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Some people can’t even fathom the thought of being vegan. And I’ve known others who’ve made the decision to give veganism a go, only to lose enthusiasm very quickly. Some of the most common excuses I hear are:

  • “It’s restrictive”
  • “It’s hard to get the right nutrition”
  • “It’s time-consuming”
  • It’s expensive
  • “It’s social suicide”

I hear you, because this was me a few years ago.

According to a frequently cited study from Faunalytics, 84% of vegetarians and vegans go back to eating meat after just 3 months or less – not a great stat for the vegan community.

In truth, there are many things in life that are difficult but worthwhile. I believe that in 99% of cases, the issue isn’t the thing itself, but rather how we’re approaching it. I’ve been vegan for over 2 years now, and there are plenty of people who’ve been vegan for far longer than me, so it’s definitely possible.

If you’re wondering how to go vegan and actually enjoy it, then read on to get into the right mindset for success and embrace a vegan lifestyle for the long haul.

Getting Into the Right Mindset for Long-Term Success

When I went vegan, what I found is that a lot of people talk about the nuts and bolts of doing it. And whilst this is important, in my own experience, one of the hardest aspects is actually getting into the right headspace.

Whether you’re considering going vegan or you’re a new vegan who’s struggling, it can feel like an insurmountable mindset shift. After all, when you’ve been eating meat and dairy your entire life, it’s completely normalised and habit-driven. If you’re anything like me, you know what meals you like to cook and eating meat is probably what everyone around you is doing.

And that’s the thing. If you don’t stop to appreciate that this is a really big lifestyle change, then you’re probably not going to get very far.

If you’ve struggled to keep any New Year’s resolution (ahem, guilty), then you’ll know that change is hard. Our brains are basically hardwired by the age of 25 to run on autopilot, so any major changes we want to make in our lives are going to face resistance, no matter how much we want to make them.

So don’t go into a vegan lifestyle by glamourising the situation or expecting things to be a piece of cake. It might be difficult at first – and that’s to be expected. But I’ve got a few tips to help make your transition a whole lot easier…

7 Things To Do If You’re Struggling With Veganism

#1 Educate yourself on veganism

Studying

Why is it so easy to go on blissfully eating meat and cheese?

Because the whole industry is out of sight, out of mind.

When you’re presented with perfectly packaged items on supermarket shelves, it’s easy to forget that it’s a dead animal you’re picking up because you’re so far removed from the process.

I was pescatarian for a whole year before going fully vegan, and that’s because, if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t really want to know. My spidey senses told me that I wouldn’t like what I saw if I dug down further, so I didn’t put myself in that position. In essence, I knew that when I educated myself, my life would fundamentally have to change, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that.

But you must educate yourself on veganism if you want to change your identity and become vegan for the long haul. My personal catalyst that made me go vegan overnight was watching the documentary film ‘Earthlings’ (which is freely available on YouTube).

To learn more about the ethical, environmental and personal health aspects of veganism, check out these documentary films. Or, if you like getting stuck into a good book, then here are some of my top reading recommendations.

No matter where you start, it’s really helpful to have a solid understanding of each of these three areas. This way, whenever you’re struggling, you’ve got a three-pronged reason for staying strong.

#2 Learn about nutrition

Some vegan protein sources

Learning about veganism is important, but the other area I’d suggest looking into is nutrition.

I don’t know about you, but I was thoroughly confused with a lot of vegan myths when I was first considering a plant-based diet. Things like:

  • “Vegans don’t get enough protein.”
  • “Vegans are deficient in B12.”
  • “Where will you get your calcium if you’re not drinking milk?”

The irony is that I have a much better understanding of nutrition now than I ever did as a non-vegan!

If you’re making any kind of big change in your life, it’s important to feel empowered in your decisions and to know that you’re making a healthy choice.

The NHS has stated that:

With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.

So make sure to do your research on plant-based nutrition and supplement with a good multivitamin.

#3 Find your 'why'

The Discipline Equation

The first two points are great on a theoretical level.

But until you get clear on your own personal ‘why’, it’s going to be hard to stick with veganism for the long term.

I was watching an interview with Steve Bartlett and Ali Abdaal recently in which they discuss discipline. And Steve lays out what he calls ‘the discipline equation’, which looks something like this:

How much that goal subjectively matters to you
+
Psychological enjoyment you get through pursuit of the goal

Psychological friction you experience in pursuit of the goal

With veganism, the ‘psychological friction’ we experience in pursuit of the goal often unbalances the equation. Typically, we have an objective understanding of a concept, like acknowledging veganism is important. However, it’s only when we recognise something on a subjective, emotional level that we take action.

So think about it. What is your why for going vegan? How much does it subjectively matter to you?

  • Do you believe that animals should have a fundamental right to life?
  • Do you not want to support cruel factory farming methods?
  • As a woman, do you identify with the exploitation of the reproductive system of female cows in the dairy industry?

Whatever it is – and it can be multiple things by the way – write down all of your own personal reasons for wanting to make the shift to a vegan lifestyle. When your why means something to you on a personal level and is something you’re emotionally invested in, you can use this as fuel to change your behaviour.

As Viktor Frankl suggests, by discovering a purpose that resonates deeply with you, the pain and hardships you endure take on new meaning and can even become a source of strength and resilience.

#4 Make it fun

Bowl of vegan food

I recently enjoyed Ali Abdaal’s book Feel Good Productivity, in which he reframes the traditional ‘self-discipline’ model of productivity. Instead, he advocates for the power of fun and play in maintaining motivation and achieving long-lasting results.

This ties into the second part of the discipline equation: Psychological enjoyment you get through pursuit of the goal.

It’s a good life lesson that if you don’t enjoy the process, you’re probably not going to get very far – no matter how important something is to you. But when you intrinsically enjoy something and find joy in the process, things don’t feel like they require much effort anymore. In fact, they can even be energising!

So the question is, how can we make going vegan fun?

When I went vegan, I did this more by accident than on purpose. My eyes were opened to plant-based food after reading How Not to Die, and ever since then, I’ve really enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen with plant-based cooking. It was quite literally a revelation to me that a plate of food didn’t have to look like two meat and veg, or pasta and a sauce. When I discovered Buddha bowls, I genuinely began to enjoy putting meals together in a way I hadn’t before.

I also made veganism into a ‘game’ of sorts by downloading the Daily Dozen app to record the food groups I was eating every day, which helped me to stay on track and feel a sense of achievement. Whilst I’ve internalised a lot of this now, I still like to ensure I get in as many of my daily dozen food groups as possible – it’s something which continues to make my plant-based journey creative and fun.

It goes without saying that if you approach veganism from a place of lack, it will probably feel difficult because you’re framing it from a negative perspective. So try not to pre-judge or have a negative preconception of vegan food – despite what you may have been led to believe! If you approach it from a more curious angle that emphasises enjoyment, you’re far more likely to stick with it for the long term.

#5 Set realistic goals

Enjoying a cup of tea

Moving onto the other side of the discipline equation, we next need to minimise the friction we experience in pursuit of the goal.

I think we all have a sense that to make any meaningful change in our lives, it must be swooping and drastic. But sometimes, the best way to approach things is to make smaller, more manageable changes which gain momentum over time.

Put it this way, if you wanted to build a habit to go to the gym more regularly, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to start with an hour-long workout five days a week. It would simply feel too overwhelming when you haven’t laid the groundwork to effectively achieve this. And, before you know it, the friction you experience is way too high and you just end up not going at all.

This isn’t to say you can’t go vegan overnight if you feel strongly enough about it, but one of the best ways to ease yourself in can be to think about simple and easy swaps you can make.

For example, if you drink dairy milk, just start by trying a plant-based milk. Jumping in at the deep end and committing to complicated new recipes on busy week nights, for example, is probably not your best bet. If anything, it might put you off entirely which is the last thing you want! To save time, simply ‘veganise’ some of your favourite meals with plant-based alternatives, even if it’s just one evening meal a week to start with.

Once you start to get confident, you can introduce more vegan foods, but remember that your tastebuds have been conditioned over a lifetime so it’s only natural it will take a little time to adjust. Check out my articles on how to transition to a vegan diet and what to eat when you first go vegan for more info.

#6 Find your people

Crowd of people having fun at a festival

How else can we reduce friction?

Well, one of the main difficulties I had when I first went vegan was not something I expected…

I felt alone.

In truth, I didn’t find transitioning to vegan food that hard, because I knew why I was doing it and I enjoyed the process. What I failed to anticipate was the social implications of a vegan lifestyle choice. It’s a strange feeling to suddenly be the odd one out in a room. It can feel awkward at first when you have to politely tell people that you can’t eat the food they’re offering you. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings!

And traditional times of year like Christmas can be challenging, because food takes on a more cultural and symbolic role that brings people together.

Vegetarians and vegans make up just 1-2% of the population, so unless you’re very lucky and happen to be born into this kind of family or have like-minded friends, it’s easy to feel isolated.

But you can combat this by finding like-minded people!

For example, could you find a local vegan cooking class, or go to a vegan festival? Even if you don’t want to put yourself out there right now, you could join a vegan forum or subscribe to some vegan content creators to feel a sense of community. Some of my personal favourites include Ed Winters, Joey Carbstrong, Pick Up Limes and Gaz Oakley.

When you feel a part of something bigger than yourself and a sense of belonging to a group, it’s a lot easier to stay positive and accountable.

#7 Take radical responsibility

Hilltop view over city

You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon or find things difficult. It probably just means that you need to revisit one or more aspects of the discipline equation which are slightly out of kilter.

But my final point sits outside of the discipline equation and is something I’ve come to realise as a more general life epiphany.

In the end, we need to get clear on the fact that it’s our job to figure out what we care about and what matters to us in life. When we live in accordance with our values, we show ourselves respect by taking ourselves seriously. As Mel Robbins says:

No one is coming to save you.

What this really gets at is this idea of taking radical responsibility. It’s so easy to live unconsciously – doing the things we’ve been conditioned to feel are expected of us by society. But to truly live life on our own terms, we must question the status quo and come to our own conclusions.

Don’t wait until someone else tells you to go vegan or someone you look up to goes vegan. The more you can build a strong inner voice and have strength in your convictions, the more equipped you will be to trust in yourself and look to yourself for answers rather than blindly following other people.

This ties into everything I talk about with regard to intentional living. And, if this resonates with you, then going vegan can teach you some amazing things about trusting your inner voice and going your own way.

Keep Up the Vegan Motivation - You Can Do It!

If you’re nervous about going vegan or you’re an existing vegan finding it harder than you bargained for, then I hope this post has given you some motivation and practical tips.

One thing I will say is that although going vegan can feel hard at first, it’s a heck of a lot easier than it was even 5-10 years ago. There is so much more choice now available in the supermarket, so that’s something to be grateful for. There’s also loads of information and support available to make the transition. Check out The Vegan Society, Veganuary or Challenge 22 if you’re looking for further advice on the nuts and bolts of going vegan.

Oh, and as it starts to become more integrated into your daily life, it definitely gets easier over time – to the point where it’s largely unconscious and simply a part of your identity.

If you’re looking for the full low-down on how to go vegan, I’ve put all my best beginner-friendly advice into one post – this is the article I wish I’d had a couple of years ago when making the transition myself! You can also download my Vegan Essentials Checklist below to get started.

What have been your own personal challenges? And how have you overcome them? Let me know in the comments below!

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