Frustrations of a Wishy-Washy Vegan

How can I make people understand my eating preferences? (And do they really need to?)



The staples of my diet are oatmeal, bananas, peanut butter, brown rice, beans, berries, tofu, apples, greens, broccoli, broccoli, and more broccoli. Nothing makes me more excited than dinner at Vedge, where I am guaranteed a magnificent and entirely plant-based meal, and I am not shy about telling anyone I meet about what I believe are the unfortunate consequences of America’s high meat and dairy consumption. If you assume, based on all of these statements, that I am a vegan, you would actually be wrong — but only slightly. Confused? Let me explain. I am what some might call a wishy-washy vegan.

Over a year ago, I stopped eating red meat and poultry entirely for many reasons which I won’t bore you with now. And even though I felt that there would be additional benefits to giving up fish, eggs, and dairy as well (in other words, all animal products), I didn’t feel like it was the right time in my life to do that — and I didn’t know if there would ever be a right time. That being said, I’m perfectly happy and healthy with eating a completely plant-based diet most of the time, so I try to do that as much as it is convenient. In fact, most days I eat no animal products and if I do, it’s a small portion of fish for dinner or a sprinkling of cheese on pasta. There are exceptions, especially on special occasions (I’ll even eat chicken broth on Passover), but in general I go pretty plant-strong.

But people don’t seem to understand this, perhaps because they see veganism as an all-or-nothing sort of lifestyle. If someone knows that I don’t completely avoid fish, they wonder why I skip over it at a buffet. People are confused when I remark about there not being any plant-based entrees at a restaurant when they know I don’t always steer clear of cheese. Sometimes, when I’ve been eating more animal products over the course of the day I feel the need to balance it out with a veggie-centric meal (i.e. a huge plate of broccoli), but am I allowed to veto a restaurant or a home-cooked meal that doesn’t offer any vegan options if I’m not strictly vegan? While I am so grateful to my friends and family for accommodating my dietary whims most of the time, most of them don’t really seem to jibe with the fact  that I don’t have hard-and-fast rules about when I’ll eat animal products and when I won’t. But do I need to?

I could just tell people I’m a vegan to save time, but then I feel like I would offend strict vegans who are morally against consuming anything of animal origin. Sometimes, I actually feel like it would be easier in some ways if I just made the commitment to being vegan just so I don’t have to deal with the confusion, but I don’t believe it’s necessary or preferable for me to give up cheesecake 100 percent of the time. I don’t fit in any box, really, dedicated omnivore or all-out vegan.

Are there any other plant-loving, occasional animal-product-eating, eaters out there who are similarly conflicted? I say we come up with a word we can use to convey our dietary inclinations to the average joe without the need for further explanation. Until then, I’ll just call myself a wishy-washy vegan and ask that you let me eat my plants (and the occasional bite of brie) in peace.

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