Your Vegetarian Girlfriend?

I hate labels. Because I am of mixed-ethnicity, I always got asked growing up (and still do) “what are you??” Any of my other “ambiguous” looking friends will surely relate. To end the line of questioning as quickly as possible, my standard response is “Jewrican” (half Jewish and half Puerto Rican) which is true, but what I really want to say is, “why does it matter!” I’m a person. I’m a woman. I’m a daughter. I’m a student. I’m a thinking, feeling, caring and ever evolving human being, and I don’t want to be judged by any label society coerces us into believing we need to define and explain each other.

I don’t fit into a neat little box. I never have and I never want to.

And now here is where the vegan thing comes in.

I eat mostly vegan. I love eating vegan. I love the health benefits and ethical freedom and the community I feel apart of as a result of calling myself vegan. And now here is where I might lose some of you: calling myself vegan is a lie. The truth is, sometimes I eat vegetarian and not fully vegan. Do I still eat mostly vegan? Yes. Do I still absolutely understand/am committed to/embrace/promote a meat-free agenda? Absolutely. But when I go out to eat, sometimes I eat cheese. And sometimes I eat a dessert that has dairy in it. And sometimes I don’t. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person. A bad vegan? Maybe. Which is why I am writing this post to “come clean” so to speak on the truth about my choices when it comes to food.

In my humble view, being flexible about the vegan/vegetarian continuum makes it appear that much more accessible and possible for those who could not even fathom giving up meat, which is sadly the majority of the American population.

In a 2008 “Vegetarianism in America” study, published by Vegetarian Times (vegetariantimes.com), it showed that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. In addition, 10 percent of U.S., adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.

According to the statistics above, if I include options on my site for both vegans and vegetarians, I can reach a greater audience than I would if I just offered vegan options. I want to reach people all over the world. I want to help people learn the joys and simplicity of cooking and dining out without feeling that meat must appear on their plates at every meal. I want everyone who stumbles upon my site to leave saying, “hey, I could do this thing, it’s not so hard!” In my wildest dreams, I would love to one day have the first vegetarian/vegan cooking show on mainstream television. In expanding my scope and my brand, and most importantly in being honest about my food choices, I think I am being authentic, and hopefully for that I will still have most of my readers’ support.

Of course I am aware of the cruelty cows face as a result of our consumption of dairy products, and the horrible conditions chickens are subjected to as a result of our egg consumption. This is not an easy pill for me to swallow nor something I wish to forget or ignore. Of course I feel guilty that my own palate outweighs my commitment to animal welfare at times, but sometimes it does, and that is the just the truth. It’s not all of the time. It’s some of the time, and I still think even in eating vegetarian at times, I am doing a lot for animal welfare, my health, and hopefully the education and inspiration of others. I want to enjoy an authentic and truthful life and not feel like a label and/or the backlash from a community that embraces a vegan lifestyle would ever stop me from that.

I don’t buy dairy or eggs to eat at home. I eat dairy products maybe once a week when I’m at dinner with friends usually in the form of cheese or dessert. So I’m 90% vegan? 95% vegan? Sometimes 100% vegan or vegetarian if you count meal by meal? 100% flexible? 100% honest? Who knows, and I hope after reading this you will agree, who cares. Labels aren’t fair. They feel militant and rigid and leave no space for deviation from a set norm. I would rather be transparent than feel like I have to hide the times when I do eat vegetarian and not vegan. I am imperfect, at times selfish, impulsive, and hedonistic, but I refuse to be a liar, keep secrets, or feel I need to hide a part of myself in fear of being judged.

I had a nightmare last night about this “coming out,” no lie. I was at some benefit or big banquet dinner where I made a speech to my fellow vegan community that I ate cheese and the like and how incredibly guilty I felt for somehow betraying those more committed than I. I was received by this dream audience with ridicule and some compassion and harsh judgement and some love. I actually woke up crying. I don’t doubt the same will be true of the waking version of this scene.

And so, I’m writing not only in hopes of reaching and inspiring a wider audience, but to liberate myself from labels: the vegan label, the vegetarian label, the flexitarian label or any other label that makes change/growth/evolution feel wrong, shameful, scary or embarrassing. We already live in a society that has a love/hate, and in my opinion, very unhealthy relationship with food. I don’t want to be a part of that discourse. Change, grow, make mistakes, care about the world, care about animals, care about others and care about yourself. Food should be celebrated and enjoyed; the source of joy and pride not shame and fear.

I promise all of my future posts, recipes and reviews will be clearly labeled as to what is vegan and what is vegetarian and all of them will ALWAYS include vegan options. I hope to make each post useful for those who are vegan, vegetarian, vegetarian inclined, flexitarian, or just curious about a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle. Or even better, those who don’t choose to label themselves by the food they consume. This site is evolving and will continue to evolve, just like I am, just as we all are.

Lastly, as far as the “your vegan girlfriend” title is concerned, I still love it and own it. I think it’s cute and catchy and I don’t have plans on changing it anytime in the near future. I hope my friends and readers are cool will that. I do however have plans on revamping my site, with clearer categories, layouts, search options and more, and surely a new about me/site description to appropriately inform readers of what I am/this site is all about. I can’t wait!

I feel blessed to have a forum to share my personal journey with food and my passion to inspire others on theirs. Thank you so much for reading. I hope you still will!

xoxo

Your Vegan Girlfriend

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32 thoughts on “Your Vegetarian Girlfriend?

  1. I think you would be surprised at just how many vegans do not eat vegan 100% of the time. I consider myself vegan, but as I was reading your post I forced my boyfriend to give me a bite of his white chocolate (OMG, it ruled). Most vegans I know eat vegan most of the time, but we when we are describing our diets it is so challenging to say, “I’m vegan, well, most of the time. Last week I ordered a burrito, but I didn’t know it came with cheese. Yesterday my boss bought me a cookie and it had eggs in it. This morning I had a bagel and there wasn’t a vegan cream cheese option.” It’s f*cking hard to be vegan in this society sometimes and it’s hard to be vegan at all since our bodies are biologically equipped to crave things that are not vegan! The fact is, every time you even eat vegetarian you are helping. Could you be doing better? Yes, but we could always being doing better at everything. Am I justifying my swaying from veganism on occasion? Maybe, but it is what happens. Don’t feel guilty! You still have such a great blog and give so much to the “vegan” living in Los Angeles. And… sorry about the rant. 😀

    • Thank you SOOOOOOO much for this “rant!” You seriously just captured what I have sounded like to friends for months. I think it is so important to articulate the difficulty we go through trying to define/defend our food choices. So glad to have you as a reader. Thank you!

      xo

  2. Thank you for this! I also eat almost entirely vegan, but don’t believe in adhering strictly to labels. It’s unrealistic and I think just makes people beat themselves up when they “fail.” While all of the recipes on my blog are vegan, caesars (like a bloody mary but made with Clamato) are my kryptonite and I eat fish when I travel places where there are no dairy-free vegetarian options. Heck, you only live once (maybe!) and I commend you (and other vegetarian/vegan) bloggers for all the work you do to make this delicious lifestyle seem fun, easy, and healthy. Which it is! Plus, I think being overzealous about anything kind of hurts the cause, no matter how noble it may be.

    • Thank you Maya! My goal is to make eating plant-based as fun and easy as possible for everyone! I thinking being overzealous can scare people away, and although I absolutely love some of the more activist vegan blogs out there, that’s not my personal mission as a writer. Thank you for your honesty, kind words and support!

  3. I totally agree with Jessie, and I can totally relate to your post. Thank you for being honest! It makes me feel better because I, too, am 95% vegan and that’s the honest best I can do right now. I would rather be 95% vegan and sustain it for the rest of my life, than to try to do 100%, feel like I have failed and abandon it. It’s too important! I love your posts, vegan or vegetarian 🙂

    • I think you make such an important point. In my opinion, there is a tendency towards this “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to veganism/vegetarianism and diets in general. I know several people who say things like, “I would be vegan but I could never give up cheese,” or “I just need to have a steak once and a while” or “how could I not go to Pinkberry ever again?” Then they all continue to eat whatever they want because they think making a change like being vegan is too dramatic and not-doable. I say, be a vegan that has cheese or a vegan who eats a steak once a month or a vegan that goes to Pinkberry. It doesn’t have to be so black and white and rigid. Making healthier choices ever SOME of the time does huge things for animals, our bodies and the environment. Leaning into this lifestyle, in my humble view, is the most effective way to help others make the change. Thank you for your support and truthful contribution to this discussion!

      xo

  4. You know I adore you. And whatever you eat is what you eat. BUT, having said that, the name of your blog does imply that I will be reading about vegan food / issues. I’m curious…were you vegan but went back to vegetarian? Truly curious because I am often surprised by bloggers who say they don’t like labels (vegan) but use vegan in the name of their blogs. Illuminate, please, my friend!

    • Hi JL!

      To answer the “was I vegan but went back to vegetarian” question simply, yes. But the point of my post is that I do not think it is a simple answer.

      Let me try to elaborate. When I created this blog last June I was following a strictly vegan diet, but since “going vegan” four years ago, there were times I could be defined as 100% vegan, mostly vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist (never again), and for a few months I ate everything under the sun, including meat. And so, since my initial exploration of veganism began, I have been all over the map. In those years I have learned so much more about health, dramatically evolved, given in to cravings, not cared at all, felt self-conscious and shamed because I was vegan, felt self-conscious and shamed because I ate meat, been apathetic, ate things not to be rude, refused food made with ingredients I did not support, made a fuss, made mistakes, binged on ice cream, got obsessed with juicing, ate my feelings, and ate some of the best food of my life. The point is, I was never a perfect vegan. And I think that makes me a human being.

      As far as the name of my blog implying that vegan food and vegan issues will be addressed, well, they still will! I tried to articulate in my post that I still very much support and try to follow a vegan lifestyle as much as possible.

      Despite seeking “liberation” from labels on a deeply personal level, I want to be able to reach new readers, and I am fully aware that having a “vegan” or “vegetarian” in my header allows people to find my site who might not otherwise. I believe the “Your Vegan Girlfriend” title continues to sum up what I am all about: making plant-based eating fun and accessible for people of all dietary backgrounds.

      I am so happy to continue this discussion, but for now I think this answers your questions.

      I love your blog, your unique voice, and your mission and dedication to veganism. I highly respect you, and although our voices differ, I hope you will continue to respect and value my contribution to the vegan/vegetarian/health conscious/food blogging community.

      xo

  5. I know how difficult this post was for you to write and the level of respect I have for you remains sky high!!

    You have (and continue to) be a strong and relatable voice for the many benefits of eating a plant based diet. By the way, the phrase “plant based diet” while potentially a label it and of itself, is a term I like because it is more inclusive, e.g. could apply to someone who eats 95% veg or vegan but does eat the occasional fish, as plant based foods form the crux of their diet, but yet suggests a conscious decision to consume non-animal products for any of a myriad of reasons.

    And you of course continue to be one of my favorite people to share a delicious meal with!!

  6. You are still an inspiration to me. Just starting on this vegan journey because I was told that it would help my arthritis which at age 62 is not so fun. Plus honesty is always the best policy. Marcia

  7. So well written Ari. And of course there are going to be haters and you may lose some followers, but in the end you are being truthful t o yourself and will gain even MORE followers with the vegetarian posts. You can always post recipes with vegan and non-vegan options so people can chose! I love you, good work!

  8. Thank you so much for this post! I don’t keep eggs or dairy at home either. Sometimes when eating out or visiting friends or family you just don’t have total control over what’s in your food. But I always stay vegetarian at the least.

  9. I’m finding most people who don’t like labels are people who label themselves something they really aren’t. You are free to make your own food choices but I believe you should call yourself what you really are and either go with vegetarian or someone who eats a plant based diet. Obviously, you are free to call yourself whatever you like but saying you’re vegan is not true.

    I’m still not clear why people want to say they’re vegan when they’re not and when they are told they’re not, they get upset. If someone wants to be vegan, then be vegan.

    I don’t find veganism difficult and I don’t know vegans who are only “vegan” part/most of the time. Vegan has a definition from the Vegan Society and it’s rather straight forward. It is what it is and I don’t believe people should try and change it to fit them. It’s the same thing when people say they are vegetarian and they eat chicken and/or fish. They’re not vegetarian at all!  

    I can’t tell you how many times people have made or bought me something that wasn’t vegan and when I say I can’t eat it, they tell me their cousin, sibling, friend, etc. is “vegan” and they eat _________ once in awhile. It doesn’t matter if they say they’re vegan, they’re not, and that’s their choice, but as a vegan, I find it offensive.

    I wish you well in trying to find out who you are and none of the above was said with malice. We all know it’s difficult to understand tone over the Internet. Peace.

    • I so appreciate your input and I commend you in your commitment to being vegan. However, although I admittedly am not a perfect vegan, I still feel committed to and impassioned by the vegan cause as well.

      I do have a lot of friends that are only vegan part/most of the time, and vegetarians who are part/most of the time. My opinion is, that is totally okay, but I respect that you feel differently. My philosophy is more of a harm reduction strategy than an all or nothing mentality. I would rather someone say they are vegan or vegetarian if it makes them feel more dedicated and a part of doing good in the world even if they do not adhere perfectly 100% of the time. I also know you can only control yourself and ultimately what others do, eat, say is not my responsibility.

      I hope to continue to have you as a reader but I also know you can’t please everyone. Thank you for your passion and honesty in commenting.

      • Intentionally eating animal products means you’re not vegan, and as above, makes life a lot harder for true vegans. If you don’t like definitions that are restrictive, don’t place them on yourself – find something else that is honest and isn’t all about making yourself feel good, because when you call yourself vegan and occasionally eat animal products people like me are given a hard time at work and with family and friends when we refuse animal products, because “my friend is vegan and she sometimes eats X, stop being so fussy”. Or at the very least, keep it a secret when you *do* eat animal products, because even though that would be (less) dishonest at least you wouldn’t be making life difficult for real vegans. Seriously, “mostly-vegan” is only two more syllables…

  10. I admire you for having the courage to be your self Ari. Love the post. Like Koko said, SO well written. Just remember, you never have to apologize for being yourself. Keep those recipes coming no matter what form they are in…they all look delish to me 🙂

  11. my home is 100% vegan. outside of the home i’m about 98% vegan. so your words sounded very much like my life.

    when i’m out do i order a cheese plate or a milk shake? no. do i eat bread that may contain buttermilk or eat a veggie burger that uses egg as a binder? maybe. sometimes. at my family’s hanukkah celebration did i eat a few latkes that contained egg, because it was more important to me, at that time, to participate in the holiday celebration than to shun eggs? yup. oh i also don’t care about honey. when i say vegan i mean “no meat and no dairy”. so… that too…

    to better title this lifestyle than “vegan” which i am not purely, i called myself “veganish” for awhile. but i found that omnivores that aren’t familiar with vegan eating were just more confused by that term and asked for even more clarification about what i did and didn’t eat and then the vegans who want to judge weren’t less assuaged by this term.

    here’s how i explain my use of the word vegan when i’m not totally vegan, to others: i have friends who say they’re “healthy” or “healthy eaters”. they work out regularly, don’t smoke, love salads and non-processed food and are conscious of what they put in their mouths, yada yada yada. they are by and large “healthy”. but then the holidays come and they nibble on boxes of chocolate brought into their office and they go to holiday parties where they eat cheesy, fatty appetizers and drink one too many glasses of wine and they pour themselves a glass of eggnog here and there. they get busy and stressed from the season and they forgo the gym and pack on a few pounds. not so “healthy” right? well nobody is waiting to pounce on them and point an accusatory finger and shout, “NOT HEALTHY!” they’re gym friends don’t shun them and say, “you’re not one of us anymore,” and they are definitely not expected to start telling people,”i used to be healthy but i’m really not anymore”.

    i’m really passionate about vegetarianism and veganism in the sense that deep in my heart it’s a beautiful thing. it helps animals, humans, the environment, our communities in so many ways. so i support efforts toward eating less meat and dairy in any way. if someone wants to eat meat-free on mondays only, i cheer them on! if someone wants to be “vegan” in their diet, but still wear leather, they are awesome! in-fighting within the vegan community doesn’t open people up to this cause and it doesn’t give the support that so many of us so desperately need or crave to stay vegan or stay happy vegans.

    while “Vegan in LA” is polite and speaks eloquently about his/her personal viewpoint
    i believe people who support vegetarianism and veganism is any way, shape or form to any degree, care about the CAUSE. i believe people who try to label and judge others who are aren’t living up to their “all or nothing” approach, care about THEMSELVES. i think that by having people muddle up the understanding of the term vegan, they lose some of their moral superiority.
    people like that and their viewpoints, however nice or polite, aren’t worth space in my heart and mind. i hope they aren’t in yours either.

  12. If you ever need help on items to make it to 100% LMK, I’ve mastered vegan in all parts of the world and 100s of restaurants. If everyone could be as vegan as you are we’d be living in an outstanding world, so no worries about it. I hope your adventure takes you to 100%, but will follow your wonderful blog for the 98% awesomeness it is 🙂

  13. I do commend your honesty, and I completely understand the thinking:

    “In my humble view, being flexible about the vegan/vegetarian continuum makes it appear that much more accessible and possible for those who could not even fathom giving up meat, which is sadly the majority of the American population.”

    However, I would encourage you to consider not using the label vegan, and given that you are not fond of labels this may work out well. The reason is simple. By going out into the public and calling yourself vegan (especially with regards to restaurants) while eating dairy is that it confuses the issue of what vegan means and in turn makes actually getting true vegan options harder for those in the community. Or for those looking to go vegan themselves, they get told well I know a vegan who eats this, and suddenly in their mind, that product is vegan.

    Not only that, but this also seems to completely reduce veganism to diet. All about what you eat. When veganism goes far beyond that. It is actually a way of living, not a way of eating. If you are wanting to make veganism more accessible, that is commendable, but by trying to alter or rewrite your own definition of what vegan means, you are inherently disrespecting the very community you claim to love being apart of. And if you do not like labels, why try to force one to fit where it clearly doesn’t? That just seems like it makes things harder on you. As you mentioned the fear of being judged for your non-vegan consumption.

    If you want to focus on just meat-free eating, why not just do so? Why try to make something accessible that you, yourself cannot even live up to? Please know I am not trying to be rude, but if you say you don’t like labels, then just stop using this one. The only reason that you would knowing that you are not in fact vegan, is because you do like the label. You like being able to call yourself vegan, but you do not like actually being vegan is the way that it reads.

  14. Good for you! Vivid description of your nightmare—I had the feelings right along with you. I can sympathize with the difficulty of putting yourself out there for criticism; it’s something I need to work on. I love vegan food but I’m an omnivore and not an ethical vegan, so I appreciate the environment at sites like yours.

  15. Pingback: Imagine Soups – my vegan go to in this “winter” season « Your Vegan Girlfriend

  16. My Vegan Girl Friend, It doesn’t matter to me if you are 100% Vegan, or you have a little dairy here or there…what matters is your heart and the love for a better life. I’m the same way. I’m 100% vegan during the week and vegetarian/flexitarian during the weekends. For me it’s hard when I have two men in my life that love meat and they will refuse to follow my diet. I have to be a little flexible…

  17. Thank you for this post! I will be reposting it to my page. I love you the most for writing it and I know how hard this was for you to post. As always, I enjoyed the read and the message. All my love. – Carly

  18. I don’t think that you can really say that being vegan or the word vegan is a label in the way that your ethnicity is a label. Your ethnicity is what you were born as, not what you have chosen to believe in. As you know, I became a vegan overnight back in April because I woke up and realized what is happening to animals out there and I just couldn’t be a part of that abuse anymore. When I tell someone I’m vegan it means I don’t eat animal flesh or any animal byproduct, I don’t agree that animals are for us to use for our own purposes, I don’t use any products that have been inhumanely tested on animals, I don’t wear anything made of animals and I don’t get entertainment from watching them caged up in zoos or performing in circuses. Being vegan is not just a label to me, it’s what I fiercely believe in. Calling vegan a label somewhat minimizes what being a vegan actually means. If words have no meaning, then what’s the point?

    Most of my friends and family are omnivores, some are vegetarian and a few are vegan and I don’t dislike any of them because of what they eat. If you want to eat mostly vegan food and also some dairy and/or egg then that is your choice and no one should ridicule you for it. So you’re a vegetarian right? I would just own what you do. No biggie.

    Lastly, I love your blog, recipes, and the nutritional advice you gave me a few months ago. I’ll still be reading your blog because you have great restaurant reviews and vegan recipes.

  19. Thanks a bunch for your honesty Arielle. I so resonate with what you have said. I tried to be vegan after being vegetarian for over a year – I hate to admit that I did not have the perseverance especially when eating out. I do the same as you – try to stay vegan at home. I have found to be vegan far more agitating and for now am happy that I can do what I can and not be so hung up over what I can’t do. Again I appreciate your honesty – helped me find mine! Love ya vegan girlfriend!

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