My Struggle to Be a Perfect Vegan: Am I Good Enough?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post titled What About Eggs? I was eager to write the post because I really wanted to get all my thoughts and feelings down on paper (so to speak) but I was a little nervous about posting it. I was even more nervous about sharing that post with Healthy Vegan Fridays.
Image: ganesha.iris via Flickr
How would people react to it? Would readers get angry and accuse me of misusing the word vegan because I was craving (and considering eating) eggs? Before writing that post I hadn't received any negative comments on my blog. Would that post elicit the first one? How would that make me feel? Would the hosts of Healthy Vegan Fridays tell me that my post wasn't appropriate?
I finally pushed all these thoughts aside and just went for it. I know that I'm not the only one who occasionally struggles with my eating choices and I feel that it's important to address these feelings. It is also incredibly helpful to hear that I'm not alone and just to get other people's perspectives on the issues that I'm dealing with.
I was blown away by all of the amazing comments that I got in the first week of the post being up! No one condemned me for considering eating a fried egg sandwich and a lot of people gave me great alternatives for how to satisfy my craving without giving in to the egg.
I'm glad that I shared this with Healthy Vegan Fridays because it was featured as one of the most popular posts that week. I was also really pleased with what one of the hosts, Gabby from Veggie Nook, had to say about the post:
I was a little hesitant to feature this one, but it’s actually an incredible discussion, especially in the comments. I think it’s important to discuss issues like cravings and the danger of becoming a militant vegan. You’ll all have to let me know what you think.
Later on I received another comment that just further cemented my thoughts on why it's important to discuss things like this.
I found your post on Carrie on Vegan, and I’m so glad I did! I went vegan three weeks ago… and I’m craving cheese like crazy! It’s good to hear from other vegans who struggle with those kinds of choices. Blogs tend to make it seem so easy, when it’s really hard to transition surrounded by burgers and cheese. But you (and you’re great commentors) have given me a lot of perspective, and it’s nice to see I’m not alone!
Of course you're not alone! Making the decision to give up foods that you've eaten your entire life is not easy. It get's easier the longer you're at it, but I don't think it's ever completely easy.
All of these comments plus my own thoughts reminded me of a post that Dreena Burton posted over on her blog recently about being "vegan enough" and "healthy enough." These are thoughts that run through my mind often, especially now that I have this blog. One trait that I think all bloggers share is that we subscribe to and read way too many blogs for our own good. It is so easy to read about other people, to compare yourself to them and think, "I wish I was as disciplined as they are. They're so much healthier than I am. They never slip in their vegan/plant-based ways."
This may be true. However, you have to remember that someone's blog is not actually a window into their life. Bloggers have the option of publishing the good stuff and keeping the ugly stuff to ourselves, and really I don't think there's anything wrong with that most of the time.
I started this blog as an outlet for myself, to have an excuse to cook more and to talk about food and fitness. I also started this blog because I want to help people. I want to motivate and encourage them (YOU!) and provide them with resources to make positive changes in their life. I want people to see that following a healthy plant-based diet can be done and it can be easy! However, I do think it's important to acknowledge that it's not easy 100% of the time. I want it to be okay for us to talk about our struggles with each other and to do so without judgment.
About a month into my journey following a plant-based diet I read the book Veganist by Kathy Freston. The biggest thing I took away from that book was her definition of what a "veganist" is.
Ve•gan•ist (vee guhn ist)
n. 1. Someone who looks closely at all of the implications of their food choices and chooses to lean into a plant-based diet;
2. Progress, not perfection.
That last piece, "progress, not perfection," is something that I still remind myself of on a regular basis.
Those who choose to follow a plant-based or vegan diet all have their own reasons for doing so. Some people fall more to the traditional vegan side and made the choice because of their compassion for and love of animals. Others have learned about the impact that factory farming has on our planet and the environment. Then there are those who understand that eating a diet made of plants is the healthiest choice they can make for their body. None of these reasons is any better than the rest!
Even if someone is only motivated by one of these reasons and doesn't care about the rest, their decision to follow a plant-based diet still has positive effects in the other two areas. I don't think there's such as thing as not being a "good enough vegan." Trying and succeeding some of the time is better than not trying at all.
The choices that we make regarding the food we eat are deeply personal choices. You choose a path that you think is right for you (for whatever reason) and do your best to stick to that path. Eventually you're going to come to a fork in the road and sometimes you'll go the wrong way, and that's okay. That's your choice. If you really believe in your initial reasons for following a plant-based/vegan way of eating then you'll find your way back to the right path.
I think it's important to take things one day at a time and not beat yourself up if you make a choice that seems less than perfect, or worse, completely throw in the towel because you "couldn't do it." Worrying too much about what others think of you will also just make your choices harder.
In case you're wondering, I decided not to eat any eggs. I was influenced in three ares when in came to making this decision:
HEALTH: I posted the original blog post about eggs late in the afternoon on the same day I went to an Engine 2 potluck here in Austin. During the potluck Rip Esselstyn stood two feet in front of me and briefly touched on the negative effects that eggs have on your cholesterol, but he didn't go in to too much detail so that wasn't completely convincing for me. The next day someone shared this link (which compares eggs to cigarettes) in the comments section of the blog post. Okay, that's a little more compelling! That same night I came across this link in my Facebook newsfeed, which talks about the link between eggs and cancer progression. All of these things happened within 24 hours of me putting up the post so it kind of felt like a sign.
Note: I understand "link between" does not mean "cause of" but I still stand by the thought of, "Why risk it?"
ANIMAL RIGHTS: A few days later someone posted this in the comments section of the original blog post.
I found your post through the Healthy Fridays link up. On the health side, moderate consumption of eggs is not harmful, but eggs are still an unethical animal product. The reason ethical vegans do not eat eggs is because hens, even the farmer’s market hens, are still killed at the end of their egg laying cycle, which for many birds, is only a few years. I’ve witnessed this first hand – the “happy chickens” still end up in a cook pot. Hens naturally can live over 20 years and are sentient beings. The other issue is that the roosters are still killed, especially as only so many roosters can exist in a group. With that in mind, the main reason that ethical vegans choose not to eat eggs is because they still represent the objectification and enslavement of another sentient being. Billions of hens exist on Earth solely to satisfy human tastes, not for necessity and this relationship is fraught with abuse. Vegans reject the enslavement of other creatures. If you are interested, please check out these links to learn more about chickens and eggs:
I really appreciated this commenter giving me the animal rights point of view on the issue without making me feel bad about whatever decision I decided to make.
TASTE: A few days after the eggs post went up I was eating some simple pan fried tofu (a little coconut oil in the pan, top the tofu with salt and pepper, cook on high until crispy) and turned to Ross and said, "Wow. This tofu really does taste like egg whites. I hear that if you use black salt then it mimics the taste of eggs even more."
And with that I decided that my craving isn't enough to make me give in and eat an egg sandwich. For now I'm going to stick with my plant-based diet because that's what I'm most comfortable with.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the thoughtful conversation on the original post!