Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Why I Can No Longer Call Myself A Vegan



Last week I made the announcement on social media that I felt that I could no longer call myself a vegan. It's something which has been playing on my mind a lot this year and I've wanted to say something for a while now, but I've also been full of anxiety about admitting this publicly to all of my followers and potentially facing a major backlash and losing friends along the way.   

In 2018 I’ve felt increasingly less true to myself as I’ve struggled to achieve a lifestyle that I have promoted as both easily attainable and desirable. I’ve never wanted to bullshit anyone or paint a picture of perfection online and one thing I’ve always prided myself on is my honestly. With all of this in mind I just knew it was time to face up to things and speak the truth... 

Over the past year I’ve struggled a lot with being 100% vegan and it’s been horrible to suddenly feel like i'm failing at something I've been so passionate about in the past. Initially I just felt as though they were small slip ups that happened to everyone but as time has gone on I've found myself really wanting to have more flexibility in my life which has meant sometimes choosing to eat vegetarian.  

I’ve struggled a bit health wise this year and coming off medication was a huge deal for me. You don’t always know how you’re going to respond emotionally or physically to these things and it’s been a rocky road at times. I’ve needed to be more selfish, go with the flow more and just take care of me. Sometimes I’ve needed to just eat what I fancy to help myself feel better and I’ve often not had the energy to scrutinise ingredients lists, let alone advise others on these things. I've really needed to take the stress and pressure off myself, but trust me when I say that I have felt incredibly bad in the process. 

Being vegan certainly requires a level of energy and strength I just haven’t had recently. If you’re feeling unwell in anyway, or low and anxious, you may not even have the headspace to make the decisions you were once able to. If you're going through any kind of bad time then you may find yourself unable to do the things that were once easy for you. You're welcome to be critical and throw judgements my way, but at the same time only I know how I’ve been truly feeling and only I know what’s best for me at this stage in my life. If you haven't faced any major hurdles on your vegan journey yet then I would just encourage you to be open minded because you don't really know how you're going to feel until it happens to you. 

Aside from all of that there’s been numerous occasions when I’ve been out with friends and have just wanted to eat what options are available without depriving myself or drawing attention to myself. It can take a level of confidence to question things in a restaurant and this can be especially difficult when you feel like you just want to blend in with everyone else and not be in the limelight. On holidays I’ve just wanted to relax more, drop the itinerary and just wonder into places that look inviting rather than sticking to a rigid plan. My husband is vegetarian and he also never quite cracked the vegan thing and I've sometimes felt bad to be forcing him to stick to a rigid itinerary, especially on holiday. To be brutally honest I’ve found myself really missing the freedom and spontaneity I once enjoyed as a vegetarian which has been a really difficult thing to admit.

Over the past week I’ve been quite blown away by the number of people messaging me to say they feel exactly the same and they’re also struggling. The responses were quite clear that the majority of people either fall into the perfect vegan category (those people left a nasty comment and unfollowed me), or they’re trying to be the best vegan they can be which does mean on occasion they slip up or have to be flexible in certain situations. It would appear that ‘flexi-vegan’ and ‘mostly vegan’ are much more realistic labels for the vast majority of us but it’s not something that’s easy to admit to when there’s so much pressure to fit concisely into a pigeon hole and especially when there's such a level of scrutiny online. 

There’s a huge pressure once you announce you’re vegan to then maintain a level of perfection that for many of us just isn’t achievable in every day life. You can constantly feel as though people are trying to catch you out both in real life and online and to be honest it can feel really tiring and stressful at times, especially if like me you're a blogger and share a lot of yourself online. 

I’ve ready many tweets before that say things along the lines of ‘you’re either vegan or you’re not’ and if you ever should slip up or be flexible then you should just call yourself a vegetarian. In the past that kind of rigidness has really annoyed me and I've always been supportive of anyone who is at least making some positive changes and trying their best. However, despite those feelings, I also find myself having to agree now and hold my hands up and re-label myself as a vegetarian because I'm simply not fully vegan.  

I guess the ironic thing is that it’s way more easier to be vegan now than when I first embarked on this journey but at the end of the day we still don’t live in a completely vegan world so there’s always going to be some challenges along the way. 

It often annoys me how much vegans throw hate at vegetarians because going veggie was a huge deal for me five years ago and I think it’s underestimated what a big step it is for anyone to give up meat, let alone go straight to being vegan. For many this just isn’t an achievable option. If I can also help to promote people going meat free and show that you can have a level of flexibility in your life when it comes to making vegan choices then this can only be a positive.  

For the people who really need a label my diet is probably around 30% veggie and 70% vegan. I’m not rushing out to stock my fridge with cows milk, cheese and eggs! I’ve been so used to not eating this way at home that it’s just normal life for me now and 90% of what I eat at home will remain vegan. I may eat the occasional vegetarian meal when out or on holiday, I may pick up whatever chocolate takes my fancy in my local shop and I won’t always be scanning ingredients anymore. I know for sure that vegan options will still appeal to me as much as they always have done, but I also know that I need more flexibility in life and to not feel like a cheat by being flexible in my diet. I also want to be transparent about my choices online without feeling like I'm going to be attacked by everyone!   

I’ve had a few people reach out and suggest I call myself ‘mostly vegan’ or ‘flexi-vegan’ etc but I simply don’t feel that I can refer to myself as vegan if I’m not doing it 100%. It’s easier all round and in terms of the scrutiny I receive to just go back to being vegetarian and eliminate all of that pressure and expectation from others and, most importantly, myself.  

So what does this mean in terms of my content going forward? To be honest I don’t foresee a huge amount changing other than that there will now potentially be a mix of veggie and vegan posts. I will of course remain cruelty free with the products I buy and nothing will change in that respect. I know many of you enjoy other topics I cover anyway and thank you for reminding me that there’s a lot more to me than what I eat!   

I feel proud of myself for all of the positive changes I’ve encouraged within others over the past few years and I’m looking forward to continuing on that mission. To receive so many messages from people saying that I've helped them to think more ethically about the lifestyle they're leading is a huge accomplishment in itself. 

All I can say now is that I’m feeling much happier that I can go into 2019 feeling like my true self. I want everything I do online to be authentic and I especially want to share the lows as well as the highs. Life isn’t always perfect, easy or how Instagram makes you feel it should be. I’ve always tried my best to keep things as real as possible on here and hopefully you respect me for that. 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to send me such supportive and positive messages, they really meant the world to me and made any negativity much easier to deal with.  

Thanks for reading x


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6 comments

  1. Hi Sarah! This is a great post, and much needed I think.

    To me, being vegan is much, much harder than most vegans would like you think. It's incredibly restrictive, which when you're already in a bad place, it can be really bad for a great number of people. The term 'vegan' also comes with a whole load of pressures.

    You have pressure from Every-Day-Joes, who go out of their way to try and find ways you're not vegan, somewhere that you might have slipped up, (IE the stupid QI video where they say avocados aren't vegan). There is pressure from society, owing to the stigma of how awkward being a vegan is to everyone else, and how 'all vegans are judgemental and preachy'.

    Then there is a tonne of pressure from other vegans. It feels like there is a huge competition to be 'The Most Vegan of all Vegans'. If you do one thing wrong people act as if you've personally gone and killed a load of piglets, and that you are personally everything that is wrong about the world. I was once in a facebook group where a woman was asking for opinions on whether she should use nit shampoo on her children hair, as she would be killing the nits, and that would mean she's no longer vegan... It's only a small minority of vegans who put this pressure on, but they make a lot of noise.

    It takes a certain kind of determination to remain vegan when society is so full of non-vegan things everywhere you go. It also takes a lot of will-power to constantly say no to things you might naturally want.

    To me there is a lot less pressure associated with the word "vegetarian" or "veggie" and I'm personally a lot happier with it. I have been vegetarian for the last 14 years (since I was 13) and the world is changing, there is a lot less stigma with being veggie now and thanks to the vegan movement it is a lot easier to be vegan/veggie, but it still isn't easy and it's wrong for people to pretend that it is for everybody.

    I mainly eat vegan food when I'm at home, but when I'm out, especially at peoples houses and they're making me dinner, it's so much easier to say I'm veggie and just eat what I'm given. Same as when I go out for meals to poorly catering restaurants. If the only vegan option is a side salad, and I'm there to celebrate someones life event, I'm not going to be the awkward one.

    On a different point, I also find the hate for veggies strange. Often it feels like the hate for them is greater than the hate for people who eat meat. I find it bizarre, because they are doing their best and in my opinion doing something is a hell of a lot better than doing nothing.

    I hope you're okay, and kudos to you for sharing this x

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  2. Hi Sarah,
    You came accross apologetic in this post which made me sad. Lets not dwell on the negatives and the sad horrid preachy vegans!
    You are an absolute inspiration and a true ambassador for cruelty free with everything you've done and you have my utmost respect. So please keep doing and inspiring!
    The world is changing and you are at the cutting edge.
    If any preachy vegans give you anymore sh*t, ask them if their child was poorly, would they refuse medication that has surely been tested on animals?
    I'm going to follow you because I like what you do!
    Respect,
    Brian (Founder)
    cruelty-free-lifestyle.org

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  3. I agree 100% with this comment. I don’t eat meat now. I mostly don’t eat dairy, especially at home, although if I’m at someone else’s home I would take cows milk in a coffee. Or eat a cheese sandwich. It’s my lifestyle choice, and I’m not going to start dictating my demands on others. Hands up, I admit I still eat fish once or twice a week. As in all areas of life we are all different, and deal with things in our own way. I could never be a militant vegan. It’s not my personality to stand up. I do my best. My husband does his best. And we are happy with our choices. The movement is growing and will continue to grow, and it will be made up of many different versions of non meat eaters. Surely the compassion we extend to the animals should also be extended to each other.

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  4. I am well over 60 and have been a vegetarian for 35 years. I eat mostly vegan but whenever I try to be a strict, one hundred percent vegan it does not work for me. I guess that it works for a good number of people but I wonder if they find it hard and will not admit it. Or perhaps they are not such strict vegans but say that they are just to fit in with the crowd. In any case, do what you think is right for you. Everyone is different. Yes, people should at least reduce their consumption of meat and other animal products. But saying that everyone should eat the exact same way is not natural.

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  5. I saw your social media posts (which I thought explained the situation very well), so I was really interested to see what you'd say in this blog post, too. I found myself nodding along with everything you said. I've been vegetarian for two years now, and tried Veganuary earlier this year. It was good, but I found being vegan made me more obsessive over food (in an unhealthy way) - I didn't like the way it affected my mental health. Calling myself a vegetarian lessens the pressure, even though I don't eat eggs or dairy very often.

    I'm really glad you've shared your experiences, I think a lot of other people will be able to relate. Veganism is great, but I agree that it's not as easy as some people claim. I hope you have a lovely, peaceful 2019 xxxx

    Toasty

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  6. Really insightful post and I think you're very brave.
    Please don't pressure yourself, just do the best you can at the time.
    Remember, completely vegan or cruelty free is not possible yet, if it ever will be.
    If somebody tries to make you feel bad, ask them if they would withhold medicine for their poorly child? (all medicines are tested on animals by law).
    Please keep doing what you're doing. You are an inspiration to us all.
    Brian
    Founder: Cruelty Free Lifestyle org

    ReplyDelete

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