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.