Better Bites

My experiments in healthy eating, cooking, and living

“To be [vegan], or not to be [vegan], that is the question.”

At this point, it’s nearly sunset on the east coast and here I am sitting on my chocolate-colored couch with my head rested on my hand thinking deeply about what to do. To be vegan or not to be vegan, that is the question (in my case, not in the case of Hamlet). I have not been vegan all too long. I would say it’s been a month and a half. Since becoming a vegetarian and eventually vegan, I have learned to appreciate vegetables much more. They have permanently wiggled their way into a large portion of my diet. I feel both healthier and happier knowing that now my beliefs match my decisions.

This is where the “but” comes in. There is always a “but” with big decisions. But, I miss being able to casually go to breakfast, eating baked goods (all of them in general – Can’t there be a closer vegan bakery than Babycakes NYC?), and not being questioned by my family like I’ve made the decision to go run off with a man I’d only met a month ago. Mainly, I miss the social aspect of eating. Not of eating meat. I don’t miss that at all, but I do miss the idea of being able to go out and have ice cream or actually being able to eat when I go out and “eat” breakfast. I know all of the horrible things that happen to animals and I don’t agree with any of them.  I’m at a point where I’m wondering if I should follow Voltaire’s advice and Gretchen Rubin’s secret of adulthood, which is “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Just because I don’t believe in animal cruelty, doesn’t mean I can’t go find an ethical source of eggs to eat or use in my cooking. Does it? This issue has been on my mind for a while. Being vegan doesn’t allow for much flexibility. For me, when I choose to do something I usually want to do it “perfect” and I dearly try not to screw it up. Maybe being vegan is just too confining for met. I can do it and I’m mostly happy doing it, but I want to be free to have an egg once in a while if I want one or to eat something that contains dairy on a special occasion. While those aren’t the perfect choices in terms of health or animal cruelty, maybe I have to be more forgiving of myself. Forget maybe, I know I do. So many times, I’ve downed myself for being who I am or the decisions I’ve made (or not made). I will admit it, I am not “perfect” or anywhere near close. I have flaws. I am only human. I am an indecisive human, at that.

I’m at a point where I have to stand behind my decisions proudly. I will still have a heart if I eat a little bit of feta cheese. It won’t have disappeared and I won’t have started to melt to the ground like the witch in The Wizard of Oz. My head may not be completely at ease or guilt-free about the decision, but life is about compromise. It’s about standing up for what you believe in (for sure!), but also about accepting yourself and your limits. I may have reached my own limit at vegetarianism. I’m not sure yet. It’s all so confusing with so much research backing a plant-based diet. But (and this is the last but) ultimately, I and I alone, am the only one who has to live with my decisions. My decision has yet to show itself with clarity, but (okay so I lied a bit – this is really the last one) when it does, I know I will make peace with it.

Do you believe that it’s all or nothing? I truly stand behind the idea that when we are actually ready to change we do, and when we aren’t ready for a change we don’t. We reject that change until the moment comes along when it is finally right.

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12 thoughts on ““To be [vegan], or not to be [vegan], that is the question.”

  1. Dina P. on said:

    Hi, I just had to reply to your post. I became a vegan last July 2012 after watching Forks over Knives. For that first 6 months, I did the best I could while occasionally wondering. I must admit like you ice cream was my biggest downfall. I could still go out and eat with people and enjoy my dinner, I just ordered a sweet potato or salad with no cheese or meat. As I spent time cooking though, food tasted better at home. The real complete switch happened when I watched the movie “Vegucated” over Christmas break last year. After seeing the reality of how animals were affected, I did not eat a cow or chicken after that time, rarely eat fish and do my best never to get a milk product in my diet. It is truly not worth it to me and I could not live with that feeling of eating those animals again. They live their lives in small “cells” to die for my sandwich without ever getting to “live”. That isn’t worth it to me. Many are tortured during that time and at death. I can’t live with that. I do feel though that what we put in our bodies is a very personal decision. Best of luck to you in making your decision.

    • Thank you for your very thoughtful response. I’ve seen both of those documentaries and I thought they were both very powerful movies. After watching Veducated, I became much more aware of how cruel animals are treated. Like you, I also think that diet is a very personal decision. I’m glad you found the choice that is right for you!

  2. I’m a loose vegan myself, for the past few months, and I’ve been a vegetarian for about two and half years. I love it, and like you I’ve learned so much more that can be done with vegetables, in addition to discovering new foods I had never tried before (sounds silly, but rutabagas – what a miracle food! Can be eaten raw or cooked, have a simple sweet starchy flavor, are so versatile, and are way more nutritious than potatoes yet still very affordable!).

    I firmly believe that once a lifestyle choice takes control of you and not vice-versa, then it has become a problem. Our decisions have to come from us, not dictate to us. So, if you want eggs – eat eggs. You want feta cheese – eat feta cheese. I personally have lost all interest in eggs, though I’ll eat a mayonnaise-based pasta salad if it’s put in front of me. One note of caution – I had mac and cheese out of a box the other day, and it was the first time I had been sick to my tummy in a long time. Your system may not react well if it hasn’t been used to it.

    As far as humane treatment of animals, I’m sure that I’ll have animal rights folks on my heels for this statement but it is quite possible to have cruelty-free eggs. I know this first-hand. Healthy pasture-raised hens lay about one egg a day regardless of whether you want the egg or not (except in cold months when they may not lay consistently or at all, depending on their disposition). Incidentally, if you drop one of their eggs and it smashes on the ground, they will gobble it up. Healthy, humanely raised hens are not hurt in the least by your eating their eggs. That having been said, humanely raised hens are increasingly hard to find, and not all farmers are very keen about letting you see their farms. I’m mainly talking about VERY small, family-farm operations with perhaps 20-100 hens. Of course, eggs aren’t particularly healthy anyway, and they are rather unsanitary and prone to cross-contaminating other foods.

    My perspective is to consider my values, do a bit of research, and never think of my choices as “denying myself” anything or “dieting” but rather opening myself up to new ways of doing things. Home-made veggie beet-burgers for instance! Messy, fun, and amazingly delicious.

    Enjoy the vegan journey.

    • I agree with you. It shouldn’t be about a label and that label shouldn’t dictate how you live your life. To me, it’s not even about missing eating cheese, but about the choice of being able to if I so desire. It’s not that I want to splurge all the time, but sometimes I would like to afford myself the opportunity if it arises.

      Before becoming vegan, I thought I would miss certain foods so much. I practically mourned the loss of cheese from my life, but now I’m at a place where I’m not sure I’d want to eat a piece of cheese on its own. It’s interesting how tastes and preferences can change so quickly.

      I’ve had so much fun cooking new foods and getting creative in the kitchen now than I ever did when I cooked meat. I used to hem and haw over whether the meat was done or the chicken was pink and then sometimes it would be overdone. It was never an enjoyable thing for me. But vegetables are so different! They’re colorful and they come in all shapes, sizes, and textures. My plate is never dull with veggies. I’ll have to give rutabagas a try!

  3. What a heartfelt, well written post! And I love the quote, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” One of the things I’ve learned since going vegan just over a year ago is that in our society it’s almost impossible not to harm or kill some animals. I remember reading that even car tires are made using some animal products. Does this mean that a vegan should stop driving? I don’t think so. I believe it’s virtually impossible to be a “perfect” vegan in our society. I know I’m not perfect! Anyway, it’s great that you’re asking these questions. Good luck with coming to peace with whatever you decide. Celeste 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your supportive comment! You are so right that it is nearly impossible to be a perfect vegan, or a perfect anything for that matter. I should take pride in the good choices I do make and not be so hard on myself if I choose to cheat every so often. Like life, veganism is a journey. It doesn’t have to halt itself because I made a slip up or two. Thanks again Celeste 🙂

      -Samantha

  4. I spent the better part of 10 years as a vegetarian, with similar motives to yours. When it became apparent that my health was suffering for it, I really had to grapple with the ideal versus the reality, for me.

    I think the key for me was to stop worrying about the labels “vegetarian” or “vegan” and just eat food that was good for me, nutritionally and ethically. Many people think I’m vegetarian now, and many of our family meals are. But when I want or need something else, I don’t punish myself. I know where my food comes from. I eat what’s good for me at this moment in time. No labels.

    • I think there is a strong stigma attached to the words vegan/vegetarian and people assume things just based on the way a person eats. I like the idea of not putting a label on my diet. All that should matter is making choices I’m comfortable with, not feeling the need to call myself something and then feeling like I have to strictly adhere to the principles that go along with the name.

      Everybody’s different and food is such a personal choice. There will never be one “right” diet to meet everybody’s needs. Thank you for your kind words!

  5. I definitely agree that it has to be something you’re at peace with. I also think there are times when you just have to go for it. The social aspect of food was one of the harder things for us too. We ended up just still going and making something work. Good luck to you and your choice.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful words! You are so right, at times we do just have to go for it. I guess, I’m just still figuring it all out. I’ve never been one to make quick decisions (I blame it all on my indecisiveness).

  6. Probably a whole thesis could be written on the topic. I don’t believe it is “all or nothing”. For me it is about doing the best I can to reduce suffering. Once I’ve learned something, I can’t unlearn it so I must live my life in accordance to my ethics. I don’t think my lifestyle has taken control of me, but rather I have taken control of what I believe.

    A tidbit that I learned this past weekend that you may find useful is that veganism is a journey, not a destination.

    • I agree – veganism is a journey. It’s just like anything else in life. Veganism isn’t a place to arrive to, but something to strive towards through conscious decision making. Thank you for your thoughts on the matter 🙂

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