You’re not alone if you don’t know if you can be vegan anymore.
Every so often, I see a new story about this topic.
There are a lot of challenges to going vegan. I believe just about all of them can be overcome, but you may need some direction or help to do so.
So what I’ve done here is compiled a list of the most common reasons that come up when someone says they can’t be vegan anymore. See if any of them resonate with you right not (possibly more than one).
I’ll try to give you a next step, and we can always talk if needed after.
Table of Contents
1. You Feel Physically Sick or Weak Often
This one’s probably the most serious on this list.
If you’re physically suffering as a result of your diet, there’s something wrong.
Some say “some people just can’t do well on a vegan diet,” and it’s always bullshit to be honest.
Any competent registered dietician will tell you that there’s no nutrients in meat that you can’t get from plants, as long as your vegan diet contains the right nutrients. (Vitamin B12 is the only thing you need to supplement, or eat a lot of fortified foods).
But it’s easier on a vegan diet to be deficient in certain nutrients, which can cause serious health effects.
If this sounds like you, there are 2 things you must do:
- Go see a doctor as soon as possible – Ideally they’ll be on board with a vegan diet, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is getting a blood test to see what you’re missing. If you’re not missing anything, you may have a condition completely unrelated to your diet causing the problems.
- Track your diet – Go register for a free account on Cronometer. Plug in your food for a few days and see if you’re significantly lacking any important nutrient.
If you do the 2 things above and you have a deficiency that appears to be causing you problems, you have 2 options to solve it.
The ideal solution would be to go see a registereddietician (not a nutritionist or naturopath who don’t have qualifications). If you live outside North America, this job title may differ a bit, just double check who actually needs to study nutrition to be certified.
If your symptoms are fairly minor, you might want to try fixing them on your own. I still advise seeing a doctor and dietician, but you make your own call.
The hardest nutrients to get on a vegan diet are:
- Vitamin B-12 – Get a vegan vitamin B-12 supplement.
- Vitamin D – Either start getting more sun (with skin exposure and sunscreen), or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.
- Calcium – Eat vegan foods high in calcium, or take a vegan calcium supplement.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – Eat vegan foods high in omega 3 fats, or take a vegan omega 3 supplement.
- Iron – Eat vegan foods high in iron (alongside vitamin C to maximize absorption), or get a vegan iron supplement.
- Zinc – Eat vegan foods high in zinc.
If you’re deficient in multiple nutrients, consider a vegan multivitamin.
Make it a real focus to address any potential deficiencies, and if it’s the cause of your problems, they should clear up within a few weeks.
Again, it’s best to see a doctor before any of this to be safe.
2. You Feel Like You’re Giving Up Too Much By Being Vegan
There are some sacrifices that you often have to make by going vegan.
For some people, those sacrifices are bigger than for others, and take a toll.
The two most common things people typically suffer from giving up are:
- Foods they liked
- Having more options for social events
While there’s some overlap between the two, let’s go through each one.
Giving Up Food You Liked
There are near-perfect vegan alternatives for many foods like cake, bread, mayonnaise, etc.
But there are some things that aren’t quite there yet.
Personally, I don’t know how some people think beyond burgers taste like beef burgers. They’re not bad, but they’re quite different and might not satisfy a craving.
If you’re really missing some food and just can’t find a good replacement (e.g. there’s no perfect vegan substitute for heavy cream), it’s a tough thing to solve.
Effectively, there are 2 potential ways to try and address this:
- You accept it and “suck it up” – To do the “right” thing, you often have to make sacrifices, maybe you need some tough love here. You certainly don’t need a particular food to be healthy. And if that much of your happiness depends on eating a certain food, you have bigger problems in your life and should consider seeing a therapist.
- You strengthen the connection between animals and that food – Say you crave a burger, what do you think of when you see or smell one? You likely just see the burger. What you’re missing is the connection between a cow suffering and that burger. You logically know why you don’t want to eat one, but you don’t feel it emotionally. Either spend more time around animals if possible at a sanctuary, or watch videos or read whatever you need to do, so that when you picture a burger, your thoughts are what an innocent cow had to go through to get to that point.
Once you make that emotional connection, most cravings disappear. It’s no longer a “burger,” it’s a “part of a dead cow that suffered for human enjoyment,” which isn’t quite as appetizing.
If you’ve somehow done all that and still can’t put the well-being of others above your own enjoyment in the moment, consider indulging your cravings and see how you feel.
If you’re truly crossing your own ethical boundaries, you’re honestly going to feel like shit, and hopefully that suffering will influence your choices in the future.
Giving Up Social Activities or Feeling Pressured
Ribfest is probably off the social calendar, as are a few other things.
But you can still do most things.
However, it might not be quite the same. Take a barbeque for example, you’ll likely need to bring your own vegan burgers, and may face some pressure from others.
I’ve found at first it’s normal for others to ask annoying things like “are you sure you don’t want meat,” and say things that quickly become tiring.
But if they’re constantly giving you shit over time for eating a certain way, then you need to consider that they may not be your friends (or not good ones anyways).
I know it’s easier said than done to find new friends, but you may need to consider finding more caring people to spend your time with.
What if you feel pressured?
“Just have one…”
Perhaps you here this a lot, which is essentially just peer pressure.
There are 2 reasons you always need to say no to this.
First, you might feel relieved about being included and getting them off your back, but you’ll feel bad about yourself since you’re crossing your own ethical boundaries for it.
Second, what happens when you accept that cookie with eggs in it, or chocolate with milk in it? They’re going to assume that “cheating” isn’t that big of a deal for you, and the pressure to eat other things will only grow.
What can you do to feel better about this?
Well, you have a few options.
The first is to make it clear to your friends that this is causing you stress and you’d like their support on this. If they’re actually your friends, you’ll see a big change in their behavior.
If they can’t give you a little consideration, provided you’re not being unreasonable and expecting them to cook/buy special things for you (bring your own), then they clearly don’t care much about you (sorry if that’s harsh).
So how do you find new vegan friends or a support network? The best ways in general are to:
- Join vegan groups on social media (Facebook, Reddit, etc.).
- Join vegan groups in person, most cities have at least one vegan Meetup.com group.
- Get involved in vegan activism, a cube of truth is an easy way to start. Most people who participate in these sorts of things become friends, and you know they’ll support your diet choices.
I’m not saying this will be easy, but long-term, surrounding yourself with people who care about you and support your choices is the only way to be happy (goes for non-vegans as well).
3. You’re Exhausted or Stressed About Making Sure Everything is 100% Vegan
Are you tired of staring at food when you’re not totally sure if they’re vegan or not?
It’s a very common problem, especially among newer vegans.
It’s hard enough to find out about obvious animal products, and then you learn that there are hidden non-vegan ingredients as well. For example, is that sugar made with bone char? Or is your wall paint vegan?
Even if you order a beyond burger at a fast food place, you need to ask about other condiments on it, because it usually isn’t vegan by default.
It can be exhausting and stressful. You’re trying to make the best decisions possible, but it sure isn’t easy.
Ultimately, the solution to this has to come from within. You need to understand that you do not need to be perfect.
Literally almost every vegan has accidentally eaten something with animal products in it, whether they learn about it or not.
Veganism is also not about being perfect, it’s about minimizing the suffering of others as much as reasonably possible.
By cutting out meat, fish, dairy, and the other obvious things, you’re already 99.9% there.
If you can go the extra 0.1%, great, but if that’s not possible, or you feel it’s not reasonable, then don’t worry.
Don’t worry about micrograms of vitamin D3 in your cereal, or the possibility of bone char in your sugar.
There’s no official vegan card that you need to be worried about losing.
Do what you can, but most importantly, live your life and make diet choices in a way that you can be happy with.
Are You Being Harassed By Other Vegans?
While this isn’t super common, I thought I should mention it.
I’ve read a few stories about extreme vegans harassing others who have a more relaxed definition of veganism.
Keep in mind that these people are in the extreme minority of vegans, very few care if you take the chance on sugar. They understand you’re doing your best and the challenges with trying to know if everything is 100% vegan or not.
Remove yourself from the situation if possible. If it’s an online forum, report them for harassment. If it’s social media, report and block them.
4. You Feel Depressed (And Might Crave Non-Vegan Foods)
Depression can be linked to going vegan.
You feel guilt over the animals your actions have hurt before, and you’re more aware of the suffering around the world.
I don’t have an easy solution here, just know that you are not alone. I, and most other vegans, have gone through periods of hating so much of things humans do around the world. It can feel hopeless to change anything.
Ultimately, you need to accept the things that you can do and change, but that’s not an easy thing to do.
If you’re struggling with this, try to talk about it with vegan friends, or find a vegan mentor (just Google it and you’ll find a few options). If possible, see a therapist as well.
Depression Can Lead to Cravings and Feeling Helpless
If you’re feeling depressed, there are 2 ways that it may make it even harder to be vegan.
First, it might feel like “I’m barely making a difference, so why does it matter if I eat (insert non-vegan food)?”
It’s true that on a global scale, one person can only do so much. However, you are still making a positive difference:
- You’re sparing the lives of animals directly who would be killed if you weren’t vegan. Look at the animals that live on sanctuaries; their happiness would not have been possible if not for people like you – every life matters.
- You’re influencing those around you, whether you know it or not – Friends and family will often re-evaluate their diet choices because of you. They may not go vegan, but even eating less meat still saves lives, and that’s because of you.
Allow yourself to feel good about who you are and the choices you’re making. It can be hard to let yourself feel good when you know someone is out there suffering, but you have to accept that you can only do so much.
The second potential issue is that you may feel depressed and in pain, and want any source of relief/pleasure.
For many people, simple enjoyment comes from junk food, which often isn’t vegan.
The problem is that even if you give into this, it gives you a small rush, but it will only make you feel worse over the long-term. On top of eating something non-vegan, you’ll also feel bad for eating crappy food.
It’s a vicious cycle you should try to stay out of.
Something Else Making You Doubt If You Can Be Vegan?
If there’s something else that I didn’t cover, I really want to hear about it.
Please leave a comment below, or contact me.
And if you really need someone to talk to, get in touch, I’m happy to chat about anything you might be having problems with.