6 years and suddenly struggling

Sep 22, 2018
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  1. Vegan
Hi all. I've been a vegan for six years with no problem. Even those first few weeks, which are supposed to be the hardest, weren't that difficult for me.

I'm from the UK originally, but now I've moved to Vietnam for a bit. The food is great, but it's very different. There are fake meats abound, but not a lot in the way of veggie burgers, fake roast meat, etc. This shouldn't matter - we are not slaves to taste, after all - but, these are the foods of home. I'm suffering from homesickness and culture shock, and every detail counts. That's why, I think, my eyes keep lingering on the ready to eat beef burgers and chicken sandwiches in the 24 hour convenience store.

I have to do what other vegans have done, but which I have never previously had to do; remind myself of the evil of animal agriculture, in order to stay on the right side. Before, I just did veganism. I didn't need to remind myself of anything. I didn't need to watch slaughterhouse videos. I did veganism, because I knew it to be right.

I think my moral fortitude has been eroded by my experiences here. All the rules are different. I'm away from everything I know, and I see things every day that make me think "That's not right."

I know someone here who was vegetarian back in her home country (USA) and isn't any more. I wonder if she had the same experience. Before these thoughts starting getting at me, I couldn't understand why anyone would go from vegetarian to non-vegetarian, or vegan to meat eater. Surely - I thought - surely, of you had to stop being vegan for some reason (like health), you'd pick the closest approximation that you could, knowing that the ethical issues haven't changed?

I now understand that life doesn't just wear down resolve. It can wear down your identity if you let it. That's why so many people go back.

Out here in Vietnam, I have no support network. The only vegans are Buddhists, and although there are plenty, I don't know many of them. I live in an area where people don't speak a lot of English. I used to be surrounded by strong vegan example, namely my mother, who is a semi-famous powerhouse of veganism in the UK. She continues to run riot over Facebook, and I watch, but I watch from a distance. I eat alone. I cook alone. It makes a big difference.

Worse still, the vegans I do know from back home don't invite confidences on the matter. I don't need to be lectured, I need to be felt. I want someone to say, "Yeah, it's hard for me, too. I do it, but it is hard." We don't need to pretend that it's always easy when it's not, just for the sake of encouraging others to follow suit. We should be able to be honest and say, "I hate the fact that fried chicken still makes my mouth water, but it does."

That's why I'm on a support group. We have support groups because there's inherent value in the truth, be it beautiful or ugly.
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I would suggest watching Earthlings on YouTube if you want to be re-inspired. I'd watch as many vegan documentaries as possible.

I wish I could say I know how you feel, but I don't have that problem. It's easy for me, but I can't speak for everyone. I know many people do crave certain non-vegan foods. I know dairy, cheese in particular, is difficult for many new vegans.

Maybe try one of these recipes. It sure looks like fried chicken to me.

People have to face this in one way or another and it sounds like you were probably very privileged to live in a large city (I'm strongly guessing) in UK where you had access to "vegan products" all you wanted, and the income to spend on such things. I'm not saying that to be nasty, I'm saying that maybe the reason you never had to think about it being wrong to eat animal products is because it was super easy for you in the UK.

I became vegan while living in Los Angeles, working full time, and taking yoga, so it was easy for me at first too. Then I went back to school and had a lot less money, and was even homeless once for three weeks, and have eaten from food banks in the past. Now I live in Northern California and I have a lot less access to the restaurants and variety of products in L.A. but it's still very do-able here, still some vegan products available, and lots of local produce and a hippie vibe. Over the summer I worked in a remote rural area of California, though, and had to walk across a highway bridge to a small, family owned market to even get produce when it was delivered once per week, and didn't even have access to so much as tofu or soy milk unless I got a ride with someone into the nearest town, an hour away.

So this kind of thing is happening to you in Vietnam. You're having to metaphorically go to the foodbank, walk across the bridge, and do without sometimes. That's the real test of ANY ethics - for example, it's easy to be a "good Christian" from a white, middle class home with loving parents, it's much more challenging if you were born into inner city poverty to a single mother because your father smoked crack. It's easy to be a "forgiving Buddhist" if everyone around you is a nice person who basically shares your values, it's entirely another if you find yourself in some fucked up situation where you're being abused, threatened, mistreated, or legally harassed and alone. It's the same with veganism. This is really the test. This is exactly why I say the definition of veganism desperately needs to be expanded, because it's not as simple of a matter as "I ate nothing but vegetables for six years."

Also, to be sympathetic, you're likely craving foods that remind you of your childhood. If you are lonely, homesick and essentially flummoxed, you may be craving foods you ate long before you became vegan, that remind you of holiday parties or family occasions earlier in life. I feel you. That's exactly why I love things like pizza, so it's okay to "regress" emotionally when you feel lost, to want that candy you ate as a ten year old at grandmas, or the burger you loved in your teens while out with friends.

Can you leave Vietnam? Why are you there?
Since becoming vegan, I feel that over the years my body has become cleansed of all the misery that would have been embedded in the animal products I used to eat. So now the thought of putting that misery back into my body is unthinkable.

I agree that this is more about emotional craving rather than food craving. Is there something else you can do? Maybe send for a book or music you love. Even wearing a particular colour. I bought something to wear because it reminded me of a much loved dress I had when I was young. It made me happy and comforted. We usually want to put something in our mouth, like a dummy, but there are other things we can do instead.

How long are you in Vietnam for? Try to enjoy it. You might never go back again after you leave.

I know someone meant well.. but i've never seen "Earthlings" before.. So i tried to watch it.. After 20 minutes.. i almost cried like a baby.. Especially seeing the dogs being euthanized.. I couldn't go any further.

If it were left up to me, i would save every single "earthling" on this planet from human cruelty.. But i'll keep doing so by sticking to my plant based diet, and sticking up for animal/civil rights, as i have in the past.

If anyone wants to jump off the Vegan Wagon.. i think "Devilish"s suggestion regarding re-watching the documentary "Earthlings" should be pretty darn persuasive.
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I've tried to watch Earthlings twice. Never got past Chapter 2. I was already vegan before I ever heard of the film. so i'm not even sure why i tried the second time.
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Earthling Ed from YouTube uses often words and undeniable logic instead of graphic pictures (there may be some horror and gore, but it's rare). Sometimes when I have a craving for non-vegan products, I watch some of his videos to remind me why I'm vegan for life.
When life situations change, it also changes us and sometimes it can even be difficult to remember what is important. It must be hard to move far away from very supportive people, only to notice that they don't understand you when you need them the most. All a while being surrounded by strangers and in a culture completely alien to you. That must be stressful to you and stress is a big factor in creating food cravings. There would be an reward to an extend, if you'd give in to your feelings, but since you know what you know, there would also be punishment of guilty concience.

Ideally, veganism shouldn't be only denying your wants, there should be "yes" behind every "no". When you figure out what delicious meals you can have that resemble the old treats, everyhting gets little bit easier.
You could check out recipes from internet or books.
Some examples would be:

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I'm sorry to hear you are going through a hard patch craving non vegan matter. It was different for me. I found it very difficult at first to change and have major cravings over fried eggs. I persisted. Now it's a lot easier.

I won't get on your case about this. I gave up on vegitarianism for trivial reasons in my teens and gave up veganism in my twenties because someone told me it was 'unhealthy'. I didn't stick to a vegan diet until my 30's. I feel bad about this. I wish I'd gone vegan in my teens. I wouldn't have so many animals on my conscience If I'd given up earlier. Please try to stick to your principles as hard as it is. Go past the animal corpses that you see. I'm sure you will feel better for it if you do.