Doubting What I’ve Dubbed ‘Veganism’

This is another hard one. Being honest on here is crucial, but boy is it HARD sometimes. I’m taking encouragement from one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon, on this one. She is honest and open, and it’s wonderful and vulnerable and scary all at once.  I think I’ve avoided delving in enough. Shall we?

Lately, following a vegan diet has been very, very difficult for me. Not necessarily the food, but social occasions revolving around food. Especially when I don’t have control over my food, such as when I’m traveling or at other’s homes. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, nor do I want to be defined by what I eat.

It’s interesting. Not eating animal products makes sense to me, both for the feel-good body benefits, the environmental benefits, and because I have a skin condition that seems to be exacerbated when I consume dairy. I was vegetarian for a long time before I went vegan, and choosing to eat vegan stemmed from not having as much control over the origin of my food while at college. It’s just a part of what I do, not who I am. Yet, people identify me as a vegan, as if my whole self was tied into the eating choices I make. I’ve been introduced as, “This is Michaela. She’s a vegan.” But, I am so much more than that–aren’t I?

I chose to identify myself as vegan because I figured that was easier for people to understand. Rather than be more of a conscientious omnivore/vegetarian that said “I eat some animal products when I know where they are from, but mostly I’m vegan, but even though I’m flexible I’m choosing not to eat what you’re preparing for me. . . ” seems so pretentious, unsociable, ungrateful. While I obviously would never say that to anyone, I was afraid that my choices would say that to some people. I do eat eggs when I’m at home, because we get them from a neighbor. I’ve also had a bite of fish that my uncle caught. That is the type of flexibility I desire.

Social situations are very difficult. Early on, I didn’t struggle as much with that, because I was typically eating meals in our dining hall where I had plenty of options and could share the moment with everyone. But in certain situations that food is provided, not being able to share those moments has made me feel sad, emotional, tearful, and un-included. And not because of those hosting the events–it is a self imposed exclusion, based upon what I feel is right for my body and the environment.

I suppose it is ok for that definition to change. I will be working on a farm this May with practices I can laud, and I am open to trying some of their meat. No definitive statements at this time . . . the thought of eating meat is still very weird, even though I choose to eat vegetarian for environmental reasons and this meat wouldn’t have those complications. At this point, I think I will choose vegan foods when I have control over what I am eating and when I am organizing social organizations, but be open to being flexible meals including dairy and eggs when someone else is feeding me.

Maybe this makes me a sellout to the vegan community, or means that I’m not being a good “vegan role model”  to the meat eating community. And I think both of those things will somehow have to be ok. I think I’ll wait, though. I realize some people will be confused about the shift back, and I’m uneasy thinking that it could invalidate my eating choices now. Though basing my choices on the reactions of those around me seems superficial, it might be easier for me to stick out this school year. I don’t know.

Have you ever struggled with your food choices? 

How do you deal with social situations when you are eating differently than other people? 

14 thoughts on “Doubting What I’ve Dubbed ‘Veganism’

  1. I think you should stop worrying about what to call yourself and eat what makes you healthy and comfortable. I think someone who would call you a sellout is way to hung up on labels, and not really in touch with how personal food choices can be. Do you, whatever that may be.

  2. Very brave words and I encourage you to continue doing what you are doing! It is difficult sitting at the table and not partaking while others carry on…in these situations I’ve always found more nurturing in joining than alienating, especially when the food is prepared for you! Love this. Well done on putting it out there. 😉

  3. Great post! I agree with the others are saying: Just be you! I’m even struggling with a vegetarian diet only because I’m fairly new at it. I adopted the lifestyle just mere months ago and have had issues getting the appropriate amount of protein. Solution: eating peanut butter out of the jar. Thanks again for sharing!

  4. You asked “Have you ever struggled with your food choices?”
    Yes. Every day. I’m vegan, but not 100% strict. For example, I never eat any meat. I don’t eat meat, cheese, milk or eggs when I’m at home. I don’t eat cheese, milk or eggs when I can control it (ie, going out to a restaurant that has a vegan option) but I WILL eat it if I can’t avoid it. Like if there’s nothing else for me to eat but it has a small amount of whatever food in it (not meat though). For the most part I check labels pretty regularly, but if the label says ‘less than 2% ____” I’ll usually let it go.
    I probably don’t struggle as much with it as some people, maybe including you, because of WHY I’m vegan. I’m vegan for the 3 main reasons (health, animals, environment), but it’s a HUGE aspect of my life. Veganism doesn’t define me, but I’m vegan because of who I am. I’m compassionate, I’m logical, I’m very health conscious, I don’t want to be a contributor to the meat/dairy/egg industries. If I were to go back, I would be funding those practices of creating a ‘product’ that not only kills millions of people a year, tortures and slaughters billions of sentient beings a year, and is absolutely destroying the planet. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t sleep at night, I couldn’t live with myself if I knowingly contributed to that.
    But that’s just me. My boyfriend knows all of these things. He feels guilty. He knows it’s wrong. But he does it anyway. Everyone is different.

    How do you deal with social situations when you are eating differently than other people?
    If I’m going to someone elses home and they aren’t vegan (or at the very least vegetarian) generally they won’t provide something for me to eat, so I just make sure to ask if I should bring something for myself. Whenever I do this, I always bring enough to share in case anyone else wants to have some. That really helps with the inclusion thing. I almost always feel excluded from the gathering though. Especially when the group gets to talking about meat and dairy products, or how great the meal (that I’m not having) is. For example, I was just at my brothers birthday party this weekend and everyone had big steak and potatoes for dinner and chocolate cream pie for dessert. I, did not. I brought my own meal (balsamic roasted seitan with pearl onions and a baked potato and a salad. I try to make it as similar to the meal they’re having as possible.) Throughout the WHOLE dinner, the conversation was about how juicy the steak was, how thick and marbled it was, different cuts of steak, etc. I had nothing to contribute to the conversation (except snide comments and obnoxious jokes that I kept to myself :P), so I just kept my mouth shut until the topic changed.
    Most of the time, people are curious about why I’m not eating what they are, and what I brought. I used to get kind of offended and shut down, but now I just take it as an opportunity to talk to them about my choices and let them try my food.

    Anyway, good luck with being vegan! Stick to your guns and do whatever you feel is right.

    • I’m vegetarian for environmental reasons, and also acknowledge and understand the benefits of my vegan choices. I’m the same way–no meat, but if I’m somewhere sometimes I just don’t ask if the bread, etc. is vegan if that’s the only thing I can have.

      It’s definitely a journey! Good luck on yours. And as for your boyfriend–I understand that. My parents are both meat eaters, and they understand what that means but always joke the issue away. Like, “I know it’s wrong, but….what’s life without meat?” type jokes.

      It’s a struggle. I think I’m going to continue being vegan, but like you said maybe not 100%. Do it when I can, and when I can’t be open to meals with dairy, eggs, etc. but probably not meat.

  5. Hey!

    I’ve spent the majority of the life worrying and struggling over food. And I’ve tried everything out there- but I’ve learned that stressing about all of it only causes more harm to your body (quadruple more than eating meat/dairy!)

    So I’ve learned to not stress and listen to what my body wants. Luckily what I want and what my body wants tend to be vegetables and healthier items. I considered myself a Vegetarian before I left for my travels but while I was traveling in South AFrica and Argentine (2 places known for their meat) I couldn’t not try it! And I did and didn’t stress about it.

    You’ll find out and discover what works best for you.

    Keep your head up- you’re doing a great job! : )



  6. I feel your pain! It’s so easy to eat how you want when you are at home, but social situations can be challenging. I brought my own food this weekend (with plenty to share) and that was fun. Of course that’s not always possible.

    • Especially since I’m in college, and am often at my friend’s parents homes for meals and social situations. I can’t really cook something in our dorm kitchen to bring!

      When you bring something to a non-potluck type occasion, do you ever find that the host feels off put? That’s something else I wonder/worry about.

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