"Are you vegan?"
I hear this all the time.
The short answer is no.
Although people have been asking me if I am and assuming I am since the day I left nutrition school 7 years ago. In the past years I have been asked by A LOT of people if I’m vegan or vegetarian… and the answer is (still) no. But that doesn’t mean I eat meat all the time, it just means I don't eat it every day. And I still pay homage to vegetarian ways and the natural foods movement origins and their generation.
I just don't like labeling the way we eat. I don't like to fit into a box, and I'm sure you don't like that either. We're complex people. We're unique.
And here's the truths about going vegan.
- Vegan is not a "diet" in the way that we see diets. We often see diets as short term attempts to lose weight. But people who have chosen to go vegan often do so for ethical reasons. It is a life choice, not a diet choice. People trying plant based or meat-free eating for a short term are feeling out plant-based nutrition. You don't have to say you're going vegan if you're not - committing yourself to veganism as a short term diet to lose weight is way different than the lifestyle shift needed to embrace vegan as a life choice. Going vegan is a FANTASTIC way to learn how your body feels on PLANTS. But it does not mean that you have to treat it as a 'diet' or that you have to commit to vegan forever.
- You don't need to be 100% vegan to be a good person. Vegans believe they are changing the world. That is wonderful, please don't look down on others' who aren't where you are. We all see the world through our own lenses and experiences. There is no 'better than you' when it comes to nutrition. There can be 'feeling better' - but there is no BETTER. People are allowed to try things on, see how it feels, see if they can incorporate it, see if it works for their body. And if it doesn't - that's fair. You can eat 80% vegan and 20% whatever-the-hell-you-want and if you are still feeling good and making change, you rock.
- There are other foods you can get protein from. We are coming off of (picture a 70s/80s restaurant scene) cigarettes/Manhattans/steak and graduating to (picture this) clean, whole, fresh and local. (We've come a long way, baby.) In those days we ate so much more meat, in fact meat in excess. We've been fed this theory that we need meat every single day in order to feed our body fully or to get enough protein. It's simply not true. Whole foods, plant-based diets are nourishing people all over the world, and even many top athletes are touting their love for whole foods.
- You don't need to label your nutrition in order for it to be healthy. We have this idea that we need a special 'diet' to label ourselves with and to get in line & follow. How about eating what feels right to us in the moment? I guess if I had to label it, I am "plant-foundational," but I eat fish occasionally and I eat eggs weekly, red meat 1-2x a month and I have dairy occasionally and usually in the form of fancy cheeses. So what is THAT diet? My flexi-diet also goes out the window when I'm dining with family or friends who are cooking or serving me, because I won't turn down food that's been prepared for me with love.
- Factory farming is one big reason why many people choose to go fully vegan as a lifestyle. Gone are the days of animals grazing the open fields with a sunset in the background. The treatment of the thousands of animals needed to provide all the grocery stores with all the meat they contain, across our entire country, is not good treatment. There is no grazing, there is no enjoyment. The farm is based on sales and fast results and sadly, Canada’s anti-cruelty laws do not protect farm animals from suffering caused by factory farming systems. The tragedy is that standard industry practices are responsible for some of the worst animal cruelty imaginable, but you can do almost anything you want to a farm animal in the name of profit without breaking the law, provided standard industry practice is followed. If you want to see what's really happening, you have to go look for yourself, improper animal conditions or animal abuse is easily hidden from consumer's eyes.
"So Raina, what the hell are you?"
I am a human.
Okay, in the past I have tried on vegetarian, macrobiotic, and pescitarian. Toes in the water with vegan. I tried on Lacto-Ovo-Pescatarian then, and always play with fruitarianism each Okanagan summer. But do we really need all these complicated labels?
You can't put me in a box.
I don't want to follow any rules.
It doesn't have to have a fancy label in order for me to feel okay about it. It doesn't have to be a trend in order for me to feel okay about it. It doesn't have to a big ordeal, be anything big or stressful, in order for me to feel it's working.
Our comfort level with ourselves comes into play when we are making these types of balancing choices. So here are the nutrition skills required....
- Comfortable enough in our own skin to not judge
- Comfortable enough in our own skin to not feel judged by others
- Stand my ground in decisions that I know are right for me
To choose these options are brave, powerful, we are connecting our ourselves on a whole new level. It takes time to hone this skills, patience to perfect them. Trust to really grasp them.
Real Food or Veganism
My education in natural nutrition is based on REAL food and YES a plant-based foundational diet is ideal. But we still have our own beliefs and feelings within that which means my clients do too - and it is not MY job to eat one way and have followers based on that. My job is to support my clients in increasing their nutrients, eating more whole foods, increasing their digestive function, increasing their overall wellness in life however that fits and works for them. It is my job to give you the tools, motivation and excitement to eat well.
This is about YOUR body. It's my job to give you tools, resources, references, education, motivation based on where you're at. Beyond that, this is all you. I stick to my script and won't put agenda on you. It's only good advice to you if you take it.
Real foods/whole foods means finding foods as close to natural as possible. This can include free range eggs, organic grass fed butter/meats and other foods that do not fall in the vegan category. Holistic Nutrition is not synonymous with veganism. Vegan is a lifestyle choice that people make to only eat plant foods. I adapt a nutrition plan to wherever you are, and your choice of label (or not) will not affect our client/practitioner relationship.
Are you jumping on the Vegan Vanagon?
We are band wagoners. Humans. We can't help it. It can be as easy as allowing our body to move towards a certain diet, test the waters, see what we like, see what happens. You don't need to label it, fit in a box or stress about it.
Pro Insight: People testing out vegan for themselves without proper coaching or research tend to eat a lot of pastas or bread, and unknowingly make the vegan diet unhealthy. Or they skip the burger but eat the fries. Vegans need a LOT of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes and whole grains daily in order to get the proper amount of protein. It means that most of your diet should consist of the foods above, and if it doesn't, you just won't feel well.
In conclusion, go easy on yourself. Vegan is a lifestyle and if you feel called to it, do proper research being entering the test phase. Don't do it as a 'diet' ... diet's don't work. Even if some of it works for you, that's good too, because a plant-based foundation is wonderful and you can play with the parts of plant-based that work for your body. Remember to eat a well-rounded whole foods diet for balance so you can get enough protein if you do decide to play, and you don't need to fit yourself in a box in order to be doing the right thing.