“How do I deal with cravings for animal products?”

Cravings can come from any radical change in diet, and is a natural part of any shift away from a previously enjoyed food. Not all people who go vegan will experience cravings but you shouldn’t feel bad if you do, what matters is whether or not you act on them. Cravings generally pass on their own, but in the meantime there are a few things you can do to help alleviate them.

First of all, recognise what it is you’re actually experiencing. It isn’t a moral failing, it isn’t an indication of any defiency, it is a purely psychological urge for a food you used to enjoy and which you body is not used to being deprived of. When we crave specific foods, it’s seldom the case that our body is actually craving the food itself, it’s much more likely that what’s happening is that we require something which we usually obtain from that food. If you body needs something fatty, high calorie or high in protein then it will signal to you that it this is what it needs, so you will crave the foods which usually satisfy those requirements, animal products certainly tick all three of those boxes. The key is associating the fulfilment of those needs with foods which aren’t animal products, but this “re-wiring” does take a little bit of time.

So for example, if you are craving red meat, instead eat something else which is high in protein and is high calorie, something like hummus, nuts or acacado would fit the bill. These foods are of course nothing like red meat, but they will fill you up and will meet the same requirements as red meat does. This may not feel very satisfying at first, but over time your brain will learn to associate a craving for fats, protein or calories with these plant based replacements, rather than with red meat. Most people reach a point eventually where they not only stop craving animal products, but just don’t really see it as food anymore. People often cite 30 days as the time it takes to break a habit, and I’d say in my experience that’s about right, by this time most people will at least see a significant reduction in the intensity of their cravings.

In the meantime, there are all kinds of products which do a great job of imitating animal products, and you can find a vegan version of pretty much anything you enjoyed before. If you expect these products to taste exactly like their animal derived counterparts then you’ll be disappointed, so don’t go into it expecting that. The purpose of these products is to be pretty close to the real thing, but also to just provide the same function in a meal. If you’re craving bacon sandwiches, you can do that with soy bacon too, it won’t be the same of course but you’d be surprised how quickly you’ll stop craving meat and just start craving the vegan alternative instead. Some of these faux alternatives are surprisingly close to the alternatives, butter, fish, chicken and beef are probably the easiest to imitate, and there are a massive variety of pretty realistic vegan cheeses to choose from, so you’re bound to find something you like. You may choose to avoid faux meats altogether and that’s fine, you just need to replace those items you’ve given up with something else, because if you don’t then veganism will always feel restrictive, which makes it less likely you’ll keep it up.

These methods will help most people manage their cravings, but it may be that despite all this you still crave animal products, and that’s perfectly okay. What matters is that you don’t give in to those cravings and go back on your values. Eventually you will just stop seeing these products as food, that’s what happens to most vegans over time, but every individual is different and the time that takes is going to vary. In the meantime, as unhelpful as it sounds, you do just having to tough it out and stick with it. Keep engaging in animal rights material, watch the videos, read the books, and remind yourself why you’re doing this. Most of the time when people go back to eating animal products they’ve allowed themselves to become disengaged, and they lose that cognitive connection they’ve made between the food, the animal and the suffering required to obtain it. So stay educated, keep yourself inspired and never lose sight of why you’re doing this.

So long as you are always willing to put your values before your pleasure, then you won’t give in to these cravings. This isn’t to say that mistakes don’t happen, but if you mess up then the important thing is to treat it as a learning experience and to get right back to it. Just remember that ultimately it isn’t really about you, how you feel or what you crave, it’s about reducing the harm you cause by withdrawing your support for this incredibly exploitative industry. No one is saying that animal products don’t taste good or that you’re not allowed to crave them because you’ve gone vegan, the key is that you place the lives of animals above your personal desires and preferences. After all, no taste, tradition or habit can ever be worth taking someone’s life for.

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