Is It Hard Being Vegan?


Anyone who has been vegan for any length of time has likely heard the words, “You’re vegan? That must be so hard!” at least a few hundred times. My reaction when people say that to me is to deny it – and I probably deny it so vehemently that the asker is likely to think, ‘She doth protest too much…” To me being vegan ISN’T hard – but I’ve been vegan for a long time, and it’s just the way I live. Still, I’ve been thinking lately that maybe denying how “hard” it is, is NOT the best tactic.

I’ve been thinking this because I have, in the past six months, been involved with a newly formed vegan potluck in my town that is attracting A LOT of veg-curious souls. These people want to eat more plant foods but they don’t know where to start. They want to expand their repetoire of recipes, and meet other people who are thinking about veganism, vegan food, and healthier eating. Some of them are interested in talking about factory farming and testing on animals, and the environmental effects of eating animal foods. To many of them eating vegan IS hard – now. And I am realizing more and more that if longtime vegans are prepared to really listen to people who are interested in veganism, we will be much better able to help them make a successful transition that they can, and want to, stick to.

As for how to respond to that often dropped “That must be so hard!”, one suggestion made by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in her fabulous book Vegan’s Daily Companion is that when you are faced with comments or questions like this, to pose a counter-question, rather than answering – such as, in this case, “What do you think is so difficult about being vegan?” to start a conversation and engage the other person. Even if the person who asks you the question is someone you don’t think is interested at all in eating vegan, answer carefully. You never know.

How do you respond to this comment?

Or, if you’re a new vegan and you have made this comment (or one like it) at some point, what’s the best response you have ever received?

About the Author:

Emma Levez Larocque is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, writer and Certified Plant-Based Chef living on the west coast of Canada. She has been veg for 22 years, vegan for 7. Her passion is working to make veganism mainstream to promote a better, kinder world for all beings.

  • Tatelor

    I don’t think it’s hard, but it constantly takes effort. The food at home part is easy. But when you factor in checking ingredients at restaurants, ensuring beauty / health products are cruelty free, making sure shoes are made of man-made and not leather… then it adds up.

    So like anything else, it’s a lifestyle choice and it’s important to be honest with someone who is considering making the switch.

  • Donna

    Sometimes it IS hard. When I am too tired and have been too busy to cook, I used to pick up a pizza on the way home from work. That’s not an option. And there is almost nothing I can eat at the bar at my local ski area where I hang out with friends on the weekend, so I bring my own food, but bag lunches are not allowed inside the building.

    I don’t crave meat, but being vegan in a non-vegan world is way more difficult than being vegetarian ever was.

    I also have problem feet. There are very few possible shoes for me of any description, but since leather moccasins are not an option, I mostly do not wear shoes at all now.

    Still, when I am faced with the temptation to give in, I picture the calves at the zoo, separated from their mothers so the zoo can give milking demonstrations. The calves are kept alone, in small enclosures. It is so very wrong.

  • I am only vegan ish or vegan light. Not fully transitioned yet. I have been doing it for a little under a year. It is hard the first 6 months or so, but now I have the hang of it I don’t find it all that difficult. But travellling is still complicated and I carry a bag or box of food whereever I go. A friend of mine has a travelling bag always packed with oatmeal, flax, raisins and a few other bits and pieces so there is always something to eat when he is hungry.

  • Emma (VM Editor)

    I absolutely agree Tatelor – it is an effort, and it’s a good thing to talk about that effort, and the reason for it. Thanks 🙂

  • Emma (VM Editor)

    Donna, you remind me that stories of how difficult it CAN be sometimes are very inspiring in terms of the commitment people have to their reasons for being vegan. Thanks for sharing.

  • Emma (VM Editor)

    Finding those ways to cope are key, Deb. As it sounds like you’ve discovered, those coping mechanisms quickly become second nature – like remembering to bring your own snacks everywhere (and I often find that people then want MY snacks instead of what they have purchased at some corner store) 😉

  • Lisa Tea

    I think once i moved from being nonstrict vegan to nearly 100% strict as i can be vegan, then it isnt hard. You have just completely adapted it into your lifestyle, and can oggle the tempting cakes in the bakery, without feeling any desire to actually buy them. But when you are in the beginning stages, and you dont know exactly what to buy , or what is /isnt vegan, then it can be a bit hard. Good to motivate yourself with a few bits of info /pictures of why you are doing it i think…which is how i finally managed to kick my milk chocolate habit , when i watched the short film on youtube of how cadburys keep their cows/treat their calves. But once you get into the swing of it, and get support maybe from one or two of the vegan facebook pages who are always talkin about what is /isnt vegan, it gets easier and easier 🙂 One of the hardest things, once you have committed to it, imo ,is actually coping with how MORE people are not as caring and compassionate to go vegan…that is one of the hardest things for me ! ….and feeling a bit left out when someone brings in a cake cos its their birthday ! that aint easy to deal with either ….but you can always make a note of it in your calendar , and make some vegan cake and bring it in on the same day so you can join in next year 🙂

  • These discussions are always about the difficulty of eating a plant based diet and do not address living vegan. I think it is very important to have a vegan support network, even if only online, because there are family and friend events that my ethics do not permit me to attend. Compared to what animals endure, it is all a breeze. And worth every bit of difficulty. All people of principle are willing to undergo some degree of difficulty for those principles.

  • borissimo

    i became vegan at 16 after around 8 years being veggie. my mum was always worried so she rooted through the supermarkets to get me so many foods! most ended up uneaten so that the rest of the family have to eat them 😉 i don’t find it hard at all but i don’t plan my diet very well. i just eat whatever i feel like. i am a creature of habit so will have stir fry each night for a few weeks then salad each nigh or pasta… saying that, i’m not sure many students plan their meals well! at least there’s not pizza or takeaways here!

  • Marie

    Hm, I always reply that it is not hard to be vegan, but that it might be complicated in certain situations. If you don’t live in an avantgarde urban neighbourhood, getting fast food or going out with omnivore friends might be tricky at first, but you quickly learn how to manage that. My regular meals at home range from quick and dirty to real feasts. I never had as much fun cooking and discovering new recipes before I turned from veggie to vegan. In Germany, where I live, I get everything I need on a daily basis in my local supermarket. So I guess everyone who’s saying that they “could never do it” simply never tried properly!
    I do agree that there are personal situations or places in the world in which being a vegan is almost impossible (e.g. soy-, nuts- AND gluten-allergy, or living in countries with restricted food supply)….but I think for most people in Western Industrial countries it’s an easy option to follow a plant-based diet (if only in your own kitchen).

    So, “That must be so hard!” is just an excuse for people not to go vegan. Don’t get me wrong, I use the same excuses myself often enough: “You go running every day? You must be so well-organised, I never find time for it.” = “I am lazy and the fact that you aren’t makes me feel bad about myself, so I blame it on the circumstances.”

  • David Wishengrad

    This a copy and paste from the Google+ thread on this question of 2 comments I made that I wanted to share here.

    Comment 1:
    The fastest and surest way to turn another away from veganism is to call any human a vegan and impart the lie of non-equality.

    Comment 2:
    I really hope my first comment is taken in the context it is meant. Beside the tremendous issues faced by the animals being enslaved and dying, besides the tremendous issues with heart disease being the number one killer of people in the USA, besides the so many other great issues that must be addressed right now that could cause even more suffering and death in many, many ways, including the real possibilities of all life on earth going extinct if we don’t get more than this issue correct across the board…NOW

    I say what I said above in the first comment to try to remind others that it’s the truth that matters and that any cause not rooted in it will only perpetrate the problem it is trying to solve and that it is indeed the truth that we need to handle this and all of the other tremendous issues we face.

    I also go over this stuff here:

    These are all self-evident truths and if we disagree with any of them we cannot have whole thoughts and actions:

    We are alive.
    We can’t change our past.
    The most important thing in life is life.
    We are equal.
    We are important.
    We are human animals.
    We are not our actions.
    The truth is as important as life itself.

    That the truth is as important as life itself and that life is the most important thing in life.
    I attempt to reaffirm only the truthful observations that we all hold in common. I try to point out that by all universally observed observations our very importance is given by the truth itself, so long as we are alive, when the truth says that the most important thing in life is life.

    I expressly state all of this and how we are equal in how all of these mentioned truths are for all of us. That the truth itself says we are equal just like the truth itself says we are alive, just like how the truth itself says the the most important thing in life is life. So, the I’m (an action) “vegan” statement is not rooted in truth and denies truthful equality under the truth which makes it a lie. It may be unintentional, for many different reasons, but it does remain a lie. Whatever each of those reasons are, they are expelled by “choosing” of our own free will our rightful place in the truth, that we are never above the truth, or we are lying and NOT presenting a reasonable solution for the great ills that we are facing.

    Many, to most, have never heard truthful reality reminded to them this way ever in their lives. There are trembling lips, smiles, happiness, etc., but for the most part people remain silent. They have heard the bell.

    Some will respond with something in a representative form stating that the truth isn’t real or doesn’t exist. At which point I ask them to respond without life if the truth is not the most important thing in life. Then I say that there can be more than one most important thing in life. The truth is as important as life itself. Nothing less than everyone’s truthful importance being realized and fulfilled will be enough to stop the real truthful issues.

    See the truthful evidence, hear the truthful cries, and then try telling someone their pain isn’t truthfully real and see how far that gets you. Nothing less than you and everyone else, everyone, choosing the truth willfully and joyfully crying tears of happiness on our knees will be enough.

    ‘Are you serious?’, I hear too. The response,,,, Well, yes. We have a million savage years of blood on our hands’. Nothing less than everyone accepting the importance of truth and life as it is based in factual universally observed reality is enough for anyone and we all have to get there.

    It’s air tight. The crux is that everyone has to agree to those truths by making a real in choice to do so. We need only remind another of their truthful importance and where that comes from: the truth. Children get this right away. They can see easily that the truth makes flawless sense. Adults, no so much so right away, but their thoughts are now logically convicted on hearing the sound of the truth. We must remind each other and respect one another. We must try harder to love in the most dire times. When any of us are asked if we are important we should be able to state, ‘I am alive and the most important thing in life is life. This statement is truth and so the truth itself has made me important and that’s truthfully real’.

    If anyone argues with what I say is somehow…out of context…off topic…not relevant…after typing or stating these things again and again…

    I remind them that the truth itself being most important is real in all observed realty and if I am talking about the what is truthfully most important, then what I am saying IS actually most important. What’s most important trumps everything else that cannot find reference to the that context.

    It’s getting to be about the time folks. Don’t you think? We can’t have the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth as long as we are ignoring the the truth and life and their factually based importance by encouraging and condoning the killing animals for the needless sole purpose of personal gratification.

    Those with religious beliefs that contain the facilitation of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth have no leeway here. I’ve seen many tremble before witnessing the connection and the hypocrisy. There is big difference between enslaving and killing when is truthfully required to live specifically for the overall good of the life on this planet, and killing for personal pleasure.

    We don’t want our children not stealing from another because they are afraid of the punishment. We want them to do it because they understand that others are also important, per the truth, and make the choice on their own and whole in thought, humble in acceptance, and shining in the understanding that their own self-importance is a beautiful thing when it is viewed from the a truthful position and that others are also their truthful equal.

    We have a lot of people that have not even had a single discussion in their lives about the truth, correctly. A lot of people that were never told how and why they are important. We have a lot of people living in pain and suffering. It goes on and on…

    For those that have or may bleed out in war that we may have a better quality of life, protected and respected, and loved, they give and have given so much.

    Is it really that difficult to accept the truth at this most critical moment in all human history that has cost countless lives and caused so much suffering when we have been given enough to get it done by their sacrifices?

    We are it. We are all there is. There may be more, but how many more before it’s too much? All I ask from others is for a reality check, agreed basic self-evident truths to be accepted, and that each of us that can have that understanding must choose that understanding.

    I am more than happy to discuss a True Living God with anyone that accepts the fact that truth and Life is indeed the Master of their life. Anything short of that would not be a accepting Truth in Life for what the Truth really is in Life, and so could not be speaking of a True God anyway, so what’s the point to discuss a lie, if not to dismiss it for the sole reason of the importance of the Truth?

    It’s not a puzzle. The map can be written with many different routes to the treasure. Yet, only the truthful routes there will take us there. The prize is peace. The way is the truth in life.

    Perfect Equality Among Celestial Entities

    The only Way to Peace is the truthful Way: Individual choice and wholeness in choosing what is true.

    Choosing truthful correction of our thoughts, words, and action is a work in progress for us all.

    First try to remember what is truthfully most important. Then make your choices based on that. They are your choices. As far as I can honestly perceive and understand, that choice exists for the Glory of the True Living God. Anything less then that and we would not have real choice.

    The lie tells us it’s hard. When in fact, the truth is the very best thing for us and who we really are. So much so, that when we tell a lie, we have truthfully lied. We can’t redefine ourselves. The truth defines us. We can redefine our thoughts, words and actions to have foundation on what is truthful if we wish.

    Thank you for choosing the truth of compassion towards all animals.
    Compassions is truth manifest.