It has taken me almost two weeks to compose this blog post. As I sat here staring at the screen, I kept writing, and re-writing sentences in hopes to present the final product all wrapped up in a bow. But then I caught myself. I was writing what I thought people wanted to hear. I was carefully wording things so that I wouldn’t be judged for my difference of opinion. See, this subject (diet/labeling your diet) is quite a sensitive one. Mainly because I know I may lose followers, and maybe even some friends, by being honest about what I am choosing to eat, or not eat. Sounds silly, right? Trust me, I know! To better explain, I feel a little back story is in order…
After watching a popular documentary about veganism (Vegucated), in late 2013, my husband and I decided we wanted to be “vegan”. We purged the kitchen cabinets, and refrigerator, of all the animal products (dairy, eggs, meat, and even honey!) and I went on Pinterest and pinned every plant-based recipe that sounded appetizing. I also went to social media, mainly Instagram, to search popular vegan hashtags and began following some of the more well-known accounts for inspiration, motivation, and information. Becoming “vegan” was fun. I was learning new ways to cook, and figuring out how to make some of our old favorites vegan friendly, and honestly, I felt a sense of belonging. That being vegan made me somebody.
Granted, it was more than just about food. It made complete sense to follow a vegan diet after recognizing the obvious about how my favorite barbecue chicken goes from farm, to grill. I do have a special place in my heart for all animals, which makes it sound so hypocritical when I say I am no longer vegan, or even vegetarian. A lot has happened to me since 2013; deaths in the family, surgeries and hospital stays, and a few other personal issues that have really taken a toll on my mental health. Because of these things, there were times I did not eat a vegan diet. I would order pizza because it was easy and I didn’t have energy to cook. I ate at a family members house, where there weren’t any vegan options, when I didn’t want to be alone and my husband was at work. And it wasn’t until this last Fall that I came to realize that having to give my diet a label, or giving myself a food identity, if you will, added more stress to my life than it should.
My weight management issue aside (because thats a whole other blog post), I really enjoy food. I mean, come on, I went to culinary school. I truly get enjoyment from, not only eating, but cooking and serving delicious food to my friends and family. My paternal grandmother is half Sicilian so I am sure you can imagine the important role food played in that side of the family. Recipes handed down for generations that just can’t be veganized. It was a lie to say that if I went to visit my grandma and she had a pot of her sauce simmering away on the stove, that I wouldn’t at least have a bite. And I know that if and when I did so, I would beat myself up for days! I would feel like I let myself down, that I let the animals down, that I let the people I interacted with on social media down. For everything else I was going through over the last few years, this added pressure was not doing me any favors. It was time to start thinking of myself; not the animals, and not everybody else. I didn’t need to feel like I had to be somebody, I just needed to be myself. And if that was me not being vegan, then that was okay.
There wasn’t any specific defining moment where I thought, “hey, no more labeling your dietary choices”, I just started eating whatever I wanted. If I wanted a grilled cheese, I would have it. If I wanted a real Caesar salad (because the traditional dressing contains anchovies), I would order one. It finally got to the point that even if I was craving a hamburger, I just chose to eat one. Gradually, the guilt, and the pressure, lessened. I can’t lie and say I don’t still have moments where I feel sad for the animal that lived its life, the way it did, just for me to enjoy a pulled pork sandwich. And I am sure to all the vegans and vegetarians out there, it will be no consolation for me to explain that I try to support local farmers who have a higher standard of raising and slaughtering their animals. In my mind, I feel if I can support the small, local guys (and gals) it is taking a jab at the big factory farms. Either way, I am not purchasing their product, right? I also know it wont matter if I say I don’t eat meat every single day, with every single meal.
To sum it up I’ll say this: Do I eat animals now? Yes. Do I still try to incorporate plant-based meals into the rotation? Of course! There are weeks that all we eat are plant-based meals, or we go out and I request something to be vegetarian, or vegan, just because that is what I want. However, I am not going to state anywhere, or to anyone, at that moment that I “do not eat meat.” Because a few days later, I might, and I don’t need to feel like I am “messing up” by choosing to consume animal products or that I have to explain myself to anyone.
I am on a mission to better my health and eat a more balanced and wholesome diet. By realizing that I do not need to proclaim to the world I eat one way, or another, allows me to find what works for me, and that is what is important.