The Physical Limitations Of Being Vegan
Going vegan? If your life was hard, it’s going to get a whole lot harder.
The discovery of plant-based alternatives to many staples of animal origin has accelerated the adoption of the vegan diet like never before. Innovations in the plant-based space have yielded results that years of animal rights liberation marches and protests haven’t been able to in exposing people to the horrors of the meat industry and getting them to turn over a new leaf (pun intended). Many people are now making the switch to vegetarian and flexitarian diets, even if they aren’t going all the way and transitioning to full-blown vegans.
But despite all the innovation in the plant-based space, whether for meat, cheese, milk, or eggs, the vegan diet remains to be extremely restrictive and prohibitively expensive in most parts of the world.
After all, people will only accommodate changes to their lifestyle which they feel are practical and sensible wherever they are on their current life trajectory. Besides, it would make much better sense to utilize locally available substitutes to animal products instead of flying or shipping in products manufactured in other continents, which end up being very expensive and contributing to an already escalating ‘food miles’ problem.
Take India for example.
A set of entrepreneurs have been able to turn the humble superfood Jackfruit, which was once considered a backyard nuisance, into a meat replacement that is now exported to the rest of the world. There’s no denying the fact that innovations of these kind are desperately needed on a massive scale to provide people with affordable alternatives to animal products and accelerate the adoption of sustainable eating habits which are in line with the health of the planet and the well-being of humanity as a whole.
However, the pressing need of the hour is widespread awareness of the term ‘vegan’ and a general understanding of it across the country, quite the way in which people have come to understand the term ‘vegetarian’. People are by and large still ignorant and ill-informed when it comes to the plant-based diet and the meaning of the term “vegan” in its whole true form. Most people are ignorant of the term, or have just a surface level understanding of it. Vegans are forced to put up with insensitive friends and colleagues, pretentious waiters who laugh at them and get their order wrong, educational institutions and offices whose canteens don’t cater to the lifestyle, and endure a multitude of other issues while travelling.
For the majority of the population, the idea of not being able to eat 90% of what one sees on a daily basis can feel extremely restrictive and suffocating. We are primal beings at heart, and many of us still navigate the world instinctively, the way we used to in the jungles before. We are forced to act civilized, comply with rules and restrictions every day, and behave in an orderly fashion for most part of our lives.
Should we make our lives even more burdensome and overwhelming than it already is? I think not.
The burden of ridding the planet of animal agriculture and making the shift to planet-friendly lifestyles is on the movers and shakers of the world, not on the ordinary Joes and Janes struggling to make a living.
Here are some of the physical limitations of being vegan:
The plain lack of outdoor options
Eating out can be hard. There’s enough plus more factors out there to divide and categorize us into various groups and factions as per food preferences.
Sugar-free, gluten-free, natural, vegetarian, whole foods diet, oil-free diet, Paleo, Vegan, Raw Vegan and what not! That’s a whopping huge spectrum to take your pick from, for sure.
Although most of these choices have their foundations in religion, culture, ethics, morality, lifestyle, health, and personal preference, they are by and large accessible, and practicing some of these diets is practical and feasible in most parts of the world. And even by a long shot, a diabetic is more well off compared to a vegan in terms of accessibility and the range of foods available to him anywhere in general.
I mean, the only things that you can’t ingest are sweets and eatables that contain a lot of sugar, right? How hard could that possibly be?
When you go vegan, the world (of choices available to you) gets significantly minimized in an instant. Like seriously! Get ready to not be able to eat 99% of what you see on a daily basis.
Why on earth would you do that to yourself? You should be doing everything in your power to make your life easier, not harder. Get ready to read ingredients everywhere you go, yell at waiters because they didn’t understand what you meant by “hold the cream”, and spit out your takeaway meal because a certain ‘health food’ joint thought honey and butter still qualify as vegan!
“For the majority of the population, the idea of not being able to eat 90% of what you see on a daily basis can feel extremely restrictive and suffocating.”
Starving at parties, get togethers and events
You’ll starve while watching everyone dig into their food gloriously and speak to you with mouthfuls if you don’t sufficiently fill yourself up before arriving at the event venue. While everyone else has something or the other to munch on at the event, you’re busy staring at others and salivating due to the lack of vegan options.
The world is catching up with innovations in the vegan and plant-based space, but it is yet to be subsumed by the social sphere where meat based diets and vegetarianism, to some extent, still predominate. After switching to veganism, you’ll perpetually be sweating about the availability of plant-based options at social events.
You’ll constantly have to accommodate for the lack of plant-based food wherever you go, and would have to contend with a salad at best, or a fruit at worst.
Whether you’re attending a gig directly from work, or starting from home itself, you’ll have to ensure to fill your stomach sufficiently well before going or risk starving. It could be an anniversary, a birthday party, a workplace event, or even your every own friend's wedding ceremony. You never know what kind of food is going to be served at the event, regardless of what the occasion is or who’s hosting it.
You always want to be well-prepared in advance so that you aren’t left scratching your head regarding what you can and cannot eat, or even worse, give in to the temptation to eat something that isn’t vegan just for the night.
Parties and casual get-togethers are events people attend to let off some steam, keep their fitness goals and diets aside, and just be their raw unfiltered selves for the night. And unless the host happens to be a vegan herself, it’s the last place you’d expect to find vegan or plant-based food.
That’s why it is extremely imperative that you eat well in advance before going out to any party, event, or social gathering.
“Get ready to read ingredients everywhere you go, yell at waiters because they didn’t understand what you meant by “hold the cream”, and spit out your takeaway meal because a certain ‘health food’ joint thought honey and butter still qualify as vegan!”
People not understanding you and sometimes even deliberately goofing up:
Check out this YouTuber whom, despite his best efforts to communicate his food preferences to his host, still ended up ingesting meat while travelling in Thailand.
Life is incredibly hard as it is. Do we really need to add to this growing list of everyday obstacles and hindrances?
As a vegan, you’ll have to constantly read product labels, ingredient lists on processed food packets, and repeat yourself a dozen times to waiters before they can fully understand you. And it’s not even like people get the idea when you say “no dairy products”. You need to spell the whole thing out for them regardless of where you’re dining, whether it is the roadside eatery serving unhealthy fast food to the posh upmarket hotel and everyone in between.
“No dairy whatsoever! No cheese, no milk, no butter, no cream, no curd, no ghee, and no yogurt.”
And even after you make all that effort, they will still mess up your order and serve you with non-vegan fare.
Imagine having to do the entire above-mentioned ritual after you’ve flown across multiple time zones with multiple layovers, are jet-lagged, tired, sleep-deprived, and just want something to fill that void in your stomach before you can hit the sack.
Now, do you understand how hard it is to be a vegan?
Sure, veganism alters your taste buds, improves your health, naturally makes you gravitate towards healthier foods, drastically reduces the number of sick days you take from work, and prevents hospitalizations and surgical procedures by a huge margin.
And it is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Veganism is one of the best things that could happen to humans on this planet.
But if all of those wide-ranging benefits are going to come at the cost of your own peace and sanity, forcing you to alter your behaviour and act differently every single day, then is it even worth it?
I’m not asking anyone to stop being vegan, or discourage anyone from starting their journey on the plant-based path. It would make much more logical sense to follow a plant-based diet (instead of veganism, which is absolutist by definition), where the majority of your food comes solely from plants whenever, wherever possible, and eat whatever convenient the rest of the time. It makes no sense saving animals while you are suffering every single second of every single day during your travels beating yourself up for ingesting animal ingredients by mistake.
Life is incredibly hard as it is. Let’s not make it harder.