I once labeled myself a "vegan" and almost instantly felt a sense of purpose, community and even—dare I say—superiority over those who ate meat.
Sometimes, during a moment of weakness, I occasionally incorporate dairy back into my diet or have a piece of fish for dinner. (What can I say? I'm human.) I've noticed that anytime I mention a non-vegan indulgence to friends in the raw food or vegan community (either in a conversation or on the web) I inevitably get ridiculed or judged. On occasion, I've even been yelled at.
At first I was shocked and frankly, appalled by these outbursts. But after a while, I used their judgement as an opportunity to explore the label of veganism, what I'm trying to tell the word when I call myself vegan. What I wanted to understand was: why did the label give me such a sense of importance in the first place?
I'm passionate about veganism and what it represents, which extends far beyond food. But rather than focus on the label, as I had been (and see so many others) doing, I began to focus on the activism behind it: actually saving animals and preserving lives, promoting wellness, creating a more eco-friendly environment, etc.
I went from sharing status updates on Facebook about why veganism is "the best & only way to eat" to actually taking action: volunteering, meeting, and speaking with wellness experts who promote plant-based eating and learning about eco-friendly lifestyles.
I started to realize that the movement I want to be part of is the one in which wellness, animal welfare, and eco-conscious living take center stage rather than showcasing myself, as I see some others doing. I greatly admire and want to follow the approach of someone like Whitney Lauritsen, best known as Eco-Vegan Gal. She promotes vibrant heath and offers practical tips on everything from eco-friendly living to sustaining a plant based lifestyle. She doesn't just preach; she inspires.
Once I began to learn from people like Whitney, I stopped listening to the naysayers' judgement and rigid approach. The label of veganism lost its allure.
I am no longer a vegan. Yes, others label me that way, but I don't. Of course, I still support the cause! I eat primarily plant-based while focusing on living a balanced life, promoting wellness and trying to save as many factory farm animals that I can!
I choose to join forces with those who are actively trying to save animals lives and those who teach others about wellness and eco-fab lifestyles. I support and champion those who participate in Meatless Mondays, those who believe the Paleo Diet healed them, and all of those who do their best to eat handfuls of kale every day! I think this is the way to motivate people to become healthier....it's not through criticism.
So what has losing the label done for me personally and professionally?
Personally, I feel....free! Free from the judgement of the haters in the vegan community and those who are self-centered in general. Professionally, my blog audience at www.girlgoneveg.com has tripled because my focus is on everyone who wants to incorporate plant based eating into their lives whether that be 5% or 100% of the time!
I am no longer tied to just one community and I don't want to be ever again. I found it to be almost cultish (particularly in the raw food community) where the focus became about the raw food leader versus the food - it got so creepy. And what I am referring to is when people begin to first idealize the public figure who is teaching them about a healthy plant based eating & then form a community focused on the teachings of this person, living life the way 'they' say and going to this person for the majority of their decisions almost as if worshiping a false god. Sound extreme? It is.
And as for my community? It's the love of my life, friends, family and dog, Marley. Professionally, I love teaming with those who are properly educating people about the horrors of factory farming, laboratory testing on animals, etc.
I celebrate those who've healed their bodies through food and share how they went about it! Those that I particularly admire in the wellness world are the Engine 2 Team, Whitney Lauritsen at Eco-VeganGal.com and Sarah Matheny who authored Peas & Thank You. (She is brilliant!) And of course, I celebrate the team and community here at MindBodyGreen, which promotes wellness in the most educated and spirited format.
I am honored to be part of this movement!