How do vegans possibly do it? Even after I became vegetarian, I turned this question over and over in my mind. I knew that I wanted to quit eating animal products but just couldn't imagine making it work. I had even tried a vegan diet for a month, only to learn in the process that I wasn't ready. The commitment to officially say "I'm vegan" was a decision I deliberated about for a long time. In the end, it took two full years before I completely cut out eggs, milk, butter, and cheese. But when the time was finally right, there was no question about it. Two and a half years later, now that this once extreme lifestyle now feels familiar, I have just enough perspective to wish I could go back and give my pre-vegan self (or someone else in my shoes) a few pointers. So whenever they give us the promised time machines and jetpacks and I get the chance to go back and talk to that guy, here's how I'll help him prepare: 1. The jokes will never stop. So get used to them, and understand that they don't necessarily indicate a lack of respect. My dad's favorite line, when he tries some of our food: "This would be great with some meatballs!" It's a joke, of course, and the fact that he says it so often has itself become a joke. But just about every family or friendly gathering yields a joke from someone who must think they're the first to make it. "Want me to throw a steak on the grill for you? Oh, that's right... ha ha ha!" An uncle once presented me with a single piece of iceberg lettuce on a plate and announced, for everyone to hear, "Hey Matt, look. Dinner!" I actually smiled at that one. Get used to the jokes. Laugh them off, or take the opportunity to explain how important your diet choices are to you. Up to you. 2. Giving up the cheese isn't nearly as hard as it seems. I'm not saying that losing the cheese is easy. Life without cheese takes some adjustment, especially if you rely on it as an essential part of the few vegetarian dishes you can order in "normal" restaurants. I thought I'd miss cheese as an appetizer, with a glass of wine or a beer. But it didn't take long to discover that when I replaced the cheese with nuts or crackers, these foods were just as satisfying for their saltiness between sips, and I felt a lot better ten minutes later. I thought I'd miss cheese on pizza. I quickly found that cheeseless pizza wasn't nearly as good as the real thing, but it did the job, and over time, I came to tolerate (and even like) Daiya. Now, vegan pizza is just pizza in my mind, and I haven't lost a thing. As it turned out the key to giving up that last bit of cheese -- which I clung to for months -- was simply deciding to do so. 3. Being vegan doesn't have to be more expensive, but it will be. If you do the math, there's no reason eating vegetarian or vegan should be more expensive than eating meat. At three, five, or eight dollars a pound, meat is one of the more expensive items you'll buy in the grocery store. So if you just replace it, say, with beans that cost a dollar per pound, you'll bank some serious coin.