Being Vegan Did More Harm Than Good--Why I decided to "Give Up" the label for Good!
About a week ago, I had a very strong urge...like a nagging feeling that would'nt go away about whether or not I should go back to being a strict vegan about a year after giving it up. Of all the things in the world to worry about some may snicker and think....really? Here’s another girl wanting to be called a vegan but simply can’t stick with it.
Well, I assure you that's not the case & what I found out after making the switch twice is that it came down not to willpower, but rather with being put in a box. Well isn't that what any diet label does? It defines what you are...what you do and do not eat. What's the big deal? Well, both times I have gone vegan I've experienced first-hand, over-heard, been DM-ed about & learned about the struggle other vegan girls or wanna be vegan girls feel in the face of the "vegan label":
"I want to stay vegan but sometimes I just really want to enjoy a non-vegan meal out with family."
"I want to be a vegan, I believe in the ethical treatment of animals, but I still eat fish sometimes and giving it up forever would be too hard!"
"I would cheat too often to be vegan--ugh but I wish I was vegan!"
*The made-up voice we hear in response^^: "well hun, you can't do both. Either you are a strict vegan or you aren't a conscious eater. You either never eat sushi again or you support over-fishing. You either say adios to your mom's once-a-year special chicken dish(lol real example from a friend) or you will NEVER. BE. A. VEGAN." *
Anywho, these words & experiences I had planted in my head as I went about "going vegan round-2" and here's how it went down for me:
After feeling really un-aligned with myself for consuming any kind of meat, I declared out of a sort of rage that I was DONE. I wanted people to know how much I care about ethical treatment of animals, so I cut out the two animal products I do consume, poultry & fish and zammm I was vegan again! I was finally back to the person I wanted to be again. I person who cares about animal rights, our environment, and health in it's purest form. I was no longer fighting an internal voice that told me I needed to be vegan again. I finally was and this time I wouldn't screw myself over with a supplement overdose--I would do it right. *PHHEWW*
But, come day 2 of my vegan diet and I began to feel it. That feeling I had denied for 3 months the first time around--the insatiable hunger. I was taken right back to last year, this time when I was waking up in the middle of the night at 4 am to a kind of hunger that I can't even begin to explain. My mind would reel over what would satiate me until morning without making a full on meal. My go-to relief was bean, quinoa and avocado tacos that I would scarf down only to wake up 2 hours later to the same feeling. But hey, I was vegan! I remember people telling me I just had to eat MORE--vegans tend to eat a lot of volume...but I have gastroparesis. Volume and my GI track are not friends...ill spare you the gorey details of what happens. So I did the best I could with the digestive system I have and ate as often as I could, but even if I wasn't hungry per-se, I was thinking about food. My thoughts shifted from everyday life stuff...plans, school, work, to what will eat next. From the perspective of someone with a complicated past relationship with food, this wasn't healthy.
So, there I was on day two of officially being vegan and I thought, "All of this because I can't eat chicken anymore?....Shit. Wait--I can't give up being vegan this soon! I am meant to be vegan...its who I am...I have a vegan soul--I eat at vegan restaurants more than regular ones!! I'll be a failure if i give it up again!! I'll can no longer be apart of the group of likeminded people who believe in the ethical treatment of all animals."
What was happening? I felt like I was going a tad crazy to be honest. Here I was in the face of an existential crisis (ahaha). I knew what I believed in, I knew what I stood up for, but I also knew my body wasn't able to get enough from plant-sources alone. I couldn't eat the volumes of food necessary to sustain myself--my gi track wasn't built for it! Plus, I'd never ever eat at my favorite sushi restaurant again...ever.
Was I being an indecisive, willpower-less person for wanting to eat some chicken to gain some satiation? NO! But both times around, because I had declared myself a vegan, I felt like I would loose my identity to a certain extent if I "cheated." I was vegan now--a new, better, more conscious person therefore any animal product was not for me--NO MATTER WHAT!
This is when I had a huge realization. I can believe in the ethical treatment of animals, the protection of our environment and the ideals of veganism without tattooing it across my forehead. I can be a highly conscious eater without saying goodbye to sushi forever. This doesn't have to be an all or nothing declaration! Hell, I don't have explain my dietary choices to anyone--I know I am responsible and make mindful diet choices! I don't need a label!!!
WE don't need labels to be apart of a community who cares. So long as you are conscious & choosing accordingly, enjoying some salmon on your salad doesn't make you any less ethically conscious or mindful. Knowing who you are and what you stand for doesn't come from the tacking on of a label--it comes from your daily thoughts & actions--label or no label.
All that being said, the only thing that I am giving up is the label. The big, red, flashing, noise-making label that, for ME, was doing more harm than good. Will I still support the cause? HELL YES! Will I still seek out new vegan restaurants here in LA to try? Of course. Will I sacrifice my day-to-day state of mind over some wild-caught salmon or some pasture raised chicken in my salad? No. I can't tell you how incredible it feels to be "label-less"--I don't have to follow rules because I know the rules...they are my "rules"--they fit my beliefs & my life--something a label can't do.
I no longer need the vegan label to bring me satisfaction. If you believe in something, (for example I don't believe in eating mammals) then act on it! You don't need a label that may or may not cause you to feel restricted to carry out your beliefs.
What i've learned from all this is that it's perfectly ok to do your own thing. I get asked all the time...: are you plant-based? a clean-eater? keto? high carb? TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE---which to be fair is expected given I am a health and wellness blogger (LOL), but still...I don't really need to define my diet to anyone! I can still eat the way I eat without it belonging to a category per se. If someone desperately needed to know how I classify myself, the most accurate way would probably be 95% plant-based+ 5% sushi & the occasionally poultry on a salad. But whether or not it fits a standard label will have no bearing on me carrying out the lifestyle & gosh it's FREEING! So if you are debating on whether or not to take on a certain diet, which I still fully support, think twice about labeling yourself. What will it bring you? And if it does bring you something valuable, do it!