After eating plants and refraining from animal products for over a year now, I’ve thought about my outlook on this lifestyle; how it has progressed and transformed. In the first stages of this major change, I labeled myself as a “vegan” and didn’t know there were additional terms. I told everyone about it and probably (definitely) scared them away. Learning how backwards the food industry is in America came as a complete shock to me, mainly from being oblivious/not paying attention/not wanting to hear it. I figured if I shared what I learned and how the documentaries changed my views of the food industry, they would come to terms with it as well and hopefully see a new point of view. Hopefully, it would spark a certain motivation and they’d want to do their own research about what they were eating and why. Not only for the animals but for their personal health and overall lifestyle, as well as the health of our environment.
Well that never happened! Not only was I disappointed, I felt worse and more alone in this unfamiliar way of eating (which is when I turned to blogging and instagram ;)). How can people write it off as unimportant? How are they not concerned with what they are eating, where it comes from exactly and how it affects them in more ways than one can even realize?
Quickly, this lifestyle taught me how, as humans, we can be so ingrained in our everyday habits, traditions and opinions that in order to spark a change, something big has to happen. Something big has to majorly impact our lives or emotions before we consider throwing everything from our fridge/pantry into the garbage and replacing it with fresh, unprocessed, colorful plant foods; no meat, no dairy products, nothing that comes from an animal.
Side note: Don’t try convincing everyone you know to go vegan! Don’t be that judgmental person who puts others down for their lifestyle choices. Let people come to you after they’ve noticed a change in your skin, body, hair, energy etc. and then explain all of the healthy changes you’ve made and what’s been working for you 🙂 When people ask questions, instead of you spewing out scary facts about factory farming and environmental hazards, they are less likely to write it off as crazy or something they would never be able to do.
I’ve realized that the label “vegan” turns many people off, almost immediately. It’s either too extreme, too restrictive or too complicated. So at first I was all about sharing my newfound healthy life until it became uncomfortable to talk about. Almost like a sore subject and either one or both parties would take offense. By then, it wasn’t worth my time to convince people that I was not only surviving without animal products; I was thriving. There is a time and a place to share your experience because eating habits are so personal. Plus I’m too sensitive and it’s rather draining to defend your eating choices.. It’s rare that I bring up “vegan” at all anymore. I’m all about promoting more plants but if people aren’t asking – then what’s the point? It’s much different here on the blog though ?
Being vegan doesn’t automatically mean you are this incredibly healthy person. There are a number of processed snacks and treats that just happen to be vegan or “accidentally vegan” as PETA likes to say (hello, Oreo’s!). Since I came to this lifestyle to live a vibrant life where I can thrive and glow, associating with “vegan” slowly progressed into “plant based” which aligns with the colorful, vibrant array of whole foods that I love.
It reminds me to eat ALL the plants! To eat the rainbow. To eat variety. To eat fresh and unprocessed. To eat what’s in season and buy organic as much as possible. It challenges my creativity to make new deliciousness in the kitchen. It affirms my path in life and how holistic, natural and chemical-free feels right, for me. It makes me snuggle with my fur babies that much harder and makes my heart ache for ALL of the animals living in fear and stress, whether they are in confined spaces or abusive homes – which pushes me to act upon this lifestyle even more.
For the questions I often receive – both plant based and vegan fall into the “no animal ingredients” on your plate category. I’ve noticed it can go multiple ways from there. For some, being “vegan” means refraining from wearing/purchasing all leather, wool, fur and silk. Being a vegan could mean you lean more towards politics and advocate for animal rights. It could mean replacing every cleaning product, makeup product, toothpaste, lotion, soap etc. with all natural, cruelty-free vegan products. Or it can mean eating whatever you please – processed or not – as long as it doesn’t contain ingredients derived from animals.
Some consider that living “plant based” only refers to the real, whole foods they eat. They may not have issues with wearing clothing like leather, wool, fur or silk. The term pertains more to a healthy, unprocessed meal.
Honestly for me, I follow a combination of both and the only difference I see in associating more so with “plant based” is the emphasis on a whole foods, unprocessed, colorful plant strong diet. I strive for a cruelty-free life and agree that everything and anything I buy or use to clean, shower with and apply on my skin should be in it’s most natural form, free of chemicals and animal ingredients. It’s by no means perfect. I still have a couple leather purses that I can’t seem to part with but I no longer purchase anything with leather, fur, wool or silk. My shower/makeup/beauty routine is all natural and cruelty-free. The cleaning products we use have improved and chemicals seriously freak me out. It’s all a process; there are so many items to take into account.
It’s about finding what works for you and your life. But heck, sometimes I want a snack that’s processed or some gourmet dessert from a vegan restaurant so finding a balance but always striving for plant based is what I try to do. Why does it have to be so confusing?!!
Sometimes I want to forget all of the labels and become a beach bum in Hawaii where I could eat 100% raw and live a simple life ha. Reading this article from Angela at Oh She Glows made me sad and had me questioning labels altogether. Is there such thing as not being “vegan” enough? It seems there are extreme’s with every dietary choice.
For now, I’ll stick with this bright and colorful cruelty-free “plant based” rainbow life.
Plant Based or Vegan? Or both? What does it mean to you?
Hi Shannon, what article on Oh She Glows are you referring to?
Btw. awesome post – very inspirational and thought-provoking! I’ve only just started living a vegan life (4 months now), I love it, but often get confused on what to call myself and what not to call myself, and I still have a lot of practice to do when people ask me questions in order not to scare them away, haha. But I’m getting there, especially when I cook them something delicious from your blog 😉
Hi Shannon, I loved this post!
On my blog I have only lately started using the word vegan and even “plant-based” more often. I did not use it for a while because of what others might think or how they might judge me because the word “vegan” can sometimes be looked at as a negative term.
As others have said, I do not agree with how militant vegans can be so judgmental. I feel like those types of vegans give us a bad name. I understand why they are so passionate (I am too) but I always feel it’s better to be positive.
We should all be encouraging others to live a cruelty free life, instead of making people feel bad if they are not perfect in it. No one is perfect and although I try to eat only plant based foods, not wear any wool, leather, or silk, and only buy cruelty free products, I might mess up once in a while (not on purpose but it can happen). Isn’t trying the most important thing? How many more animals can we save if everyone felt supported and not judged? Even by trying to be vegan/plant-based a few days a week, people can make a huge difference so we should be encouraging to anyone that is trying.
I have decided I am going to use both “vegan” and “plant based” because I am both, although I do agree, I like using the “plant-based” to focus on healthy whole foods (as vegan can mean anything with no animal products). I hope I can show people that it can be fun and easy to live a cruelty-free lifestyle without pushing it on them. I agree that we can’t “make” anyone go vegan. By leading by example and showing how much healthier I feel, a number of my family and friends have adopted some non-animal changes into their daily lives and I am so proud of them.
Anyway, sorry for the long post. As always, thank you for sharing!
Thank you so much for writing this! I have been “vegan” for a year now, but like you, am trying my best to phase items out of my house and trying to buy all-natural and cruelty-free. I also eat honey from my friend who is a bee keeper – and sometimes I get nervous to tell people that! So I did start saying “plant-based” and “veg-friendly” on my blog because it was definitely very touchy for some readers. But I want to be 100% honest because I believe it is so important to be genuine, first and foremost. I really don’t like labels or being put in a box, and I’m finally coming to peace with the fact that it’s okay because it’s my life and I know deep down in my heart that I’m doing the very best I can to be a kind person. Your post was definitely something I needed to read 🙂 xx bianca
I found this to be true for myself, that modern-day Vegans seem to be extreme in the sense that there is little support for those who are actively working toward a cruelty-free lifestyle; it seems for many of them, it is all or nothing and if you aren’t 100% Vegan yet, or had a slip up or even accidentally ate something that had animal product in it, then you are out of the “club”. Generally, I find Plant-Based bloggers to be more supportive of the journey to becoming cruelty-free and you can get the help and encouragement needed to continue the lifestyle.
Yes – I didn’t even realize how extreme it can get. If it were more accepting of the actual journey to the lifestyle as a whole, I wonder if the vegan label would be a more positive one! Unless someone grew up as a vegan, raised by vegan parents, I find it odd that some can be so judgmental as they most likely had a personal journey of their own. All we can do is support one another and be accepting of anyone and everyone giving this lifestyle a shot. It’s hard enough as it is! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Wow! Its honestly so crazy how bad I needed this blog post…I have been Vegan for about a week now, and the research and vidoes I have watched are both heart breaking and motivating all together. I do however feel like I am very alone when it comes to veganism, thats why I do turn to social medias like instagram and youtube to get the fact that I am alone in real life out of my head. I even talked to my boyfriend about becoming vegan with me. Long story short, I think I am going to follow your example and call myself “plant based” instead of vegan. I find myself being annoying when I keep saying vegan, and talking about it al the time. Plant based gives off a better vibe of living a good and healthy life where as veganism gives a vibe of interrigation and judgement for most people. Thank you for posting this. I am going to take that route and only speak about my plant based lifestyle in person when others want me to speak about it, not when I feel like they need to hear it, because thats overall not my place to say. Over social media, thats my space and i can do that how I please 🙂 Thanks so much!!!
I’m happy you found this post to be beneficial 🙂 Don’t ever feel alone! You can always email me because the beginning stage can be lonely and confusing for sure. I’m glad you can turn to social media though as the vegan community is huge and always inspiring. I totally agree with you that plant based gives off better vibes!! People are intrigued when they hear plant based rather than vegan. It’s amazing how different the reaction can be. While I think promoting the entire vegan lifestyle is important, the food is where it usually begins and then people can discover other aspects on their own (like clothing, products etc) 🙂 yay for your new journey and thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern
I choose to say VEGAN (heathen Vegan, ha ha), because I want that message that we are cruelly, selfishly torturing animals and people should stop turning a blind eye. That doesn’t mean I preach Veganism to everyone I meet. I often hide the fact that I’m Vegan to avoid confrontation. My family and I have had a few heated arguments but now my brother-in-law is Vegan, too, and my sister likes to say she’s 80% Vegan. We still cooked a traditional ham this Easter but we ALSO made a Vegan seitan ham for us “heathens.” It’s progress. I find that I am drawn to products now that advertise they don’t use animal ingredients and like you I won’t buy leather, wool, etc. Still, I don’t worry about not being “Vegan enough” for people. I try not to worry about what other people think. My business is not someone else’s and my path is mine. I also read Angela’s post. People reflect upon themselves, not her, but it is pretty sad and I don’t understand it. When you look and feel marvelous inside and out, there’s no need to criticize others.
Thank you for commenting on this. It’s definitely a process when it comes to family and different opinions. I’m right there with ya on keeping vegan to myself but will promote it all the way if the chance comes up. Love that you had a vegan option this easter! I had a special pasta dish my grandma made for me 🙂 progress for sure. This post has been interesting for me. I always felt like I was doing my part but the labeling has gotten so extreme. Like you, I can’t worry about not being “vegan” enough because I believe everyone has their own journey. Abstaining from eating animal products is how I started which has expanded to all areas of my life and feels very much like a vegan lifestyle – at least to me!!
We should be encouraging each other rather than criticizing, like you said. As long as we continue to do that – I think we are doing our part 🙂
Thank you Shannon for being so honest and insightful in this post. You are true to the plant based lifestyle, with no “phoniness” about it. You are reasonable and non judgmental. You live your life on your terms without being extreme or defensive. I applaud your attitude which reflects your healthy choices and flexibility. You are truly an inspiration!! Cindy
Thank you momma!! You’re the best – love you.