For the last year and a half I have been eating a plant-based diet. This means I don’t eat any animal products, also known as ‘being vegan’. People have two reactions when I tell them my food preferences. A small minority are really interested and ask me a bunch of questions about what I eat and how I feel. The majority of people react to it like I am personally offending them by my food choices. The more hilarious people respond with the highly original joke “How do you know if someone is a vegan? They will tell you!”.
The reality is, I am not a vegan. The distinction between vegan and plant-based is that the latter is a diet adopted because of the known health benefits of eating low to no animal products. Veganism is a choice to not participate in any element of the use of animal products, so a “true” vegan will passionately avoid all leather and wool, honey and even wine (little known fact but most wine is filtered through egg whites).
Veganism becomes part of your identity. A Plant-Based diet can become part of your identity (or in the case of some people, part of their personal brand) but mostly it’s just a massive inconvenience any time you eat out. I’m sort-of kidding: eating Plant-Based in LA is a joy and super easy but traveling or eating out starts to get tricky. It’s incredible how many people add cheese to any vegetable side-dish.
The best response I get from people is “I would love to eat that way but I just couldn’t give up X”. “X” is usually cheese or steak, sometimes fish. There is always something front of mind that the person thinks they cannot live without. I get it, I could never have imagined living my life without cheese. While I do think it’s interesting to confront those things you think you can’t live without, I’m also not about to step between someone and their food-love.
My offer to these people is to eat plant-based 90 or 95% of the time. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
We create a goal that is too big, setting out to run a marathon when a few three-mile runs a week would be an amazing fitness goal.
We think we have to meditate for 20 or 30 minutes when 5 minutes a day would be incredible.
We stop ourselves before we even start by being unreasonable with our ambitions and our expectations on ourselves.
Not everything needs to become part of your identity. Just because you do a few runs a week, it doesn’t mean you have to ‘become a runner’. Starting to eat more vegetables and less meat doesn’t require you to be a vegan. And if you want to ease up on drinking, you don't necessarily have to quit for a month - maybe just drink a little less in a week. Maybe.
Starting small works. You don't have to make a life decision every time you contemplate something new. You don't have to to follow the rules as established by - well, who is setting these rules anyway? Figure out what you need, what you have time for or what you have capacity for.
Don't make it harder than it needs to be. It's your life, make it work for you.