Long post ahead, but I felt many of you had the right to know. So here it goes:
It’s not about the label and it’s not about rules. It’s about listening to your body and most importantly, to your mind.
Going vegan has taught me that both entities, the mind and body, are working separately and are constantly evolving. What my mind accepts may not be accepted by my body. What works for my body may not work for my mind. What seemed right at one point in my life may not later on. It’s all about being open, experimenting, and seeking guidance when necessary. And most importantly, creating BALANCE and finding HAPPINESS.
Therefore, I have decided to let this lifestyle go. Not because I’m against this lifestyle, have no compassion for the animals, or because I think it’s not the healthiest or easiest way to eat or live anymore. Actually, I found that I took it very easily, and my body felt like it had been waiting for me to make this change for a long time. I felt unusually light and alert. My skin looked particularly brighter and cleaner. Everything seemed to require less effort and I had very little resistance to the prospect of doing things. Simple tasks like getting out of a chair or clearing up my dishes seemed to lose some vague character of annoyingness I didn’t realize they used to have. I felt awesome physically, and right away.
However, my approach to veganism held me back mentally. The biggest challenge of giving up this lifestyle was realizing how much I had let it define me and influence my relationships. I became aware of how enraged and difficult I was. I realized that I became anxious and frustrated when in social situations, even in the comfort of my own home. I also found that some aspects of this life clashed with my personal goals, especially when it came to fitness. Another very simple point I can’t deny that it’s true: The question was whether I was willing to live my values or not.
Living your values isn’t something that happens automatically. A person can believe something is wrong but do it anyway. We do it all the time. We inherit our lifestyles from the people around us, and we uncover our values as we live life, and they’re not going to come to match each other on their own. Rather than work to reconcile them with each other, we mostly rationalize one or the other so that the disparity isn’t so apparent. However strangely, being the pro rationalizer that I am, I could never find the extra incentive to defend and keep honest with my ethical views on veganism. Was it the social pressures? The hope to avoid debate? Or maybe my lack of enthusiasm or passion? Yes, I do consider myself as an advocate for the fair treatment of animals and I know that it’s flatly wrong and atrocious to kill animals for food. Yet, it was difficult for me when such debates arose, and during times of intense pressure and stress, I found myself even rationalizing an omnivorous diet because it was just more convenient. I know that regardless of the health benefits I had experienced, my values were clearly not prescribing a vegan lifestyle and that affected me mentally as well.
[ADDED] This brings into question whether being a vegan makes you less of a social person, and let me clarify: VEGANISM does not. YOU do. I realized that you actually don’t have to sacrifice anything regarding spending time with your friends and family while being vegan. Being social is about sharing time with loved ones, and even if it’s around a meal, you’ll certainly be able to join in. I could still take part in social events and enjoy my vegan alternatives at non-vegan restaurants. The only way a vegan might miss out on social connections is if he or she isolates oneself because of those personal choices. And that was my problem, especially after the first reactions I got when I decided to become vegan. People asked questions, got excited, immediately excused themselves for not doing it, got anxious, made fun, got angry, got curious, even got furious. The good reactions were lovely, and the bad reactions took their toll in the beginning especially as I was trying to build my confidence and learn more. All it needed to show up was for me to take the reins of this change I was so happy about, but I couldn’t and I didn’t. I couldn’t talk about it with the same joy my body was feeling, to feel confident in my choices and to make sure to tell and show people that nothing in our relationship was going to change. And that’s when it started to negatively influence my relationships with my friends and family. Mentally, I was just unable to and it wasn’t veganism’s fault. It was purely mine.
Overall, all these factors created complicated, inevitable barriers in my mind and such worries slowly began to consume me. I became afraid to enjoy this lifestyle to the fullest extent possible. Although I was happy physically, I clearly wasn’t mentally. And as everyone knows, putting our mental capacity at risk can be threatening. It should be our priority to put our psychological health first, even if that means giving up a lifestyle you firmly believe in.
Right now, I have a much healthier approach to food today, and going forward, you can expect to see the same types of (vegan-friendly) plant-based recipes and healthy, yet decadent baking on my blog. I still love to experiment with dairy-free and egg-free baking and I want to continue to stick to plant-based cooking with simple ingredients. However, I will not strictly label myself as a ‘vegan’ as of now. I am fully aware of the fact that I may not be mature enough, comfortable enough, or even ethical enough to reap the full benefits from this lifestyle today. However, I do want to reconsider in the future when I have gained enough willpower, maturity, wisdom, love, and passion for a lifestyle as legitimate as veganism. I want to DESERVE that life and EARN it. But right now is just not the right time. However, my goal still is to encourage others to reduce their animal consumption and embrace more plants in their diet through my recipes. I want to continue to inspire people to eat real food under a plant-based diet and to love it, and nothing will stop be from doing that at the least.
This physical and mental food journey has allowed me to learn, as well as un-learn, a lot about my own personal relationship to food. It’s always evolving and shifting, and now, I believe I’ve reached a real state of acceptance around it. Now I am striving to be the best version of myself through food and my new love for fitness, learning and loving as much as possible, and listening to my mind and body to make sure they’re always happiest. If we can just get all humans to be healthy, happy and filled with love, all other things will take care of themselves without a movement or label of any kind.
I want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for supporting me along the way and I hope you all will understand my choice and continue to follow the next chapter of my life.