The first thing that ultimately comes into mind when you hear the word vegan is an image of a tie-dye wearing, kale-eating, off the grid hippie that stepped out from the 60s. Yes, we love our kale. And yes, our ideologies may somewhat be comparable to the flower power era. But today, vegans come in all shapes and sizes.As a 20-year-old vegan, my lifestyle often comes as a surprise to most people I meet. “How can you be vegan?” they say. “Isn’t it hard?” Being vegan—as people commonly mistake it—is more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle that attempts to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals whether it be for food, clothes, entertainment, or other purposes. Yet some people choose to take on a plant-based diet for other reasons such as health, environment, and, most of the time, for all of the above. Making the switch from an omnivorous diet almost two years ago, however, was easier and less exciting than it sounds. If you told my younger self that I were to become a vegan in the future, I would have dismissed and laughed at you. And I would have joined my friends—who, up to this day, are dubious that a meat loving food enthusiast like me would give up more than half of my diet—in laughing at you. But after months of research, watching documentaries, visiting a slaughterhouse, and transitioning from a pescatarian to a vegetarian diet, I made the conscious decision to go vegan one day.There’s no such thing as a perfect vegan. Having been one for almost two years now, discovering and learning new things is a never-ending process. Throughout those years, I began to realize that veganism is more than just the acai bowls and fitspiration goals. Here, I attempt to debunk and answer the common misconceptions about veganism that I, myself once also believed.
It’s hard to become a vegan.
Most of us were led to believe that eating animal products is normal. This is why eliminating them may seem such an intimidating prospect. However, our growing population has created an expansion in the food industry that makes accessing vegan options much easier. Many vegan communities today can also be found online which serves as a guide and support system to all sorts of issues. Manila Vegans, a Facebook group, also offers a 30-Day Challenge where you will be partnered with a mentor that can guide you through the process. A plus, the group organizes occasional veg-ups (vegan potlucks) where you can make tons of like-minded friends!
Vegans eat like rabbits.
While technically this is true, you’d be amazed by the things you can do with fruits and vegetables. In a world where bleeding burgers made from 100 percent vegan ingredients exists, you can indeed replicate anything and everything using plant-based ingredients. And did you know that you can make buffalo wings with cauliflower? Amazing, I know!
Being vegan is expensive.
The Philippines being a tropical country, has unlimited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Although it is recommended for new vegans to start off by consuming mock meats and vegan alternatives for it to be “easier,” it isn’t necessary. You don’t need to spend a fortune buying processed vegan food as it can definitely break the bank. Having a diet that consists of whole foods however, is way more affordable and healthier. You’ll even find that replacing or removing meat with vegetables actually costs less especially when you’re dining out. But the point of veganism is not about mere restriction so treating yourself to vegan cheese and burgers once in a while is perfectly acceptable. At the end of the day, the key is moderation.
Photography by Kris Cuaresma