I’m vegan-ish. That’s my label, if there must be one. It means that I’m a vegan with commitment issues.
I would love to report that I am full vegan, never wavering off of my righteous path, looking down my nose at the meat and dairy eaters and leather-wearers that dwell in my own house. But I cannot type up and deliver that report to you. I am a flawed vegan. Hell, I am even a flawed vegetarian, at times. Allow me to go back to the beginning.
It was a dark and stormy night somewhere between Lost and Desperate Housewives (so maybe 2004 or 5) and I picked up a book called The Idiot’s Guide to Vegetarianism. I had been thinking about a vegetarian diet for a while. Then, my Uncle Tony, a life-long butcher, had announced that we were enjoying some delicious cow diaphragm (also known as skirt steak) during a family dinner and that was pretty much it for me. But I wanted to figure out what I should be eating once I gave up meat so I picked up that book. I read that book. I was appalled at what I had been eating and where it was coming from. I became a vegetarian. Just like that. I told my very Italian mom and she said, “Ok, great, come over for dinner. I will make chicken cutlets.” I could tell getting my family to understand my dietary choice would take some explaining…and convincing.
But I committed to my new diet, through two pregnancies and beyond. I coexisted with all of the questions about protein (or lack thereof) and vitamins and the comments on how whomever I was talking to could be a vegetarian (or could never be a vegetarian) or basically already are a vegetarian except for the hamburgers. It usually comes down to the hamburgers.
Vegetarianism was always felt right for me. I learned so many new recipes and when it became more mainstream over the years, being plant-based became much easier. Then Whole Foods opened in my neighborhood and my mind just about exploded!
But the urge to change came around again, as it has a way of doing, and I was feeling the need to try veganism. I mean what’s in an egg, really? Dairy was getting on my nerves (or more like my digestive system) and I started to think about the cruel treatment of cows and chickens, so I tried. I failed. I tried again. I failed again.
Take this quick example of my failure. My children were on a yogurt kick for a while and, like the good mom that I am, I stocked up on their favorite flavors. Any mom will tell you that as soon as you stock up on your kid’s favorite food, they suddenly hate it. When we were finally down to one lone yogurt cup in our fridge, I tried pawning it off on my daughter. “Ewww” was the response. My son assured me he’d eat it but he kept conveniently overlooking it as he grabbed for his most recent favorite food - which is what? I don’t even know? I can’t keep up. So, it was up to me to eat the yogurt. I couldn’t bear throwing it away. I wasn’t expecting any dairy-eating friends to swing by where upon I could display my lonely, little yogurt cup in hopes of a taker. So I ate it! In a smoothie; right down the hatch. And, it was good but there went my veganism, out the door, passing the guilt that was on it’s way in.
The issue is not so much coexisting with my vegan tendencies as it is being a vegan and coexisting with the fact that sometimes, I’m just not. Sometimes I’m lazy about it. Sometimes, I don’t plan my meals like I should and it all falls apart. I think at the heart of it, that’s what gets me and that’s what I’ve learned to coexist with. I’ve come to grips with the fact that somedays I easily fulfill my vegan fantasies and other days I’m knuckle-deep in the ice cream container.
I also - and I recommend this to anyone who is maintaining a diet that is personalized to them - no longer label what I eat or what ‘I am.’ If someone asks if I am a vegan or vegetarian, I have a choice to make. I can either go into the whole story of how I try and fail or I can simply say no and get on with my day. That technique keeps me from making a liar out of myself, too. I mean, who knows, I may wake up tomorrow and want to eat a big, juicy grilled animal carcass. I highly doubt it, but it could happen. And then I’ve had lied to all of the people I’ve told I’m vegan. What does that make me? I’ll tell ya what it makes me…a lying carnivore. I will not be a lying carni. Not in this lifetime, my friend.
Leslie Lynn Nifoussi is a mom of two who thoroughly enjoys her assortment of jobs as a blogger, model, media host, commercial actor and beauty and fashion contributor for HSN. She’s a former small business owner and professional dancer and is eager to share her life’s experiences with you.
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