An Honest Look at What it’s Like To Be Vegan After a Couple of Years

what it's like to be vegan

Veganism has been a transformational journey for me. A journey about compassion and also a journey about pain. It still hurts me so deeply to see all of the sufferings in the world. At the same time, it warms my heart that people are becoming more open to this lifestyle and saving animals as a result.

Besides this friction between pain and joy, they’ve been some other significant learnings since I became vegan almost three years ago.

In this post, I’ll be sharing my honest experiences and lessons of what it’s like to be vegan.

This is not a post about glorifying veganism. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think many vegans are so focused on putting themselves in the best light in an attempt to inspire others to make the change. I get it. This very blog is a prime example of that.

However, there’s also value in absolute honesty in what it’s really like to live a vegan lifestyle. It’s refreshing to see the challenges and what you could potentially expect.

So without further ado, here are my top 6 honest experiences of what it’s like to be vegan.

1. You will consume animal products

 

As much as you try not to, you will. I don’t necessarily mean that you’ll give in. But it’s inevitable that you will make a mistake.

A barista will use cows milk instead of soy milk in your coffee.

The pizzeria will accidentally put cheese (from an animal) on your pizza.

You’ll miss a critical animal ingredient in food packaging of a product.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made mistakes. I remember early on in my journey—I would get so frustrated with myself.

When I was in Ghana, I ordered one of my favourite traditional meals, fried plantain and bean stew. I specifically asked for no tin fish or other animal products. As I proceeded to devour my meal, I noticed a chunk of tuna in my stew. I instantly stopped and got the waiter to take my food away.

At the time I was so shaken up by the experience. However as more of these mistakes have crept up on me, I’ve learned not to be so harsh on myself.

I’ve also learned to take the time to clarify my orders and get confirmation over the counter before proceeding.

It will happen, and you’ll feel shitty about it initially. Just remember that it was a mistake and that every day you’re vegan, you’re saving the lives of animals and the planet.

2. Vegan fashion is ridiculously hard to come by, especially for men…

 

Two and a half years into my journey, I still find it extremely difficult to buy vegan clothes and shoes. Correction. It’s easy to find fast fashion. It is damn near impossible to find ethically made and organic garments at your local shops.

I remember when I first discovered Nudie Jeans. I thought this organic jeans brand was going to change my life forever! I was so excited that I bought three pairs of jeans online. This was after jumping on an international call to Sweden with their salesperson to confirm that the materials in the jeans were all vegan.

When the jeans arrived, I couldn’t hold back my excitement! I tried them on, and they fitted perfectly.

I was already thinking about how I never had to worry about buying jeans again. I had my go-to source.

Masa was checking them out and noticed a leather tag on the waistline. I couldn’t believe it. After doing my due diligence, I still managed to get a garment that was partially made with an animal! It’s apparently very common for jeans to have a square leather piece on the waistline with the brand name. For someone that doesn’t shop often, I had no clue.

Another devastating experience. But it just goes to show how hard it is to find ethical fashion. We have some online stores we browse but have mainly resorted to local second-hand stores.

If you don’t mind affordable synthetic clothes, you’ll be ok shopping at your local convenience store. But if you’re like us, and desire to tick multiple ethical boxes, e.g. organic, fair trade, vegan, it’s going to be a bit of a struggle. You’re going to have to get comfortable with shopping from niche brands online.

It’s a grind. But it’s well worth it in the end.

3. Your friends and family will eventually accept you.

 

Coming out as a vegan in your social circle is a big deal. I know it shouldn’t be, but it’s understandable as so many of our experiences together are associated with food.

Special holidays, going out with friends, watching television are all things we commonly do when sharing a meal. I know my family has specific restaurants we go to on a regular basis.

So when you decide to do something differently, it can take some time for your loved ones to adjust.

I remember in the first six months of being vegan, watching those around me sigh and make comments because we chose not to eat certain foods anymore.

The good news, at least in my personal experience, is that your friends and family really come around and become super supportive over time.

Even if they don’t become vegan, they respect your decision. I think at first, they don’t think you will stick it out. But once they can see you’re in it for the long haul, they change.

My mother has now decided to go meat-free a couple of days a week.

My in-laws take pride in preparing amazing vegan meals for when we come over.

My brother can engage with his vegan work colleagues through my experiences.

Some of my closest friends have talked proudly about this blog to their social circles.

This is all happening without me pushing my values onto them. It has happened organically, and I know it will continue to grow.

4. You will meet more vegans.

 

It’s inevitable that we attract people into our lives with similar values to ourselves. And it’s no different for vegans.

However, if I was to be completely honest, I thought I would’ve met more vegans than I have so far.

When you’re in the vegan bubble, it seems like the movement is growing quicker than it is. Who you follow and interact with online creates this illusion that veganism is everywhere!

But when you step outside the bubble, it’s still evident that vegans are only a small fraction of the total population.

The positive news is that veganism is on the rise and it’s becoming more commonly accepted in the mainstream.

You’ll meet more vegans in person, but you may need to be a little proactive about it. Many of the relationships we’ve formed have come from meetups and events, which you can easily access online.

We’ve been blown away by the support of the vegan community. We’ve found that everyone wants to help and it’s a cool vibe when we meet.

5. You will get bored of the food.

 

How one defines bored is dependent on the individual. For us, it means losing inspiration to cook. Our passion has come and gone in waves.

Admittedly, it was a little easier to eat the same meals over and over when I wasn’t vegan. At the same time, becoming vegan has encouraged me to eat better food.

I’m not addicted to highly processed salts, fats and sugars like I used to. So that could be a big reason why it can get a little boring at times.

Where I live, I’ve found it challenging to find vegan fine dining. Eating out normally consists of Mexican, Indian, pizza, burgers, Japanese, pad Thai and a variety of salads. This is all delicious food, but now and then you want to explore creative chef-level recipes.

As a vegan, I would love to see more of this level of cooking made accessible in all cities around the world, not just the big progressive states in certain countries.

In the meantime, I encourage you to keep changing up your cuisine. It’s easy to burn out from smoothies, tofu scramble, mac and cheese. Have these foods in doses and challenge yourself to use ingredients you wouldn’t normally use.

6. Vegan junk food is everywhere!

 

One of our most popular posts is about bringing awareness of vegan junk food while providing some practical alternatives.

We wrote the post because we found that there is a huge misconception that being vegan means you’re automatically healthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Processed food is everywhere, vegan or not.

We became vegan to help save animals lives. At the same time, we also want to preserve our own health as much as possible.

As vegans, we’re already qualified label readers. Take it a little step further and look out for non-animal ingredients that are processed. That way you can save animals and yourself.

What have been your honest experiences?

 

I’ve expressed my personal experiences about being vegan so far. But now I’d love to hear from you!

What have been some of your honest experiences since becoming vegan (or aspiring to become vegan)? It can be a positive experience or a challenging experience. We want to pull down the curtains to those seriously considering this lifestyle, so they have realistic expectations going in.

16 comments… add one
  • Kathy McMillan 09/04/2017

    My husband and I have been vegan for five plus years now, and one of the most challenging things recently has been accepting only being able to do so much. We are much more active in the vegan community now than five years ago, and would now label ourselves activists. We volunteer, are active members of the Animal Justice Party, go to rallies and other events, help fund raise, you name it, but it never feels like we are doing enough. Giving yourself permission to do what you can and not beat yourself up about it is something I have to constantly remind myself of. Everyone just does the best they can, with the time, skills and energy levels we have.

    One of the biggest positives is simply living by example. When someone says “I could never do that” it is an opportunity to explain how easy it really is if it is what your heart wants, and all the benefits for your health, the planet, and not least the beautiful animals we all love.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences Kathy. We can definitely relate with feeling like you’re not doing enough. Thank you for your passion!

  • Erin 11/04/2017

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your experiences. One thing I’ve noticed in just over a month of eating vegan is that it can make coworkers uncomfortable! Even without me preaching about anything, I can tell it causes people in my small office to reconsider and confront their own behaviors and eating habits, whether they like it or not. One coworker is often saying things to me like, “ooh, this is so good, but it has meat in it so you can’t have any!” or “oh I made cookies, but I know you won’t them.” Another says “hmm, Erin probably can’t eat that – it has too much bad stuff in it [referring to animal products].” I am learning to respond as gracefully as possible and to explain my views when asked. Such as when one person said, “well, you can put cream in your coffee, animals aren’t killed to make cream!” my response was, “Well, the animals are still treated poorly in factory farms and I don’t want to support that.” I can tell responses like that make people think about it more.

    Because of these recent situations at work, I greatly appreciate hearing about your point that friends and family will eventually come around! Simply living by example is wonderful advice 🙂

    Side note: The Satay Tofu Wraps and vegan peanut sauce from your cookbook are AMAZING. It’s seriously my new favorite meal!

    • Erin, thank you so much for sharing your honest experiences of what it’s like to be vegan at work. I can totally relate to how your choices can indirectly affect those around you. It sounds like you’re dealing with the comments at work with class whilst getting your colleagues to think more deeply about their own decisions.

      Thank you for your kind words regarding our Satay Tofu Wraps. We love anything with satay sauce in it 😉

  • Lucy 11/04/2017

    Yes I find after being vegan for a little over a year now, it’s a double edged sword – it’s the best thing I’ve done and I love so much about it, but it’s also very painful to be in the know. Ignorance is definitely bliss. I agree with getting bored of food, even though there is so much to eat I’m not motivated at the moment to cook but hoping I get my energy back soon! I think the hardest part about vegan is seeing things with a new perspective, but still having your friends and family not “get it”. It’s so frustrating to have to argue with people, when you know it’s the right thing to do on so many levels. We just keep having to lead by example and hope people see what we do in a more positive light!

    • Absolutely Lucy. I know for us, we couldn’t understand why most people simply don’t care. But then we quickly remembered what we used to be like and whilst it’s still not ideal, it helps us empathise more with others. Like you said, the most powerful think you can do is lead by example in a positive and approachable manner. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Good stuff!

  • Amanda 14/04/2017

    Thanks so much for this post! I recently decided I’m going to try a vegan diet again. I was vegan years ago, for about 6 months. I was living in Wisconsin where life consists of hot dogs, dairy, and beer. Nobody knows what a vegan is there! Haha. I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years now, and while I do find it easy (I live in Seattle where vegetarian food is everywhere) lately, I’ve felt like I need to cut back my dairy intake. Dairy is gross! So I’ve been searching online for great vegan recipes and downloaded your cookbook. I can’t wait to dive in and make some of these recipes. I feel fortunate to live in a great city like Seattle that always tries so hard to cater to vegans, too. I’m excited! <3

    • Hey Amanda! That’s really cool that you’re going to try again. We were recently in Seattle and you’re totally spoilt with choice in that amazing city! All the best with the transition and thank you for your kind words 🙂

  • Leonie 16/04/2017

    Thanks for you post. After many years of being (mostly) vegetarian I decided to try going vegan from the beginning of this year. In the beginning it was challenging and giving up cheese has been the hardest. It is amazing to see how many commodities we use and eat that contain animal products such as wine that is fined using fish, eggs or milk……yuk! I am still transitioning and have had a few slip ups especially when eating out but I am determined and committed to become vegan. I feel amazing on a vegan diet and have heaps more energy with a greater ability to recover from work, exercise and stress.

    • Hey thanks for sharing your experiences Leonie! We also found it hard to let go of cheese but once we made the connection it became so much easier. Yup, animals products are everywhere. Kudos to you for sticking to your commitment despite a few minor setbacks.

  • aina 12/06/2017

    Thanks for your post! I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years, but after subscribing Netflix and watching Cowspiracy, Food Matters, Forks over knives and so on, I realized that I could not go on like that. I had to do something, for the animals, for the planet and for my health. So I decided to give it a try, although I always thought that veganism is a little extreme. But after a couple of months I can say that is the best decision I have taken in my life, and the only thing I regret is not have tried it sooner! My boyfriend is considering it, at least he has given up meat and dairy (he still eats fish), and my parents (because I am always cooking) eat mostly what I prepare so without wanting it they are almost vegan! jaja It is true though that the first weeks they were a little bit worried about my health, what about protein? what about calcium? but right now they are enjoying my cooking and all these whole food plant-based dishes! I feel wonderful, with more energy and more optimistic. Everyone should try it 🙂

    • Hi Aina! Apologies, I only just saw your comment. It’s really nice to hear that you have inspired your boyfriend to be open to veganism. We hear time and time again how hard it is to be vegan when your partner is not. Thanks for sharing your experience. Michael

  • Rachel 22/08/2017

    I’ve only recently become vegan for medical reasons and as someone that never thoughtshe could do it – I’m actually really enjoying it. I love that portion sizes can be bigger because plants aren’t as bulky as meat, eggs and fish. I love how colourful the diet is. I love that no animal is being slaughtered for my nourishment. I love that I feel vibrant. I just hate that all restaurants pretty much use commercial vegetable oils. I can’t go out for a beautiful chickpea curry or yummy falafel because of the oil quality – it would be great if more places used EVOO or coconut oil.

    On other matters you’re doing an ace job with this site, great layout, informative reads and no annoying adds popping up and cluttering the space. Keep up the beautiful work xxx

    • Kudos to you Rachel! Another example of how easy it is to be vegan. Totally agree with you about the quality of oils when eating out. We’re optimistic that it will change over time.

      Also thank you for your kind words x

  • Liliana 20/07/2018

    Hi! Thanks for this post. I am vegan for 8 years now. The time I have started was tough in my country (Europe) because noone really understood the word “vegan”. I was the only one vegan person I knew myself at that time and at the beginning I was seen as a very “strict” among my vegetarian friends. Indeed I was – I learnt vegan diet from books so “no alcohol, no coffee, no black tea, no processed food” was the level I had started. Over the years I struggled with winter mood a lot (until finally a second vegan person in my life who I accidentally met told me to take vitamin D during the winter what changed my vegan life really). As it was tough to eat out generally, I got used to cooking lots of styles but also that going out with colleagues often means that I will get no food or wrong food and i will be hungry more often + on top of that I need to cope not only with hunger but also with people who know me and feel pitty of me being discriminated by my food choices in most of the restaurants. 8yrs later life changed dramatically …I live at the street where there is 2 vegan only stores, 2 vegan only restaurants and cafes, bunch of other restaurants where they serve vegan options, 1 vegan ice cream shop… I don’t have to order shoes from abroad, because there are finally some fair trade shoes stores in my own country… And…just as you, I am so absolutely totally bored of food :(. My good friend is a vegan food blogger and I have no idea how she keeps this food interest after so many years. I cannot. I also miss the feeling that my veganism changes anything because It has already changed a lot. I wanted at that time to spread the word about this. And indeed, some friends of mine went even vegetarian, some became vegan too. Being vegan has become very popular and I understand the impact of people like me who are simply consequent with their food choices. But somehow, after years I started to loose my motivation to cook, to share the idea, to feel so passionate about this. I cannot stop being vegan as still, I see meat as a piece of dead creature=inedible & not natural at all. My brain does not allow me to treat is as food, in my head unconsciously meat is on shelve “this disgusting thing that people eat”. I am even not really able to buy it… Over years I also developed strong disgust for eggs and honey (my brain sees them as inedible too, somehow as a food that is for some reason “wrong”). It is really unconscious process in my brain. theoretically I could drink milk but…I’m lactose intolerant anyway and cheese… Well…maybe this but… not sure if I wouldn’t feel sick too so in the end better not to risk. As you see I keep eating vegan because its the best choice I have and it disturbs me less than other food choices…So in a way, i can’t help bring vegan, but somehow the spirit of being engaged vegan person is gone. I often envy people who have that much energy to share the concept with the others, but after years I really don’t know how to revive this or whether I really should try. I often think that only another food Revolution could change it such as going raw etc. but maybe I am wrong. Maybe I simply should focus more on different things in my life, start to cook from cook book of different cusine style and live with it… 🙂

    • Wow Liliana, thank for sharing your experiences. It’s fascinating that you mention how the feeling of being vegan has worn off for you over time because it becomes so routine.
      Maša and I have also experienced how challenging it is to find vegan food in parts of Europe.
      I think your last point of revisiting cookbook recipes is a great idea to reignite your spark. Or perhaps, participate in some light activism? Check out this post for some ideas https://theminimalistvegan.com/animal-rights-movement/ all the best, Michael.

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