Posted by: conradvisionquest | April 12, 2010

The Past Me and The Current Me talk about this crazy, “restrictive” lifestyle

It seems strange to me to think back on my meat-eating self, her perspective, and what she used to be like.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was chomping on a cheeseburger along with the rest of the USA not wanting to hear about animal cruelty from those crazy, radical vegans. I think it’s important to remember my past self when speaking to friends and family who ask questions about the vegan lifestyle.

Neither my past self nor my current self is this hot. Just a stock photo.

Now that I am on “the other side,” I find it so hard to bite my tongue when reading what others have to say about being veg*n. But then I remember my past self, the meat-eater self, and I remember that I, too, used to buy into the myths about “giving up” meat, dairy and eggs.

One example of the more (what I consider to be) irresponsible statements I have read are:
“In practice, very few people are satisfied with the flavors and tastes of a diet based exclusively on plant foods, even when these foods are loaded up with artificial flavors, which is why it is so difficult for most people to remain on a vegan diet.”
(I could devote an entire post on this one statement, but I need to gather myself first.)

I’m not sure where they might be getting this information from, but my guess would be that they have never been veg*n, or don’t have a friend or family member that may be, or haven’t interviewed any veg*ns, or have never looked for any information about it beyond what they’ve heard. But again, I am reminded of my past self who bought into these myths right along with the rest of the world, only because I never questioned them. Then I started asking questions.

Today I would like to address the notion that a veg*n diet is all about denying yourself, giving up things, and adhering to strict rules about what you can and cannot eat. I have even heard these things coming from those who are attempting a plant-based diet.

Firstly, I can eat whatever I want. (not to sound all Veruca Salt-y, but it’s true. Now gimme some golden eggs!) I just choose not to eat meat, eggs, or cow’s milk. Quite frankly at this point, knowing what I know, I don’t want to eat those things anymore.  Rather than get into the specific horrors of the meat and dairy industry here (this information is widely accessible via the internet), I will just quote Sir Paul McCartney…
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Point being that if people knew, they wouldn’t want it either.

"I want it nooooow! I want it riiight nooooooww!"

Secondly, if this lifestyle was in any way restrictive or difficult, I certainly wouldn’t be doing it. Those who know me best know that I am selfish, lazy, love a big meal, and don’t like being told I “can’t” do something (cue “I Want It Right Now” song). However, after getting my questions answered, I was determined to make this work. I really had no choice, so I made my own way. For me it’s not about denial, it’s about finding alternatives and different ways of doing things.  I’ve tried countless recipes, most of them delicious and satisfying, none of them involving sprouts or twigs. It was easier than I ever imagined to switch to a plant-based diet. Me, the same me who used to describe herself as a “meat-n-potatoes” girl, I am satisfied with my vegan diet. I won’t lie, in a meat eating world, it’s not all easy. It does take effort, but I wouldn’t say it’s “difficult.”  And to me, the effort is well worth it.  For example, I wish there more veg friendly restaurants where we live. But that doesn’t mean I need to switch back to meat, it means restaurants need to get on the ball and tap into this market. (ahhh, restaurants, also another post for another day)

So now when I hear people say or write that a vegan diet is too restrictive, I think of the following analogy: (if you have virgin ears you may want to cover them now, strong language ahead) If you discovered that the meat you have been eating all this time was, in fact, shit, literally feces, would you then say “Oh I can’t give up shit, I just love it too much!” “What? You don’t eat shit anymore? But that’s so restrictive!” Sorry to be so graphic, but this is how I feel when I come across this point of view. It’s restrictive to give up shit? It makes no sense to me anymore. Why would I want to eat shit? Ok, I’m done cursing now.

In response to all the “Isn’t it hard?” “How can you give XYZ up?” and “That’s so extreme” I also say this:  If you knew that something you were doing on a regular basis was causing another living being harm, would you continue to do it?  If you stopped doing those things, would you consider it a “restriction” or a better way of doing things?

Now that my perspective has changed, everyone else seems like the radical.  It would seem that killing and torture for my own gratification, especially when there are alternatives that are not only available but in most cases better, is the extreme idea.  I think what is happening, and it was certainly true in my past self’s case, is that people are not thinking about it and/or they don’t want to know. It’s easier to go with the flow, follow “traditions,” don’t be a trouble maker, don’t ask questions, don’t be different, and keep your mouth shut.

Another thing to consider is that we, as a society, have become desensitized to violence.  The meat eaters diet is what is accepted, we are not “supposed” to feel for the animals, who are lesser life forms anyway.  Stop being silly and just eat your steak.  Right?

Everyone has their own path to take. You can’t force things. The past-me reminds the current-me that people have to find the path on their own terms and in their own time, or it’s not going to stick.  So now whenever I read that the radical, extreme vegan diet is too restrictive, or that denying yourself is crazy, the past-me puts her hand over the current-me’s mouth, and then cartoon steam comes out of my ears.  I try and follow some of my own advice, which is to remember where you came from.

A vegan lifestyle restrictive? My answer now is “absolutely not”, quite the opposite.  I would describe it as abundant in real food, life, compassion, and nourishment for the body and soul.  And honestly, it’s the least I can do for animals.

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Responses

  1. So true! I always point out to people that I am choosing this lifestyle for myself and my daughter. Obviously so they get the point that I just plain don’t want meat, eggs or dairy. But also, out of a sensitivity to people with life-threatening food allergies (such as my niece).

    And I may just have to steal your “shit” analogy – with due credit, of course. Too fucking funny. And somewhat true, to an extent. Grrrroooooooss.

    • thanks for the comment! and feel free to use the shit analogy… it’s not a perfect analogy, but i think it gets the point across.
      ~w

  2. I love this post. We struggle with this all the time. It’s so easy to be smug when we know all the facts, but a year ago we were clueless meat-eaters too. Practicing patience when you’re so positive that you’re right (and I’m reallllllly positive on this one), is tough work.
    -Lindsey

    • i agree. i also feel strongly about changing the face of veganism so that more people will become interested in it. scaring them off with what i like to call “right fighting” won’t do that. but like you said, sometimes it’s hard. thanks for stopping by and commenting, lindsey!
      ~w

  3. I thought that giving up meat would be long and difficult but two weeks in I’m already at the lacto-vegetarian stage. Soon I can give up dairy with ease. Now making my peace with broccoli…now that’s going to be hard!

    • mmmm. i love me some broccoli, so i can’t relate on that one. but i can relate to the rest of your comment. i thought this was gonna be super-hard, but i didn’t care, i wanted to do it anyway. turns out it’s been one of the easiest things i’ve ever done. i’m like, “that was it?” yes, that was it. weird.
      ~w

  4. So many people seem to focus on what we vegans “give up,” instead of what we gain. Sure, a cheeseburger might taste good, but to know my diet isn’t harming other living things feels so much better to me. I can feel my chest swell with pride when I think about this decision I made to live in accordance with my beliefs, instead of continuing to ignore the unsettled feeling I got when I thought about what was happening to make the food on my plate.

    Also, other people seem to focus on the restrictive part as if THAT is the point. When they say things like, “Uh, vegans shouldn’t eat fake meat/cheese. What’s the point of giving up animal products if you’re just going to eat fake versions? Where’s the sacrifice?” I just get so confused because the POINT is that we don’t want to eat animals. So no matter what we eat, if it isn’t animals, then we’re sticking to our point. And secondly, we aren’t sacrificing anything. It’s not cheating to eat a fake cheese on our pizza! It’s just eating something that tastes good that our mind associates with pizza!

    Anyway, that was a lot of words for a comment, sorry. 🙂 But I agree with you. I don’t feel like my diet is restrictive at all. It’s not a punishment, but a celebration!

    • great thoughts, melissa!
      ~w

  5. I agree with your statement that veganism isn’t about a restricted diet. It really isn’t. When I started this path, I always felt, and still do, that I was giving myself more, not less. I love cheese, but my giving it up isn’t a denial of pleasure; it’s an opportunity to find a healthier and more conscious alternative. And vegan food is so good, so we’re not missing anything!

    • right on, tara!

  6. Oh, boy how I loved that post!! I could not agree with you more. When I look back on the animal-consuming me, I shake my head in pity. I, too, struggle with remaining calm and understanding in the face of ignorance and offensive/hurtful comments. Usually, in my head, I’m screaming: “REALLY?!?! REALLY?!?!” when a carnivore is explaining their viewpoint. At this point in my life(style), I really can’t fathom why people would consume animal products…it really, truly makes no sense to me. If you can make a sinful, delicious, rich chocolate cake without eggs, why wouldn’t you?!

    • thanks! i hear ya…
      ~w

  7. What a beautiful post! It took some of my own words out of my mouth (even though I’m a vegan-wannabe/newbie and not quite sure what turns my diet will take). I didn’t stop eating meat products because of animal cruelty, yet I think I *should* have. And I don’t hold anything against hunters or fishermen–hunters and fishermen who legally hunt/fish and use the meat to feed their families. I know some people out there will want to snap at me for saying that, but I’m not against eating meat, per se–I’m not all that crazy about the industrialized turn the meat-eating industry has taken. And then to think of all the meat thrown away after so much work went into getting it… I’m still working out my philosophy on food and eating, but I can say that my first week as a vegan has been very rewarding–I feel better inside and out already, and I 100% agree with you that I don’t feel like I’m restricting myself. I feel like I’m helping myself by making smarter choices.

    • thanks for reading and commenting!
      ~w


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