Things I Find Hardest About Being Vegan

Hardest Being Vegan - Featured

If you had asked me a few years what I thought would be the hardest thing transitioning from being vegetarian to full out vegan, I would have immediately answered, “Giving up cheese!” As it turns out, eliminating dairy products wasn’t that difficult, as the cravings stopped shortly after they weren’t a part of my diet.

Hardest Being Vegan - Mindy with DogsWhat I’ve found to be the hardest about being vegan has surprised me. After all, I grew up eating meat… and lots of it. I admit, I had preconceived notions of what vegetarian and vegan meals were; they were incomplete dishes, a haphazard compilation of vegetable side dishes. Wow, was I wrong! Today, I see vegan as a type of cuisine rather than a list of food restrictions.

Cutting out animals and animal products from my life has actually been easier than I thought. Here, however, is what I find toughest about being vegan:

Surprise Ingredients

Staying up to date with all the non-vegan ingredients, often hidden behind their chemical compound name, is one of the toughest and most frustrating aspects of trying to live a vegan life. Who would think, for example, that you would have to avoid Guinness beer because it includes fish bladder in its brew, avoid marshmallows because of its gelatin, or avoid raspberry-flavored candies because it includes the anal glands of a beaver.

Hardest Being Vegan - Mindy with Cow

Restaurant Errors

When I go out to eat at a non-vegan restaurant, I’m fully prepared to have an extremely limited menu to choose from. Although it’s frustrating that my choice will likely be between a garden salad and pasta with tomato sauce, I’m obviously dining there because of the company I’m with and not for the food. What’s difficult is when I explain my modified menu selection to the wait staff, such as “no cheese please” or “don’t include the egg, thanks”, only to find that my meal arrives with my requests seemingly ignored. The whole point was to eliminate my demand of animal products. Each time a restaurant makes this mistake, my heart sinks, because I know that more animals suffered needlessly.

Visiting a New Country with a Language Barrier

This is more of a privilege problem than anything else, so although it’s hard to break through language barriers in order to communicate vegan requests, I’ll continue to endure it. Often times, meals include nuts and seeds from convenient stores, as finding vegan options while traveling can be difficult.

Being a Mirror

Although I long for a more compassionate world, where more people are vegan, I’m not yelling from my soap box telling me that they should abandon their omnivorous ways. When I explain that I am vegan, a lifestyle that coincides with my moral and ethical beliefs, it’s hard to always be on the receiving end of defensive responses. My statement of being vegan is not meant to be an attack, but it often seems to result in people justifying their decision to eat meat. As with any topic I’m happy to discuss why I have chosen to be vegan. However, I am tired of consistently bearing the brunt of what appears to be the guilt of meat-eaters.

Hardest Being Vegan - Mindy with Birds

Trying to Find Sports Equipment

I am athletic and enjoy playing all types of sports, with my favorite being softball. My glove has almost reached the age of majority and has surpassed a state of “well-worn” and is quickly approaching “tattered”. My cleats have been fixed to the soles with crazy glue…twice. Since I will not buy leather, I’m stuck using my sub-par equipment that I’ve had for almost two decades and long before I became vegan. That is, of course, until companies start offering non-leather alternatives. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a softball gloves or cleats that do not use animal skin.

Hearing the Term “Humane Slaughter”

I believe this is one of the biggest oxymorons I have ever heard. It doesn’t matter how people spin it, slaughtering an animal can never be humane. Her life is being taken from her, without her consent. Period. I’m tired of people spending energy looking for the “right way” to do the wrong thing!

Hardest Being Vegan - Mindy with Dani

Seeing Horrific Photos of Animal Abuse

As a vegan, I have found a community with other like-minded folk. I have joined groups on Facebook and have found friends living a similar lifestyle. This leads to my social media feeds consistently displaying disgusting images of what happens in slaughter houses and other forms of animal abuse. I understand that these photos are intended to shock non-vegans and hopefully have them reconsider what goes on their plate. Although I value the importance of these images, they are still really hard to look at.

Meat “Jokes”

I’m often asked if I want a steak as soon as I explain that I don’t eat meat. I don’t get that, nor do I think it’s funny. If someone told me they were diabetic, I certainly wouldn’t snicker and offer them a dessert high in sugar, and I certainly wouldn’t ask light-heartedly “wanna beer?” to a person, who had just confided in me how long they’ve been sober. I’m tired of people cracking bacon jokes when they see a pig or suddenly “needing a hamburger” when passing cows in a field.

Hardest Being Vegan - Mindy with Tank

Seeing So Much Wasted Food

I think back to my teenage days working at Burger King, half a lifetime ago, and I recall tallying up the “waste count” at the end of my shift each day. All the food prepared just in case, past their ten-minute shelf-life, thrown away because not enough customers ordered it. It was my job to add up how many burgers, chicken strips and fish patties were wasted. It breaks my heart to think of all the lives lost, not in the name of feeding hungry bellies, but rather for the convenience of having readily available meat.

Selective Compassion

When I hear people say that they “love animals” while they have a dead one on their plate, all I hear is hypocrisy. I wish they could see the utter disconnect between their words and their actions. It’s hard to live in a society where the accepted definition of “animal lover” only extends itself to selected species, ignoring those trapped in the meat and dairy industries. Why does a single case of dog abuse raise more outrage than the ongoing atrocities of the millions of pigs and cows in slaughter houses? I would rather hear a self-proclaimed animal lover tell the truth: “I love cats, dogs and other cute animals.” Or perhaps, “I love endangered animals, like elephants and panda bears”.

What do you find difficult about being vegan?

31 thoughts on “Things I Find Hardest About Being Vegan

  1. Lauren

    This is a great summary of things that I go through on a regular basis and I’m sure that lots of people who are vegan go through most of these. Close to home, I haven’t had much problem with restaurants accommodating me and I rarely end up getting the wrong item thankfully, but I can see when traveling about when there is a bit of a language barrier, how that may be a problem. I find that at work it is the worst for me – people purposefully talking about how much they LOVE bacon in front of me, people asking ridiculous questions “How much could I pay you to eat this meat? If you were on a desert island and you only had meat to eat, would you?” I definitely don’t preach to people and if someone asks me a genuine question, I will be happy to answer it! But being mocked, I don’t enjoy!

    1. Mindy Postoff

      Hi Lauren,
      The desert island question is ridiculous! I often respond along a similar vein: “If you were in a place where there was tons of food that didn’t harm a single animal, would you still kill an animal to eat?”
      I’m a strong believer that love and compassion will eventually triumph over hunger and greed.
      Thanks for your comment πŸ™‚

  2. Judith Smith

    Thank you for all your words of wisdom,it is hard sometimes but we get through. I to hate the animal abuse,it truly is heartbreaking. Enjoy seeing you on your travels,be safe.

    1. Mindy Postoff

      Hi Judith,
      Thank you for commenting. I feel the same way, but am comforted by my motto: “If evil must enter this world, let it not pass through me.” It helps me separate myself from the pain, suffering and injustice I see in the world, but keeps me at a close enough distance to work for change.
      Mindy πŸ™‚

  3. Dee

    Hi Mindy, great post! Yes, the hardest thing for me was giving up cheese and I went through the same thing. I weaned myself off of it and now I cannot stand it if I ever accidentally get a sprinkle of it on my dish in a restaurant. I just can’t eat it. It didn’t take me long to wean myself off it either! In fact, being vegan was so much easier than I thought, I wish I’d turned vegan much earlier. I get the same silly questions as Lauren mentioned above, I also do not preach to anyone as people can eat what they want if they choose to, but it’s the meat industry conditions and slaughtering that I cannot bear and yeah, how can ‘humane’ and ‘slaughter’ possibly form a real term? No.

    1. Mindy Postoff

      Hey Dee!
      Thanks for your comment. From the food aspect, being vegan is really easy. It’s all the other stuff that’s hard! Slowly, however, as people learn about the atrocities and align their actions with what they know is right, I believe the other stuff will be less prominent.

  4. Helen LeBrecht

    I love this commentary. I was a pescatarian for 35 years, became a vegetarian on 1/1/14; but broke my hip skiing in France on 3/17/14 and temporarily decided not to become vegan until my bones strengthened. I have disuse osteoporosis from a Lis franc injury 5 years ago. My staple food is yogurt, which would be hard at this moment to give up; however I realize vegan is the only ethical choice. I am an elephant activist .

    1. Mindy Postoff

      Hi Helen,
      Thanks for writing and I’m sorry to hear about your skiing accident. Nowadays, I know that there are soy-based yogurts and there is plenty of calcium in dark, green veggies like broccoli. A good friend has osteoporosis and she’s been vegan for years, so it’s certainly possible to live with both πŸ™‚ I hope your bones get strong soon!

  5. Diana Edelman

    I never think about the little things, like anal glands from beavers in raspberry candies!! That makes it even harder, and although I’m not vegan, I still try not to eat animal byproducts or purchase products made with animals. Really well thought out round-up.

  6. Giselle and Cody

    Totally agree with the Meat Jokes. It’s really frustrating sometimes when people try to get a rise out of you. The selective compassion is another thing that is hard. You try to explain to people why is a dog and a cow different and when they answer “because, it is” Arrgghhh. Hahaha We do what we can to educate people and hopefully some people will wake up and see that we share this planet with millions of other species.

  7. Mo

    Mindy, you use words beautifully! You say what I feel in my heart but can’t quite find the words. Bless your vegan socks, and thank you.
    And I see that Dang has good taste in people too, she is comfortable sharing the couch with you, so close to her. That’s pretty darn awesome for you both.

  8. Alex

    Interesting insights, as always. However, as an compassionate omnivore (I do believe it is a thing!), I would encourage you to give kudos to those making positive changes to their diet and lifestyle rather than criticize them for the steps they can’t/won’t make right now. For example, when I made a major switch to using beauty and home products not tested on animals, I was shocked to receive criticism from those who felt I was a hypocrite for doing that while continuing to eat meat. I know I struggle with this as well in regards to the issues I’m most passionate about — it’s hard to watch others make what you feel are destructive choices. But not only do I think focusing on the positive is a better way to live, I also think it’s the best way to eventually win others over to your cause. No one likes being put on the defensive — but they do like to feel the inherent rewards of baby steps in the right direction.

    1. Mindy Postoff

      Hey Alex,

      Thanks for your comment. Please know that I most certainly DO applaud the changes others make on their journey to live a more compassionate life. Being vegan is a choice that I’ve made, but it is certainly not a cause that I’m trying to recruit people for. Of course, I’m happy to open the lines of discussion with people, provided everyone involved in the conversation refuse the “preacher” or “attacker” roles. Congrats for only supporting products not tested on animals. I wish there was a sticker/badge on all products that are animal-friendly, much like Kosher items. It would make shopping so much easier! πŸ™‚

  9. Erica

    Major props to you for taking that extra step. I love people with conviction – and while I, myself, am not vegan, I love when people stand behind it. πŸ™‚

  10. Gail at Large

    I’m not vegan, but I really appreciate you taking the time to write about the ethical arguments behind veganism because I do believe they need to be out there for people to consider seriously. Rightly or wrongly, vegans have a reputation for being ‘evangelical’ about it and I don’t think omnivores are justified at all in mocking vegans. Responsible consumerism is based on information and questioning, not badgering.

    Interestingly, it’s people raised in industrially-developed countries who are often ignorant of where food comes from because it’s purchased from a store and already processed, whereas people who come from developing countries are more aware of where their food comes from because they have to source it and prepare it themselves. But even among the two very different economic situations, veg*ns are to be found, which proves that it’s a lifestyle choice available to those who want it enough.

    I had a housemate in Toronto, however, who was a vegetarian for years until his doctor told him that his body couldn’t handle it, his health was declining because he wasn’t getting enough protein from non-meat sources, and he had to start eating meat again or there would be serious problems. I can’t comment on that because I’m not a doctor, but it’s an unfortunate situation to be in.

  11. Rachel

    I love being vegan. I know my diet isn’t lacking in nutrition or in flavor; I have more variety in my diet as a vegan than I ever did before! The hardest thing for me is that for some people, it seems to be the only thing they want to talk about.
    “So, are you still vegan?” YES, it’s always yes, it’s not a fad, please stop asking.
    “how vegan are you, I mean, do you eat chicken and fish sometimes?” hmmm…what do you think “vegan” means??
    “I made some rice with chicken broth, is that OK? How about a cheese plate?” Not for me thanks (and this is why I ate before I came over).
    Believe it or not, my diet is one of the least interesting things about me. I can think of so many other things to talk about than what I don’t eat *Though if you want to hear about the meals I’ve cooked recently I would love to tell you all about them because they are amazing and will blow your mind* These same people bring it up every time I see them. Every. Single. Time. It’s boring to rehash this conversation over and over and makes me feel so one-dimensional. For some reason they think because I’m vegan, it’s all I do or think about. I also feel like I’ve become the token vegan for them to brag to their friends about. The weird thing is, most of these people are family (including inlaws) and knew me before I was vegan and we never had conversations like this before. No one ever talks to omnivores that way – “hey, you still eating pork? What about SPAM?” – it’s just not that interesting of a conversation starter, where do you go after that? I prefer it when people say things like “oh yeah, I forgot you were vegan” when we go out to eat or if I politely refuse a piece of cake. It’s a small part of who I am as a human being and when people continue to make a big deal of it, I feel like it diminishes my other qualities.

  12. Mauro Mazzoni

    Meat eating is an addiction. I’ve been a huge meat eater ever since a child and over the last few years have been strongly considering becoming a vegan, the few attempts I’ve made have been pathetic.

    I have had trouble in my attempts before mainly due to my current circumstances. I moved out of my parents house at 17 and have terrible cooking skills. I’m now 19 at university, living alone and have literally no free time to cook and live on take aways and ready meals with the odd home cooked meal. I’m not going to let money and time become a factor anymore because ultimately it really comes down to laziness.

    My lifestyle is not in line with my ethical beliefs which is hypocritical and wrong. I have decided 2015 is the year I take the big step and never go back. Would you recommend taking ‘baby steps’ and going vegetarian first before moving on to veganism?

    1. Mindy Postoff

      Hi Mauro,

      Thanks for your comment. I was a huge meat eater growing up, so I completely understand where you’re coming from. I went vegan when I could no longer stand the hypocrisy of my life, and it was the easiest thing to do. If you’re truly ready, laziness won’t come into play.

      Today, there is an unbelievably vast array of vegan options out there, and you’ll find them when you look for them. In terms of going to vegetarianism as a stepping stone, that’s really up to you. If the idea of not being able to eat cheese any more scares you, try giving it up for 2 weeks or a month. I lost a taste for it in that time, and no longer miss it at all.

      It sounds as if you know in your heart that you want to be vegan. It may seem daunting today, but I truly believe you’ll find more peace, harmony and compassion if you live your life in a way that echoes your heart. There’ll definitely be things that will be difficult (as you’ve noticed in my post), but living a life with open eyes and without hypocrisy is one of life’s greatest gifts.

      Thanks again for writing!
      Mindy πŸ™‚

  13. JTA

    Hey Mindy! I loved reading your article. I recently became vegan as a result of out production company taking on the task of producing a vegan cooking show on Youtube, my co-owner and I wanted to know the struggles of beingvegan in the south (and to eat healthier). Honestly, the hardest thing I’ve found is lunch time with the co-workers that are eating all the stuff I would normally eat! Lol. That and having to restock my pantry with vegan friendly foods!

    All in all, its not that hard of a switch. I personally love vegetables and tofu for cutting meat out of my diet wasn’t that difficult. This experimenting with veganism is only supposed to be for a month, but I definitely see myself continuing!

    1. Mindy Postoff

      Thanks for reading and commenting! πŸ™‚

      I agree, eating vegan really isn’t that hard and if you step outside of the stereotypical salads, steamed vegetables and pasta with tomato sauce. I challenge you to turn around the lunch table and make your colleagues jealous of the food you bring!

  14. Amy

    Excellent post- very true. Have you thought about buying used sporting equipment/leather from second hand stores? I am also vegan and do not buy new leather but will buy it at thrift stores. It might not be ideal but it may be the best alternative. Also, buying things used does help the environment which in turn helps animals (not polluting animal habitats/rivers/air through new manufacturing and shipping).
    Keep up the great blog- I’ve really enjoyed reading it!

  15. Tara

    Ooh hello, a fellow travel loving vegan! I agree with basically everything you wrote, especially the guilty justification questions from meat eaters when you say you’re vegan. lol but I have to say, most people tell me I’m one of the least condescending vegans they’ve ever met which makes me sad, that there are vegans out there being that off-putting towards everyone. Sometimes we forget, we were once among the ill informed / in denial …. Anyhoo.. Thanks for the travel tips. I’m heading to Bangkok this fall and hoping vegan will be a breeze.. Then we are heading to india, land of ghee and lassi. Yikes. Always an adventure trying to eat vegan and travel ! πŸ™‚

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Tara,
      Your upcoming travel plans sound fantastic! We haven’t been to India yet, so we would be very interested to hear about your experiences there as a vegan. While in Bangkok, check out Ethos Restaurant and there are a handful of others popping up. πŸ™‚

  16. Ava Mandella

    i could definitely relate to what was said in this one – especially the part about realizing how many lives go to waste because the meat doesn’t get eaten. i am so happy that i woke up to the violence on my plate before it was too late for me to make a change.

  17. sarah

    I definitely relate to the wasted food point, it’s heartbreaking. I also find it very hard to see the sheer volume of meat in shops, going to a super market can feel quite traumatic with endless packages of dead flesh around you and knowing how many animals have suffered & died and how this situation is replicated over and over in the next shop, the next restaurant, the next town, the next City, the next Country. I find that hard to process and I feel close to tears on a daily basis when I let these thoughts in. I also find it really frustrating how few restaurants offer good vegan choices when there are in fact so many wonderful things they could offer, the fact that they also have to add cheese and milk unnecessarily to so many things is also a frustration. Luckily most places allow you to Veganise dishes but I long for the day when vegan options are just as readily available as vegetarian and I don’t have to feel awkward when I go out to eat with family and friends.

  18. Jenn

    I have just changed my diet to vegan and it was a journey over a few years . My husband hasn’t shaken the meat addiction yet but I never nag him about it .
    I also cleaned up my act with all my makeup products etc and perserved until I found the truely Peta approved vegan ones .
    What changed me ? Watching that movie Earthlings. …….forever .

  19. Roger Nehring

    I really like this article and your writing style. I looked up the beaver anus thing and found that it is not necessarily in raspberry nor any candy and is likely not used much at all any more(it’s very expensive).

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Roger, thanks for doing research on castoreum. After reading your comment, I too did some research and found several sources that would indicate that yes, since the 1980s in the USA, castoreum did indeed start getting replaced by a cheaper synthetic material. Expense was sited as one of the reasons and interestingly enough, another reason was that this ingredient is not kosher and so if companies want to comply with kosher foods (increasing their profit), they could not use this ingredient. It would still appear that castoreum is still used in some products outside the United States so is something to consider when traveling outside the United States.

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