I used to do these vegan “stints” we could call them. Mainly, it was about dieting not living. I would feel like crap, gain a few pounds, and be like, “alright! Time for my two-week vegan diet” to try and clean up my act, look good in my jeans, and have more energy. Late last year, I had to ask myself why I wasn’t eating vegan all the time. Why, if it made me look and feel so much better, was I treating it like a crash diet? Why wasn’t I treating this like a lifestyle choice and committing to it?
You know, food is complicated, and it is very personal. There were health-related and moral reasons behind my decision to go vegan, and to be real with all of you I do not think it’s an all or nothing thing. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach. Food is cultural. It’s social. People are incredibly passionate about food. Food is more than just something we eat. It’s a part of our lives. You have to do what is right for you, your life, and your body.
Going vegan for health reasons
I’m a mom, a full-time writer, and a student, a wife, a marathoner, a lot of things, and I was beginning to feel so incredibly run down all the time. While I love to cook, I was eating more take-out than I care to admit and quite literally running on fumes. It was not sustainable. I was half-way through training for my fourth half marathon when I hit a wall. I didn’t know if I had it in me. I knew something needed to change.
I thought about going vegan for a long time. After losing my mom to cancer and having a lot of health anxiety after that experience, I would research plant-based diets all the time. Cancer runs in my family, and I wondered if changing my diet could help break that cycle. I know there are no guarantees, but the information was compelling. The World Health Organization classifies meat as a probable cause of cancer, and as you switch from meat to more plant-based foods, you end up with a diet richer in many nutrients that prevent diseases, including cancer. Studies linking vegan diets to decreased cancer risks are observational, but to me, eliminating animal products was worth a shot.
Back to the more immediate reason, I felt like crap and the idea of very clean, plant-based eating appealed to me. Also, my body was under an alarming amount of stress, which was starting to manifest itself into actual physical symptoms. I needed to fix things immediately. Vegans report that their diet attributes to an increase in energy and overall greater feelings of calmness, happiness, and well-being, and you know, it makes sense. Sugars, saturated fats, simple carbohydrates don’t actually substantially fuel the body, and I was constantly in this cycle of achieving a quick energy fix only to crash a few hours later. These ups and downs were causing me to be tired, irritable, stressed, and not living a version of myself that I was happy with.
In a sense, I was after a diet that was a lifestyle choice that could help me get the nutrients and antioxidants that made me feel good in daily life and increase my general well-being.
Going vegan for moral reasons
So, listen, if this doesn’t resonate with you, I get it. You can stop reading right here, and I won’t be offended. This one is tricky, and again there is no one-size-fits-all approach here. For example, my husband and I differ on this topic to varying degrees, but yes, a part of my choice to go vegan is based on ethics. I love animals, and I didn’t see how I could call myself an animal lover and still eat them. I struggled with the thought of a creature suffering or experiencing pain so that I could eat it, and I often wondered why the exploitation of animals was still a prevalent part of life on this planet in 2020.
It hit me real hard one day at a local farmer’s market. I had already given up meat like veal or lamb years ago because I couldn’t defend the consumption of baby animals. A vendor had brought the most beautiful, softest, sweetest little lambs to the market for kids to play with, and when I looked at the sign, guess what they were selling? Frozen lamb chops. I was horrified. It took all my self-control not to kidnap these little sweet lambs and let them live forever with Hank and me in my city townhome, which undoubtedly would probably be super weird, but there is a woman I follow on Instagram who lives in an Airstream trailer with a goat. Totally doable.
Through the practice of yoga, non-violence has become a value I espouse and cherish deeply. I believe so much that we can all live a more compassionate life here together on this planet through choices big and small it’s just about taking that first step. To me, that first step was ethical veganism and realizing that all living things from animals to humans deserve love and respect.
Ok, but you mention “for the most part” in the beginning, so what is it? Vegan or not?
Yes, I did, and I am sure this explanation has the potential to undermine my credibility, but you know, I have to recognize the fact that I do not live in a world that caters to vegans and being able to live a vegan lifestyle is in part due to tremendous privilege I have in terms of food access. Have you ever been somewhere where what you eat is often made of up what you grow, catch or harvest yourself? I have. You don’t even have to take it that far for an example! Have you ever been to a region that does not have the plentiful groceries and extensive infrastructure to offer you everything you want at your vegan discretion? Yup. Been there too, and I realize there is privilege involved in being vegan, and I cannot look at our mostly non-vegan world with judging eyes, turning my nose up at everything non-vegan while I navigate it. I decided for myself I could make small exceptions on an infrequent basis.
These exceptions are usually if I am out, and there is literally no decent vegan option available. I don’t need to be that girl at the table, stressing a server out with all my demands. I’ll eat some dairy or eggs in those instances, get over it, and enjoy the company of family and friends, which is why I went out in the first place if I visit someone’s home I don’t expect them to bend over backward to accommodate my dietary choice. I say choice because it is not a restriction. It’s a choice, and I’ll live. My husband loves pizza, and sometimes all he wants is a family pizza night. Considering how supportive he’s been, I let those slide every once in a while. Meat? It’s an exception I don’t make, though. That is usually not too difficult to avoid unless, of course, you find me living in a remote section of Alaska, then maybe we’ll have to revisit that. Like I said, privilege. Recognize it. It’s a big world out there. It’s ok.
I know I’ve already said this twice, but I believe firmly, deep down in my soul, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this. I don’t want this to be an exclusive “vegans only” space. If you’re here looking for a recipe for meatless Mondays, awesome, I am thrilled! If you went cold-turkey 100% vegan three weeks ago and need some inspiration, hell yeah! The more good choices we can make together, inclusive of everyone’s personal beliefs and lifestyles, the better we all do together for both our health, well-being, and state of the world.