Being new to veganism (or any new lifestyle change) can sometimes be a bit frustrating. I know this because I have been there myself. I was vegetarian for quite some time before venturing into veganism. I can distinctively remember what I recall being one of the most difficult days I’ve experienced after transferring over to eating a vegetarian diet.
My entire day was spent outside in the hot Florida sun while I worked an 8-hour shift as a lifeguard. After work, I had attended some night time classes for college. After class, I was invited out to a bar for “food” and drinks, I went straight there once my class ended. My day was so busy that I hadn’t eaten a proper meal at all. I figured that I’d just get something at the bar. Oh boy, was I in for a rollercoaster of emotions. I entered the bar, sat down with my friends, and flipped through the very short menu. To my surprise, there was not a single item that was suited for my new lifestyle. I was only a week or two into the change, and this was the first time I found myself in a difficult situation where I felt weak (physically and mentally).
The smells of fried food and hot sauce entered my nose as I watched everyone around me laugh and talk about how delicious everything was. They couldn’t stop talking about how full they were getting, all while my stomach rumbled in pain. I must have read over the menu 15 times in hope that something vegetarian-friendly would magically appear. There wasn’t even a salad on the menu and to my memory, the fries were cooked with the meat.
This was the first time I realized that I was in control of my thoughts and actions. It took a lot of willpower to push through the hunger pains and try to have a good time without getting trashed since all I had in my stomach was liquor at this point. I can confidently say that from that point further, I realized that vegetarianism (now veganism) is a lifestyle that requires awareness and preparation. Just because it takes more effort does not mean that it is in anyway difficult or impossible. It becomes second nature after a couple weeks or months, but just like any change in life, it takes time to adapt, trust me you will adapt and it is such an awarding feeling.
Learn from my mistakes
This blog post is written from a former newbie to you. I am here to deliver some helpful advice for newbies (or anyone having difficult times adjusting) who want to avoid getting stuck in an awkward or difficult moment.
TIPS FOR STAYING ON TRACK
Let’s first talk about going out to eat at restaurants.
A helpful tip is to call ahead before heading out to a restaurant. If you are getting invited to a new restaurant and are unsure of their options, I’d highly recommend calling the restaurant ahead of time.
- Call ahead, politely ask if they have any vegan options on their menu. Keep an open mind that not everyone is knowledgeable about veganism. You might need to do some explaining and simply state that you are looking for items that consist of no animal products which include; no meat, no lard (sometimes in beans and rice), no milk, no cheese no butter. (Check specific items as well, like pasta and bread).
- Speak with the manager or chef and politely ask if there is any way they could create a vegan dish for you. Calling ahead of time allows them to have time to prepare.
- Opt for sides or a salad. Most restaurants have some type of salad or side dishes for you to eat.
This advice can be applied when going to a restaurant or when getting invited to a family event/party.
- If you know that you will more than likely be eating a salad or side dishes at the restaurant, I’d suggest eating a smaller meal or maybe a smoothie before going out. That way you are full but also have room left to order something small to be able to partake in the eating aspect of the social event.
- If you know that you will not be able to eat at the restaurant, or maybe you’re unsure and unable to talk with the person hosting the party that you are attending to find out what meals will be served. I’d suggest in these type of situations to eat a complete meal before you go. From experience, I’ve learned that it is better to show up with a full belly rather than taking the chance that you might be able to eat and than find out there is nothing vegan and end up hungry (or worse, hangry) for the entire party.
Bring a Dish
This is specifically for family events or parties.
- Call the host before attending and politely ask what is being served. Don’t be afraid to let them know your dietary needs. Be polite and show appreciation for their hard work. Ask if you can help by bringing a dish to the event.
- If you are attending a family type dinner and your family is not supportive or understanding of your diet and you feel comfortable enough to bring your own dinner, do so! For example, my husband’s side of the family does not fully understand veganism. Anytime we visit, I always make sure to bring equipment (rice cooker, instapot, etc.). That way if we stay for an extended amount of time I can go to the store, grab the staples, and create quick easy meals for our stay. I’ve also prepped and packaged full meals to heat up and have ready for family dinners.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
- Sometimes no matter what how many precautions you take, there are slip-ups. You might find out later you accidentally ate sometime non-vegan, or maybe mid-bite you notice cheese hidden in your meal even after you specifically said no cheese. Mistakes happen, this doesn’t make you any less vegan. Veganism is a life of awareness and compassion and it is all about our intentions.
- Don’t take it out on the server or your family member. We all make mistakes, remind yourself that it was kind of them to try to include you and the mistake was not at all a malicious one.
- While our loved ones or even the host at your favorite restaurant may not fully grasp the reasoning or understanding behind veganism, it is important to stay kind, polite, and positive. When someone sees you happy and excited about eating a plate full of greens or has a pleasant experience when dealing with your dietary needs, they are more likely to be open to learning or evening trying this lifestyle, opposed to having an interaction full of dirty looks and judgment.
- Social events and gatherings are not about the food but more so about the memories and connecting with others on a deeper level.
- A little preparation is all you need.
- Drink! When all else fails, most alcohol is vegan, so if that is your thing… drink up! – responsibly of course.