I had several people message me on this blog recently, and ask me why "I don't just come out and say that I am vegan?" Truth is, I'd be a big liar if I did that. I have never claimed to be vegan. I would say that more than 98% of my diet is made up of vegan foods, but to me, and lots of others, vegan means a lot more than that. There are ethical vegans, dietary vegans (I definitely follow a 98% vegan diet). Here is the first definition that I pulled up: "Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose." I do have leather boots and Ugg boots. By that definition, I fail to be vegan. But there are lots of other ways that I fail the "vegan definition" as well. If I was vegan, by this definition, if I want to be strict, I would also avoid honey, as that could be viewed as an exploitation of bees.
Truth be told, if my son is eating something that looks delicious, and I have a bite of it, I don't look at the ingredient list and scan it to make sure there is not an egg in there. I also had some wild caught salmon while I was out to dinner recently. I probably have fish (sushi or salmon) 1-2 times a month. It is usually when I am at a restaurant with a limited selection of veggie dishes. I don't always get to chose where I am dining, so I make due. I usually eat a few ounces and bring the rest home. A couple of weeks ago I was eating a salad at a restaurant, and they had put feta on it. I took as much off as I could, but honestly there were still a couple of pieces on there, and it tasted pretty good, so I didn't sweat it. I have gotten into making vegan cheeses (just posted recipes) lately and they are amazing, so I am not feeling like I am missing out on cheese, but I also didn't freak out and send that salad back. I'm not going to feel guilty about consuming 1/4 oz of feta.
In my opinion, you can't just "turn off" vegan. You either are or you aren't. Granted you can be vegan for a while, and then decide not to be, but it is a big change in lifestyle. Living in L.A., it is common for people to say, "Oh I'm going vegan this week" or, "I was vegan all weekend." Honestly, I am not vegan, and that still rubs me the wrong way. People who are vegan and work very hard to maintain and support that lifestyle probably cringe when they hear people saying they are vegan for a day or a week. To me, vegan is a way of life. I can not say if, and when I will go all the way with that. Right now, I am feeling healthy and strong and my very minimal intake of fish once in a while is not making me feel like a lousy person or anything. I do absolutely love animals and that is a big reason of why am not eating them anymore. When someone says to me, you don't eat your dog, so why would you eat a cow, I actually do get it. I do not find that ridiculous at all. I came at plant based nutrition from a health perspective, but I did "go there". I watched the videos of the slaughterhouses, I watched the cruelty and that definitely makes it even easier for me to stay away. I had never been a fan of eating creatures, however I always felt I needed to to be strong and healthy. I know now that I'm actually stronger and healthier without eating them. Still, if I am out to dinner eating minestrone soup, I usually don't ask if it is made with chicken broth and I'm not going to freak out over it. To call myself a vegan, I would not be able to eat that soup.
I have also, over the years met lots of "junk food vegans". They don't eat animals, but they eat loads of empty calories and NO veggies! Lots of processed and fat laden food is vegan. You can eat a whole jar of nutella, and a coconut milk shake and still be vegan. I have seen vegan oreos, and there are lots of vegan cakes at Whole Foods. Loaded with sugar, and fat they will do nothing for your health or well being. I have met lots of obese vegans as well, and they have maintained that they are healthier than someone who is obese and eats meat. I'm not so sure that is true. I went to this amazing vegan restaurants in LA and got vegan crabcakes. They were freaking DELISH! But they were definitely a treat. They were deep-fried and definitely not pushing heavily into the nutrient dense category. They hit the "saving the animals" mark, but I'm not so sure about the "healthier mark." Vegan recipes and websites are awesome. I get tons of recipes off of them. I often do have to reduce the amount of oil or nuts in them to keep my fat intake lower than these recipes would have it. Whole food plant based covers the "junk food is not plant based so don't eat" it in title. The healthfulness of vegan is open to interpretation a bit, where lots of doctors and researchers who are spreading the plant based word are trying to define the diet, and limit the ability to follow it and eat crap.
Often, when I say I am not vegan, people go through the lacto-ovo or pescaterian labels and ask if I am one of these. I always maintain that I eat a whole food plant-based diet. I think that explains it the best. The first definition for plant based diet that came up in my search was : "a plant-based diet is one based on vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit, with little or no animal products (including dairy). It may refer to: Vegan diet: a plant-based diet with no food from animal sources." I am sure there are some people who would not love this definition due to the "little or no animal products", but I actually dig it. It is how I define how I eat. I do try to stick with plants, but I do give myself some leeway to have 3 ounces of salmon on a Saturday night out at a restaurant, or sushi once a month or so. People that are switching over to this diet need to define what it means to them. If you know you are the kind of person who can not just have a little of something without going off, and craving more, then go all the way and don't let those temptations enter. My husband says that I have freaky good self control and can not expect that from others. If that is the case, then deviating out of the plant kingdom is not a great practice. We are better off without any animal protein anyway.
Would it be easy for me to be a dietary vegan? Yes, I am so close right now. But at this point I don't need a label and I am happy doing that I am doing. Someone who is a practicing vegan recently wrote to me to ask why I do not define myself as vegan, and he had a great response to my answer (which was basically the gist of this blog). He said, "I totally get it, and in the end it is a win for the animals and a win for your health." I couldn't agree more.
Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!!!!
I am Chrissy Roth, a mom, wife, Physical Therapist, Spin Instructor, and Wellness Coach with a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition. I've had a passion for health and nutrition my whole life and have always been drawn towards prevention. Why wait until your fat or sick or both to do something about your health? I'm looking to be the healthiest me NOW and am always sharing what I know. I love a challenge... 2 boys who think they are cavemen and a husband who wants to go veggie but hates beans, tofu, legumes, and most nuts.... I WILL make this happen cause that's how I roll (whole grain of course)...