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|Being vegan is driving me crazy?
Posted By Anonymous
I don't want to be taken the wrong way... I will stay vegan for the rest of my life because I view it as a moral imperative. But after three years, I am finding it inexplicably difficult. I can see why some people give up. I would say the number one problem is vegans are not permitted to be lazy and I must admit I am lazy. If you're vegan and broke, that means you don't eat. There's nowhere in the world you can buy affordable, convenient vegan food. I'm a student and I'm shocked sometimes at what passes for "affordable" in the vegan community! And frankly, I don't ever expect to be rich enough to buy vegan convenience food. I occasionally splurge on it anyway, but it can't be all the time. I just find it so depressing to know that whenever someone invites me to a regular restaurant or a party, I won't have anything good to eat. Eating has totally become a chore for me because of all the planning and cooking that's almost inevitably involved. I have really, really tried to get into cooking, but I just hate how time consuming it tends to be. I also have the problem that I hate vegetables, most of them taste disgustingly bitter to me, so I can't just lightly cook them and be done with it. I have to find a good way to season them and cook them properly, which I haven't had much luck with. Every time I buy some fresh veggies for a recipe, they just go bad because the thought of all the work involved, when I probably won't even like it, is too daunting. I usually wind up eating frozen french fries or pasta for dinner! I am sure I have multiple nutritional deficiencies because I barely eat any healthy foods ever. I'm not too worried about it but I'm thinking I should be! I've also been depressed that none of my friends and family understand me. They think I'm crazy for being vegan and, although they'll eat dinner if I cook it, they don't exactly accommodate me when they cook for everyone else. I would like to ditch these people and hang out with vegans, but I'm no good at making new friends. Besides, most of the meetups near me would be in New York and it costs me a bit of money to pay for the transit costs and takes a long time to get there. I don't know where to find vegans in my town or how to meet them, although there must be a lot because my local grocery store has begun selling a lot of popular vegan items. Basically I am proud to be vegan but I am starting to hate it too. I love your column because it's so positive. Can you help me? I know my life is a mess, but aside from listening to my rant, I suppose you could help if you know how I could improve my social life or some techniques to cook quick, cheap meals that would please a picky eater. I want to place the blame on society or my unsupportive loved ones, but ultimately I know I could thrive if I wanted to. I just honestly don't know how. Diving right into cookbooks did NOT work!
Thanks so much for reaching out instead of struggling on your own. I want to address each of your concerns in a minute; many people who've headed down the vegan path will have hit these challenges at some point or another. But before I go into them, I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the possibility that you're suffering from depression. I say this because I did too at one point and have come out the other side and can recognize some of the classic signs. I didn't have energy, couldn't sleep well, didn't care about my health, couldn't relate to other people, and even the smallest tasks seemed like huge chores. Being vegan has its challenges and its joys; being vegan with depression can just seem downright unbearable, with very few if any joys. So, if that rings at all true for you, I think the first step would be to seek help to treat your underlying depression. Once that's being sorted, everything will be easier for you, and you will be eating less crap because when you're depressed, you don't care, so you eat crap, which makes you feel crappier, which makes you care less, and you eat even more crap.
Okay. Now. How to eat less crap and more vegetables, affordably. I wouldn't try to overhaul your habits all at once right now. It seems as though your mainstay is pasta, so I'd say pick the least yucky vegetables (baby carrots aren't bitter, neither is baby spinach, zucchini, broccoli, string beans) and work with them for now, sneaking them to your pasta. And add a delicious sauce. When in doubt with vegetables, douse them in a healthy sauce. You can buy frozen veggies, which are often cheaper and last super long. Here are some yummy-looking sauce recipes from Vegweb: Lentil Burger Helper, Cashew Alfredo Sauce, Easy Pesto Sauce, Nutritional Yeast Dip/Sauce, or Peggy's Easy Peanut Sauce. You just have to make a big batch of the sauce once to last you throughout the week. Over time, you can add more veggies and less pasta or switch to brown rice, quinoa or another grain, and toss in some beans for a complete, healthy meal.
I found a couple of other nice recipes on Vegweb by typing "easy" in the search box: Stacie's Quick and Easy Vegetarian Chili, Easy Curried Vegetable and Grain Soup. What I like about finding recipes online vs. in cookbooks is that they tend to be way more simple and doable, and in the comments section, you can see how other people tailor them to their own needs.
Another great resource for eating healthfully and affordably is the Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day blog. She's got some easy classics such as the 3-Ingredient Veggie Burger. Check out her tips and sample weekly menu. You will have to be in the kitchen and do some work, I'm afraid. But that's the same for meat-eaters as well as vegans if you want good, healthy food on a budget.
Before I move onto the social aspect, I need you to address your possible nutritional deficiencies. They are no joke, they can be irreversible, and they can absolutely impact your mood. If you're not getting enough B, D, or Omega-3, that could be bringing you down into the dumps and giving you less energy. So, read up on missions 28 and 29 and address those deficiencies ASAP. At this point, I'd even recommend going to the doctor for some blood tests, which will tell you exactly what you need, and you may be put on high doses of vitamins until you're evened out.
I hear you and the world hears you about the social aspects of being vegan. Can we schedule a monthly vegan primal scream to vent our frustration? For real, though...if you told me that you work for a 4-H club in Montana, I would be hard-pressed to find creative ideas. Luckily, you're a student relatively near a big city. Where there are colleges, there are vegans and potential vegans. Have you joined the environmental club? Maybe there's a law school attached to the school with a SALDF chapter that holds events you can attend? I used to organize screenings of films by Tribe of Heart at various schools, and after one of them in Indiana, a vegetarian group was formed that met once a month and held potlucks and organized events. So, even helping put together one event can result in like-minded people coming together and forming a community.
Even if you can't come into the city regularly for MeetUps, maybe you can pick a few special ones a year to attend. This Saturday there's all-area Veg*n MeetUp picnic in Central Park, where all the vegetariand and vegan meetups in the area will converge.
Finally, I'm hearing so much negative, limiting self-talk: "I am lazy, I don't ever expect to be rich enough to buy vegan convenience food, I'm no good at making new friends," etc. Please take this past week's mission to heart. You don't know what you're capable of, my dear. Just open your heart and your mind to the possibility of change--of having energy and drive, of having disposable income, of having new friends. You are capable of change. If you complete the last mission, you'll see that because it's true and because--guess what?--you deserve it. You deserve to be happy! AND happily vegan!
I hope this has been somewhat helpful. And I'm opening it up for other Vegans at Heart to share any wisdom or resources they might have as well.
Thanks again for reaching out!
Posted By Admin