I See You Struggling with Veganism and You’re Not Alone
Veganism can be hard, but struggling doesn’t make you a failure.
Today, I had a pizza pocket. Last month, on my birthday, I ate a steak, and I’m not mad about it. In 2019 I started a plant-based diet, but before this, I had been an omnivore for over 37 years. That’s 37 years of steaks, hamburgers, pepperoni, Wisconsin cheese, chicken wings, and holiday hams. (Okay, I probably didn’t eat most of that stuff when I was a baby, but you get the picture.) It was 37 years of eating one way until one day it wasn’t.
My Health Required a Change
I didn’t decide one night to become vegan. It was a slow process. I had been leaning vegetarian for a few years, but in 2019 my weight, stomach problems, fatigue, and heartburn became too much to handle. I had to make a serious change in my diet.
For the most part, making that change alleviated a lot of my problems. My heartburn went from every day to a couple of times a month, and my frequent stomachaches became almost nonexistent. My weight dropped by 60 pounds, but I could not lose the rest no matter what I tried. When the pandemic hit, I was put on furlough like most of America, and that meant I had fewer steps to climb in a day. Forty-five pounds came piling back on in a blink of an eye. I never gained any energy from my diet change or exercise. (Yes, I’ve had a thyroid test and a few other tests. So far, everything has come back in perfect health.)
The Cravings Struggle
Overall, I really enjoy a plant-based diet. Even though I am not a vegan for ethical reasons, I appreciate the fact that my diet is less harmful to animals and the environment. But liking my main diet doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with omnivore cravings almost daily.
To be honest, I’ve craved so many non-vegan foods over the last two years, I’ve felt close to giving up on it altogether. I’m sure cooking for an omnivore is part of the problem. Maybe I would have fewer cravings if we both ate a plant-based diet, but then again, maybe not. I own a food magazine, so I am frequently looking at recipes for many types of eating styles.
The first year I ignored the cravings and it really showed me that I could have self-control when I put my mind to it, but by the second year, the cravings were so intense that most of the substitutes I used to overcome them were not working. I was beating myself up constantly for having these hankerings. How can I still desire something I haven’t eaten in over a year! Cravings around my cycle were the worst. I just wanted a steak or a giant bacon cheeseburger.
Finally, I allowed myself to eat some eggs. Once I made that allowance, I did not crave them as often. It was for that reason I decided to allow one day a week to eat whatever I wanted to eat, but with the caveat that I had to listen to my body. If I am not craving cheese or chips, steak or chicken, then I do not have them. However, if I have this voice screaming in the back of my mind that I should just order that pizza with cheese, I am going to listen.
Perfect is not normal, but failures, stumbles, and missteps are. Allow a little grace and then move on.
This works for me in a few ways: by giving myself permission to indulge my cravings (within reason) I have fewer of them. I think this is because my stubborn inner child doesn’t like to be told no and once there are no restraints it doesn’t care anymore. It also makes me feel more normal. I live in an area where BBQ reigns supreme and a vegetarian or vegan option is non-existent or an afterthought. It’s wonderful being able to order out on a Friday night without having to chase down a restaurant that offers something I might be able to eat and hope everyone else likes the menu, too.
Lastly, it will help me maintain an eating habit that is healthier and more sustainable in the long run. I know I can never return to a full-on meat and cheese diet because my daily heartburn would return and so would my stomach problems. I also imagine I would gain more weight and experience even more fatigue. That said, by allowing myself a little grace, I am ensuring long-term results. I don’t want a diet — I want a lifelong habit.
Whether you went vegan for ethical reasons or simply for health, it is okay to admit it when you are struggling. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat a hamburger one day. Most people struggle with eating a plant-based diet. You are not alone. Be okay with that one hamburger and move on. You are doing the best you can on a daily basis and you really can’t expect yourself to be perfect. Your life is not an Instagram account. Perfect is not normal, but failures, stumbles, and missteps are. Allow a little grace and then move on.
Lisa is the creative director for The Chews Letter magazine. She believes that food can be healing for both the body and soul, and it is her goal to bring you to the table to break bread and start a conversation. Sign up for The Chews Letter newsletter for recipes and articles.
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