What to do if you can't go "full vegan"

Katy Sunshine

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If you know me, follow me, or read anything about me, you know that I’m vegan. I don’t push it on others, but it seeps into so many aspects of my identity. I’m passionate about sustainability, wellness, and health, and inevitably veganism is intertwined with each of those in a way that supports and fuels my lifestyle.

That being said, I read so much about others who do encourage veganism -- and who often do it the wrong way. By that, I mean that they make it a binary. You’re either vegan or you’re not. You’re either vegan or you failed.

I don’t look at people differently for not choosing veganism. It’s a personal choice. That being said, there are so many positives, and it is also an incredibly tangible way of contributing positively to the environment, animals, and other aspects of our universe. It feels considerate in a way that I relish and encourage.

And here’s the best part: it’s easier than you think because it’s NOT an all-or-nothing approach. Here’s how it started for me.

THE ORIGIN STORY

I grew up vegan, and never looked back. My mom is a licensed holistic nutritionist, and so raised our family in a lifestyle that was healthy and sustainable. For a brief period during my teen years, we were temporarily vegetarian -- we were eating dairy -- but I chose veganism for myself again when I reached adulthood and was cooking for myself.

I live my philosophy fully. I don’t buy leather, or products that test on animals, and I’ve actually never eaten meat.

While I don’t personally consume any animal products, I don’t push my lifestyle on others except for when I’m sharing online about my successes and challenges with it. If you encountered me in a social setting (not this year -- thanks COVID-19!), you would never know that I’m vegan. It’s not a talking point for me, unless someone brings it up, in which case I’ve had many thoughtful and productive conversations on the subject.

THE ALL-OR-NOTHING APPROACH

The overwhelming problem with veganism is that too many people see it as an all-or-nothing decision. Vegan? Great. You’ve never touched a burger. Not vegan? Yikes.

It’s not like that at all. While I’ve been extremely comfortable living a full vegan lifestyle, if you treat it like a spectrum, and gradually work towards full veganism, you’ll still enjoy benefits and contribute to the Earth in a positive way! Veganism is excellent for the environment, clearly great for animals, and fuels your body well. You feel great, and you’re actively doing good.

But if you’re a carnivore now, or struggle to adopt new habits or lifestyle changes, don't completely close the door on veganism just yet.

I notice that many people have a tendency to struggle particularly over giving up one aspect of their diet.

I’d love to be vegan, but I could never give up cheese.

I’d love to be vegan, but my household has steak night on Tuesdays.

I’d love to be vegan, but what about ice cream?

If there’s only one decision keeping you from veganism (or several!), that’s completely okay, because you don’t have to do it all at once.

A SUSTAINABLE WAY TO CONQUER VEGANISM

Here’s an example: Meatless Mondays.

It’s become a bigger trend lately to not eat meat on Mondays. It’s relatively easy, and easy to remember. You’re sticking to a goal, and one day out of seven feels manageable for sticking to the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle you’d love to adopt someday.

If everyone in the U.S. avoided eating meat only on Mondays, we would save the lives of 1.4 billion animals per year. Whether your goal of veganism is spurred by a passion for animal rights or for other reasons, that’s a huge bonus.

Furthermore, agriculture has a huge and detrimental effect on the environment. Meat production is responsible for approximately 24% of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Greenhouse gases include methane production from animals, carbon dioxide from deforestation, and nitrous oxide from fertilizer. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. If every person in the world went without meat for one day a week, the drop in emissions would be equivalent to taking 273 million cars off the road.

Incredible, right?

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU

While it’s ultimately up to you whether to go vegan or not, you should feel empowered by the spectrum of veganism. You don’t have to completely give up animal products right away, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to by the onslaught of cheeky Instagrams, blog posts, and health gurus insisting that you should.

Start simple. Try getting rid of meat on Mondays. When you feel like you’ve mastered that, maybe add in another day of the week -- or remove all animal products from your Monday diet.

If it makes your body feel good, it’s something to explore.

Have you ever tried Meatless Mondays? Let me know in the comments below!

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

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I write about mental health, holistic living, and how to find joy and meaning in your life.

Honolulu, HI
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