To Vegan or Not to Vegan?

I’ve never considered myself much of a dieter: I never hopped on the Atkins train, never read the South Beach Diet and have never (and probably could never) done the lemonade cayenne pepper diet.  Some people in my life I’m sure would beg to differ this previous statement: they see me ordering my kale salad, no cheese, add tempeh, SOS (sauce on side), or hear me talking about the Michael Pollan book I’m reading or are stuck listening to me talk about the food documentary I watched the night before.  Although I may not have grown up in a household with a perfect relationship to food (“do you know how many miles you’d have to run tomorrow to burn that off?” was a common statement whenever some kind of decadence would hit the table) but I did grow up not believing in “dieting,” and I still don’t.  Diets are an attempt to “catch-up” with your health, something that I’m sure can have it’s proper place, but it always seemed more efficient to eat a healthy diet on a day to day basis.

Having said this, I have certainly messed around with my diet, probably more so than someone with only 24 years on this Earth should have:  when I was in high school I became a full on vegetarian, then pescatarian, then added poultry back.  For a brief time in college I went back to eating pretty much whatever (mostly a result of traveling abroad to Europe, specifically Paris where vegetarian seems to be a four letter word) which looking back on was probably a good decision seeing as my vegetarian diet seems to have gone awry…the evidence was in the freshman-20.  The past few years have been a repetition of this pattern: meat, no meat, fish, chicken, no meat and even, in the more recent years, a few bouts with veganism.

Reading books about and watching movies on sustainable agriculture, healthy planet lifestyles, and eating whole foods in one of my greatest interests but they have recently presented me with an internal dialogue, possibly even a dilemma if you will: they generally say that research shows eating a plant based, basically vegan diet is best for our health and for our impact on the planet.   My day to day diet had evolved over the years to a habitually vegan one but there is my weekly craving for frozen yogurt or parmesan cheese on my spaghetti squash, my monthly yearn for tuna tartare or even yearly craving for the burnt end of a brisket (here rises the Jewish girl in me).  Explaining to someone who has seen you have dairy that you’re vegan or to someone who’s heard you praise your crispy flank steak that you’re vegetarian can be a confusing and slightly distressing.

As a result, within recent months I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and strip myself of all dietary conformations and labels and instead go about eating exactly as I have: eating what I want in a way that makes me feel my best.  Although I don’t foresee much change occurring on a surface level this is actually a very empowering thought for me and a weight off my shoulders (no more confusing looks or questions from vegan onlookers).  I will continue to go about my everyday as usual, with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, kale salads with tempeh and tofu and lots of quinoa tabbouleh but I will indulge in frozen dairy desserts, sushi and the occasional bison burger bite, when my body says that’s what it wants, without feeling like I’m cheating or needing to explain my choice.

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