If you follow the news in the world of veganism, you’ve likely heard about Alex Jamieson and the controversy surrounding Ms. Jamieson’s decision to “listen to her cravings” and quit the vegan lifestyle. Needless to say, it’s disappointing when someone who has been a voice for the vegan way of life decides to change their tune. And of course, it wasn’t too long ago that Ellen Degeneres made mention on her tv show that she gets eggs from her neighbors because they’re “happy chickens.” While both Alex and Ellen have received their fair share of backlash, they aren’t the first “vegans” to backslide in some way (or in Ms. Jamieson’s case, quit altogether). After all, Bob Harper, of The Biggest Loser, was Veg News Magazine’s person of the year and yet, now he is vegan no longer. I don’t want to depress myself or you by listing the countless others who have quit veganism.
These cases of people leaving the vegan lifestyle raises the point that this change of heart absolutely is a reality for many folks, and maybe even you’ve experienced doubts or challenges about maintaining a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle. I will admit that there have been times where I myself have found it difficult either because I was too timid to speak up for my values, found myself at a restaurant who’s only choice on the menu was an iceberg lettuce salad, or have occassionally found it tedious to “plan ahead” for situations where eating vegan will be difficult. I know I can’t be the only one who has felt this way. Why can’t the world just come to its sense and there be vegan food and shopping everywhere?! Alas, that isn’t the world we live in…at least not yet.
Despite these challenges, I believe 100%, without a doubt, that being vegan has enriched my life, my health, my spirituality, and becomes easier and more second nature every day. Not to mention, I am saving lives in the process. No “challenge” would ever be worth quitting veganism, in my mind. That having been said, if you have ever struggled, I wanted to provide some tips to help you or others that have struggled to “stay on track.” We’ve all hit rough patches in this crazy thing called life and we’ve gotten through to the other side thanks to the people and resources and programs that are available to us. So while I’m not offering a 12-step program myself, I want to do my part to help others who are trying to stay vegan in a non-vegan world (although I do believe progress is happening!).
- Reach out to a fellow trusted vegan for help and inspiration. If you’re feeling “alone” in your vegan journey, because either you are literally the only vegan in your family or workplace, or even feeling figuratively alone in an omnivore’s world, talk to another vegan who will remind you that you’re not alone! Share with them the challenges or feelings you’re having and allow yourself the opportunity to vent and get it all out. Hopefully, if they are indeed a “trusted” vegan as I specified, they will share some encouraging words with you and will remind you that you are capable of staying committed to anything you set your mind to.
- Take advantage of connections through social media. The beauty of social networks like Facebook and Twitter is that we are connected to more people than we would have thought possible. It’s the greatest feeling in the world when I tweet about something one of my favorite vegan bloggers wrote and then they respond back or retweet my tweet. It makes me feel a part of a community and supported by individuals near and far. If you don’t have a trusted vegan source near you, I encourage you to reach out to the vegans you look up to who are on social media. Something as simple as “Hey, ________! Can you give me some tips for staying committed to the veganism when I’m feeling challenged?” (Or something less obvious if you’re a little more bashful.) I’m sure they will respond to your with a tip, a word of encouragement, refer you to a blog they posted, or even solicit help from their followers to help you stay motivated. With the gift of social media, again, you never have to feel alone in your journey.
- Have a movie night. Movie nights are a favorite way for me to destress. But I don’t think a good ol’ rom com with help you with your plight necessarily. Maybe it will; maybe you just need some laughs. But in the case of struggling with your vegan diet, I would say check out the fabulous documentaries that shed a positive and powerful light on the benefits of going vegan and eating plant-based, such as “Forks Over Knives”, “Vegucated”, and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.” Even if you’ve already seen these movies, watch them again. My favorite vegan media duo, Jasmin and Mariann of Our Hen House, mentioned once that when they do their juice fasts, that they rewatch these movies to stay focused on their goals since it can be easy to throw in the towel. I would say take a cue from these two ladies and allow the powerful messages of these movies to motivate you to succeed as well.
- Vary your cooking. There was a time when I was a little heavier than I am now, and so I started to make a concerted effort to cook healthier. I relied on the same food staples to get me to a healthy weight, and while that approach was working, I started to lose my motivation. I realized I was no longer excited about my healthy meals because I was using the same ingredients over and over again. So I decided to search for some different recipes, just starting out with one or two to start, that would give me the variety I was looking for and rekindle my excitment about healthy eating. And it worked! I mention this because perhaps your lack of motivation and dedication to your veganism stems from approaching the lifestyle in the same way all the time. Try getting some new cookbooks and playing in the kitchen a little more. Perhaps you need to try to venture to a new restaurant and try their vegan options. Heck, maybe you need to find the nearest or next upcoming Veg Fest and start sampling some other food products. If you’re stuck in a food rut, mix it up a little bit. Maybe you need a little reminder that compassionate cooking can be fun, adventurous, and delicious!
- Visit an animal sanctuary, or better yet, volunteer! People go vegan for different reason, be it health, weight loss, or for ethical reasons. I personally went vegan for better health. But now knowing what I know about how many billions of animals are killed each year for food and the horrible conditions they “endure” until they are slaughtered has definitely converted me to an ethical vegan. Even if your reasons for going vegan weren’t ethical per se, it may be good for you to visit an animal sanctuary as a reminder about the animals who get to live their lives in peace, thanks to people such as yourself who will no longer senselessly be consuming their flesh. For that extra focus you might need, volunteering for the animal sanctuary will not only be appreciated by the sanctuary keepers, but giving back can be a powerful anecdote when you are feeling a little deflated. Even if you don’t live near a sanctuary, go to their websites! Often, the stories of these rescued animals, as well as endearing animal photos, will be available to read and enjoy and serve as a reminder that we’re all in this for a greater purpose.
- Check in with your medical provider. If you’re feeling fatigued, depressed, or getting the sense from your body that something is “off”, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss what’s ailing you. Please understand, I am not a medical professional, but sometimes there are underlying issues with our health that we can’t identify until we seek the expertise of a professional. Hormone levels, Vitamin D, depression, stress, lack of sleep, and more all influence the homestasis of our bodies. Before you blame your diet, get tested on your hormone level health with an endocrinologist or schedule a physical with your family doctor. Another viral blog post that details the story of an ethical vegan wth ailing health who is determined to stay steadfast with her veganism reminds us that it is possible to be vegan, suffer from health problems, but still find ways to maintain a vegan lifestyle. While extra measures may have to be taken, which I know may only exacerbate those that are already struggling with veganism, there could be some answers discovered between you and a medical professional that shed some light on why something has been a challenge for you.
- Check out a vegan meet-up. If you go to Meetup.com, you can sign up for a free account and find groups near your area that meet to discuss and enjoy similar interests. I personally have checked out Meetup several times to discover the various vegan groups in my area. I know it can seem a bit daunting to go somewhere where you may not know anyone, so if needs be, recruit a friend to go with you. But getting out there to a Meetup group is a great way to branch out and find support and build relationships with others to keep you focused on your goals.
- As Lindsay of The Happy Herbivore recently wrote in her blog post on this topic (as I was in the progress of writing my own; great minds think alike!), it’s about progress, not perfection. If staying the course in your vegan lifestyle is proving difficult, but you really are sincere in wanting to make everlasting changes, tackle one day at a time. Don’t think about the rest of your life right now while you’re struggling. Focus on just getting through the next week, or the next day, or just through the weekend. Like all permanent changes, it takes time, patience, and perseverance. Have faith that you are capable of change, and that going vegan and staying vegan is one of the best choices you can make for your health, for the health of our dear planet, and for the animals.
I hope there are some talking points here that will be helpful in guiding you stay the course. If there’s any specific questions you ever have, please don’t hesitate to ask! And for those vegans that have some pearls of wisdom to impart, be sure to add your tips too! Good luck and stay strong…plant strong!
*header image courtesy of Penyulap on Wikimedia Commons, footer image courtesy of Koshyk on Flickr