To preface this post and put it into context; I am a vegan. Also, I’m not going to judge you and start screaming at you in caps-locked letters if you tell me that you aren’t vegan. You do you and I’ll do me, okay?
The ‘vegan’ label can sometimes feel very weighty and like it has a lot of expectations that come attached to it. I say I’m a vegan and people expect me to be whizzing-up smoothies at 6 in the morning ready for a day full of leafy greens. In reality when I say that I am vegan, I’m not saying that I am perfect or that I particularly subscribe to ‘clean eating’. I love eating natural foods and nourishing my body in that way because that is one way I practice self-care and promote body-positivity within myself when, as a trans man, feeling any level of good about my body can be a struggle. However, just because I love natural foods (think grains, seeds, fruit, veggies, nuts, lentils etc) that doesn’t mean that I don’t also want a cookie or some chocolate every once in a while! There is no shame in this either, I just try to give my body what it wants rather than deny myself something due to pressure to be perfect. Perfect is not attainable, so why not just try to strike a balance between healthy and happy instead?
Whenever, I pull-out a vegan cookie to eat, people inevitably start to chorus ‘ooh, look at the vegan eating something bad’, as if veganism equates to perfection or purity. It’s not bad to give yourself treats in moderation. Also, the expectation of vegans to all subscribe to ‘clean eating’ is frankly toxic. Being painfully strict and analysing every single morsel you eat is, in my opinion and for my own wellbeing, more harmful than letting yourself eat a cookie every once in a while. The expectations people have of vegans to eat solely salads for every meal is toxic as well, as it promotes a sort of shame, at least for me, if I want to eat something which isn’t ‘perfect’ in nutritious value.
Really, let people eat what they want and figure out a diet which best suits their mental and physical needs. As long as people are happy and healthy, who cares if they tuck into a dessert with enthusiasm? Just let them be. Equally, if you enjoy focusing on plant-based nutrition as part of your lifestyle then more power to you. It’s time we shifted our perspective on the topic of food; we should be able to enjoy eating rather than stressing out about it. A good relationship with nutrition can have such a positive impact on our mental wellbeing when we think of it as fulfilling, nourishing and a doorway to becoming happy and healthy rather than something to feel intimidated of.