In the middle of the summer I made the decision to go vegan, because I had the means, I wanted to try it, and I already wasn't eating meat. So how hard could it be? Two and a half months after going vegan I found that the answer to that question was "very hard" but it was worth it for at least those 10 weeks. Here's what I learned during my stint as a vegan:

The beginning was more difficult than I anticipated:

kale, swiss chard, organic vegetables, fresh vegetables, local vegetables, local farm, shop local, farmer's market, vegetable, carrot, broccoli
Sam Jesner

I was a vegetarian for a year and a half before I went vegan and it was still a difficult transition. The first couple weeks after going vegan were intense; I would highly recommend easing into veganism over a long period of time if you want it to stick. I had lots of low moments, like my first vegan hangover when I realized I couldn’t get an egg and cheese bagel. I cried into a bowl of vegetable broth with eggless noodles that day and almost surrendered.

I would suggest anyone start by cutting out meat and fish then work in dairy substitutes, like soy or almond milk. Spoiler alert: the few vegan cheeses that are edible are most likely expensive; the cheeselessness of these few months was absolutely the hardest part, I ended up eating a ridiculous amount of hummus to try to satisfy my creamy, salty, protein-rich cravings left in cheese's wake. Eggs were tricky to avoid, because they're hidden in a lot of items that seem vegan at first glance.

It was affordable:

Cutting out meat almost two years ago had great financial benefits and when I crossed eggs and dairy off of that list, my grocery bills dropped even more. Eating out is also much cheaper. I found this to be the most straightforward and indisputable benefit of being vegan. 

I had to do a lot of research:

Whether research came in the form of spending an extra 10 minutes in the grocery store reading every label or calling ahead to a restaurant to make sure they have vegan friendly options, there’s a considerable amount of leg work that comes with the territory.

Some menus will indicate their vegan items and a lot of vegan products in grocery stores have certified labels, however, there are tons of products that are vegan even though they don’t have the certifications on their packaging. 

Non-vegans had a lot to say about my veganism:

Anyone who has been vegetarian or vegan can vouch for the fact that meat-eaters tend to condescend us. I realized that this attitude might come from a few different places. The first is ignorance; people don’t like what they don’t understand - this goes far beyond dietary choices.

The second is insecurity. My dietary choices caused people to evaluate their own choices and question the ethics of their consumption.

I never like to ask people why anyone eats meat because I know it’s a headache waiting to happen. Lots of people ask me why I don’t eat meat (I still don’t) or why I was vegan. My relatively benign explanations to their questions often trigger a defensive argument. My reasonings for my choices aren’t a challenge to others, but a lot times they seem to be taken as such.

I’ve heard countless justifications, anything from “I just love meat too much,” to, “well, the entire food industry is corrupt anyway.” The latter is actually ~kind of~ a valid point: humans definitely are severely exploited in this day and age of an industrialized food market, but that doesn’t mean it makes more sense to choose all the ethically and environmentally “wrong” choices when you have the power to cut some out. I get it, it's nearly impossible to eat completely ethically all of the time. 

These strange encounters can be boiled down to the theory that many know vegetarianism/veganism is the ethically, morally, and environmentally right choice. This can make certain meat-eaters self conscious and therefore defensive, and I understand that, which is why I think it's important to allow people to come to terms with these realities in their own time (as long as they don't take too much time).

I realized it doesn’t have to be all or nothing:

After two and a half months I found that full veganism wasn’t the right choice for me. I still don’t and most likely will never eat meat for an endless list of reasons, but when I weighed the good that I felt I was doing by being vegetarian against the good I felt I was doing by being vegan, I didn’t find that the marginal difference was worth the anxiety and unhappiness that the pressure of veganism was putting on me, or that I was putting on myself.

I've found that after being vegan for 2.5 months, I naturally stick to a majority vegan grocery list. By eliminating the label of “vegan”, I alleviated the guilt and stress that came along with trying to be full vegan 100% of the time.

I think that everyone who has the means to do so could benefit from going vegan for even just a week or two to realize that we don't need animal products to survive. Maybe your journey starts with Meatless Mondays, or maybe you dive head first into the vegan lifestyle, but even if veganism doesn't stick, at least you saved a few bucks.