It’s Never Too Late to Go Vegan

When I requested stories from readers who had gone vegan after the age of 50, I expected to hear from maybe 10 or 20 people. It was a surprise—a very nice one—to have close to 100 responses within 24 hours of publishing my request.  And they continue to trickle in.

I’ve been gathering this information for a book I’m writing with Carol J Adams and Patti Breitman called Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over 50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant Based Diet. It will be published in 2014.

As we pull together the information for this book, I wanted to hear about personal experiences of those who went vegan a little bit later in life (as well as long time vegans who are in their 50s, 60s, and beyond).

It was interesting, of course, to hear about what prompted people to take the vegan plunge. Many had gone vegan for their health but more had made the decision for the animals. Quite a few made an immediate decision to go vegan after viewing graphic footage of factory farms, which in some cases they happened upon by accident. One respondent was reading about Paul McCartney on the internet after seeing him in concert, and she came across If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls (which he narrates). She watched it and realized that the choice to go vegan had been made for her. (Is it any wonder that Sir Paul has been my favorite Beatle since I was eight years old?)

Another was poking around the PETA website out of curiosity after hearing some derogatory comments about the organization. She came across some videos, started investigating further, and went vegan.

I also heard from a few people who went vegan with their teenage or adult children. Some were influenced by their kids while others were the ones doing the influencing.  It was great to hear about those who went vegan on the family plan!

Almost everyone who adopted a vegan diet somewhat quickly experienced improvements in health, especially a reduction in blood cholesterol levels. Many lost small amounts of weight and a few lost lots of weight. Those who had already been eating more healthfully—quite a few had been lacto-ovo vegetarians for a long time—were less likely to see (or need) improvements in their health.  And some continue to struggle with health and weight issues.

I asked about “joys and challenges.” Some of the responses made me laugh, like the guy who, with tongue in cheek, suggested that he has started to look like Brad Pitt since going vegan.

A recurring theme was the strain in relationships with non-vegan partners and spouses and also with kids. (The upside was that, even when family members weren’t vegan, most ended up eating far less animal food simply because there was more vegan food in the house and on the table. )

Several people noted that they don’t get invited out as much as they used to or that they often feel like a burden to friends when choosing a restaurant. This can be a problem for people of any age. But I wonder if it might be an even more difficult one for those over 50 whose decades-old relationships are suddenly stressed or re-defined.

Some stories were poignant—those about loneliness, feelings of sadness about the treatment of animals or sadness over changed relationships. But, even so, everyone who talked about hurdles in going vegan said it was worth it and many said their only regret was that they hadn’t done it much sooner. Obviously, those who didn’t think it was worth it, and had gone back to eating meat, weren’t answering my little survey. But I didn’t hear from anyone who was wavering or questioning their decision to go vegan.

There was a real sense of joy in most of the stories I read—in discovering vegan cuisine, enjoying improved health, and in being at peace with food choices. (It reminded me, though, that for some, there are real hurdles and problems in going vegan, and we need to acknowledge those and be prepared to help.)

The responses have truly made for some inspiring, heartening, entertaining and informative reading. Carol, Patti and I are exploring ways to use some of them (with appropriate permissions) so I’ll keep you posted on that.  Thank you to everyone who responded and I’m still happy to hear from anyone else who has a story to share.

 

6 Responses to It’s Never Too Late to Go Vegan

  1. lynn harthorne June 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    I went vegan at 44 for health and environmental reasons and to not lend economic support to the mess that is our commercial meat and dairy industry. I don’t wish to eat GMO corn fed antibiotic and hormone filled ‘meat’ or dairy products.

    I am all for ethical treatment of animals, but do not support PETA- I have genuine misgivings about their tactics.

    • Ian June 29, 2013 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Lynn,
      It’s great that you went vegan – for whatever reasons – but please don’t conflate PETA with animal welfare or rights issues in general. I have no particular gripe against PETA, but their presentation can be divisive. Please look in other places for information about our use of animals and why it cannot be justified – at least for us in this place and at this time. Tom Regans book Empty Cages covers most of the ground very well and is a straightforward read.
      Jeffrey Massons’ “The Face on Your Plate ” or Jenny Brown’s “The Lucky Ones” are also good places to start.
      I would also suggest “Pleasurable Kingdom” by Jonathan Balcombe or “Animal Manifesto” by Mark Bekoff as great reads, not distressing, that can really enlarge our sense of the nature of animal consciousness. Both are written by bona fide animal scientists. Also, the podcast Vegetarian Food for Thought by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has many excellent episodes about the animal care reasons for being vegan, as well as a lot about becoming and remaining a healthy and sane vegan.

      I hope that the health and environmental benefits of a vegan diet are enought to make you love the diet, but some of these books might help it to become even more than that.

      Best wishes.

  2. Eric June 24, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    Hello – this is what happened to me when I went vegan after age 50. I experienced a complete transformation and awakening and have never been happier! http://vegandinnerparties.com/thank-you-mr-clinton/

  3. Joseph Dubonnet July 3, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Lynn,

    I became Vegan at age 50 primarily for health reasons but also (later on) for the environmental benefits that result from that diet.

    I was attracted to the plant-based diet because my wife’s children were vegetarian and because a dear friend diet from a heart attack at age 52 which scared the living daylights out of me.

    I have since lost 20+ lbs, cut my cholesterol levels down by over 30% and feel better than ever.

    I have been on a plant-based diet for two years now and am never going back.

    Cheers!

    Joseph

  4. Eduardo July 24, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    Hello everyone, my name is Eduardo, thank you for this interesting blog. I read the book Vegan for life, but I have not visited this blog until now. Congratulations! I’m glad to tell you about my experience: I am vegan for many years. Now I am 43 years old and I started this journey for the welfare of animal friends, when I was young. I do not like to kill to eat! Then I read of animal exploitation and therefore I said enough to the animal by-products such as milk, eggs and cheese, etc. I do not use anything as leather to get dressed, either my shoes, and also I don’t use shampoo, soap or perfumes testing in animals. Then I thought to be Vegan must be good for me, and then I began to study nutrition. I studied vegan cooking, and I graduated as a vegan chef. I left my job in Turin (Italy) as an ICT, and now I’m traveling and I hold cooking classes to support healthy vegan eating.

    I’ve also been lucky in my growth, because in my parents house I have ever ate junk food. My parents are not vegan, but are very careful about what they eat. My experience traveling is that there is still much in the world that enriches only those who produce it. Not to mention the drinks harmful to health. Everything contains sugars and other things very dangerous for our blood and in general to our health. To the people how cares about themselves, I ask only one thing: when you go to the grocery store, always look at the ingredients! We can make a difference when we go shopping! Who produces must adapt to the request and let’s say STOP to junk food! Everything will be better for us and for the world we live in! Vegan for us and for those who will come after us!
    This is my blog http://www.vivirvegan.it, those who want to check it and take the recipes and leave a greeting will always be welcome.
    Ciao , Eduardo :)

  5. Joy Cipoletti July 24, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    I just came across your website after reading an article in today’s paper (The Gazette) about you. Your request for information from people who went vegan after 50 caught my attention, so I thought I’d share my story.

    I have been a vegetarian since age 16 (with a few brief periods of attempting to eat seafood or chicken for health reasons, but not in the past 20 years). I initially became vegetarian after listening to my brothers talk about the source of the meat we were eating at the dinner table.

    In recent years I have been hearing more and more about the inhumane treatment of animals, but I didn’t realize that this included egg-laying chickens and milk-producing cows until a friend shared some information with me about a year ago. After that, more information about animal mistreatment kept showing up in various ways, and I got the message. I decided to make the transition to an entirely plant-based/vegan diet, and I did so last September (2012) at the age of 52.

    After a brief transition (what can I use in my morning cappuccino?), I have made a complete shift to a vegan diet, and I love it. I had worked hard to lose weight the year before on my vegetarian diet by cutting back on cheese (especially), and I had lost about 30 pounds. After switching to vegan, I lost another 7 pounds without trying, but more importantly, my body shape and composition changed so that I became smaller overall at the same (healthy) weight.

    I love my new way of eating. I feel good, and I don’t ever remember looking as fit and healthy as I do now at age 53. I was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis, and I am hoping that my diet (and some supplements) will halt or reverse the bone loss over the next few years. Some studies seem to indicate this is possible, although it was not the reason I initially made the choice to go vegan.

    The biggest challenges for me were: 1) in the beginning, figuring out what to eat besides salad (I don’t do a lot of simple carbs, pastas, etc.); I have since discovered the joy of cooking and experimenting and found many new additions to my diet. 2) the comments from my kids and some of my family (especially my mother) wondering what kind of crazy thing I’m doing and if I’m healthy or obsessive. 3) the challenges of eating out or going to friends’ homes for dinner. As some others have shared, I hate to make a big scene about my eating choices, and it does limit my options. I recently attended a business conference at a resort hotel in Texas were it was almost impossible for find vegan meals.

    On the plus side, I love knowing I’m leaving a smaller footprint on the planet and not being a source of pain and abuse of other living creatures. I like the limits around my food options, and I love the way I look and feel.

    Looking forward to your book!
    Joy

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