I don’t believe in promoting veganism as a diet for weight loss. The benefits of a healthful plant-source only nutrition plan may lead to weight loss for some, but there is an inherent risk in promoting veganism primarily as a diet for improving how one looks on the outside, because once vegan dieters’ goal weights or other goals (like no acne) are achieved (or if they aren’t achieved at all), the majority of folks may jettison veganism.
While I’m against promoting veganism as a diet for short-term weight-related benefits, I think that promoting veganism as something to experiment with, no strings attached, leaving open the potential for only short-term commitment, is wonderful.
How could I be against short-term veganism as a crash diet and suggest such a thing as intentional trial-period veganism?
I became a vegetarian at age 12 because prior to then I didn’t understand the implications of eating dairy derived from exploited cows who need their milk for their offspring sprung from them at tender ages to be slaughtered for veal. I didn’t realize that consuming eggs taken from battery-cage laying hens made me complicit in a system that sends male chicks to die, alive, in horrific grinding machines, and was just as wrong as eating meat. When I finally became aware of these sad realities in June 2005, it took me a few months and many glasses of soymilk to finally complete my transition to veganism in August that same year. That was seven years ago, and I’ve been completely vegan ever since.
When I decided to become vegan, I did it almost unconsciously–I was dabbling in not eating dairy or egg products, not labeling myself, and giving myself permission to experiment without really acknowledging what I was doing. I was still vegetarian by label, but my diet was mostly vegan. Finally, I realized that calling myself vegan felt like who I really was–so that’s what I decided to do, and I worked up the courage to live my life openly as a fully out vegan.
I came out as gay and vegan in the same year. I see no coincidence in this; as I extended compassion towards myself, it naturally extended to animals, and vice versa. I discovered that my personal dietary and lifestyle changes promoted compassion for all beings, and that to love myself was to love animals, to respect myself was to respect animals.
Before I came out I not only went through periods of experimentation with veganism, but also with my sexual orientation. Like with my veganism, I spent several years without labeling myself in regards to my sexual orientation, allowing myself a period of time to explore my attractions to women before coming out officially. When I started dating and being romantically involved with women, I never looked to the end result: “oh, this could mean I’m gay” and all the implications of that. I just let myself be present with whomever I was attracted to and saw each relationship as an adventure, not a means towards an end of taking on an identity. Eventually, taking on the gay label did feel in alignment for me, but not until I gave myself the freedom to see how it felt to explore my attractions and feelings for women without forcing a long-term label.
As Courtney Pool and I wrote in our post in Gena Hamshaw’s Green Recovery series, “coming out” as a non-heterosexual and “coming out” as a vegan are not same thing. It would be incorrect to imply that we choose our sexual orientation like we choose to be vegan. However, it is interesting and significant to observe the similarities inherent to breaking free of oppressive societal frameworks on all levels and in all circumstances, regardless of the identity category in question.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, author of The 30 Day Vegan Challenge, advocates the trial approach to transitioning into veganism. The Lean by Kathy Freston similarly advocates the gentle approach to adopting a vegan lifestyle. Regardless of whether you think you’re queer, or could ever live as a vegan, I think it’s important to try what you’re drawn to, without forcing yourself to take on a label or a long-term commitment unless you feel ready. Listen to how your body feels when you explore any new lifestyle experience. If you give yourself the space and time to explore, if you are compassionate with your process, what is right will stick.