What it’s like to be an imperfect vegan.

Perfection. Why is everyone always trying to be perfect? We all know it really doesn’t exist, because perfection lies in the eye of the beholder. You might think that statue is perfect, but he might think it’s flawed. I might think the weather is perfect, but you wish it were a bit cooler. Your definition and your values of perfect doesn’t match my own or anyone else’s for that matter.
Perfection sets the bar so high but also sets us up for failure. Why do we set such high standards that are going to be legitimately impossible to obtain. We don’t do that to our children, do we? We aren’t looking for perfection from them, just that they are trying their hardest. This is part of being a parent. Teaching them to try their hardest but also teaching them that shit happens and we are all made of flaws and imperfections. When does this idea get thrown out the window? (Obviously there are parents out there who expect perfection from their children, and here is another example on definition of perfection. I think that’s bad parenting but they think they’re doing well. Im right they’re wrong, but that’s neither here nor there 😉 )
So when do we become so hard on ourselves? Maybe it’s when we realize there are people watching. Or at least, we think they’re watching. And sometimes they really are. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a vegan blatantly disregard another persons feelings and actions because they are not 100% vegan. And honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s a vegan, a paleo lover, or a gluten-free die hard. They all think their way of living is perfect and everyone else is doing it all wrong. Now first of all I have to say that as a future registered dietitian, I do know a lot about diets and how the body works. And I also know how to sift through the research in order to understand if a diet is healthy or not (because there are some absolutely ludicrous diets out there, that are absolute bullshit: we’ll save those for another post). So not to sound pretentious, but compared to the average person, I’d like to think I know a little more about what’s best for each of us in terms of food, because I spend literally all my time reading and learning about nutrition and the body. That being said, I am still learning and I am certainly not perfect (there’s that word again!).
But that’s not the point. The point is that as a future healthcare professional, I understand how hard it is to follow a certain diet and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We each have so many things going on in our lives, and no two people are alike. My goal as a future RD is to demonstrate that health is about trying your best, and this realization is also healthy in terms of mental health. As soon as we realize we are just trying our best, it’s like lifting a weight off our shoulders. And as soon as you realize your “perfect” diet might not be perfect for everyone else, it also frees your mind of negativity.
I’ve had some practice over the years in realizing that I’m only setting myself up for failure if I expect to be a perfect vegan. I want to do what I think is best for me, I want to try my hardest, and I want to inspire others to do the same. This is my definition of being a great registered dietitian as well. You wouldn’t expect your clients to be perfect, so don’t do it to yourself either.
I often try my boyfriend’s food, which is rarely vegan. We live together, and although he rarely buys meat or seafood, there is almost always eggs or cheese in the house. We both love food and he is not vegan. Our relationship is so much more than my personal choices. He is proud of himself for making a delicious egg and cheese sandwich, or making a balsamic mozzarella panini. He made rigatoni for the first time a couple weeks ago, and dare I say it, it was delicious. I don’t think he would mind if I had not had tried it (by the way, there is a difference between tasting and eating), but there is so much more to me than a vegan diet. The food that goes into my mouth 99% of the time is 100% vegan. I leave that small percentage open for the times a friend or family member makes a recipe and I want to have that experience with them. My love for animals, my hate against corporate greed and animal cruelty, they determine the way I chose to eat 99% of my meals and the way I want to live my life. This is my idea of perfection. What makes me, well, me….is that I also have a love for food and nutrition, experimenting with certain food components, and trying to understand how I can balance it all and demonstrate to future clients that it’s not about being perfect. Being vegan takes practice, and I am still trying to find that perfect way to meet my personal health needs. My credibility is literally thrown out the door the moment I expect myself to be perfect though. I have seen other vegans strive for perfection that it has made me literally want to do the opposite. Literally, the opposite! How can I balance my diet with the real world, so that I can show others to do the same? I’m sure as hell not going to learn anything by trying to fit another person’s definition of perfect.
I’m what you call a plant-pusher. I will forever advocate the benefits of whole, unprocessed foods, but I will never expect another person should necessarily be vegan. What bothers me is when another vegan berates someone else for eating meat, or eating meat even once a month, or maybe even owning a leather couch (I know that’s really random, but there are people out there who will find something wrong with you, even if it’s through your furniture, I promise). First of all it’s none of your business. Remember what I said about realizing your own diet may not work for everyone else? That sense of entitlement, that sense of being able to criticize another human being for being less than perfect, it says a whole lot more about you that it does about them. That’s for damn sure. Doesn’t it make more sense to be encouraging or to lead by example? Show others how a vegan diet has benefited you. Show them how you lost a bunch of weight or your cholesterol levels improved.
Second of all, show the world how you are a happier person inside because you are doing the right thing. It’s no secret that animal cruelty is not cool, that global warming is a real thing, and that corporate greed is evil. When you decide to acknowledge this, that is an achievement in itself, because some people choose to ignore it. And by being a vegan (whether is ethical vegan, vegan on the weekends, vegan until 6PM) it just makes you feel proud. You never know when someone who is just starting out a vegan diet on the weekends will become a diehard vegan in a few months or years later…better late than never? But listen, you don’t come off as a happy, positive person as soon as you criticize another individual for their choices (unless of course, they are into animal cruelty, in that case criticize all you want) I can say that since being vegan (almost 4 years now), I am happier, and I am satisfied with my choices, even if that means tasting my boyfriend’s non-vegan food.
So what is it like to be an imperfect vegan? It actually feels really good. The realization that perfect will never exist sheds a whole new light on the world. I’m one step closer to reaching my true goals, and that’s inspiring others to just want to eat healthier, to take their health seriously (we are not immortal my friends!), and not to strive for perfection. And if you’re a vegan reading this, don’t expect yourself, or anyone else, to be perfect. The fact that you are vegan or even considering to be vegan is amazing. Find comfort in your own actions, not in others!

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