The Flaming Vegan

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Why I'm Not Vegan
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Why I'm Not Vegan

I first experimented with eliminating all animal protein from my diet a year ago. The experiment lasted six weeks. Since then, I’ve gone through bouts of being ultra-strict with my eating and ultra-loose (like around the holidays). But even at my most perfect, I don’t call myself vegan. In fact, I try to avoid the word altogether.

“Vegan” is a loaded word. It carries the weight of ethics, animal rights and politics. To me, being vegan is about more than just what someone doesn’t eat. It’s a lifestyle. And it’s a lifestyle I am not ready to adopt. I’m not ready to contemplate the ethics of consuming honey or wearing wool. I’m not ready to research whether my athletic shoes have leather in them. And I’m certainly not ready to evangelize my eating and lifestyle habits to those around me. It’s so much work to just keep myself in check, that I don’t have time or energy to worry about how others are living.

Sometimes, I wish my decision to stop eating flesh, eggs and dairy was related to ethics instead of health reasons. If it were, then maybe it would be easier to stick to my guns in social situations or when my orders arrives incorrectly in a restaurant and I feel like I’m too hungry to wait for it to be remade. Instead, I usually just suck it up, decide not to draw more attention to myself than necessary and vow to be better the next time around.

The further I get along my journey, though, the easier it gets. I find that the look and smell of animal products have become less appealing over the past few months. I don’t crave cheese as much as I used to. Life, in general, doesn’t seem as bleak without animal protein as it once did. I strive for progress instead of perfection and take each day as it comes.

Today was a great day because I enjoyed a vegan meal at a restaurant and prepared a handful of vegan salads for my workweek lunches. Today’s victory has laid a solid foundation for tomorrow to be equally successful. And that’s my ultimate goal: to take one day at a time until I am no longer counting the days. That’s when I know my new way of eating will become my lifestyle. And who knows? Maybe one day, I will even give up honey and wool.

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  1. danielle
    I loved this article so much I signed up for an account on this website so that I could comment. I can relate to it so well. Generally when friends and acquaintances inquire, I simply say that my family and I eat a primarily vegan diet. If you stamp yourself as vegan, on come the judgements and scrutiny and quite frankly, I'm still pretty new to all of this and I'm not passionate enough about the animal rights and political side of it. I'm in it more for the health benefits though I certainly can't help but picture those poor animals from Vegucated flash across my mind when I see a piece of meat!
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    1. Tonya Kubo
      Tonya Kubo
      Thanks for your comments. I agree, it feels like calling myself "vegan" offends more meat-eaters than their eating meat could ever offend me. I am amazed by how personally others take my eating decisions.
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      1. Melissa Nott
        Melissa Nott
        Tonya, I love this comment! It is so true. Even calling myself a vegetarian puts some people on edge, and it can be uncomfortable. I love the honesty here!
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  2. Veganara
    Veganara
    Voted. What a great blog, you deservedly got to TPs with it. You are doing really well, just take it one day at a time. Actually I know how you feel about calling yourself a vegan - it is a very loaded word, isn't it? I usually only tell people that I am if I absolutely have to, because, I have discovered, just like you, that it often just antagonises people, and I want a quiet life, as much as possible! So I know how you feel. I don't like labelling myself, or anyone else, anyway. It can be very hard to be vegan though, and it annoys me when other vegans say there is nothing hard about it, that it's really easy! I don't find it easy, I'll be quite honest, but I am definitely not giving up on it just because of that.
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  3. Buster509
    You are right, Tonya...Vegan is too loaded for me, as well. Like I can afford to toss these leather shoes and handbag? Still, I'm at 2 years with a bare minimum of animal products. I still may eat some fish, wild caught only, and if a piece of cheese is in my salad I'm not going to complain. And I have learned that it's not just about salads, either. My relatively new journey has led me to truly appreciate the Real Taste of vegetables, legumes and grains--pretty much in that order. After all, I don't need to be a purist to enjoy the incredible difference I've made by choosing healthier food!
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    1. Tonya Kubo
      Tonya Kubo
      So true! Eliminating meat is about so much more than just surviving on pasta and meat substitutes. The plant kingdom has a plethora of delicious and satisfying foods to enjoy.
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  4. Melissa Nott
    Melissa Nott
    This is great. Tell it like it is, not like how the hard core vegans tell you it SHOULD be! The best path to change is through honest self evaluation, which you do here - obviously a lot of other readers are digging it as well. Nice job!
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  5. Skip Stein
    Skip Stein
    We usually just tell folks we are Plant Based Nutritionists and order in restaurants the same way. When we get 'that vacant look' we say, just like 'Vegan' and they say Oh yea. Then we just mantra 'no meat, fish, diary or eggs' and they get it; usually. When going to a restaurant (unless it's the spur of the moment) just call ahead, most/all restaurants will do something to accommodate you; maybe not fully but pretty good; enough to get by. You won't get organic unless in a truly vegan restaurant in most cases but how often do you eat out? We have found several lovely vegan dining establishments, but otherwise we usually eat in. It is SO much better tasting; but then again my wife, Nancy, is a gourmet vegan chef! <smile>! We started out on the Plant Based Nutrition path for health reasons, primarily. What many don't realize that no matter how you get there, plant based nutrition accomplishes most of the things that animal protectionists in the vegan community strive for. Doing it this way does not offend as people seldom will challenge a health thing. The PRIMARY reason we STAY vegan (besides wanting to live longer!) is that we feel FANTASTIC compared to what we did as carnivores. Sometimes I wish I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer much earlier! <smile>!(http://prostatecancerfight.org/). We are both over 65 and going strong and plan to for at least another 50 years! So we are just 'middle age' at this juncture! For whatever reason, NEVER be shy or ashamed of living YOUR life. You don't have to explain anything and as long as it is (mostly) lawful, just live and let live. Married to a carnivore spouse can be a challenge but a friend, Ellen Jaffe Jones, has written a great book: 'kitchen divided' that you should get (http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Divided-Dishes-Semi-Vegan-Households/dp/157067292X/ref=sr_1_1/190-0243779-8378765?ie=UTF8&qid=1372339618&sr=8-1&keywords=kitchen+divided). Live by example, not by intimidation and people WILL notice.; Especially friends and family as you age better, have more vitality and optimum outlook on life and live longer!
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  6. Wendy Feign
    No one's judging you except yourself. I applaud your honesty. I think a plant-based diet is very different than veganism, which is a lifestyle. The fact that you're so conscious about your choices in a world where most people don't think about the consequences of the choices they make, is a step in the right direction to creating a healthy body and healthy earth. Believe me, none of us are perfect. It's very difficult in this culture. Keep plugging away.
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    1. Skip Stein
      Skip Stein
      But Plant Based eating IS a Lifestyle but focuses on health and wellness, not animal rights. A modest distinction from veganism I think. Plant Based Lifestyle accomplishes so much more than just avoiding animal products, it prolongs vibrant health and by focusing on avoiding animal foods, you indirectly support animal rights. I totally agree with you Wendy that few people actually use their brains to THINK about what they do and the resulting consequences; especially when it comes to FOOD. Maybe it is a vicious circle, eat lousy food, under-nourish your body and brain and you are less capable of THINKING. Merry Christmas!
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