All too often, following a vegan lifestyle is seen as restrictive. Undeniably, this is part of the truth. But what about the things you gain? Here are some of the positive (or at least, not negative) side effects that I’ve experienced since going vegan…
1 – My taste buds have evolved
Things I used to hate (Yes, tofu, I’m looking at you) I now like. Actively. In my pre-vegan life I used to pick tofu out of dishes, now I add it. Things that don’t really taste like cheese taste like cheese to me.
My brain has evolved, too. Really. I used to have this weird idea of what was “gross” (Hummus. Anything fermented). Now, I will shovel any foodstuff made from plants into my mouth without a second thought. I mean, what’s gross about plants?
2 – Giving up meat was easy
Way easier than I thought it would be, actually. I had the odd craving but managed to find replacements (see below) far more easily than I thought.
Giving up dairy was more of a challenge. Not because I like it, but because it’s in almost everything.
3 – Finally understand why people eat meat replacements
I gave up eating animal products primarily because I don’t agree with the way animals are treated by industry, not because I didn’t like meat. I did. In fact, I purposefully went out for a Brazilian BBQ the night before I gave up meat.
I didn’t really miss the taste of meat, though; it was the texture I craved. Sure enough, as time passed I found decent replacements. Portobello mushrooms are surprisingly meaty. Tempeh was a revelation (the first time I had it I thought it was meat and picked it all out of my meal). Faux seitan “duck” is amazing in curries. Quorn’s vegan “chicken” pieces are fantastic in stir-fries. And my latest obsession? Jackfruit. It’s exactly like pulled pork.
4 – I’ve found a ready-made group of like-minded people
The vegan community often gets a bad rap. As a fairly new convert I can honestly say this is unfair. Of course there are individuals who can be a bit harsh or judgemental but I challenge you to find a group of human beings in which there aren’t (and tell me so I can immediately befriend them all).
I have never felt more accepted than by the vegan community. There is always someone on hand to answer questions, to empathise, to sympathise or to support. Transitioning to veganism can be a somewhat lonely journey if none of your friends or family members are on the same path, but the new friends you make (who definitely don’t need to replace your old ones) will be a brilliant side effect of being vegan.
5 – I learn something new almost every day
Literally. Every. Single. Day.
Sometimes it’s because of those new vegan friends I’ve made who love a good debate. But often it’s through conversations with family members, colleagues and existing friends who ask questions and instigate discussions that make me see things differently or inspire me to research something more. I am actively open to these opportunities and grateful for them as they arise.
6 – Going out for meals needs a little extra planning, but it’s totally worth it.
People often assume that going out for meals as a vegan is going to be difficult. Undeniably, your choices will be more limited if you choose to eat at restaurants without a fully vegan menu (For me that’s a positive thing: too many dishes to choose from means dinner time becomes way more stressful than it needs to be!). Calling ahead is the key.
Vegan options on mainstream restaurants’ menus can be less than thrilling and chefs can often struggle to think of something to feed a vegan at short notice if there are no vegan options at all on their menu. Calling ahead (at least 48 hours, more if you can) means the chef has time to plan and prepare something that you will like, but also something they can be proud to serve; some relish the chance and will even ask you if you have any favourite ingredients you would like them to include.
“I have a particular smile when I peruse fully vegan menus that is not unlike the Cheshire Cat”
7 – The excitement of eating good vegan food or finding vegan-friendly shoes you love is quite possibly the best feeling in the world.
I enjoy food and day-to-day I eat fairly well. But when I find, or cook, AMAZING vegan food the level of excitement is off the charts. I can barely contain myself. The idea that what I’m eating is not only out-of-this-world delicious, but also guilt-free (unfortunately not calorie-free…) is mind-blowing. (Apparently) I have a particular smile when I peruse fully vegan menus that is not unlike the Cheshire Cat. I have also recently discovered vegan baking and honestly don’t know how I have managed the past two and a half years without it…
The same goes for shoes. Shopping for a friend’s wedding I despaired at the thought of finding pretty silver sandals and put off going shopping until the day before. Lo and behold, I found a lovely pair of canvas-strapped cork wedge sandals for the day and beautiful silver faux leather sandals for the evening on the high street within an hour or so. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t…
8 – I feel like a better human being
Perhaps the best and most important side effect of veganism? I truly believe I am a better person. Veganism means the life I live on the outside reflects my thoughts and beliefs, I no longer have to find ways to justify myself or rationalise this part of my life.
I am more patient. More kind. More compassionate. More passionate. I care more deeply and love more fully. I am more adventurous. I am more curious. I am more confident. I am more congruent.
While there are definitely things I no longer choose to do, buy or eat I can honestly say that I’ve never felt happier or healthier. Veganism is a journey of revelations and excitement; there are definitely challenges along the way, but the things I gain definitely outweigh the things I have lost.
I try new foods regularly, I make new friends often, I eat amazing food and am on a continuous voyage of (self)discovery. What could be better than that?