Written by Donat a/k/a The Vegan Hubby
Did you “cheat” on your vegan diet this Thanksgiving? Did people give you shocked and horrified looks? Before you have an existential crisis, relax and know that it’s all good! Here’s why.
I always thought that it was odd how “all or nothing” people can be with most things, and that goes double for vegan diets. If you ever eat something that is not vegan and someone notices, one of two things generally happen: (1) they gloat over you like “their” food is clearly superior and you couldn’t possibly stop eating animal foods or (2) they dismiss you as a human being because you said you were vegan and yet you ate a cookie that has butter in it, you’re nothing but a phony! As it turns out, neither of these are accurate, appropriate or mature responses. A healthy vegan diet that includes “cheat days” or some other deviation from a plant-based diet is still oodles healthier than the diet of smug meat eaters. A diet is so much more complex than just categories anyway.
The fantastic Thanksgiving holiday can be particularly tricky because it has so many wonderful memories tied to many veggie eaters’ pre-vegan days. To make matters worse, you have the whole family, distant relatives and friends at the Thanksgiving dinner watching everything you eat like hawks. Perhaps in another dimension family makes everything easier but we are not in such a dimension, so they will likely be having the same conversation about vegan food as last year and are continuing to look for any signs of weakness. While their intentions are usually very good and they want the best for you, the result is usually counterproductive and they want you to come back to their “healthy” diets.
The unfortunate thing is that some people do not view you as a person but rather as “a vegan”. Perhaps you really want to have one butter cookie that reminds you of your grandma who is no longer with you. Maybe you want a bite of the egg salad your parents made that you grew up with because it feels like such an indulgence and a comfort food tied to childhood memories. This is a time for understanding, not for criticism. Now if you ate half the turkey, most of the bacon mashed potatoes and topped it with a gallon of heavy creamed gravy… you have a different problem and I am not talking about that. However, a few bites, pieces or tastes can go a long way to making a very pleasant dinner for you and is not going to ruin anything. As long as your body is not getting any crazy adverse reactions from what you are eating, it’s okay to treat yourself as long as you remember it’s a treat. The mental health benefits far outweigh any potential long-term perils.
Remember, there is no need for any guilt. It doesn’t help anyone. Just dismiss the people who think you are a fake vegan because they have a need to categorize you in their minds. As hard it is to wrap your head around something as crazy as a 99% vegan diet, it is in fact very much doable and can be a particularly great way to transition into a 100% vegan diet. I actually think a lot more people would be willing to try a vegan diet if they realized that it does not have to be all-in or all-out. If you are eating less animal based foods and more plant based foods, you are moving in the right direction and I like to encourage that wherever I can. Food should be delicious and fun and it can take some time to get used to cooking differently. Let go of the guilt and be kind to yourselves!
Do you have any Thanksgiving-related guilt stories? Share them with us!