I’ve been a practicing vegan for over 6 years now. I define ‘practice’ as a process, much like in yoga, meaning I try to do something aspirational in a consistent but imperfect way, hoping to one day achieve mastery or at least not suck. Let’s discuss what this practice has looked like for me.
In 2009, I started reading books like Eat to Live, and The China Study, and figured transitioning to a plant-based diet seemed like a cool thing to do for my health. Mind you, I had dabbled in vegetarianism for years, so this was already a dietary preference for me. At first, I felt lost after eliminating some familiar foods like cheese and eggs. Hunger and food boredom set in, and I caved on eating a few non-vegan meals, but eventually I learned enough recipes to have options. But I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be.
I decided to be a healthier vegan, and started dabbling in raw foods, fermented foods, gluten-free, oil-free, salt-free. Free of anything that might harm the perfect health I had envisioned in my mind. Just looking over my purchasing habits during this period astounds me. 123 digital books on Amazon (most health/fitness oriented), a food dehydrator, spiralizer, live cultures for kombucha and kefir, and a reptile warming mat to keep my mason jars at the proper fermenting temperature. Yeah, that happened. Something as simple as eating a cracker turned into a 12-hour raw food prep process. Many of my friends stopped inviting me to their houses, since I drove them crazy with my one-track topic of conversation. I silently judged their food with my vegan angry eyes.
At this point I was exhausted and completely stressed out by food. I felt like I was in Kale Jail. Perhaps I should call it Asparagus Jail, since the spears would make better jail bars, but you get the point and Kale Jail rhymes. I then did what any prisoner would do: I busted out. All vegan principles were tossed aside, and I went back to eating whatever. It’s not that I craved animal products or ate them frequently, it’s that I was tired of rules and I needed a mental break. I had to take a look at my behavior and realize that no matter what I ate, I was not going to be healthy or happy if I was psycho. I think this was an important step in learning about myself. I am naturally psycho, but my intentions are good.
What I now realize is that I still want to be vegan, but I want it to feel natural and simple. I’m taking steps to make that happen. Many of my kitchen supplies have been donated, including my cookbooks. I’ve stepped away from complicated recipes. I try not to use the ‘V’ label as often, not because I don’t value that dietary preference, but because I tend to be overly rigid and militant with labels. It’s just my personality and I’m trying to chill. I eat vegan most of the time, just like I run most of the time, and attempt to live simply most of the time. I don’t expect to achieve perfection any time soon, but I do expect to be as transparent and real as I can. I hope that resonates with you.