The Stress of Labeling Yourself "Vegan"
So, you're watching all the documentaries, you're reading all the articles, you're seeing all the Instagram posts, and in an instant you're like, "I'm never eating meat again. I'm never eating cheese again! I'M GOING VEGAN." Your heart rate rises and you're equally panicked and invigorated, but then you think "Wait, I can never have a burger again?" "Oh shit, no more bacon?!" "What about cheese, I can't live without cheese!" And then you're defeated and left to continue eating "whatever" because the thought of committing to a lifetime of restriction is out of the question. This is the problem.
The word "Vegan" is intimidating. There, I said it! While the idea of eating a healthy, whole food diet is super alluring (and yes, good for your health & the planet), labeling yourself a vegan just seems sooooo intense. And like what are you going to tell your friends and family? What do you order at your fave restaurant? What the f*ck are you supposed to do on Thanksgiving, for crying out loud?! Ok, chill. First of all, if you do decide to adopt a vegan diet, there are plenty of options for you and believe it or not, your friends and family will come around (and watch some of them even follow in your footsteps!). But here's where I offer the perfect middle ground for you.... Plant Based.
One of my struggles of going vegan was that I became über focused on what I "could" and "couldn't" eat. Yes, I did find much value in actually taking inventory of what I was eating and why, and I am thankful for the reset of what I "should" be eating, that we have been given socially. I also enjoyed the benefits of eating a vegan diet, that included way more energy, dropping a few pounds, and clearer skin. But I began to feel a bit sad that I would never enjoy my favorite calamari in my hometown ever again. Or what if I reeeeeally wanted a lovely piece of cheese with my fancy red wine. Or even just a bite of my husband's steak?? Here's where I redefined my eating habits.
Labelling yourself vegan (or really anything in life), I find to go against the entire point of making these healthy choices. God forbid you eat something not vegan, and the guilt might as well have you committed. You question your validity as a vegan if you have a soup and find out later that there's chicken broth in it. You feel like you've "cheated" if you have a piece of your besties birthday cake. Shit, if you order a burger, you may as well just give the whole "vegan" thing up! To this, I say, "Hell No!"
I have redefined myself (and I do see the irony, because my whole point is to not label, but go with me here) as "Plant Based". Phew, I feel so much better! So much pressure to be vegan perfect has been lifted off of me! To me, plant based means that the vast majority of my diet is whole plant based food, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, while I am open to listening to cravings that my body is having. The thing is, for the most part, my body actually craves the veggies! But when I keep myself open, I'm able to actually listen to what I'm needing, and not just what boundaries I've put on myself. So when I'm in Denmark and the specialty is a shrimp salad, you better believe that I'm getting that and enjoying every last bit of it!
I still take seriously the power of a whole food plant based diet in regards to aiding in a healthy life. I take pride in making choices that will serve my body and make me feel my best. But, at the end of the day, it's all about what works for YOU, and what makes you feel your best. If you are considering a vegan diet, but you can't fathom giving up eggs...don't give up eggs! Design your own regimen. We are allowed to make whatever choices we want, in order to live our very best lives!
I hope this post inspires people who want to eat a more plant based diet, to feel like it's accessible and achievable, without crazy strict rules & judgments. And for the folks who are already eating vegan, who need a relief from the guilt of straying a bit...Do YOU! Make choices based on what will enhance your life, lift you up, and make you feel great! Nothing but love!