Going vegan: Expectation vs reality

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Embracing a new and radically different lifestyle can be daunting but exciting too, and going vegan is chief amongst the experiences that bring a wealth of preconceptions and myths to debunk.

Let’s cut to the chase here. When you think about going vegan, you assume you’re going to be inundated with instant health and karma benefits. To a certain extent, this is true but let’s pop aside the misconceptions and talk about some home truths.

Expectation: You’ll lose a lot of weight

Reality: We hate to break it to you, but going vegan is no guarantee of weight loss, and using it for these purposes could point to a more serious issue. The fact of the matter is — unless you’re a keen cook with a lot of experience with whole foods already, you’ll probably rely on easy carbs and supermarket treats — at least in the short term — to wean yourself off animal products and, though delicious, health foods they ain’t.

Be prepared to get to know your body in a different way that focuses on what you nourish it being cruelty-free. That way, you can enjoy your new diet with none of the disappointment of not shedding pounds.

If you feel that you might be using a vegan diet as part of a wider disordered approach to food, please seek help. You are not alone and there are many wonderful people and organisations ready to help you rediscover the joy of your own body at each and every size.

Read our assistant editor Olivia Rafferty’s open account of living with an eating disorder as a vegan.

Expectation: All your Instagram food pictures will be fire

Reality: It’s so annoying, but be prepared for your food snaps to absolutely suck. We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve made something that tastes utterly phenomenal but photographs like something from a horror B-movie. We are speaking from experience here, FYI.

The lentil bolognese of 2020 will forever be remembered as tasting incredible, being so moreish that our stomach capacities were altered forever, and yet, in pictures, it looked like vomit. Damn you, pulses!

vegan expectations vs realityExpectation: You can make the switch overnight

Reality: Veganism is a constantly evolving lifestyle and it’s not just a case of flipping a switch and feeling as though your work is done. Seriously, even if you only plan to embrace the diet side of the lifestyle, you might find, as you go on, that other elements become unsavoury, leading to wardrobe overhauls and shopping habit changes.

You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to keep moving your own goalposts to be a “little bit more vegan” and before you know it, you could be a full ethical vegan, with a love for sustainability and even activism. That’s how some of us — ahem — have ended up where we are.

Expectation: Vegan superpowers are on the horizon

Reality: Someone has watched Scott Pilgrim a few too many times. Unless you consider a sense of enormous positivity from contributing to a worldwide movement that promotes a kinder way of living a superpower, you are going to be disappointed. Although we have joked that some of us can float — not quite fly — on our level-five vegan smug clouds. There’s a serious point to bring up here, though, and that’s to treat yourself gently too. 

Everyone makes mistakes, eats something that isn’t animal-product-free or buys a product that isn’t suitable for vegans, at some point. You don’t have to report to any vegan council about it, there’s no formal warning system and you don’t have to wave goodbye to your favourite activist t-shirt for six months as penance. Even Monami Frost has made mistakes, so take comfort.

Expectation: Going vegan is a personal choice and doesn’t affect anyone else

Reality: By choosing a vegan lifestyle, you have a positive impact on countless beings. Yes, it’s a personal choice for you, but it is the difference between life and death for so many animals and you might even help friends and family members make that connection too. Never think of yourself as just one person who can’t change anything. You are an individual making the single biggest impact that anybody can and in the process, you’re saving lives, choosing kindness and setting an example for millions of others to follow. That’s powerful.

We deliberately didn’t talk about the preconceptions surrounding lack of protein and nutrients here because, hopefully, by now these are redundant arguments. We all know that a healthy, nourishing diet can be entirely plant-based and balanced. So let’s not give any extra column inches to outmoded myths that the uninformed and prejudiced rely on to argue against the way we choose to live.

That being said, we’ve carried out a brilliant vegan protein powder taste test, so maybe give that a look if you’re looking to supplement.

Amy Buxton
Amy Buxton
Amy is a committed ethical vegan, raising a next generation compassionate human with her husband and their beloved dog, Boo. A freelance writer with a background in PR, she decided to use the COVID lockdown period to refocus her client base and has come to The Vegan Review as a senior writer and editor, before moving into her external content director role. "What we should be doing is working at the job of life itself" is Amy's mantra, courtesy of Tom from The Good Life.