50 Shades of Vegan

I am currently in the process of going vegan.  As with any change, it’s a good idea to take it slow and make gradual changes and that’s just what I’m doing.  Because I love cheese, eggs and ice cream so much, I didn’t feel like I could be successful by suddenly eliminating everything from my diet at once.  Because my husband has been a devout meat-eater for his entire life and was resistant to change, our compromise was to have a couple meatless meals a week.  And I read, studied, and learned all I could about becoming vegan before deciding to try it.  What I discovered was that there are varying degrees of veganism.  And quite honestly, some of it is quite offensive and would likely dissuade some people from becoming vegan because the views were so hateful towards people that eat animal products or purchase cosmetics that have been tested on animals or even wear shoes made from leather.  I realized that many of us (me included) don’t know a great deal about all of the products we use every day and haven’t taken the time to research it further.  I think most of us would never condone animal cruelty but we don’t have an understanding of how our food is produced and processed.  As I explained in this article about going meatless once a week, there are both health and environmental benefits of even just one day of meatless meals.  So here I will present you with the various “shades” or degrees of veganism so that if you are considering veganism or vegetarianism, you can find the appropriate fit for you.

What does it mean to be vegan?

For a food, product or material to be considered vegan, it must be free of any animal products.  This includes being free of the obvious animal-based foods such as meat, milk and eggs.  It also includes other animal products like honey, wool, goose down, and leather as well as animal-derived byproducts ranging from whey to lard to gelatin.  Some vegans also are careful to avoid cosmetics and products that are tested on animals.

What are the benefits of being vegan?

Studies have shown that the elimination of animal fat from the diet can lead to health benefits such as lower cholesterol.  Others have reported clearer skin, weight loss, and feeling better and lighter in general.  Not consuming animal products also avoids the mistreatment and slaughter of animals that are common in the food industry.   And third, a vegan lifestyle can also help reduce your environmental footprint, thereby benefiting the environment.

Pure vegan

Being pure vegan extends far beyond what you eat, wear or consume.  Pure veganism includes anything that leads to the abuse or mistreatment of animals such as in slaughterhouses, farms, or laboratories where animal testing is done.  It also includes using animals as entertainment in zoos or other arenas such as the circus.  Pure vegans are often extremely passionate about all things animal and lead the fight to promote the cause of animal rights and are the face of veganism to the rest of the world.  They go to great lengths to promote their beliefs and educate the rest of the world about the health, environmental and animal rights issues associated with the consumption of animal products.

Mostly vegan

For those that are mostly vegan, you will see them eat almost exclusively vegan.  While they may practice veganism for health and/or ethical reasons, they are not as passionately outspoken as pure vegans.  They make every attempt to eat 100% vegan but understand that they cannot always avoid animal products, particularly when eating out or not preparing their own food.

Part-time vegan

Others chose to practice veganism part of the time but not exclusively.  While they are vegan a significant amount of time, they sometimes have “cheat” meals with foods that are animal-based such as cheese or ice cream.  Part-time vegans can still enjoy the health and environmental benefits by eating primarily vegan but still periodically enjoy the foods they were hesitant to give up.

Experimental vegan

An experimental vegan is one who is curious about veganism.  This person could be one that has concerns about the way animal products are produced or have health concerns but is hesitant to give up certain foods.  They might try eliminating animal products once or twice a week in an attempt to “try on” veganism and see how it works for them.

While some vegans are super passionate about veganism and would tell you that it’s all or nothing, there are clearly different shades of a vegan lifestyle, ranging from one vegan meal to absolutely no animal products in any form.  It’s not just black or white.  There are many different reasons for eating a vegan diet and various levels of commitment and motivation associated with it.  If you’ve been considering going vegan, I would encourage you to try it for a few days and see how you like it and what works for you.  My reason for not trying it earlier was that I love cheese and didn’t want to give it up.  But surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard.  Knowing that I can have cheese periodically if I really, really feel like I have to have it is comforting.  And if I want to go out with friends and have ice cream, that’s okay too.  I’m not depriving myself of anything and truly enjoy a mostly vegan, healthy diet.

Another point I would like to emphasize about vegan foods is that just because a food is vegan does not make it healthy.  One of the documentaries I watched took people through the supermarket to find vegan foods.   The participants were excited to learn that Oreos are vegan.  I’m not hating on Oreos at all, but they aren’t healthy.  Whether you choose to be vegan or not, a real food lifestyle is highly recommended for optimal health and nutrition.

Are you vegan?  Have you ever tried it?  I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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