Based on an article by Veganuary for Vegan Food & Living
First, you need to know this: there is no such thing as the perfect vegan. Every one of us has made a mistake at some point, either by eating something non-vegan accidentally or because the temptation was just too great, and we ate it willingly.
It happens. But it doesn’t mean we’re not vegan. It means we’re human, and we’re doing our best in an imperfect world where non-vegan foods are marketed to us every day in a thousand ways.
One Vegan’s Confession
As a cheese addict, my first week without it was difficult. Back then, most cheeses were made with rennet (from calves’ stomachs) and so even as a vegetarian I had not been able to eat much cheese. Just as the food companies were making more and more cheeses suitable for vegetarians, I was discovering all the reasons why I should be vegan.
Readers, I was torn. In that first vegan week, I thought about cheese a lot more than you might expect. I even dreamt about it. Inevitably, perhaps, in the supermarket at the end of the week, I cracked and bought every piece marked ‘vegetarian’ they had.
It was a lot of cheese, and I ate it all. Yes, I felt sick. That’s what eating pounds of cheese will do for you. But I also felt guilty because I already knew that in the dairy industry, calves were stolen from their mums and killed. For both those reasons, I never touched it again.
There have been accidents over the years, of course, with perhaps the most memorable slip-up being the time I ate a piece of veal that looked exactly like a chickpea sitting on top of a bowl of hummus in a near-dark restaurant in Egypt. Veal, of all the non-vegan things for a vegan to eat!
What Can’t You Stop Thinking About?
Most new vegans miss something, at least to begin with, and one of the most problematic foods is cheese. The reason could be that most vegans were vegetarian first and relied quite heavily on cheese. It could be that there is something to the suggestion that it is mildly addictive, or it could be that we are simply programmed to like high-fat, high-salt foods and cheese hits the spot.
Whether it is cheese, chocolate, fried eggs or a late-night kebab you’re missing, craving non-vegan foods doesn’t make you a bad person, or even a bad vegan. After all, no one said these foods don’t taste good!
And if you do give in to temptation, you are not alone. But please remember this: eating something non-vegan should not derail you entirely. Chalk it up to experience and move on.
Tips from Vegans Who Fell Off the Wagon
- Find the vegan versions of all the things you miss so when those cravings hit, you have a fantastic substitute on standby. Thankfully, almost everything can be made or bought vegan so all you need to do is find it.
- Prepare ahead! The worst thing is to let yourself get hungry before trying to work out how you will cook a vegan meal when there is absolutely nothing vegan in the cupboard. Make a meal plan. Bookmark recipes. Stock up on ingredients. And keep a ready meal or two on standby for emergencies.
- It pays to do a little research before eating out. Most places cater for vegans but if the options are sparse are not appetising, you may wish to suggest the party eats elsewhere. Don’t wait until you are faced with nothing but a baked potato to work out you should have gone somewhere else!
Be Kind to Yourself
If you’re struggling with cravings, or have slipped up, please don’t assume that veganism is not for you. The reasons you had for trying vegan are still there, and they are still important.
Even if you make mistakes or give in to cravings, don’t worry, just keep going because things do change.
In time, you’ll learn more about veganism, find lots of new foods that you love, and you’ll get into the vegan groove. It will start to feel normal, and much more straightforward.
And the more vegan foods you find and love, the less you will want the non-vegan. Our taste buds seem to change when we become vegan, so we love our food just as much as before, but it’s different foods we love.
It’s OK to be an Almost-Vegan
If you simply cannot imagine life without one particular animal-based food, just be vegan apart from that one thing. You’ll be doing so much more for the animals and the planet than if you threw the towel in completely.
And one day, that last remaining bit of cheese or chocolate that you love so much might lose its hold on you, and you may find to your great surprise that the vegan versions suit you much better.