I like to think of myself as vegan. I’m not actually a card carrying member (I don’t know if a card even exists…maybe a Whole Foods gift card?!) but it’s a dietary choice I strongly identify with and enjoy. This summer I took a trip to France, where I subsisted for a week on mostly bread, cheese, eggs, and red wine. I wanted to experience the local cuisine, and my host graciously prepared vegetarian meals for me all week. I valued the chef’s extra effort in planning and preparing my vegetarian meals, and I felt extremely grateful for them. They were absolutely delicious. Has my vegan card been revoked? Maybe, but I hope not.
Is your diet ruined because of one week? Is a commitment to losing weight ruined because of one dessert, or a marathon training plan ruined because of one missed long run? Only if you judge yourself negatively do you give a single choice power over your greater intention. Perfection is the enemy of progress, in my opinion. I returned to my imperfectly vegan routine once I arrived back home in the United States, and that got me reflecting on why I eat this way. It is certainly not to be perfect or critical of myself, but rather:
It makes me feel good about every bite I take. There is a lot of guilt over eating when you are a girl, and being vegan refrains eating into something positive. I know I am eating to help the environment, to be compassionate, to be healthy, and to enjoy my food guilt-free.
It forces me to be humble. Being vegan means I don’t feel entitled to eat anything I want. I have to consider the bigger picture, and where my needs fit into that. It helps place the importance of other things before my own needs.
It helps me be mindful of my eating habits. I have to make conscious choices, and consider what is in my food. This habit spills over to other areas of living. I am more thoughtful in where I spend my money, in how I spend my time, and in all the little choices I make throughout my day . It forces me to pause before I take action.
It promotes creativity. It’s fun to pour over recipes and ponder how I can make them vegan. I also have to think out of the box when traveling or attending social functions. A good plant-based meal can be as colorful as a work of art. It keeps my mind sharp and my senses happy.
It promotes simplicity. Having limits on my choices prevents decision fatigue. I can skip over certain sections of the grocery store. On days I feel tired, I can toss a few veggies in a bowl with rice and call it a meal.
It makes eating inconvenient. Let’s face it, cooking from scratch is more work, it takes more time, so it makes food feel valuable, something to be savored. It’s tough living in America, where calories are cheap, fast, and easy. In many ways we are all victims of convenience when it comes to overeating.
It tastes good. This is a subjective one, but I’ve preferred plants over animals my whole life, and so I simply enjoy the taste. Colorful, clean, simple.
People can thrive on a variety of diets, and athletes can excel through many nutritional paths. All it takes is 5 minutes of browsing in the nutrition section of your local bookstore to realize that you will never find non-conflicting answers on what to eat for optimal health. That’s why I gave up asking other people and started listening to my heart. At that point, the choice became clear.