I’m vegan. And gluten intolerant. And I fly a lot. Admittedly since taking up my new job, I don’t fly as much as I used to, but that’s just life I suppose.
Most people around the world understand what it means to be vegetarian these days.
Vegetarians don’t eat meat.
Being vegan takes that a step further and effectively means no consumption of animal products at all.
Vegans do not eat meat either. But they also don’t eat egg, dairy, or honey.
Seems relatively straight forward, right? No meat, egg, dairy, or honey.
It makes things a little more complicated, as you’d be surprised at the number of products out there that contain ingredients derived from milk or egg that you never would have given a second thought to. Now I have to read the ingredients labels on everything.
I’m not messing around with a lifestyle dietary choice here.
I am not vegan by choice, nor have I been vegan my entire life. I was diagnosed with a medical condition in 2012 that doctors discovered was affecting my body’s ability to process animal protein. It was literally killing me, and between ongoing treatment, a cocktail of medications, and a total overhaul in my diet, things have stabilized. This is a permanent condition, there is no cure. My health, my life, depends on sticking to a vegan diet now. And as someone who has always been a meat-eater, it’s hard to comprehend that I won’t get to eat it again. It has been an extremely difficult adjustment for me, and some days I just want to break down in tears because of the change. Not only because I hate the dietary restrictions themselves, but because of the attitude I cop from some people about it.
You might be surprised at the amount of criticism that I get from people over being vegan. I have had so many people tell me that I’m just being difficult or a picky eater. I find it incredibly offensive, especially when some of these people know me and know that it is all medically necessary and not a snap lifestyle choice I’ve made.
The thing is that with so many people making a choice to be vegetarian/vegan/gluten free these days, society makes the assumption that if you are vegetarian/vegan/gluten free, then you must be doing it by choice as well. I can assure you, this isn’t a choice. Though the availability of vegan and gluten free food at the grocery store has improved in recent years, the range is still extremely limited, and the price of it is astronomical. You can buy a loaf of regular white bread for $1. A half-loaf of gluten free bread costs $7.
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been told by restaurant staff, conference caterers, friends or family that I “should just make an exception to my diet this once” because my dietary restrictions are inconvenient for them. If I was doing this by choice, then maybe that would be an option. In my case, it is not an option. Especially since I am violently allergic to dairy (something unrelated to the medical condition that forced me to go vegan). People’s ignorance and apathy about my requests for no dairy has almost killed me a couple of times. Which is why I would much prefer it if people say to me “no, you can’t eat that” instead of telling me I can. Believe it or not, I don’t say it to be inconvenient or difficult. At some point I have to take people’s word for it when I’m travelling – otherwise I’d starve.
It isn’t like Muslims, Hindus or the Jewish are constantly asked to make an exception when there’s pork, beef, or non-kosher food around. There would be an international outrage if they were! And they’re actually eating their diets due to a lifestyle choice. Yet I’m eating a vegan diet due to medical necessity and somehow I’m expected to just cop it sweet and make an exception?
Trust me – if I had a choice, I wouldn’t be vegan. My weekly grocery bill has almost tripled because I have to buy nearly all my groceries from the health food aisle, and fresh fruit and vegetables in Australia are expensive. I don’t earn that much money, and this has all been a massive drain on my budget. Eating out is a nightmare (especially when travelling overseas), and even at home has reached the point where a lot of my friends now refuse to even invite me out because they know I can’t eat anything, so my social life is almost dead. That might say something about my friends more than anything, but it’s a reality I’ve been forced to face. And I really miss eating seafood!
On top of that, I am actually gluten intolerant. While I’m not actually celiac, it makes me sick – basically triggers IBS. I don’t just eat gluten free because some health guru thinks it will help me lose weight. The reality is that most gluten free food has more calories and salt in it than the regular version.
Travel and medically necessary dietary requirements don’t always go well together…Especially when you’re travelling in developing and third world countries. That being said, the western world isn’t always all that great either unless you’re cooking for yourself!
Basically I just wanted to start a blog about my flying and the onboard catering chaos that inevitably ensues. I will also be posting about my experiences on how to deal with vegan and gluten free food while travelling in general. I know some of my posts will seem overly negative, and it’s not my intention to criticize every single place I travel, but it’s also the harsh reality that needs to be faced in many places. If I can provide information for people who might be travelling to the same destinations I’ve been and warn them in advance of some of the issues that are likely to be faced, I don’t exactly see that as a bad thing. Because as hard as it might be for us to believe sometimes living in the western world, some people just really don’t get it.
A little about me? I’m a 30-something female based in Australia and work in mineral exploration as a consultant. I’m a fitness and health food junkie. I like scuba diving and underwater photography. And shopping!
For the record…I am a Qantas Platinum level frequent flyer and a Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Gold level frequent flyer. Figured a disclaimer should go in here somewhere.