Experts Share Their Challenges to Becoming Vegan
As vegan lifestyles become more mainstream, it’s easier now than ever before to adopt a plant-based diet. At the grocery store, you’ll find many vegan alternatives to popular dairy and meat products, such as mac and cheese, pizza, and chicken. Big companies like Ben & Jerry’s are investing money and energy into making sure everyone has options.
With a growing trend toward vegan and vegetarian diets, many people are more motivated to make gradual changes that can improve their health. Medical research and studies support claims that diets based on whole plant foods and macrobiotics can even reverse disease, such as diabetes and heart disease.
As we get closer to our 2017 Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise, March 11–18, we asked some of our presenters: What was your biggest challenge in becoming vegan? Here’s how they responded!
Gene is the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading nonprofit farm animal protection organization. He shares:
For me, the biggest challenge to becoming vegan was social and societal. When I went vegan in 1985, there was very little awareness or understanding about what this meant, which sometimes led to hostility. But that has changed markedly over the years. Vegans still represent a small minority of citizens, but we are earning the respect of non-vegans, many who have come to respect and see merit in this way of living.
Read more on Gene and his activism here.
Dr. Neal Barnard
A leader in investigating the effects of diet on diabetes, body weight, and chronic pain, Dr. Barnard is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and founder of Barnard Medical Center. He led the groundbreaking study of dietary interventions in type 2 diabetes. He replied:
No challenges. It was easy. Much easier than quitting smoking, for example.
A vegan bodybuilder and author, Robert grew up on a farm in western Oregon and developed a close connection and appreciation for farm animals. It just made sense to him that he shouldn’t be eating his animal friends. He learned how to fuel his high school athletic career by eating plants, largely on his own. He says:
I became vegan in 1995 at the age of 15, so it was a totally different landscape back then. I like to joke that I became vegan before the public internet was available. If I take a look back in time, I recall the biggest challenge for me was living in a small agricultural community and not being understood by my family, friends, and peers. There weren’t a lot of books and resources, and obviously no websites, blogs, or podcasts back then, so I just navigated out on my own, with support from my sister and some classmates. Luckily, plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, have always been there, and even back in the mid-90s there were meat and dairy alternatives, so I was all set and poised for a bright future ahead. I just embarked on my 22nd year as a vegan athlete.
Author of The MILF Diet and The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, Jessica has been practicing macrobiotics since 1991. She teaches cooking classes in Santa Monica, California. She says:
Honestly, transitioning to a plant-based diet wasn’t hard. I was never a big meat eater, or dairy drinker. Although I did love my ice cream. I remember the moment I discovered Rice Dream faux ice cream in 1990, like it was yesterday–what a revelation! Of course, these days there are so many more choices, it’s downright easy to create delicious, satisfying vegan meals with tons of variety. I’ve been eating this way for more than half my life now, so it’s just what I do.
Having nearly died twice in her lifetime, Christina is acutely aware that life is precious. She was diagnosed with terminal leukemia at age 26. When she adopted a strict macrobiotic diet, it made all the difference.
I did not experience a lot of challenges becoming vegan. I was facing a health crisis that made my choices easy.
Read more about Christina’s recovery story here.
Author of two best-selling cookbooks, 365 Vegan Smoothies and Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen, Kathy chose her vegan lifestyle for many reasons, including her love for animals and the horror she feels for how poorly they are treated across the world.
My biggest challenge was realizing for myself that veganism isn’t a strict diet. It is a happy way to eat that benefits your body and soul. It’s not about perfectionism or restriction. It’s about joy and self care.
Nancy is a vegan chef who writes the recipe and nutrition blog Ordinary Vegan. When she was very young, she contracted a disease that landed her in the hospital for six months inside an iron lung. She relied on aunts, cousins, and godparents to help her with physical therapy so she could regain movement of her limbs. She strived to eat healthy and take care of her body. In 2011, the documentary Fork Over Knives profoundly affected her outlook. She adopted a plant-based lifestyle shortly after and was able to discontinue her high cholesterol medication. She shares:
That was close to six years ago, but the thing I remember most was that I was confused about nutrition. I now believe education about nutrition is the most powerful tool you can have to maintain and live a healthy plant-based lifestyle.
Sandy Pukel is the president and founder of Holistic Holiday at Sea. He adopted a plant-based, macrobiotic diet beginning in 1970 and has never looked back. He offers this advice to those daunted by the idea of a vegan lifestyle:
The challenge of becoming vegan lies in the limitations we put on ourselves. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Once vegan, going out with friends is sometimes a challenge, but you can always find something to eat if you are not shy about speaking up for yourself. The ultimate game plan is to have everyone become vegan! Then, dining out, attending concerts, ballgames, etc. would be easy. You could just walk up to any counter and order without having to ask the ingredients. Keep the faith, the concept of health and happiness will soon be embraced by one and all.
Holistic Holiday at Sea hopes to support you wherever you are on your journey to optimal health. Check out our blog for more insight from the experts and ways to get the most out of our upcoming cruise, from poolside socials to essential things to pack.