How (not) to be vegan?

Since I stopped eating animal products in early 2015, I’ve had a few friends who’ve shown interest in knowing more about this kind of lifestyle and eating habits/choices. I’m always happy when someone asks me where to find different ingredients, how to prepare them, ideas for more nutricious recipes or more natural products for them or their home.

Some of my close friends even told me that they are consciously choosing more vegetarian meals while eating out, at home or at the Uni’s cafeteria! Yes, I still hear some jokes and provocative comments, but more often than not, those are said with a friendly tone. Which vegan or vegetarian hasn’t heard the typical “where do you get your protein?”, “You need meat/fish/milk in order to fulfill your daily nutricional needs” or if you even get sick “see? your not that much healthier…”

The truth is, there are rude people everywhere: vegans, omnivores, tall, short… well, you get the point. I frequently notice so much negativity amongst vegans that I’m not surprised why so many people find vegans to be bossy, judgmental and unpleasant people to be around. Also true, is that it’s extremely unpleasant to be around people who, the moment they find out you are vegan or vegetarian, suddenly become experts in nutrition and feel that they need to give an opinion on every single aspect of your food choices and lifestyle.

Since I don’t like when someone does that to me, I try not to do it to others around me. If I did, I would alienate my entire family and friends considering that I’m the only vegan around here. Treating others with kindness and respect, even if bothers you to see bacon on their plate, takes you much further than to just explode about why and what they should or shouldn’t be doing. The other side is also valid: People, if you have a vegan/vegetarian friend, he/she probably read SO much about what and how to eat that you would be surprised. We do know that cruciferous veggies have calcium and that beans have protein and that you can boost iron absorption using vitamin C (spinach + lemon juice = yum). Plus, more likely is an omnivore lacking in fiber than a vegan has a protein deficiency.

Yes, the consumption of animal products makes me sad beyond words. Yes, it breaks my heart to see animal violence, food related health conditions and our endangered environment. Yes I try to be a voice for the voiceless. And yes, I feel truly happy everytime I veganize some recipe I used to love. But I too once said “I could never go vegetarian” and then “I could never go vegan”. I too said “I love roasted chicken” and “I could never give up cheese”. People change and we can only provide the same tools which were decisive for us, but we have no entitlement to make choices for other people.

The lovely Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in her podcast Food for Thought, shares this beautiful idea while talking about the 10 habits of highly effective advocates:

The goal is to live according to compassion. The goal is not to “live according to veganism.” When you think being vegan is the end goal — the badge, the destination, you get hung up on trying to be perfect or achieving a state of purity, and you forget what being vegan is all about. Being vegan is the means to the goal and that goal is unconditional compassion and optimal wellness

This is the idea I live by. For instance, I still own two pairs of leather boots, some of which are more than 10 years old. I also still own wool items. The thing is, I simply cannot afford to give away all non-vegan things and spend the winter freezing or just discard items which were given to me from people I care so many years ago. However, if I do need to buy something new, I will be careful and won’t choose animal by-products and materials. With makeup and skincare was easier since I don’t own that much, therefore, I no longer have non-vegan makeup, skincare or haircare products. Incidentally, much of my work requires that I handle old parchments! The important this is that you start to do your best and keep true to the goal, which is much different than trying obssessively to be the “perfect” vegan. Don’t try to be that person and simply focus on the goal instead of judging everyone around you.

On the last email of this year’s Veganuary (which I love to subscribe for their delicious recipes and interesting posts),  they shared the importance of trying. It doesn’t matter if you had a cheat meal or if you bought a non-vegan lipstick, what matters is that you try a bit everyday. Be open, be kind, be loving. If you are not vegan, don’t be rude without even trying it. If you are,don’t try to be perfect, just be human.




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