Vegarian: Identity crisis between vegetarian and vegan.

Does your breakfast look like the picture above? Do you drink almond milk but sometimes eat cheese? Do you only buy vegan foods at the grocery store but when you go out you’ll eat cheese and eggs occasionally? Welcome to the vegarian club! My story is similar to most vegarians. I started as a pescatarian, meaning I only ate fish as a meat source. After four years of that and convincing myself fish was no longer necessary in my diet, I dropped meat all together. It’s been two years now since then and I feel great and I have no intention of going back. There is however, a huge part of me that wants to take the jump to veganism. I have been on and off and quite honestly, my time on hasn’t been more than a month at a time. If you follow me and what I promote, it’s quite clear I promote a plant-based, whole food, vegan diet. I truly think it is the most healthful diet for MOST people.

The way we eat can please people or it can offend people. The dieting world is so incredibly charged with positive and negative commentary that we feel the need to identify with a side. Especially now, there are more and more dramatic differences. Take the carnivore diet versus the vegan diet. They are exactly the opposite. The way we eat isn’t as simple as it was during early human years. Before, you just eat what is around and that’s it. Can you imagine a cave man criticizing another cave man for eating potato tubers? Now we have so many choices, we have created different styles of eating. Due to isolation, cultures develop their own food with their own spices, creativity, and beliefs. What is on our plate can be even religious. Books like the Bible talk about meat and how animals are created for man. Hindus don’t eat cow because they believe the cow is holy. Jews don’t eat pork or shellfish and meat and dairy shouldn’t be combined.

Over time, different beliefs have created different communities. As a communal species, we want to identify with a community in particular. Especially as a Nutritionist, I am asked all the time what my diet is like. I often respond, “I am a black belt vegetarian.” This sensation of having to be part of a diet community has led people away from eating healthy time and time again to feel part of a bigger group instead of an outlier. Like many religions, there is a sense of not belonging if we aren’t staying between the lines. It’s so easy to just not identify as anything and eat worse because we’re afraid of criticism. You don’t have to fit into a particular diet. Don’t let this stop you from doing your best and improving your own health. There are so many benefits to decreasing your animal consumption. It doesn’t matter if you don’t eat meat one day a week or at all, you’re making a difference.

What works for you? What are your personal beliefs? Do you feel tense when someone asks you what your diet is? If so why? Do you truly want to eat differently for yourself, or do you want to change the way you eat to feel part of a community? I whole heartedly respect those people who have chosen to commit to a vegan lifestyle. I am envious. Your ethics are sound, you’re helping the environment. I am working on it. For now, I am enjoying my vegarian lifestyle.

Jesse Rich