am I vegan enough? am I eating healthy enough?

eat, drink, & BE vegan!

Are you vegan – enough?

Are you eating healthy – enough?

This topic has been brewing in my heart and mind for a while. After returning from Vida Vegan Con, I thought it was a good time to open up this discussion.

You see, before leaving for VVC, I had some trepidation. I’ve been vegan almost 20 years, and yet had never been to an event that signified and exemplified veganism in its entirety like VVC. As most of you know, I came to veganism through my health, and later learned and integrated the animal ethics rooted in the word and movement. Talking with some colleagues before VVC, I was concerned that I wasn’t “vegan enough”.

Recently someone asked me on twitter why I never use the word vegan in my tweets. I was quite surprised. While I know I use the terms plant-powered and plant-based in my work, my cookbooks all have the the word vegan in their titles. I always shop for vegan shoes, clothes, and cosmetics, and choose the same options for my family wherever possible. Yet, in that moment I felt I wasn’t vegan enough.

One morning at the VVC conference, I was working out at the hotel fitness room while listening to Our Hen House. Who should walk in? Jasmin Singer. There were only three people in this fitness room. I laughed at myself, that here I was listening to her podcast with Mariann – and there Jasmin was, a few feet away. Yet I felt completely awkward to interrupt and introduce myself. Perhaps because I felt most of us don’t want to be bothered with introductions while working out. Or, perhaps because I felt I fell short in my vegan-ness. That might sound silly, but truthfully I have much gratitude and respect for people like Jasmin and Mariann, Victoria Moran, Jonathan Balcombe, and Gene Baur. They are the educators about veganism at its core, covering a breadth of vegan living topics including, but not limited to, the vegan diet.

I focus my time where I know I’m most effective – creating recipes and sharing food inspiration. I try to keep abreast of current issues surrounding animal rights and vegan activism, but often fall behind. My work has always teetered between the vegan and plant-based realm, so I guess I have felt connected to both without being attached to one exclusively. Alas, my work is an expression and reflection of being a Libra!

Backtrack to twitter. Shortly after receiving the question about my vegan-ness, I receive another addressing a nutritional issue with my recipes. I’ve always thought my work was healthy, and it certainly has evolved through my books and years of recipe development. Yet in this moment I felt it was not healthy enough.

I realize some of this is social media, and we need to temper the feedback we get and remain grounded in what we do. Yet, after my VVC trip, I realized that I am not the only one that has these insecurities about vegan and health absolution. I talked to some other bloggers that were also concerned that didn’t feel educated and informed enough for the vegan community, and likewise bloggers that felt they were committing health crimes in the plant-based community.

Vegans that aren’t healthy enough. Plant-based people that aren’t vegan enough.

I returned from VVC invigorated and feeling renewed in my connections to veganism. Yet, I wondered if many of us in the community are having these thoughts (myself included), are we alienating those new to the plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle with notions of impossible perfection?

I’ve heard from many that eat plant-based but don’t want to identify with the word vegan for this very reason, because they are afraid they will be judged for not doing enough, not being vegan enough. And, I understand that, because the word encompasses far more than our diet. It is a life philosophy, a full belief system and change of consciousness. But if I sometimes feel not vegan enough… do you feel the same? Are you discouraged from making worthwhile changes in their lives and diets for fear of being judged that you aren’t entirely there?

I hope not.

But, let me return to the health component of eating vegan. Healthy vegan eating does matter in the long-term, because it is the only way to sustain and uplift the vegan movement. And, it matters even more when raising children. Yes, more. When you have children, those little lives become paramount in your life. Your compassion can extend to all living beings, but not at the expense of your own children. So, there is no point in discussing the welfare of pigs or chickens or dairy cows if a parent cannot believe that this way of eating can be optimally healthy for their child.

That in itself is entirely ironic when we look at the nutritional standards of the standard diet. But, as parents, we have believed that this is the cornerstone of health for our families – forever. As Dr. T. Colin Campbell writes in Whole:

Our society believes so passionately in the health value of milk and meat that it is hard for us to conceive that we might be wrong – that these foods might, in fact, be very unhealthy. It is too far outside of what we have been taught for decades for us to believe it easily, no matter how true it may be.

We have a lot of work ahead, to demonstrate to parents that a vegan or plant-based diet IS indeed healthy – the very understanding of healthy foods needs to change. Our food choices as a larger population will not change until we have a new definition of “healthy”, one that does not include meat and dairy.

Eating healthy is not about perfection, it's about practice!

So, we work to educate about the nutritional excellence of whole plant foods. Do our efforts communicate a standard of purity, leaving others to feel not healthy enough? We are so passionate about the nutritional beauty of our whole foods like beans and whole grains and leafy greens that we may very well communicate a message of perfectionism. There is no perfection in any diet. There is practice. If we are losing readers because of perceived notions of perfection, then we are failing our causes for improved health and animal welfare.

What also matters is helping people sustain this vegan lifestyle through beautiful, appetizing, sensory-pleasing – and healthy – vegan food. Not every food boasting a V is healthy! Doesn’t mean we cannot eat it, but it does mean we should know the difference. One of my personal food mantras is to focus on eating 90% whole and minimally processed foods. We have room for the treats, sure. Yet, we need to fuel and nourish our bodies for long-term connection and vitality with our vegan diet. I have noticed the more I eat lesser processed and whole plant foods… the more I want them! It might feel a chore at first to move away from the processed choices and make that big salad with beans and leafy greens and veggies for lunch. But not for long! Our bodies adapt and respond. The more we choose healthy foods – foods that ARE ingredients, not FULL of ingredients – the more we enjoy them, and the better we feel. We even begin to crave them.

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Here’s what I realized after reflection on my week at VVC. It doesn’t matter that I am not the most educated about vegan activism. What matters is knowing that animal agriculture is warped and cruel. What matters is that eating animals is not necessary. What matters is choosing not to eat meat and dairy every meal of every day. And finally, what matters is helping to show others the same. 

Vegan food is my activism. My goal is to share whole-foods recipes that will excite you – treats included! And to share messages about real, clean foods to inspire you to grow and thrive in this beautiful diet. Not to be perfect. But to come to understand and love the vegan basics – beans, grains, veg, fruit, nuts and seeds, and greens. To show you how they are the heart of the vegan diet. Whether you come to that diet from an ethical place, or for health reasons.

Is it naive, idealistic, and simplistic to think there is a place we can connect and support one another? That we can find common ground and build on that foundation for the greater good of better human health and also animal welfare?

Probably so. Here’s the thing. My heart is in both places. So, I will continue to reach out to you from both perspectives, with optimism.

That is vegan enough for me. And healthy enough for me. How about you? 

Do you feel these dietary and ethical pressures? How do you resolve them? Please share your insights with others.

56 Responses to am I vegan enough? am I eating healthy enough?

  1. Lauren says:

    I love this little article! My husband and I have worked hard to break our dependence from animal agriculture. Neither of us consume any meat but by husband continued to consume dairy and eggs – we now have our own free range pet hens for eggs and pastured, pet goats for dairy (that get to keep and raise their own kids!). While I choose to follow a vegan diet – he at least gets his eggs and dairy from loved and well treated animals. I, however, have been looked down upon by “hardcore” vegans that I do not follow a vegan lifestyle, since I am the one who makes the cheese and butter and tends to our goats and hens. I feel like we do more than many to reduce animal suffering and it’s nice to know I am not on my own in not feeling “vegan enough”. Thanks for the smile and for solidifying that the “perfect” vegan may not exist! :)

  2. Alexa says:

    OMG, so true! I’m also afraid about some day, when I will need to call myself vegan, and face with all this “not enough” stuff. I am thinking about it becouse of ethical and enviromental things, but “not enoiugh” stuff is scary. But if veganism is only for some ultra-super-hardcore people, then there is no way to save the planet, so why bother? I want veganism to be as easy, as now vegetarianism is. I want it to be easy, healthy and MAINSTREAM thing. It’s not about making me feel better than omniviores, it’s about animals, so when I get the idea, that I can drink my coffe with plant milk FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, it’s good, even if I don’t quit dairy completly. People like you, sharing tips and recipies, making this work every day, are doing more, than people picking up “not enough” problem. We should make veganism easy, not scary, if we care about animals.

  3. Melissa says:

    This is a great post and really hits the nail on the head. To me, being vegan encompasses making the most compassionate choices each day. I know I wont get them all right, and I know there is information out there that I still don’t know, but my goal is not to run from that information anymore, to open my heart and mind to it, to be honest with myself about new information received and allow myself to re-examine my choices each day. I don’t believe that anyone is a “perfect vegan”, but I do feel that we are all responsible for the consequences of the actions we choose each day. I know there will always be areas where I “fall short”, or horrible grey areas that leave us feeling like hypocrites. Some of the hardest choices I try to come to terms with each day are struggles with when medications are truly needed for me or the animals I have brought into my life, and the knowledge that some of those rescued animals also require an animal based diet for their needs. Things like driving a car, which I know is not only unhealthy for the environment but also requires fluids and sure other items which in some way must certainly contain some non-vegan ingredients. I simply try to use these non-vegan resources minimally and make and make as many compassionate choices each day as I can.

    As far as food, I think the outstanding variety of vegan food blogs out there has been a huge step in the vegan movement, as much as I think vegan processed foods has. I think of vegan processed foods as the first major stepping stone for those who are transitioning, surely not usually healthy but at least helping those who might not take the plunge otherwise. After that, I notice that many new vegans also begin researching the health issues of their food, and many times begin seeking out healthier alternatives and recipes. & luckily, there are recipe blogs out there for healthy alternatives and unhealthy alike to make the transition very easy. I don’t believe vegan food *has* to be 100% healthy all the time. As with any diet, one needs to be responsible for making healthy decisions but should still be able to enjoy the decadent treats now and then. I think our society has gotten so out of control with the poor dietary choices that it has brainwashed the rest of us to believe that we aren’t capable of restraining ourselves with treats *and* a healthy diet, which to me is pure rubbish thinking.

  4. Lyric says:

    I really like to eat vegan food which is always healthy to digest. Vegan food contains lots of nutrition, vitamins which helps you to grow up fast.

  5. Demetrius says:

    Thank you for this post Dreena!

  6. Grant Butler says:

    What a great piece, and such interesting comments. I struggle with these feelings at times, too, particularly at an event like VVC, where there were so many people I look up to who do such powerful things to advance the cause. But I really believe that making good vegan food is a form of activism. It may not be as overt as marching up and down the street, but it can change hearts and minds.

  7. What a beautiful post. I feel that as a vegan, most of us can definitely relate to this. Do I use the last bottle of honey in my cupboard or should I get rid of it? Should I donate my leather purse I bought before being vegan or continue to use it? There are a lot of things that can make us feel conflicted even without judgement from other vegans or even omnivores. Thank you for sharing your story. I know I really appreciated it :)
    Katie @ Produce on Parade recently posted..1 Year of Married BlissMy Profile

  8. Pam says:

    Great post and interesting responses. I also agree that I am vegan in a way that makes me feel good about myself. I definitely don’t try to please anyone else or fit into their definitions. I especially enjoy learning new recipes from you and other bloggers, so thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Katie says:

    I love this post, but some of these comments make me sad. I’m pretty laid-back in my veganism, so seeing people say they didn’t want to go to VVC because they would be judged makes me wonder – who’s judging who? People assuming that i’m going to be an asshole to them because i’m vegan and they’re not does not make me feel good. People need to realize that vegans don’t live in a bubble – most of us are the only vegan and often even vegetarian in our families. I have no vegan friends in real life, so i’m pretty adept at like…not screaming at people because they’re wearing leather shoes or eating a cheese sandwich. Give the vegan community at large a little credit, guys!

    I can understand how as an author, Dreena, you would feel the push-and-pull between vegans and plant-based because you DO get comments, but I hope you’re able to stuff down the doubts that people raise. Cause we all know you’re vegan as helllllllllllllll.
    Katie recently posted..Chester’s Greatest Hits: 2001-2013My Profile

  10. Gena says:

    Thanks for this post, Dreena. It’s fantastic.

    You know my thoughts on the “not healthy enough” business. In the years since I went vegan, I’ve seen such extremism overtake the health messaging (or maybe it was always there and I just didn’t see it; I was more enmeshed in the raw food world in my early days). It troubles me to think that being a “good vegan,” for some, is now associated with eschewing everything that’s sweet, or has a drop of oil, or a sprinkle of salt. I think there are potential ED issues at hand there, but also, what a joyless vision of food and eating to present to the world around us.

    As for not vegan enough from a health standpoint, I join others in feeling surprise that you struggle with these thoughts! Perhaps because you were one of my early influences in going vegan, and your books, while health focused and non-preachy, always seemed (to me) to present a very clear kind of advocacy and activism. Comparing yourself to Gene Bauer or to Jasmin and Mariann isn’t totally fair: they’re amazing vegan activists, yes, but that’s also their job! It’s what they’ve set out to do with their lives, professionally. You’re a professional food writer, and it’s not your job to be leafleting or picketing every day. As a cookbook author, it is your job to write recipes — and as a vegan activist, it’s your job to invest them with a loving, soulful vegan message. You do this already, day in and day out, and you have been doing if for years. Who knows how many young women, like me, went vegan in part because you showed them that the food could be delicious?

    You’re more than vegan enough, Dreena — don’t ever doubt it.
    Gena recently posted..My Favorite Green Smoothie with AvocadoMy Profile

  11. I struggle with this a lot. I’ve waffled between vegetarian and omni since I was 14 and finally decided to go vegan last in May 2012, for health reasons. But chose to become vegetarian for ethical reasons, so yeah. I don’t always buy vegan clothing/shoes, etc. I do however always try to buy items that were not tested on animals. I’m a walking contradiction I suppose. Unfortunately, my entire family are omnivores, I’m the only one who follows a vegan diet. There is lots of non-vegan friendly food in my house at all times. I have weak moments from time to time, maybe 3-4 times so far in 2013 that I’ve eaten something non-vegan. It’s always been vegetarian, NO meat, but I still beat myself up over it afterwards. Like I failed somehow, that other vegans NEVER eat dairy or eggs. I will say if I eat non-vegan it’s typically a baked good, that has eggs/dairy in it. But each time I think, “well a *real* vegan never had slip ups, I suck”.

    So yeah, that was a book, but I really don’t have anyone IRL to talk to about this stuff.

    Thanks Dreena! And I want to say that although my family is omni, they all love your recipes!!
    Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} recently posted..Biscoff Peanut Butter BallsMy Profile

    • Dreena says:

      Anna… if there is a vegan out there that has never slipped, I want to meet him/her! Most of us have had those slips in early months, or even longer. Look at ALL the good you are doing every day, plus, what’s better is you know you don’t want to go back to that food, even after having the ‘slip’! Give yourself credit for championing your vegan diet with little support around you, then go throw a few avocs at those around you, knock some sense into them to join you. haha, jk. Kind of. ;)

      • Ha ha, throw avocs at them, he he, thanks Dreena!

        I think my two girls would be on board to at least eat 100% vegetarian, but my son and hubs, well, they are all about meat! Oy, at least they both eat a few vegan dinners per week. Gotta start somewhere right?
        Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} recently posted..Fourth of July Recipe Round Up!My Profile

        • Ti says:

          Anna – I think it’s amazing that you only have a few perceived “slip ups” if you are cooking omni for your family and vegan a few nights a week. I ONLY cook vegan for my family (three non-vegans, my 6 year old vegan, and myself) because it just makes it harder to NOT slip up!! It sounds like you are doing an amazing job! It’s difficult living in a mixed household………..especially in the early years.

          Pat yourself on the back more often!!!

  12. Wendy Jacobs says:

    This is such a great post Dreena both from a content standpoint and how you handled a potentially controversial topic. I see this as a journey and a continuum. Each of us gets to decide for ourselves where we are on that continuum at any given time based on our goals and our beliefs. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to things as each of us is different. We can always use a reminder to be kinder and gentler to our fellow humans (and animals) and to ourselves. I just loved your quotes about practicing eating healthy and eating ingredients instead of food full of ingredients.
    Wendy Jacobs recently posted..Mediterranean Polenta PizzaMy Profile

    • Dreena says:

      Thank you so much Wendy, and yes, I think we can do more to encourage others with a gentler approach. It also feels better for our own psyches and emotions, not carrying around anger or resentment from negative interactions. Thank you for your supportive note. :)

  13. Dreena! You not vegan enough? Oh, my! I have always looked up to you as an exemplory-well-balanced-healthy-vegan. I am glad you wrote and shared and that I was able to read this, because it solidifies my feelings that all of us have our insecurities when it comes to this topic. And this VVC was particularly powerful in exploring these feelings, and for that I was extremely grateful. It makes me sad when I read comments by those who feel that vegans can be judgmental bullies. Truth be told, I have never met a more non-judgemental, kind group of folks. But maybe I am just lucky, and those mean vegans really are out there. To the commenters above who were afraid to go to VVC becaue they weren’t quite sure if they were vegan enough, please, please consider attending these types of events. They are so educational, and so welcoming. I personally met a few non-vegans at the conference this year. They were there to learn more, and share their own experience with others.
    Joni Marie Newman recently posted..Vida Vegan Con Wrap Up (and a Giveaway!)My Profile

    • Dreena says:

      Gosh, thank you Joni. I have definitely felt more support and warmth from vegans myself as well, it’s really sad that some folks experience the opposite and are turned off from making vegan changes. And, I agree – VVC was WONDERFUL. I wish I had been at the first, and hope to go to next year and many years after. Thanks for the very kind feedback. xo

  14. Melissa says:

    Thanks for writing this post, Dreena. I think that it’s really easy to get caught up in the quest for being a perfect vegan and being perfectly healthy within the vegan community regardless of whether its related to your online presence or experience meeting people in your regular life.

    Personally, I do my best every day with regard to my veganism and maintaining a judgement free stance with regard to other people in my life, both vegan and omnivore. I’ve been in situations when I first became a vegetarian and later when I decided to embark on veganism, where other people tried to bully me into going back to an omnivore life or to embrace veganism before I was ready. In both of these scenarios, I felt uncomfortable, so I would never want to treat anyone else the way they treated me. There’s no such thing in my experience as being perfectly vegan or perfectly healthy; it’s just doing the best that I can every day.
    Melissa recently posted..Gluten Free Grains: RiceMy Profile

  15. Amie says:

    Great post! I own/run a vegan food truck as my f/t occupation and yet still don’t feel vegan “enough” some days. Food is my activism. I understand feeling outside pressure that I should be more militant in the ethics and animal rights side of things. It is a strange kind of peer pressure, especially when all I do, all day every day, is introduce folks to plant based food. I figure even one less animal used to eat is a step in the right direction.

  16. Kristina says:

    I think the more you educate yourself, the more you will have these questions! The is a wonderfully written and thoughtful post, and will serve to be helpful to many – if YOU (who so many look up to!) have these questions, then our own questions must be okay.

    I rarely use the word vegan, specifically because of so much judgement and perfectionism out there. I simply cook and share my food, without declaring it so (I do label my recipes), and have had much success with that sort of “activism”. I call it stealth ;)

    I know I have a long way to go with so many aspects of veganism, that it goes so far beyond the food! Just this year I have aligned myself with local educators and volunteer groups, so I can educate ME before I share with others. and I know I will continue to have questions. :)
    Kristina recently posted..Southern Belle-ini cocktail partyMy Profile

  17. Sarah C. says:

    I often feel this exact way about vegans as a whole, which, frankly, is why I don’t identify as vegan despite a 99% vegan diet. I’ve been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, I’m raising my child as one, and we eat the healthiest plant-based meals imaginable. I honestly do eat leafy greens three meals a day, every day. BUT, I also eat (local, organic) eggs a few times a month, and my little girl eats them regularly. I also happen to believe that eating some local raw honey is good for the environment. I mentioned this in comments on another blog a few weeks ago and someone (anonymous, I might add) blasted me for being selfish or whatever. I have saved countless animals over my years of plant-based eating, but I have no desire to be part of a movement that is hateful towards each other because of stuff like this. To me vegetarianism is about love, but too often there are people who judge each other and spew hate. Not cool.

  18. When I first became vegan two years ago I felt so free. I felt freedom from the pressure to eat dairy (which I know has always caused me health problems my whole life!) and I felt freedom from the pressure to work with meats and eggs. I hate cooking meat. I hate the slime and the grease, sometimes bloody and just gross process of working with meat. I never realized how much I truly hated it until I let myself be vegan and cut meats and eggs out. What incredible freedom from a bunch of yuck! What an amazing new adventure in discovering endless new foods that I had never tried before! (Lentils, bok choy, mung bean sprouts, kale, cashew butter, pimentos,…on and on!) I quickly lost 20 pounds and gained an incredible amount of health I felt I had been missing out on my entire adult life.

    Then, about six months into being vegan, I had read so many books about health that I decided to eliminate all free oils from my diet. Another six months later, I realized that some health doctors recommend very low fat diets in general. Not only do they eliminate all free oils, they also eliminate all nuts, seeds, avocados, tofu, and olives. So I decided to try it out.

    The “food squeeze” became almost unbearable. I did not lose any more weight from these efforts, and found it difficult to be happy or satiated. I have perfectionist tendencies so some of these fat free vegan ideals really triggered the perfectionist in me. I was so sad and disappointed to have lost that feeling of ultimate freedom. Because with that freedom came incredible confidence in my eating choices. I would love to have that confidence and freedom back in my life concerning the foods I am eating. But honestly, almost every food I eat seems like it’s not good enough. There is always something wrong with it from some vegan doctor’s opinion. Green smoothies have even been bashed about by some vegan doctors.

    I love to read Janae Wise’ blog, Bring Joy, and one of the most helpful things she has said went something like this, “I don’t have heart disease or other chronic diseases, I am young and very physically active, and I am a Mother of young children. In my opinion at this stage of my life, to eliminate all fats from my diet borders an eating disorder.” While that is not true for everyone, it is most likely true for me. I feel like being completely 100% fat free can trigger hyper-food consciousness. Every single meal becomes completely stressful. Also, I really think small kids need some whole forms of fat. Olives, tahini, and maybe some Daiya cheese or Tofurky every once in a while?! As a mother I am not going to prepare two separate meals three times a day in order to keep my diet fat free. Sometimes I feel guilty about this because to some fat free vegan doctors I am not healthy enough. Sometimes I eat too many of your delicious oil free vegan cookies, for cryin’ out loud! LOL!

    Your blog and facebook page, along with your four most incredible cookbooks are seriously what keep me being vegan. I feel so inspired by your facebook page every time I look at it! It makes me giddy! Your general enthusiasm for healthy food is very contagious. In this family, we live off of your so delicious food. We owe so much to you and all of your efforts. You are blazing a much needed trail by creating great food that is healthy. And I am so glad that there is no perfect diet. It causes too much stress for me to try and attain it.

    It has to be about practice. Cuz we all goof up and eat way too many Wholesome Oat Snackles or Oil free peanut butter oatmeal cookies once in a while! So, thank you for everything, Dreena! In this family, we love you!

    • Dreena says:

      Ashlee, there is something terribly wrong if we cannot have cookies in life!! ;) Your comment means a lot to me. Thank you, first of all, for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I too felt “food freedom” when becoming vegan – exactly the same feelings about no contamination in food, no worries – joy in cooking (and baking)! In fact, your comment reminded me to post that very idea on facebook today – so if you were reading, thanks for that inspiration. Secondly, I truly appreciate your comments about my work in my books and online. That is so very rewarding and I hope to continue to bring you more food to love, and ideas that will inspire! And, more cookies. :D

  19. Shelly says:

    I love this post. I also think that it depends on the health you are talking about. For instance, I had really high cholesterol, and ended up having a heart attack at 44, as a mom of 2 little girls. I ended up following Dr. Esseslstyn, he even called me to talk to me. His plan is 100%, he is strict by anyone elses measures. But he wrote is book for people like me, who don’t have wiggle room, if you know what I mean. So I think it depends. There are some books, authors out there that are absolute on this stuff because it’s a life or death situation when it comes to health. I often feel judged in this movement because I have to be strict, and because I promote a 100% “plant-perfect” lifestyle as Dr. Esselstyn calls it. I think we have to recognize the difference between people who might not be in a crisis and people who are at risk of dying from heart disease or something else. Some of us have to be perfect, but I don’t think I should be judged for that either. Not saying you are judging at all, just that I think that maybe some people don’t understand that for people like me, there is no wiggling around at all, it’s black and white.

    I really do love your blog and your recipes.

    • Dreena says:

      Hi Shelly, thank you for this comment. I appreciate your insight and completely understand. We all have different circumstances. My father-in-law went through a very restrictive dietary time to reverse his heart disease. That time provided a lot of inspiration for my own work. I love how you have expressed it here – recognizing the difference between people who might not be in a crisis and people who are! You certainly should not be judged, thank you for adding your voice and experience here. Very happy to know my recipes are useful to you as well. Best to you. :)

  20. Ricki says:

    Beautiful, Dreena. How true–there is no perfection, just practice. I feel as if I am always practicing, and always learning, too, from great role models like you! What you are doing is inspiring, and most definitely good enough, in every way. Thanks for this!
    Ricki recently posted..Green and Yellow Split Pea SaladMy Profile

    • Dreena says:

      Thank you Ricki, interesting, the more I learn the more I realize I still have much to learn! It’s all a journey. xx

  21. holgamaria says:

    Great reading! Sometimes I feel the same, thanks for sharing your experience about being an active vegan instead a preacher!
    holgamaria recently posted..Atención de los servicios públicos en PanamáMy Profile

  22. Alexa says:

    It was so nice to read this! I am not vegan, however I have cut dairy from my diet for health reasons and I have been struggling ever since. I feel like I am being “difficult” when I eat with friends because they have to work around my diet. So sometimes I just eat dairy anyway because I don’t want to be “difficult” and then I feel sick after! What advice do you have to help me stick to it? I find I don’t have problems if I cook on my own, but if I go out to eat or don’t have access to my food, that is when it is most difficult. Is it acceptable to bring your own meals to friend’s houses, BBQs, etc?

    • Dreena says:

      Hi Alexa, I understand and remember being there myself. For me, it was a time when I realized I didn’t want to make exceptions at restaurants or social settings. That it wasn’t being picky, but that I was aligning social situations with my beliefs. It’s definitely sticky with certain groups and friends/family members. But, I looked at it this way – if it were an allergy, would they expect me to blur the lines? No. Well, after time not eating dairy – your body DOES reject dairy foods. As you say, you feel sick. So, be your own health advocate. You may find certain situations easier to ‘test’ with this than others. At the end of the day, you have made this decision for your health and others should respect that as much as you do. :)

  23. Helen says:

    Thank you for posting this!!! I too feel that a healthy diet of any kind is a practice not perfection but this was something I struggled with when I fist became vegan, almost a year ago, as it was a message I was receiving from many different blogs and books.

    Since then I have found my own personal balance and while I am always striving to do better, I have never wanted to be or thought I should be “perfect.” And honestly, those books and blogs that prescribe this perfection or have made me feel that I should be guilty about my food choices are the ones I no longer follow.

    I love the saying “take the best and leave the rest” and that’s how I’ve approached this issue. What is healthy and ideal for one person is likely not the same for another but this doesn’t mean that what each person is doing isn’t a step in the right direction or something that shouldn’t be done.

    Thanks again for posting this, I really enjoyed reading it!
    Helen recently posted..Monday Love List Number Two!My Profile

  24. NicT says:

    I’ve been vegan for just a short year, but before that I did a lot of reading. I wanted to know people’s reasons why they had become vegan (top three were animal ethics, health, and environment). I wanted to know that when I answered the question, “why are you vegan?”, I had a thoughtful answer.

    It probably took me about 6 months to be comfortable with the vegan I am. That is, I like the decision I’ve made, and I don’t feel like I need to justify it. People have been amazingly open and accepting of my reasons (because I am asked a lot, even though I’m in Vancouver). I feel like I’ve done a good job of explaining myself because I’ve never had a person feel defensive about their omni-ness. :)

    So, I am vegan in a way that pleases me, and nobody else. Because you are never going to please everyone. To some people, I am too vegan, to others I am not vegan enough. I’m fine with that. I believe there is a spectrum and I’m somewhere in the middle. And judging others accomplishes nothing.

  25. A. Cook says:

    I often feel like I’m “not healthy enough” and I hate that I have this need to explain it away (e.g., “I got home late and had no time to cook so I ate a sodium-laden [though vegan!] frozen dinner”). I even feel this way sometimes when I go out to eat at vegan places, where re-imagined omni dishes (like vegan “cheesesteak”) call to me because it’s something I don’t often get to have.

    I try to remind myself at these times that in general I have very good habits, that when I cook and prepare my own food I use the foods that ARE ingredients, not full of ingredients (LOVE that quote, btw!). I don’t think I’m at the 90% whole foods mark but it’s something to strive for. I just have to remind myself that it’s not worth beating myself up over if I fall under that bar.
    A. Cook recently posted..A. Cook for Five YearsMy Profile

  26. Jan says:

    Loved your post, Dreena, and read Tom’s as well. I commented on Tom’s post that our problem (as a society) seems to be our need to label and judge everything. Even when we don’t know the whole story. It’s my new
    project, reworking old habits. As I said on Tom’s post, we’re so compassionate to animals, why can’t we use the same compassion for each other? There’s always room for change and growth. Remaining open to learning is important and that’s what I gain from you and other postings.
    I also said on Tom’s post that my issue is with my friends that eat fake food and then complain about numerous health issues. I have to assume it’s their choice? And show some compassion.
    Thanks again, Dreena.

  27. Fey Elias says:

    I am actually a recent vegan (over half a year now) for health reasons (allergies) and when I was reading this post I had to smile. When I just started with veganism I got your book and I absolutely loved it. But then I also started to search for recipes and watched ‘vegan’ documentaries I definitely felt like I wasn’t vegan enough. I thought I was consuming too much oils, because a lot of people in the vegan community were advocating the ‘fat-free diet, while I only consumed healthy oils. Other sites made me feel bad for wearing for example leather shoes. So I was very confused about what was ‘right’ and what was ‘healthy’.
    At the other hand, I live in a country where vegetarianism is accepted, but veganism is still viewed as something very weird. Here in the Netherlands the people eat dairy in practically every meal. When you try to explain why you are a vegan, they just think ‘oh, you are probably doing this to lose weight’ and ‘well, you haven’t lost much weight till now, just go back to eating normally’.
    But I’ve managed to deal with it! I just tell people that they shouldn’t criticize something they haven’t tried yet, and I post vegan recipes and projects on my blog (mainly for myself though ^.^) Hopefully they will see that I am actually living a healthier lifestyle and that I ‘look’ more healthy now.
    Thank you for reading my rant and thank you for this blogpost!
    Fey Elias recently posted..I Luv Kimchi! DIY KimchiMy Profile

  28. Christine says:

    I completely understand what you are saying. Although I do not have a blog I visit yours on a daily basis and follow you on Facebook. I have been vegan for just about 2 years and come to it for the health aspect and for the way I now see the way Factory Farming is to animals. I have 2 of your cookbooks and I work in a book store and recommend your cookbooks all the time when customers ask for a vegan cookbook. My problem is a use tempeh or some of the other meat substitutes out there like Gardein a couple times a week. I have a husband who still eats meat but will eat whatever I cook when I am home so I feel that by giving us the substitutions a couple of times a week it is still better then eating the actually thing. I do see articles out there that talk about Veganism and say you are not vegan if you consume white sugar ,oils and the meat substitutions. I feel I am doing the best I can for me and my health. Could I eat more leafy greens of course,but I feel I eat more fruit and veggies then most people I know. I know someone who just had a stint put into his heart at the age of 38, he had 99% blockage. I was so upset by it that even my husband told them to eat more veggies. I tried to talk to them about Dr Ornish’s reversing heart disease and the other books out there. Their idea of better eating is leaner cuts of meat. He seems to be ok with taking 10 pills a day. Just thinking about it gets me so upset what will it take for people to realize. Anyways thank you for all that you do and the examples that you are setting for anyone new or old to plant based eating.

  29. Anastasia says:

    What a wonderful posting. Showing how we work through things as a process can really touch other people. As far as your question goes for me personally. I feel that we are a work in progress. I cannot attain a level of perfection by someone else’s standards because I am me and they are them. I would have to stop being me and be them to be perfect in their eyes through the lens of their judgement. So I have slowly developed over time to be vegan enough for me at this time in this place and the become more and more healthy for my unique needs.
    I think we could all use a little more wabi-sabi, the essence of the idea of imperfection.

  30. Just last night, at a family gathering, my cousin told me that he didn’t trust my website because it had recipes for baked goods with some sugar in it (it was probably with agave nectar or brown rice syrup anyway), and that he was into his health and I wasn’t. I told him that about 95% of the recipes on my site were healthy whole food plant-based recipes and that my veganism is a lifestyle and not a death sentence, with a few treats now and then. He poo-pooed me stating that he follows a diet where saturated fats are key to preventing Alzheimer’s and that he eats two eggs per day. I realized that some people are misinformed and unreachable. All you can do is to keep on trying to do your best and stay vegan! There is no perfection in anyone or any one thing! Great post Dreena!!
    Debby Sunshine recently posted..Model Freja Beha Erichsen And Mother Jeans Create Vegan-Friendly Pants For CharityMy Profile

  31. Marilyn says:

    This isn’t exactly what you’re saying, but I recently read this article about how women often feel like ‘frauds’ and your discussion reminded me of the article. What do you think?
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2011/10/19/women-feel-like-frauds-failures-tina-fey-sheryl-sandberg/

  32. Angela says:

    Thank you for this post Dreena! I’ve always admired your ability to communicate so honestly from the heart. I have a similar philosophy about my vegan lifestyle and the recipes I share on my blog. Activism comes in all shapes and forms and I guess it’s natural for the less overt forms to be overlooked at times. Your cookbook ED&BV was one of the reasons why I got so into vegan cooking and I know I’m hardly alone! I too have had thoughts about not being vegan enough or feel like I’m not doing enough, but like you, I feel my strength lies in recipe creation and inspiring others to try new foods (at least right now, that could very well change down the road). We can all do our part, but we can’t do it all. Like you said, the judgment over perfectionism can be hard. Just the other day I was criticized for having a leather purse and not being a real vegan, when in fact the purse was actually a family member’s next to me on a bench and someone jumped to conclusions about me. It’s frustrating, but I have to remind myself that 99% of the time people are positive and supportive.
    By the way, I also had anxiety about going to the conference for similar reasons! It’s funny how we can be so hard on ourselves when our intentions are in the right place.
    Anyway, I could talk your ear off but I better stop rambling! Thanks for this post.

    • Dreena says:

      Angela, we could have TALKED!! ;) Gosh, that’s funny, I had no idea you were feeling that way too. What a strange interaction about the purse… I mean, leather and non-leather purses look so similar now how could one even tell? Bizarre.

      Thank you for this note, and also for your sentiment about my work and book, that means a great deal.

  33. Shannon R says:

    I didn’t go to VVC because “I’m not vegan enough”. It’s sad, but I’m not. I’m a vegetarian and while i respect other people’s dedication to animal rights I’m just not on board with a lot of it and I feel like I’d be the only one who would be there who eats vegan for health. I keep my recipes and posts vegan but I wear leather and buy my husband steak once in awhile for the bbq (he’s very omni). I feel like I have to gloss over who I am (a vegetarian trying to live a happy healthy life) because the vegan community can be really really cruel to those who aren’t 100% on board. However, I do know that there are very accepting people and glad that there’s someone meeting in a half way point I’m still just way too intimidated to be part of the crowd.

    I guess I feel like a bad person in their eyes because I’m not deeply passionate about the ethics. And that it would bring me scorn. I mean, my version of “activism” is not asking people to be veg* but to ask them to put a veggie on their plate once in awhile and look for a balanced approach to life.

    • Dreena says:

      Shannon, thank you for sharing this with me and my readers. Look at what you are sharing by cooking and developing vegan recipes! We so often look at what we aren’t doing rather than what we are. Maybe you will reconsider going to the next VVC… I found people were very welcoming and the atmosphere was about learning. :)

    • Courtney says:

      Shannon, IMO, there is nothing wrong with being vegan for health reasons. People who state that those who are vegan for reasons other than animal welfare/ animal rights annoy me. Why should the reasons for going vegan matter, as long as it isn’t a result of an eating disorder? I am happy with lots of people being vegan (and staying vegan) for any reason they so choose.

      I am vegan for a variety of reasons, but I came to veganism due to health reasons.

      Please don’t feel as if you’re not vegan enough because of these animal rights/ animal welfare bullies. They are not a good image of veganism.

    • LOVE THIS! (And the whole post, Dreena!)
      I often feel the same – so many vegans needing to police the rest of us. My boyfriend didn’t want to go to VVC at first because he “wasn’t quite vegan” and worried about what people might think. Ended up being a GREAT experience for him and he loved it, of course.
      I’m sure I’m not “vegan enough” for a lot of people’s standards, but we each do the best we can!
      Despite their upbringing, my kids are NOT vegan, and in fact, sometimes they bring non-vegan food into my kitchen. (*gasp*) (Their Dad isn’t vegan – or even vegetarian-friendly, so I’m just happy they’ve chosen to remain vegetarian.) But people often judge MY vegan-ness by the choices my (now adult) kids make.
      I have to wear shoes with orthotic insoles and the only shoes they fit in? NOT vegan. Maybe someday they’ll design something vegan that works…
      I’ve been told that I’m “too fat to be vegan”, that I’m not a “good vegan” because of my weight or that I’m doing veganism a disservice because my blog unapologetically celebrates Vegan Comfort Food.
      I could go on listing my crimes against vegan-ness, but my point (as Dreena made above) is that all of us share veganism in our own way and we should celebrate that!
      Getting people excited about new ways to eat plant-based, cruelty-free foods is a WIN-WIN. For ourselves, for others who might connect or learn something with our recipes, for our health, for the animals, and for our earth!

  34. JL says:

    I love everything about this thoughtful, honest post, Dreena. I feel it on both sides, often (especially the “not healthy enough” b.s.). When we are busy judging others, we’re NOT helping the movement – whether AR or healthfulness – at all. If people spent more time focusing on themselves and less time judging others and making them feel “less than”, well, I can’t help to think we’d all be further along. Thanks for writing this!
    JL recently posted..Fitness, Noodles & Company, and Vegan News You Can Use (6/23/13)My Profile

    • Dreena says:

      JL, you are such an ambassador for animal rights and making ethical choices, and yet you’ve shown people that you’ve done it through stages too, that there is a learning curve and we do our best, learn and can do more. Thank you.

  35. Anne says:

    YOU not vegan enough? I learned to cook and bake vegan mostly thanks to your cookbooks (Vive le Vegan! is by far my most favorite, most used and most loved cookbook). And making veganism look tasty and not difficult is one of the greatest favors you can do veganism, in my opinion.

    My whole family does not think vegan cookies to be weird or impossible, but to be the best (the oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip and lemon poppyseed ones are favorites), and my boyfriend, who does not really get enthusiastic about food, requests your soups over and over (the thai peanut soup from Let them eat vegan is fantastic: i can throw in every vegetable from my CSA vegetable box I do not particularly like and don’t no what to do with in it and it turns out great every. single. time.).

    To me, you contribute to veganism massively, with what you do best.

    Isa Chandra Moskowitz said it very well:
    “I think that activism isn’t what you decide to do but how it affects people. So if someone says, I’m going to become an activist! I’m going to stand on a street corner and preach about veganism! And then they go ahead and do that but no one listens and no one becomes vegan, then is that activism? On the other hand, maybe there’s a girl in the middle of nowhere who loves animals and decided to bake vegan. And then people taste her cupcakes and are like “What the hell, I’ll go vegan, too.” Obviously I think the latter is more effective, but I guess people might not see it as activism”.

    • Dreena says:

      Well, thank you Anne. That is lovely of you, and I’m totally thrilled you love those cookies – and the soup!! Gotta make the best of those CSA surprises! ;) And yes, that quote from Isa encapsulates our thoughts very well… how effective we are is about how we affect. I like it. Thank you.

  36. Dreena, I struggle with the same thoughts – on being vegan enough (I came in from an environmental perspective, and I feel like I’m always trying to catch up on the animal cruelty side which has become just as important to me) and very much on being healthy enough – while not putting out an image of having to be ‘perfect’. Because I agree 1000% with you that there’s no such thing as perfection, and even if there were I wouldn’t want to find it because I thin it would create a ton of stress and use energy that personally I would prefer to put into other aspects of living a healthy and happy life :) I consider ‘perfection’ being centred and aware of all the things you mentioned, and also being adaptable and constantly learning. THANK YOU for writing this post, it’s so nice to share thoughts like this so we can all think about where we fall in this perspective. xox

    • Dreena says:

      Heather, I value your insight, you are someone that I see as very balanced in general, with diet and all aspects of living. I quite like your personal definition of perfection, we could all benefit from that new definition! Thanks for your thoughts. xx

  37. Tom Ryan says:

    Dreena, thank you. I love this and what perfect timing. I just mentioned you and a few others who have inspired me in my journey toward a more compassionate life in my blog post about two hours ago. I’ll share your post with my readers as well.

    My blog post: http://www.tomandatticus.blogspot.com/2013/06/following-atticus-has-meant-learning.html

    • Dreena says:

      Thank you Tom. I read your post, very moving and inspiring. Interesting we touched on some of the same thoughts, coincidental timing. It means a lot to know that my work has helped you in your journey of eating more compassionately, and more healthy. Thank you.

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