I find that the number one misconception people have about my life is that it must be SO hard to be vegan. Well, it makes sense. It does seem difficult to give up meat, cheese, ice cream, milk, eggs, and yogurt, especially when we're all surrounded by these foods in restaurants, grocery stores, at home, and in advertising. And especially when you just want a cookie, just ONE COOKIE, dammit, and all the cookies as far as the eye can see contain products that came from cows and chickens.
But dude? It's easy as pie.
Yes, okay, it was kind of hard at first. I had a lot of lapses, especially when a free non-vegan baked good appeared at the office building I worked at. But I was transitioning from vegetarian to vegan - so I didn't crave meat or anything. (Jana Klein definitely did NOT see me eat a chicken nugget when we were in eleventh grade.) Seriously, by the time I was 21 and went vegan, I had been vegetarian for 9 years and was totally over meat. The smell didn't even tempt me anymore.
The most difficult part of dairy to give up was cheese. Well, obvies. It's addictive. It's got this stuff in it called casomorphins, and as the name would suggest, we react to that stuff just like we'd react to morphine: by forming an addiction. Casomorphins are literally opioids. And when you stop eating cheese - or using it, depending on how you look at it - you feel withdrawal.
I remember in particular one day a few months after I'd gone vegan, when Becca knew I was having a bum day and wanted to cheer me up. She marched me into Noodles and made me order that pinnacle of dairy artistry, Wisconsin Mac & Cheese. She knew I missed eating that masterpiece. I thought, since I felt crappy, that it would make me feel better. So I ate it.
And felt SO ICKY.
Becca and I agreed never to mention it again. Um... don't tell anyone.
Fast forward to New Zealand last summer, when I realized what I'd ordered was not, as I'd derived from the menu's description, vegan - but was, in fact, full of cheese. I had to eat it. I mean, I was starving, and there wasn't anything else. And I didn't want to send it back. Being vegan's kinda weird in NZ.
I then had digestive system issues you don't even want to know about. WAY worse than that time with the Mac & Cheese. Think about it: this was the first time I'd had cheese in almost 7 years. I've lost the enzyme we in the West use to break down lactose. (Yeah, did you know most people in the world are lactose intolerant? We're born with the enzymes to break down our moms' breast milk, but beyond that it can be a real struggle to start on dairy.) I wasn't used to this sticky, gooey, clumpy stuff plugging up my insides. I have become lactose intolerant by my own doing. COOL!
So now I hope you're beginning to see how it's rather easy for me to avoid dairy if I were ever tempted. Which I'm not. Ever.
Here are some tried and true reasons I consider it easy to be vegan. Other than the fact that I get total systems shutdown if I eat dairy.
2. Vegan food makes me SO healthy. I get every single vitamin and mineral required by the human body. Protein? Beans, grains, and several veggies keep me stocked up. (Although we don't need as much protein as the meat industry would have us believe.) Calcium? Dark, leafy greens, baby! Calcium-fortified almond milk and OJ give me a boost too. B12? Haha! Luna Bars! I eat those things every day. I'm healthy. I don't look like a skeletor, and I'm not overweight. And I have so much ENERGY!
3. The environment can't support factory farming indefinitely. The animal agriculture sector of the US produces 18% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Also, we're using food to feed animals. Aren't people starving in other parts of the world? Can't we do something else with that food? If none of our arable land were used to feed livestock, we would have... jeez. SO MUCH FOOD! And even more land to grow it on!
Now for some practical reasons.
4. I surround myself with supportive people. My friends, family, and husband fit the bill there. When I go out with people, they usually let me pick the restaurant (THANKS YOU GUYS). If you're a fledgling vegan, I suggest you try recommending places to eat, instead of waiting for your buddies to pick something totally incompatible, like Perkins or Denny's. And when I'm invited to a home-cooked meal, the hostess always makes something vegan. I always offer to bring something, anyway. And, perhaps most importantly, my peeps are emotionally supportive. Especially Matt. He eats meat and stuff, but when we go out to dinner together, he orders vegetarian out of respect for me. AW. He's so great.
5. I buy my own groceries. Well, duh, right? Kay, if you're gonna be vegan, you probably don't want to have meat and dairy products in your fridge. But what DO you want in there? Well, tons of fresh fruits and veggies. Your pantry should be full of grains, beans, baking ingredients, and condiments. I think I have about 10 different kinds of vinegar in my kitchen. Once your kitchen is well-stocked, you can...
6. Cook for yourself! So satisfying. Get a trusty cookbook or two and you're set. You have complete control over what's gonna go into your body. I enjoy eating food I've cooked even more than eating at restaurants.
7. When you go without all that non-vegan stuff for a while, you stop craving it. We already discussed cheese. But really, it applies to everything. Prime example: I don't crave candy anymore. The taste, as far as I remember it, seems so artificial. Used to eat it all the time. Now I'm... kind of even sick of Oreos. Which are vegan. Freaky.
8. I always carry extra food with me. That way I'm not put in a position where I have to either get that fainty-hungry-low-blood-sugar feeling or eat something that isn't vegan. Instead, I pull a Luna Bar out of my purse. Problem solved.
9. I eat constantly. Your stomach might not work this way, but mine seems determined to resist the structure of huge portions three times a day. Every day I have a big granola breakfast, tea, lunch with soy yogurt, a Luna Bar, a teatime snack (often more granola), and dinner, sometimes with dessert. This strategy keeps my energy up without giving me that feeling of icky too-fullness.
 10. I only eat food that TASTES GOOD. You eat over-steamed veggies and unflavored rice all the time, and you will hate being vegan. I have fallen in love with so many vegan foods - that is part of why I no longer crave dairy and stuff. Even a meat-eater who hates vegetables would agree that everything I put in my mouth is delicious. I don't have vegan blinders on. I got the same taste buds as everybody else. And my food is truly high-quality. [/edit]
So the moral of this story is: OH HOW EASY IT IS TO BE VEGAN. I'm thinking of making it into a musical.