit 100% over a lifetime. In the best case scenario you may be able to quit 90-95%, but that 5% will remain (i.e. you will not be able to resist eating meat on a few occasions, but you will not love it as much anymore). You may be able to quit 100% for a few months or a couple years for a couple years, but eventually your biology will win (your neurons and synapses were exposed to meat for too long, making permanent-lifelong-connections).

      Anyway: you can do it! But, it will be a huge challenge to go against your very own brain chemistry. It WILL be a lifelong war.

  78. What a great blog Matt and something I can really relate to after becoming vegan recently. And I love your humour about it all and the typical things that people say and how they view it all. As for me, I just feel alot more liberated, confident and happy since I made the change, but my son is an avid meat eater who is finding it hard when eating my meals! However the good thing is that he knows where I’m coming from and that’s good enough for me at the moment.
    Like you, I don’t want to preach and just get on with it, trying to eat in a balanced way with a variety of foods. And yes it was harder to give up the (goats) cheese, but I got there in the end substituting with nuts and (humous) dips etc.
    Overall it’s been quite a journey and an interesting one at that. I’m still learning and hope to be able to make an array of gorgeous vegan meals in the near future, even though I’m not a fan of cooking! But I’ll never go back that’s for sure, and reading all that harrowing info about factory farming on websites such as Raw and Compassion in World Farming makes me more determined and happy that I made that transition.

  79. Great article, thanks for writing it.

    However, I am hugely disappointed that you never mentioned anything about how animal suffering. You probably do not care at all about animal suffering; if you did, it would have been absolutely obvious even from just one line.

    Good article.

    I want to add my two cents:

    I grew up w/ a diet high in carbs, but low in meat, dairy, and eggs. I decided to become vegetarian two weeks ago. So far it’s really easy.

    The point is – upbringing and culture can have a tremendous impact on – your eating habits; even the research supports my claim. So – for anyone reading this comment – when you have kids and you want them to remain vegetarian as adults, you educate them early!

  80. Hey,

    I will never give up running! Is there still a chance for me to gain weight?

  81. I love the idea of posting this list. I would like to add one that I am personally going through after I made the switch from eating only local meat to vegetarian to whole foods plant based. At times I still find myself worrying about having all the nutrients I need and wondering if this is the “natural” diet for humans. I read too much on the internet and let my brain (thinking) take over my heart (feeling). While I feel wonderful and more connected that nagging doubt lingers. Anyone else have this?

  82. Jennifer, I feel the same way, too, sometimes. After phasing out meat, cheese, and dairy, I felt great. There have been times where I’ve let a few meals slip past my normal standards for convenience or nostalgia, but overall I know *I* feel best when I eat this way. I do have to make an effort to have some protein every day– I could eat fruit and carbs all day and not have a gram of protein– but mostly I just eat what makes me feel good. I try to ignore my brain and focus on my stomach/heart and generally feel great about it! Good luck!

  83. Your heart bumps your 4-6 liters of blood every minute, throughout your body, until death.
    Your brain does the thinking and the feeling.

  84. Eliot W. Collins says:

    Fruits and vegetables can provide sufficient protein; you just have to eat enough of the right ones. Documented protein deficiencies are quite rare even among strict Vegans. Many of us mistakenly think that we need lots of protein because that is what the meat and dairy industries have been telling us our entire lives.

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