How to Cope When Temptation Strikes As a Vegan
To deny that temptation isn’t all part and parcel of plant-based living is futile. In some instances, those who give up all animal products in their entirety genuinely cannot abide the thought of them. The mere mention of anything meat or dairy-based is enough to turn their stomachs, making it relatively easy to stick to a plant-based lifestyle.
Elsewhere, a much larger proportion of those who make the transition – particular later in life – face temptation on a regular basis. For some, there are certain specific products that have them practically salivating at the sight or smell of them. Bacon being a prime example, which is one of the prime culprits when vegans and vegetarians fall off the wagon.
For others, it’s more a case of occasionally (or regularly) missing a fair few things they used to eat on a regular basis. Some of which they may not think about too often, but are occasionally presented with and comprehensively tempted by.
Whether it’s a horrendously inconvenient billboard ad on a hungry trip to work or a friend munching on something you’re really not supposed to go near, temptation has a tendency to be everywhere.
Taking Practical Steps to Cope
This is the first practical guideline to overcoming temptation – accepting the fact that it is everywhere. If you genuinely think you can escape temptation entirely, you’re in for a rough ride.
As is usually the case, it’s not until there’s something you’re trying to avoid that you realise it really is absolutely everywhere. It’s being rubbed in your face at all waking hours of the day, making it difficult to stay on the straight and narrow.
Once you’ve accepted that temptation is an inherent part of giving up animal products, you’ll be in a much better position to cope. It won’t help with the temptation itself, but will at least prime you for the rest of the steps you need to take.
If you’re struggling to cope with what seems to be 24/7 temptation, here’s what to do to keep it at bay:
1. Acknowledge Your Temptation
First up, along with accepting the fact that there is temptation everywhere, you also need to acknowledge and accept your feelings of temptation. Don’t for one minute try to convince yourself you’re not dying to swallow an entire cheesy pizza, when in reality you’d happily rob the joint to take one home!
Acknowledging and accepting feelings and temptations is the first step towards controlling them. After all, you can’t take practical steps to something you’re in denial about in the first place. Accept the fact that you are tempted, acknowledge how tricky it may be to keep your temptations under control and remember that you are only human.
2. Remind Yourself Why You Gave Up Animal Products
It’s also important to regularly remind yourself why you gave up animal products in the first place. It could be that you realised you’d enjoy a much healthier and more content lifestyle in general without meat and dairy. Likewise, it could simply be that you didn’t want to take part in the senseless and brutal slaughter of billions of helpless animals each year.
Either way, you’ve done a fantastic thing with nothing but noble causes in mind. In which case, the benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle exponentially outweigh those of going back to your old ways. What’s worth remembering is that by succumbing to temptation even once, it could lead you back to old habits on a more regular basis. If that’s not what you want, use every bit of your willpower to abstain.
3. Find Alternatives
Truth is, there’s almost no craving whatsoever these days that cannot be satisfied with a plant-based alternative product. There are high-tech alternatives to meat that are practically identical to the real thing, there’s a whole world of vegan cheesy goodies to explore and there are more fantastic sweets and confectioneries on the plant-based market than you’ll be able to try in a lifetime.
Consequently, one of the easiest ways of bringing a craving under control is to find the closest vegan approximation and indulge to your heart’s content. Use it as the perfect excuse to treat yourself to something that isn’t particularly healthy, as a reward for all your hard work. Make no mistake about it – there’s absolutely nothing unethical, impractical or counterproductive about meat and dairy replacements. Many of which are the sole reason millions are finding themselves able to transition to veganism, which really cannot be a bad thing.
4. Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry
If you’ve ever been grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you’ll know just how powerful hunger can be. When you’re hungry, your body’s desire for food (any food) completely overwhelms all rational and logical thought. You suddenly find yourself with a basketful of all manner of weird and wonderful garbage you’d never normally go near.
It’s a similar story where these kinds of cravings are concerned. If you allow yourself to get hungry enough, you’ll soon find yourself craving various snacks and items you would not normally think about. Simply because they’re readily available and packed with calories, you want them. And not only do you want them, but the fact that you are hungry makes it so much more difficult to avoid succumbing to temptation. The solution is therefore simple – don’t allow yourself to get so hungry that you make regrettable dietary decisions.
5. Give Yourself the Occasional Graphic Reminder
Cliché but effective, watching the occasional graphic documentary or simply taking a look at a few unsettling photos can be all it takes to remind you why you are doing what you are doing. It’s surprisingly easy to put to one side the plight of animals when what’s happening to them isn’t right there in front of you. Out of sight, out of mind – the basic premise that makes it so easy for millions to eat meat without a second thought.
Particularly where newcomers to plant-based lifestyles are concerned, these kinds of reminders can be extremely useful. It’s not a case of deliberately upsetting yourself, but simply reminding yourself why it is a cause that is worth supporting.
6. Surround Yourself with Others Like You
There’s also something to be said for a little bit of healthy pride and even positive peer pressure. If you surround yourself with other people who follow a plant-based lifestyle, you’re significantly less likely to succumb to temptation. For one thing, you’re highly unlikely to fall off the wagon and return to your old ways right before their eyes. Secondly, you’re more likely to take inspiration and strength from the example they set.
It’s the classic case of the collective being much stronger than the sum of its component parts. At the opposite end of the scale, being the only person you know attempting to live a vegan lifestyle can make the whole thing incredibly difficult. Not impossible, but a constant test for your willpower and patience. You’ll find the whole thing much easier if you’re part of a community – irrespective of how small.
7. Keep Yourself Busy in the Kitchen
Taking the time to learn as many fantastic vegan recipes as you can also comes highly recommended. There are two reasons for this – the first of which is the importance of not allowing yourself to get too hungry. As touched upon above, you are far less likely to make regrettable mistakes if you keep yourself nicely satisfied at all times. Secondly, learning how to cook up a storm as a vegan means getting to know just how fantastic plant-based living can be.
Rather than seeing it as a challenge (or even something of a punishment), the goal is to make it an absolute pleasure. You learn how to cook fantastic plant-based meals, master the art of vegan baking and you suddenly find yourself with no need for animal products whatsoever. And if you’ve no need for them in your life, you’re not going to miss them.
8. Learn from Mistakes and Move On
Last but not least, there’s every chance you will occasionally succumb to temptation and eat something you probably shouldn’t. In which case…well, no harm done. At this point, the worst thing you can do is think “oh well I’ve clearly failed so I may as well quit”. Quite the opposite, as if it turns out to be something to genuinely regret, it’s unlikely to strengthen your resolve to continue your plant-based lifestyle.
Acknowledge you’ve made a mistake, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Learn from mistakes like these and consider what you can to ensure they don’t happen again. If you genuinely regret it, chances are it is not something you’re going to risk repeating anytime soon. Don’t let the odd mistake serve as an excuse to lose sight of your goal and your positive intentions.