Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Perfectly Imperfect

Along with everything else in life - being vegetarian or vegan is never perfect. You might glimpse perfection for a week or two but eventually a dish cooked with chicken broth slips by the vegetarian, or a slice of birthday cake made with egg and butter finds it's way into a celebrating vegan. Add a leather trimmed "N" on your New Balance running shoes and you might as well just throw in the towel and order a steak! Kidding.

Here's a portion of a comment by my dear friend Angie who is (among other wonderful things!) an Ironman:

When you don't eat meat or any animal products and people know this, it's as though you are being watched and if you decide you want fish or ice cream...yes, I am close friends with Ben and Jerry, a huge feeling of guilt would consume me. I am learning to get over it. Ninety percent of my diet is raw veggies and I (we) work so hard to eat healthy and KIND...should I beat myself up if I want a little yummy? Some will say, "but you run so much, you can afford to eat that"...but that isn't even what it's about.

She echoes the same feelings I have had many times. Foregoing eating animals should not be a life full of guilty feelings or constant stress. It is a joyful life that helps to set your heart at ease and place it in line with your mind. Step by step, meal by meal, choice by choice - it's a life spent moving toward your best.

It's a good life but it's a fight - no doubt. Most days I am David staring up at the big ol' Goliath of the food industry. It's a battle against focus groups and scientists who are devising 1000 ways to make you fall in love with their genetically modified, fortified, hydrolyzed, hydrogenated and sugar infused foods.

Is it always easy? No.
Am I perfect? No.
Will I ever be perfect?  That's an absolute NO.

Instead, I am perfectly imperfect. I eat free range organic eggs every other morning which knocks me out of the Vegan running.   I have seen the chickens on this farm and I feel comfortable enough to eat the eggs.  It does NOT mean that I forgot that male chicks are culled (electrocuted, gassed or drowned).  I know I will give these up too but for now, I am consciously making an imperfect choice.

I don't eat any mammals or fowl but about once every month I might eat fresh fish from the sea down the hill from my house.  I don't eat any dairy products - which I consider an accomplishment of epic proportion. Cheese? I loved cheese! But there IS life after cheese and opening my mind to the reality of dairy has made it easy to wave bye-bye!  Giving up something I thought I LOVED (cheese!) means more to me that eating a bit of fresh fish if I get stuck.  None of this is perfect - it's all about compromise.

Admitting it will never be perfect is the best first step you can take. Just pick something...anything. Cows or pigs, chickens, milk, cheese - and make a commitment to let that animal be. Better yet, sponsor that type of farm animal at a rescue site like Farm Sanctuary or The Gentle Barn.  If you love pigs but want to keep eating chickens, you can still help pigs and feel good about it. Everything you do matters.  It doesn't have to be all or nothing. It can just be something. It doesn't make you a hypocrite and you have no one to answer to.

If I'm completely honest, this blog has helped to keep me accountable during the rough patches. Some days it would just be easier to head out for dinner with my husband and not have to wonder what they'll have on the menu.  Accepting a dinner invitation to a new friend's house wouldn't require a phone call to let them know I'm vegetarian.   But as with almost everything, easier does not equate to better.

No English necessary - they communicate just beautifully!
If you're on the fence, don't hesitate to jump because you're afraid to be imperfect.  Just get used to being imperfect and move onward and upward.  If the animals could speak English, they would thank you for any effort - I just know it!


  1. How do you you spot a vegan at a party? You don't have to because they will let you know who they are!
    40 years of being a lacto-vegetarian I find it easiest to 'stay under the radar' and remember the reason why I made that choice so long ago - and because I made the choice of how I am going to eat I can therefore change that choice any-time - it just so happens that in 40 years I have always chosen not to change.
    Making a dietary choice based on health often becomes a choice later based on principle. One reality check of how relevant your eating habits are is if you can maintain the lifestyle you desire. Bottom line is that life lives off life and we each have a conscious choice of what 'level' of life we want to live off. What other life forms on this round ball of a planet are we going to use for our survival. It is a mind game and a conscious way of living at first - then it becomes a habit. There is another challenge that is always present, unless we live as a hermit, and that is how we live in partnership with others - within our most intimate relationship, amongst friends, family, the wider public and cultures outside of our own. Never forgetting that what we eat is a means to and end - not the end goal in itself - food is to enjoyed!

  2. I love this! I think the HUGE change stops many people from making small changes that add up to big things. It's okay to make a change that doesn't fit a particular label - it's about what works for you and what you're comfortable with. I get frustrated when people make choices and don't understand why, but I LOVE it when people admit they aren't perfect and they are learning. Does that even make sense? :)

    1. Yes - total sense! I listened to the interview with Matt Ruscigno on NMA and he said something that released me from all my worry about fitting into ANY label...

      "I've been vegan almost 15 years now and the people I knew 10 years ago who were vegan aren't vegan anymore. But the people I knew 10 years ago who were all vegan except for ice cream and pizza are still all vegan except for ice cream and pizza. They don't call themselves vegan. They just say they're vegetarian but they've figured out where they are in the spectrum of plant-based nutrition - found where they're comfortable and that's where they stay."

      I've been at this for only 1.5 years of my 42 years on this planet. My place on the spectrum will change many times. I have to fight the urge to NOT ADMIT that I eat those eggs but it's where I am right now and road is longggggg :)

  3. David, my wonderful Ayurvedic icon - I desperately hope to have your laid back wisdom as the years wage on. To think that you descend from 200 years of butchers :) I can so relate to fitting food into our partnerships with others. My husband did not choose to change - I did. Does that mean we forego meals together forever? NO - but it does take a decent amount of effort and reminders on my part to be inclusive and loving even when the food on his plate bums me out. Love is the mantra!

  4. I love reading your blog. You have a wonderful inspiring way of writing. We started a while ago with eating vegetarian at least two nights a week. We are buying eggs from a friend who keeps some chickens in his yard. When in the supermarket, I buy - the twice as expensive - free range organic eggs. Money totally worth feeling less guilty about my omelet.

    It is a small change, but I figured its a total of at least 208 meals a year (family of two) without meat. I love your message it's not all or nothing. Maybe one day my 'something' will be as much as your 'something'. Until that time I am trying to stay conscious of what I eat and make healthy choices.

    Please know that you have touched me with your blog AND since I am the cook at home, my family gets pulled along with it. So, that's 2 for the price of 1!

    1. Florine - my sweet friend! This comment just made my day, month and year! Your 'something' is perfect and no doubt will grow and morph 20 times over... your consciousness is the very best part. One powerful and loving human (you!) makes a world of difference. YEAH for 208!!!!! Big hugs to you sister and THANK YOU for the kind words. Love, Lauren