I am a vegan failure. At least that’s what I used to tell myself. For two years, I was on the vegan wagon, but fell off and became vegetarian again. Not because of some health issue, but because old habits really do die hard.
After four years of struggling internally with my ethics (I’m slow at changing my ways) I was ready and became vegan again. After much self reflection, I learned many valuable lessons from my mistakes. I now feel an even deeper connection to my vegan ethics and lifestyle.
I know that I’m not alone in this. I hope that my story, and the tips I learned will help you to feel inspired to go vegan again if it’s calling to you.
Sometimes our paths to veganism aren’t so straight and narrow. Sometimes our paths go uphill, fall backwards, go uphill again and take a detour.
Whatever your path, be kind and keep steering yourself toward veganism. It is the kindest and most environmentally friendly lifestyle we have at the moment.
The “they were NEVER vegan” mindset trap
When someone becomes an ex-vegan, sometimes you hear the response “they were never vegan”. I have mixed feelings about this statement.
I understand that people actually mean “they only got into veganism for themselves” when they say this and sometimes this statement is true. But saying “they were never vegan” for every single person who quits, helps no one.
There is no remedy for this and it writes many people off who might eventually come back, like I did. Ex-vegans may throw their hands up and say “well, I guess I was NEVER vegan, so F*CK IT”!
Veganism is an ethical stand point and choice and just like all choices and ethical stand points, they can be heavily influenced by our surroundings.
We are HIGHLY social creatures and going against the force of society can wear many people down after a while.
Take a minute and think about all of the blatant and not so blatant ways that society reinforces, every single hour, the belief to eat animals. It’s done so much that it’s a central part of our society and it seems normal:
All of the billboards, commercials, magazines, jokes in TV shows about vegans, the abundance of meat in every grocery store, gas station, restaurant, the ads that make us believe protein only comes from animals, and the use of specific animal flesh to celebrate specific holidays.
Companies make billions of dollars off of the belief that eating animals is normal, natural and necessary. You better bet your ass that they will reinforce this belief every second they can.
There is a hell of a lot of force going against veganism and if you don’t reinforce your ethics on a regular basis, they will inevitably wear away over time. Even for the most hard-core vegans.
So, when someone says “they were never vegan” I don’t necessarily agree.
While there are a few reasons people quit veganism (not eating a balanced diet, eating too few calories, not supplementing properly, not learning the basics of vegan nutrition) I think that the biggest reason, if people are honest with themselves, is that they didn’t regularly reinforce their ethics and the pressure from society eventually got to them.
This is easier to remedy than writing someone off as “never vegan”. You can’t really remedy that. You can, however, rebuild and reinforce neglected ethics.
Find out why you fell off
In order to not make the same mistakes, you have to know what led you to make those mistakes in the first place. Then you can avoid these situations.
I took a lot of time to figure out what culminated in my falling off the vegan wagon. When I did this, I realized it wasn’t an ingrained character flaw, but situations and mindsets that I allowed myself to unconsciously slip into. This is empowering because you can change these things.
Find out why you fell off the wagon. Be honest with yourself. To give you a jump start, here’s what culminated in me eating dairy and eggs again:
I began focusing too much on health, purity and weight loss.
I did cleanses and restricted my diet too much. I never really ate any vegan junk food, bread or meat alternatives.
I was under-eating and this lead to cravings and lack of willpower.
I moved in with my boyfriend’s parents who were Swiss. They had stinky cheese (my favorite) in abundance in their fridge. Combine that with my lack of willpower from under eating and BOOM!
It was hard for me to stop once I messed up.
I was an isolated vegan. I wasn’t part of any online or in-person vegan community.
I constantly heard “just eat some cheese it won’t kill you”. The belief that eating eggs and cheese was normal was reinforced through the every-day brainwashing all around us.
I didn’t reinforce my ethics after I went vegan.
I didn’t supplement
I wasn’t in a good place in my life and this made me mentally exhausted. I didn’t want one more thing to think about. This was before the boom of vegan cheese and dairy alternatives. I suddenly had a f*ck it attitude and began eating eggs and dairy again because I was tired of thinking about it.
I was coping with life by binge drinking which worsened my mental state and willpower.
Tips for starting again
Now that we’re clear with why we fell off, let’s try to avoid these situations. Here’s what I did to come back to veganism. If you find any of these tips resonate with you, feel free to give them a go:
I reinforce my ethics regularly with books, YouTube videos and activism.
I stay educated about vegan health by following doctors like Dr. Michael Gregor and I learned how to discern misinformation thrown out by the meat & dairy industry.
I joined the vegan community by going to vegan meet ups and joining facebook groups.
I looked for recipes that made me excited about veganims again
I quit drinking (this doesn’t have anything to do with veganism, it just put me in a bad mental space that made me lack willpower)
I take care of my mental health with yoga and journaling and I work toward creating the life I love.
I focused on a balanced vegan diet with lots of beans and whole foods and occasional “junk foods”
I stopped obsessing with purity and weight loss and I don’t f*ck with juice cleanses anymore.
I make sure to eat enough calories
When cravings hit, I find a vegan alternative.
I expiramented with different brands until I found vegan cheese and dairy replacements that I love
I eat meat replacements when cravings hit
I learned the basics of vegan nutrition. It’s not as complicated as you think
I supplement smartly (B12, Iodine, DHA & EPA, Vitamin D)
It’s not about purity & perfection, but about progress
It’s never too late to become vegan again. For some people (ahem…ME!!), it takes a long time to unlearn all of the brainwashing instilled in us since our childhoods. Our paths aren’t always so straight and narrow. It’s ok to mess up. Learn from your mistakes and begin again!
There is no vegan police (even if some people act like it). Instead of beating yourself up for “failing”, take a look at the mindset and situations that may have influenced you.
Try to avoid those situations and work at changing your mindset. Take time to regularly reinforce your ethics. Brush yourself off, grab some vegan cheese and get back on that vegan wagon!