"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. As much as we'd love to believe there is ONE diet that works for every person, it's simply not truth.
And here's the truths about going vegan.
Vegan is not a "diet" in the way that we typically 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 just because it’s a trend. 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 being vegan forever.
You don't need to be 100% vegan to be a good person. Vegans believe they are changing the world. Yes, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting it's healthier for humans to eat a plant-based diet. But convincing as it may be that does not tell the whole story. Guilting or shaming people for not eating the way you choose only further polarizes the issue. Please don't look down on others who aren't where you are. We all see the world through our own lenses and experiences and can make our own choices. There is no 'better than you' when it comes to nutrition. There can be 'feeling better' once you have more energy with more plants in your diet - but there is no BETTER person. 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 restaurant scene) cigarettes/Manhattans/steak and graduating to a new scene of (picture this) clean, whole, fresh and local. (We've come a long way, baby.) In those days (until very recently) 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, get in line & follow perfectly for success. 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. You don’t have to be militant about your diet. I’m a militant freedom seeker. I am a whole foods, plant-based militant flexitarian.
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(let alone our continent), 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, 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.
We know that industrial animal agriculture has a large role to play in greenhouse gas emissions. It's also understood there are well-earned philosophical arguments for animal rights. Spiritually speaking, there are practices thousands of years old that advocate against causing harm or hardship to animals.However, there are also communities that rely on animals for survival. There are cultural practices centered on the ritual of eating animals. There are people economically dependent on the animal agriculture supply chain. There are people who, because the complexity of poverty, couldn't be vegan even if they wanted to.
Saying that everyone should eat one way is not making the issue any easier. It's like asking 'Is red meat good or bad?' Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition said in a release from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "It has to be 'compared to what?' If you replace burgers with cookies or fries, you don't get healthier. But if you replace red meat with healthy plant protein sources, like nuts and beans, you get a health benefit."
You can be an unhealthy vegan, eating pasta, highly processed meat replacement foods and vegan junk food and not be making any headway in the food movement. (But finding pride in the ‘label.’) You can also be a balanced meat eater, choosing locally-sourced grass fed meats and supporting local farmers' for your produce when you can.
The label doesn't make it good or bad.
"So Raina, it sounds like your balancing between both promoting veganism and are anti-vegan, so what the hell are you?"
Hi, I’m Raina! And I am a human.
Okay, in the past I have tried on vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, and pescitarian. 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 be a big ordeal or be anything big or stressful, in order for me to feel that 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 grounded in decisions that you know are right for you
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. Diets don’t last. Whole foods, however, will. [Food Movement] 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.
I’ve consulted clients who went vegan a year after we worked together, and had clients who steered off of veganism after we worked together. This isn’t a result of me telling them which way is right. It’s a result of them finally learning to tune into their body and feel out what is working best for them.
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. Read [Labels are a Path to Failure]
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.
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' because we all know 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.