What does it mean to be vegan.

This post is a response to an anonymous comment made to one of my posts, which accused me of being fake because I say I’m vegan yet I use/consume animal products.

I don’t want this to be my defense of my veganism, but alas, I suppose that’s what it’s going to be.

First I’d just like to say that becoming vegan has been a process. I didn’t eliminate all animal products overnight, and as I’ve gained more awareness about certain things, I’ve tried to align my choices to match my awareness. I try to only eat and consume animal free foods and cruelty-free products to the best of my ability and feel that I do a pretty good job. Do I eat butter? No. Eggs, meat, milk, cheese? No, no, no, and no. Am I for treating all beings with compassion and respect? Yes. Am I against animal cruelty? Yes. Do I think it’s wrong to create life only to kill it. Yes. For me, this is vegan enough. I don’t know what other label to use, so there it is.

I’ve said this before. I hate labels. I’m hesitant to label myself anything. But alas, we cannot avoid labels. I suppose it’s our desire to create order that is the chaos of living.

I think people are turned off from embracing vegetarianism or veganism because there seems to be an element of perfectionism to it. Like if you decide you’re vegetarian, and you happen to eat meat or twice does this no longer make you vegetarian?

This problem doesn’t just exist for vegetarians or vegans. What if you’re Democrat and vote for several Republican candidates over a period of time? What if you’re Catholic but you never attend Mass? Do you still call yourself Catholic?

This has been something I’ve thought a lot about as I’ve been intensely nauseated and all of the old foods I used to eat have been unpalatable (an understatement!). The other morning, for example, determined to finally eat something healthy, I ate two bites of watermelon and felt like I was going to throw up (which was on top of the usual nausea). I can’t eat more than a few bites of oatmeal. I find it revolting. And the mere thought of any vegetables (except for tomatoes, which luckily, I actually can tolerate) and most all fruits (except for berries…interesting, huh?) makes me want to vomit. A Krispy Kreme donut and a diet Pepsi, on the other hand, one day, seemed to do the trick and soothed my stomach like nothing else. I have to say though that this was just one moment in time. There’s never much predictability in the foods that I can tolerate and the foods that actually make me feel temporarily better. But the pattern remains the basically same–processed, refined foods tend to be much more approachable than foods that are unrefined & whole. Sadly, pretty much anything healthy.

Unless you’ve gone through this yourself, you can’t understand what it’s like to wake up day after day and have to deal with this gut-wrenching nausea that doesn’t let up. Out of what I’ve deemed is necessity, I’ve made the choice to eat some non-vegan foods. I haven’t enjoyed it, or liked the that I have eaten these foods. In fact I hate the way that I’m eating right now (it’s safe to say I pretty much don’t enjoy any food right now), and wish I could tolerate a big salad or nice bean soup. So, does this mean I am no longer vegan? Should I rename my blog? I feel comfortable still calling myself vegan because in a week or two, if the stars align, I will be past all of this morning sickness and nausea and be back to my old vegan self. Because I miss cooking. I miss eating the colorful, vibrant foods I used to eat. I miss feeling good about my food choices. The fact is, I feel, more than anything, having strayed off the vegan path for a few weeks, I have further strengthened my resolve to be vegan. Like an Amish youth who has completed rumspringa, the rite of passage in which they experience what “the world” has to offer for a year and decides to return to the Amish flock, I have decided with firm resolve, that I’m meant to be vegan.

I know for some, I will never be “vegan enough.” I don’t understand why there has to be judgment about this, and why others bother themselves about whether or not others are enough of this or enough of that to be worthy of a certain label. Fact is, I believe in the basic principle of compassion, which is at the heart of what I understand to be what it means to be vegan. I want to live this principle because it expands to other areas of my life and I feel like living in a compassionate manner helps me to live with greater awareness and purpose.

I’m sorry if I’ve let any of you down. I’m sorry if you don’t think I’m vegan enough to call myself vegan. But in my mind, being vegan isn’t about perfectionism or abiding by a number of do’s and don’ts, a list of rules that if always abide by, you’re cool enough to be in the vegan club. This exclusiveness is part of the reason why veganism has in the past, struggled gaining much traction.

Being vegan, to me, means doing and living the best you can in a healthful, compassionate, and aware fashion. I say let’s do away with the judgement and criticism and embrace being compassionately optimistic.


Comments


  1. Rachelle
    on December 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm said:

    Thank you for this! You are amazing! I am just coming out of this same thing (which by the time you get this, you will probably be long past!)I know how hard it is when you are nauseous. You just have to listen to your body. In my first two or three months I ate terrible! That was coming off of a REALLY healthy high raw vegan lifestyle. It broke my heart, not being able to be "me" but when you feel that way you have to just do what you need to do to get food in your body. Now that I am 20 weeks I am doing much better and am slowly getting back to who I view as the true me. Reading your experience has helped me feel like I am not the only one to experience this, and it is so comforting. Your blog is a huge blessing, and I am very grateful.

  2. Dan and Jenni
    on August 16, 2010 at 2:33 am said:

    You'll always be my food hero, you and your sister have made me healthier than 99% of my peers.I'll pray for those stars to align soon. Till then, SURVIVE!!

  3. Anonymous
    on August 7, 2010 at 4:06 am said:

    I wouldn't feel bad about it at all! It's exactly the same for me when I'm pregnant! I eat amazingly healthy, then get pregnant and it all goes out the window (or down the toilet) for a few months. My past two pregnancies have been like that. Though at the end of this last pregnancy, eating a nearly raw foodist diet did help a lot, but that is now hard to stick to while nursing! So…you go with what works for your body and your baby and do the best you can. Health isn't about sticking to a label or perfectionist ideal. Hang in there!

  4. Heather
    on July 31, 2010 at 6:06 am said:

    I have sincere compassion for anyone who suffers severe morning sickness…I have been through it four times and it is something you only understand if you've been there. I know with hormones everywhere it is hard to hear the anonymous comment…don't sweat it. I'm defintiely not vegan, but you have taught me a lot..in fact, you were the first blog in my research of whole foods lifestyle. Since then, I have adopted so many healthy habits that my life has been forever changed. Seems like you have a lot of supporters who aren't afraid to leave their name and lift you up. The anonymous poster comment will eventually become drowned out by those of us who learn so much from you and accept you for who you are….the whole foods VEGAN Momma. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not much for labels myself, just take the stuff that works for me from those I choose to learn from. If people spent the energy receiving blessings instead of condemning others for their so- called "mistakes", wouldnt' life be so much sweeter? ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Anonymous
    on July 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm said:

    I agree one hundred percent. I always struggle with being "vegan". I've just started and am afraid to even use that word, because it is judged so harshly. I actually would like to share your blog with people I know, to help them understand that no one is perfect. If I eat at a restaurant and later find out that they put chicken broth in something, am I to blame? Thank you for this. It helps me realize that I am not perfect, and that is ok! I can sometimes make a mistake, but that doesn't mean I'm not vegan. Jen

  6. Jaime
    on July 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm said:

    Thanks to you I have become so much more healthy these past 8 months or so. I have kicked the refined foods habit (for the most part!) and have been thoroughly enjoying eating whole foods. Like you, I recently found out I was pregnant, and these past few weeks the only thing I can stomach is cheez-it crackers and eggo waffles! Thank you for helping me feel normal, not so weird for having no desire for anything green or healthy! As someone who goes through morning sickness, I can totally understand just eating whatever feels right, no matter if it is healthy or not.

  7. ann
    on July 30, 2010 at 5:11 am said:

    I just new there would be someone that would try to call you out for the label. (eyeroll lol)But I'm glad to hear that you are hanging in there! Hey, tomatoes, berries, bread, eggs, yogurt..that's pretty well rounded! And I don't want anyone to tell you that you'd be healthier eating processed food or starving then eating yogurt, eggs, or fish!

  8. Naina
    on July 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm said:

    Not to worry yourself with such people. Truly, if they had the heart of a vegan, they would have compassion on you.It reminds me of judgemental Christians. Many professional people call themselves by their trade…DR. Lawyer, Nurse,….etc.This is no way means they are perfect at their jobs. Yet they are practicing.I am 48. I remember well my first pregnancy. Oh the misery. All I could stomach was rainbow sherbert ice cream, and sour cherry candies.Those were two foods I normally would not have eaten. Not because I was vegan (I wasn't)but, those were not foods I liked. Somehow I seemed to be drawn to them. It was strange indeed. I do practice at being vegan now.Perfection isn't my goal, health is!

  9. Sarah
    on July 29, 2010 at 2:02 am said:

    thanks for sharing this. i agree that it shouldn't be about being 100% perfect 100% of the time. we need to be compassionate with ourselves and sometimes we have to eat differently than we'd like and it's best to not have to feel guilty about it when that happens. hang in there!

  10. Cindy
    on July 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm said:

    I agree with the sentiments expressed here. I truly admire your honesty. Those who commented negatively obviously do not understand the complexities and realities of choosing a plant-based diet (or morning sickness!). Being "vegan" is more than simply what you do or do not put in your mouth; it is, as you said, trying to make choices which align with your goals and beliefs. The choices that you are making are such a great example for all of us. I hope you feel better soon and can get back to enjoying food!

  11. Tanya Kummerow
    on July 28, 2010 at 8:04 pm said:

    Wow! I really hope you start feeling better soon. What you are going through sounds awful! I cannot imagine how you are holding it together. Good luck to you. And I love your blog.

  12. Inkling
    on July 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm said:

    I'm sorry some anon didn't take time to read through your blog and see how amazing your normal lifestyle really is. And maybe he/she hasn't experienced the life-altering, survival mode only morning sickness some of us have endured. Believe me, I'm there with you. When I was pregnant with our little guy, it was chips, crackers, and frozen drinks like slurpies for weeks on end. It was so wonderful to get back to liking real food somewhere in the second trimester. Please don't feel you ever have to make a defense of your life choices for those of us who enjoy your blog on a regular basis. In fact, you often challenge me to go one step further in my own healthful journey. I still haven't given up oils and dairy, but every time I use them your own goals come to mind and I resolve to keep on reading and researching to know how to remake my normal recipes without the oils and dairy that I so often rely upon. The fact is, you exhibit a healthy lifestyle on a pretty doggone consistent basis, and you've shown how much it has transformed your life over the years. So what about 12 or so weeks. It's a blip on the radar in the whole scheme of life. You are doing great, and I absolutely love coming over here for inspiration and lots of learning!

  13. lisa
    on July 28, 2010 at 6:59 pm said:

    Sorry for my own errors – typing from my phone as my baby naps next to me and my fingers are not always hitting what I intend – but you get the gist.

  14. lisa
    on July 28, 2010 at 6:54 pm said:

    You seem very compassionate, very thoughtful, intelligent, eloquent, and most importantly honest and open. Sadly, in my short but intensive time in reading blogs I have come to see that unfortunately sometimes they serve as a place for those who are angry, and unhappy and less than what they hope to be, to attack and try to bring others down. You will never fall to those depths and your positive ideas and your faith (not just in the religious sense – though I understand this, too, is strong for you) will keep you from ever being where these people have found themselves. I have learned to pity them rather than find anger toward them. They are unhappy and that is terrible. No one is perfect – we learn from our lack of perfection – it helps us to grow, to seek something more. Anyone who condemns another, especially one who so gently and gracefully and guiltfully (though unnecessary) is further proving their own lack of perfection or compassion or caring for that matter. I am glad to know that I am not the only one must sacrifice sometimes for another good. I appreciate your words always (thus far and I am sure this will continue). Thank you for sharing so much and encouraging me and so many others. You have a very fortunate family!

  15. Katrina
    on July 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm said:

    amen!

  16. tbsomeday
    on July 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm said:

    i agree with the ppyou made a lot of people feel better about themselves by sharing your real life experiencedon't let some yahoo make you feel bad about yourselfyou aren't sharing recipes for chicken soup on here..you are merely sharing the truth–you could have said nothing about what you were eating…but you didn't and i have a lot more respect for you because of iti know the horrific suspended state of pregnancy where it seems you will be sick forever and you know you must eat something in order not to get even sicker…it's not even physically possible to shove some former foods down your mouth because you'd throw up before it even hit your tounge…so you must settle for what you can keep down that dayi like the think i'm mostly vegan (in a non-extremist sort of way)…but i tell ya-if i were stranded on an island with my starving family i can promise you i'd catch/kill and eat a fish if that's all their was and when i got back to the mainland i'd go back to eating veganyou are just on a pregnancy island now–trying to surviveit's easy for people to talk big…but it'd be a different story if they were in your shoes

  17. Anonymous
    on July 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm said:

    Thank your for being candid and honest. You could have hidden away, not shared your current turmoil with food and nausea, and left everyone with the impression that you are perfect and inhuman. Your humanity and honesty are inspiring and give more credence to the rest of your posts on the blog. We now know that the way of life you describe in 95% of your posts is possible because you are *human* too. You struggle with real life, as do we, so if you can eat a healthy wholesome diet and feed your children well, we can too. Thank you for sharing. lfwfv

  18. Heather
    on July 28, 2010 at 4:46 pm said:

    I'm sorry that someone has nothing better to do than to write a comment like that. You have explained all along how you feel about the foods that your body is accepting during your pregnancy. You are not the only one they are "attacking". A few other blogs I read, have also had to address this issue, due to an anonymous person with too much time on their hands. I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to share what you are going through.

  19. Joya
    on July 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm said:

    I hadn't read the comments you're responding to but I for one can understand perfectly where you're coming from and I don't think anyone should be judging you.Especially someone who has never experienced being so very sick and pregnant. I have been there and I also have eaten things during this pregnancy that I thought I would never eat again. But during this time, what your body is going through trying to grow another human inside you takes priority over pretty much everything. And you eat what you can eat!! People get much too caught up in labels. Ugh. I hope you start feeling better soon but in the meantime; know that you do have support from people that actually understand!!