I was interested in eating healthier and so I read a book that suggested that eating meat, dairy and eggs, particularly in the quantities that the average person living in the West consumed wasn’t a healthy lifestyle choice. I gave veganism a go. I didn’t find it too difficult because I didn’t particularly like meat. I found it much harder to give up foods like chocolate and cake (luckily I can eat dark chocolate and vegan cakes). It wasn’t easy – when I first started university, I started eating salmon and milk chocolate again. A couple of months later I watched ‘The End of the Line’, a documentary about overfishing, and I found it so shocking I stopped eating fish (the Guardian has lots of articles about overfishing which are very good). I can’t remember how I managed to give up milk chocolate, but I think it was a combination of deciding to boycott Nestle (I used to be very fond of kit kats) and gradually getting used to dark chocolate (I was never a fan of it before).
Motivators (what motivates me to sustain the behaviour)
- Enjoying the challenge of living life differently and learning new things, trying new foods e.g. I didn’t know about raw food before I became vegan, and I hadn’t tried many of my now favourite foods (e.g. oyster mushrooms, kale chips, raw chocolate, nutritional yeast)
- Remembering that it’s not a competition – I’m motivated more by the thought of improving myself than what others are doing.
- Googling – reading articles on the environmental benefits of vegetarianism/veganism (the Guardian has some particularly good articles on environmental benefits)
- When I started uni, I was amazed at other student’s dietary choices, who had grown up eating meat every day. I thought it was very strange, having grown up in Greece, where most of my peers had meat-free meals regularly. This motivated me to continue being vegan as I thought of the enormous quantity of meat, dairy and eggs that were being eaten throughout the country every day.
- Watching documentaries that reinforced the message e.g. Food Inc, The End of the Line.
- Meeting other vegans at uni – they made it look easy and normal.
- Being stubborn.
- Knowing exactly why you are vegan at all times e.g. memorising a few facts about the environmental impact of dietary choices, reminding yourself and others of these reasons. Veganism is often regarded as extreme, but I think that it is a rational response to our very broken food system – environmentally and socially (meat, dairy and eggs are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, which is a shame because there are so many other areas that the money could go towards. I think these foods should be subsidised (or else they would be a luxury that only the rich could afford), but not to the extent that they are today).
- I was never particularly interested in animal welfare/rights before I was vegan, but after I became vegan I read more about these issues and I now feel more strongly about them.
- Knowing that I’m not depriving myself in any way – I make sure to treat myself to delicious snacks and going to restaurants. Remembering that it’s not a punishment, it’s a choice and it’s something I want to do.
- Positive response from other people – my friends and family were very supportive of my choice, and most people respond positively and usually have lots of questions for me.
- Becoming vegan helped me overcome other challenges in my life. A friend of mine once pointed out to me that yes, being vegan was a positive thing, but had I considered the carbon footprint of buying new clothes? What about boycotting Amazon, Apple, Pret, Play and all the companies that decide not to pay their fair share of tax? I don’t think that I would have been able to act in these areas, which are difficult to do something about, had I not managed to become vegan.
Enablers (What might help you)
- If you enjoy cooking & enjoy the challenge of cooking with different ingredients (e.g. using flax seeds instead of eggs when baking) you’ll probably find it easy to make more vegan meals.
- Sneaking more vegan foods into your diet e.g. lentils (there are so many great varieties), quinoa, beans, milk alternatives (rice, oat, soy, coconut, almond, hazelnut, hemp) etc. From my personal experience, I find that people whose diet is meat/dairy/egg heavy find it difficult to imagine what they would eat otherwise. I ate a lot of veggie food growing up, so wasn’t especially difficult for me to transition to a vegan diet. Getting yourself used to veggie food could help you make the transition in the future.
Barriers (and how I overcome them)
- Inconvenience – I try to plan ahead for this one. I know that I will get annoyed if there’s nothing for me to eat and I’m hungry, so I will usually pack snacks or google restaurant menus in advance to make sure there is a vegan option when I am out and about.
- Not wanting to seem rude at work or in front of family/friends – I try to speak positively about being vegan and explain to people why it’s important to me
- Not being able to cook – I cook almost every day and I’m not particularly good. I’m usually rushing so the meals I make are edible, but not delicious.
- Not being willing to cook – personally I don’t have a choice because I don’t like sandwiches and there aren’t many vegan ready meals that are easily accessible.
- Being thought of as an outsider/ as someone who looks down on others – I try to speak positively about being vegan
- Going on holiday – some places are amazing (American cities such as Boston, New York, Seattle are incredible – there’s so much vegan food and vegan junk food in supermarkets and restaurants that London is really put to shame) and other places are terrible (Norway- not a country for vegetarians or vegans). I usually research restaurants before I go on holiday.
- Enjoying the taste of meat/dairy/eggs. This is a tough one. On the one hand there are some really great meat and dairy alternatives, but I know that many people think that these aren’t the same as the real thing. From my personal experience, your tastes can change. I couldn’t stomach the bitterness of dark chocolate before I was vegan – now it doesn’t seem especially bitter at all. It’s all in the mind.