One of the things vegans have to get used to is being asked an awful lot of questions. While all vegetarians and vegans have at least one story about an offensive or ill-informed conversation with an omnivore, I find that most people are genuinely interested and just want to know about the practicalities of what they see as an extreme or unusual lifestyle choice. The best advice I can give to new vegans is to be prepared for the sorts of questions that come up, and to answer questions calmly and honestly. Here are my responses to some of the questions I’ve been asked over the last few months.
- Is it difficult?
Logistically? I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but I do have to always plan ahead. If I’m going on a long journey I tend to research where I might be able to eat on the way. If I’m going to see friends for the weekend I take some almond milk and veggie sausages so I know I can have a cup of tea and some breakfast without causing them any problems. Wherever I go I always have healthy snacks in my bag. Are any of those things a problem? Of course not. I’ve always been obsessed with food anyway, so this isn’t much different from before. Even if it were an effort it would be a small price to pay, the benefits of being vegan outweigh the work that goes into it.
- Are there any foods that you miss?
When I first turned vegan I dreamed about oozy cheese every night, but got over it really quickly. I still miss eggs sometimes though, there are times that I get a real hankering for a boiled egg with soldiers, but I know I will get over it. When I first turned vegetarian at the age of 12, whenever I smelled bacon cooking I’d get a real longing for it, but after a few months the craving disappeared to the point that when I smell it cooking now it doesn’t even register as food.
- Are you ever tempted to say “oh sod it” and just have some cake?
Honestly? Not in the slightest. My reasons for being vegan are stronger than my desire to eat something animal products. When I do crave an egg, for instance, I just ask myself what happens to the chickens when they’ve stopped being useful, and that’s enough to kill the craving.
- But you can’t eat cake!
I don’t know if it’s because I hang around with particularly cake-obsessed individuals, but this is by far the most common thing people say when they find out I’m vegan. I can’t buy cake from a shop, and if someone brings cake to work I have to turn it down, but don’t worry because I can definitely eat cake. My favourite method of vegan advocacy is to bring them some delicious cake and surprise them afterwards by telling them it was vegan.
- I’ve been reading all about vegans on the internet, and I’ll let you do it as long as you promise me you’re getting enough vitamin B12.
Thanks Mum! I’m 32, I’ve got an important job, I’m married, but I’m still my Mum’s baby and she will never stop worrying about me. B12 is a vitamin we normally get from animal sources, but it’s actually made by bacteria rather than the animals themselves, so it is possible to get vegan sources of it. Loads of things are fortified with it, like breakfast cereals, non-dairy milks and yogurts, marmite, and nooch.
- Is your partner vegan?
He’s vegetarian but not vegan. Mr Veg is a very ethically-minded person, I know and trust that he doesn’t make any decision lightly, so while I don’t agree with his reasons for eating eggs and dairy, I do respect his choice. Does it cause any problems? All of the meals we make together at home will be vegan, if that bothered him he would be welcome to make himself something different, but it doesn’t. The only issue, and it’s really trivial, is that he feels uncomfortable eating certain things when I’m there, he thinks it bothers me an awful lot more than it does.
- How do you cope going on holiday?
This is really two questions in one. Firstly, in terms of accommodation then either self-catering or a vegetarian bed and breakfast will be easiest, but most hotels will have a breakfast buffet with at least some vegan choice (e.g. beans on toast or some fruit) so it’s not really an issue. Secondly, they might be asking about eating out. My answer to this is that I’ve learned what sort of places I can get easily a vegan meal in, and how not to be shy to ask questions or ask for tweaks to things on the menu. I sometimes get funny looks asking for things without the cheese, but when it’s a choice between getting a funny look and going hungry, I’d much rather put up with being the weird customer who wanted the goats’ cheese salad without the goats’ cheese.
- Do you find you have enough energy?
This surprises some people, but I actually feel physically a lot better now than before I was vegan. I have more energy, my acne is a lot better, my hair is less greasy, my nails are stronger, and I suffer a lot less with bloating. I transitioned to veganism gradually, and for a few months I was vegan in the week and just vegetarian at the weekends, until I realised that every Monday and Tuesday I felt bloated and grumpy. That was enough to give me the final push!
- Do you want some cake or are you still doing that vegan thing?
I have to admit, this does wind me up a bit. It’s not the offer of cake, they’re just being polite after all. What really does bother me is that people assume it’s a phase or a fad diet, or that I’m vegan most of the time unless it’s someone’s birthday. I’m not on the 5:2 diet or WeightWatchers, I made a permanent lifestyle change due to an ethical choice. Thank you very much for the offer but, in the same way a vegetarian would turn down a bacon butty, I’ll politely decline.
- You’ve lost weight, is it your [whispers like there’s something shameful about it] vegan diet?
I did lose a few pounds when I turned vegan, it’s quite common but not guaranteed. I was at the upper limit of a healthy weight for my height before, and now I’m comfortably below that line but definitely nowhere near underweight. I had to work very hard with this particular person to demonstrate that my diet is vibrant and healthy and varied and definitely not something to be worried about, and I think I won her round.
I’d be really interested to know what questions others have been asked, or what answers you’ve given to some of the questions above. Please leave your comments below.