You guys... big news: In a few days, I'm hitting my 1-year vegan anniversary! I remember last year thinking how long it would be until I could say I had been vegan for a year (or more) and somehow in a snap, time flew by and here I am. Vegan, committed, and so happy.
I'm working on a post about my first year as a vegan, but I wanted to start a series of posts answering some frequently asked questions, now that I'm a vegan expert and everything. (JK I still have millions of questions for vegans who have been at it a million times longer than me - mad respect to all of you btw). I'm a mentor for the Vegan Outreach Mentorship program and one of my recent mentees has been asking me some wonderful questions that I also had when I first got started, so I thought others may want to learn from the conversations we've had. So here it goes...
Q: How long did it take you to be "fully" vegan?
For me personally, I had been on-off vegan for ~5 years, but once I decided to make the commitment last year, I went vegan pretty much over night. I did make one exception, which was when I traveled to Mexico just days after deciding to be vegan, and I was *mostly* vegan with a few small exceptions, but I sort of used that trip as my "last supper" moment.
However, for most people, this answer may vary - which is why I want to highlight it here. Everyone has their own journey towards veganism and there is no baseline timeframe to compare yourself to. I already knew a lot about vegan food, I knew how to cook, I knew how to eat healthy, etc so I had lots of knowledge that made it possible to go "cold-tofurkey", and its in my nature to be impatient and need to do things right away. Other people are on entirely different trajectories: from pescatarian, vegetarian, flexatarian, and anything in between, to learning how to cook or learning basic nutrition - for some people this takes time, and for others it doesn't. Some people need the slow transition to make it sustainable, and other people need to rip the bandaid off right away. The point is - it can take you as long as you need. Don't compare yourself to anyone else but your past self, and go from there.
Q: What was the hardest thing for you to cut out?
Guess what: not cheese! Probably baked goods for me. I love cheese, don't get me wrong, and everyone always says cheese for good reason, but for me the hardest thing to resist even still is baked goods/pastries/desserts, simply because you can't actually *see* any of the animal-based ingredients so its really easy to turn a blind eye. I have to remind myself that most things are made with eggs and butter so I stay connected to reality, because otherwise the temptation is too strong.
Q: Do you eat any processed foods that don't list any ingredients that are animal based but still say on the label "may contain milk"?
Not all vegans will agree with me but thats ok - there's no vegan police! I take these things on a case-by-case basis, because rigidity just doesn't work for me. Now normally things don't say, "may contain milk" because otherwise milk would simply be listed as an ingredient. However what is more common is to see something that says "this item was produced in a facility that also handles milk/nuts/wheat/etc and may contain trace amounts." I honestly think each person has a different reaction to these, but personally, if there's no animal products in the ingredients list itself, then I think its fine. Others may not want to support places that even touch animal products, but sometimes there's nothing else to eat and this is as good as it gets, and I'm okay with it. The goal is never to be perfect, the goal is to be mindful, make conscious decisions, and try your hardest to reduce the suffering in the world. Just do what you can.
Q: What breads, if any, do you eat?
Ezekiel bread! Or any sprouted grain bread. This one is tricky because most bread is pure junk and it often contains milk or butter as well as added/hidden sugars and other strange chemicals, so I try to avoid bread whenever possible. It sucks because I love carbs and could survive on bread alone, but my higher brain knows that bread is usually just shit. So I go with sprouted grain breads because its the best and healthiest bread I can find, and its delicious.
Q: What do you do when you are at a restaurant and order a vegan meal but are unsure if the vegetables are sautéed in butter?
I always ask, or I specify to please cook with olive oil. I've learned to not give a fuck what people think, restaurants or otherwise. I have a right to know what I'm eating and to eat what I want to be eating, especially if I'm paying for it. This doesn't mean I'm entitled to find vegan options everywhere I go - sadly our world still lives in the dark age (aka the meat age) - but I do always ask politely and explain what I want/need without any shame whatsoever. I thought this process would be way scarier than it actually is, but restaurants are quite willing to work with their guests to make sure everyone is happy, so just ask nicely, call ahead, talk to the chef, do what you need to do but don't compromise your values out of fear. Always speak up for what you need!
Hope this was helpful! I'll be sharing a few more FAQ's in my next post, so stay tuned!