Why I’m Not Vegan

 
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I’m not vegan for the same reason I’m not anything other than me.

I was never one for dietary labels. Even when my health journey started all those years ago, I wasn’t interested in having what I ate define who I was or how I lived. There’s a reason why none of the fad diets ever worked for me longer than a few weeks (actually there are several reasons, but the main one is the topic du jour). After trying each one, I learned what I liked and what I didn’t like; what I could do to feel healthy and what I couldn’t. Eventually, when I learned what veganism was, I realized I had already been mostly eating that way on my own. I craved a shit ton of plants, never felt compelled to eat red meat, loved carbs, didn’t do so well with cheese, etc. I’ll admit, for a little while, the idea of being completely vegan was enticing. I was already not having most animal products, so why not cut everything out completely? Plus, it would be so much easier to give people that one word answer they so desperately craved whenever I was asked about my eating style.

But I quickly found that putting that label on my lifestyle brought on a restrictive mindset. I wasn’t working with my intuition to eat what I knew felt good for me. It got to the point that I’d feel guilty if I decided I wanted an egg on my avocado toast, or Greek yogurt in my smoothie. Doing so would’ve meant I sucked at being vegan; it was considered “falling off the wagon.” Ultimately, it created a guilty conscience even though I was eating perfectly healthy foods. And the labels didn’t stop there. Was I a raw vegan? High carb vegan? High fat vegan? Fruitarian? It was too much. The perfectionist in me couldn’t handle it. And for what purpose? So that I could be categorized? So that others wouldn’t get confused when I go out to eat, or give me shit when I wanted a little ice cream? So that I could use a certain hashtag on my instagram post without feeling like a poser? Ridiculous.

Sure, ok— I eat plant foods 90% of the time. In any given situation, if an entirely plant-based option is available to me, I’ll go for it 9 times out of 10. But I’m also a foodie, and if a little cheese or Greek yogurt or egg slips into the meal, I’m not about to ask for a bowl of lettuce instead. And sometimes, I seek out the eggs or the salmon sushi because I know my body needs it once in a while. Sometimes I’m drunk and I just want a legitimate pizza, goddamnit.

I’m not vegan nor am I a meat-eater or pescatarian or lacto-ovo-vegetarian or pegan (paleo-vegan, opposites by definition so riddle me that, but that’s how badly people need labels...). And the thing is, because I’m not trying to tell myself that I am any one thing in particular, I don’t punish myself or feel like a fraud or fall into the trap of letting all hell break loose whenever I wake up craving an egg on my avocado toast or want a little soft shell crab in maki roll. Labels lead to restriction, and restriction leads to a negative relationship with food. No matter how many celery juices you have, there’s nothing healthy about that.

I’m not at all judging or criticizing or being a nay-sayer for anyone who does truly identify with any one dietary label, so long as they are being honest with themselves and happily align with it. The takeaway here is to know that there is no pressure to eat any particular way just because there’s a word for it, or so that someone else can sleep soundly knowing they can define you. It’s ok to fit out, to change your mind whenever you want, and no one else has any right to care.