Plant Based or Vegan...what's the difference and which one am I?
This is a blog post I've thought about writing for a while now but I wasn't sure how to go about it as it's quite a personal one and I don't want to offend anybody with anything I say. I'd like to start by saying this is my choice, my thoughts and my beliefs which could well be different to your own and that's perfectly okay but this is a topic I really wanted to share my opinion on.
Although my blog is often labelled as a vegan blog (and I suppose it is) I am very conscious of not labelling myself as vegan specifically. No, I don't eat meat, eggs or dairy but I don't class myself as vegan. There's nothing wrong with the term 'vegan' but there are several reasons I don't put myself into that category, but instead I refer to myself as plant-based.
Firstly the term vegan actually refers to a lot more than just diet; a vegan lifestyle extends to more than just what food you eat - the cleaning products, clothes, art supplies, supplements, skincare, makeup, etc that you buy are all completely vegan too, which is something I want to promote because I believe strongly in animal rights but my blog is a place to talk about health, happiness, food and exercise. My whole ethos and the message I want to spread is focused on health and good, nourishing foods for the mind & body, that food can be exciting and healthy food isn't boring, expensive or difficult. By classing myself as plant-based I'm really stressing the fact my focus is on plants and whole foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, quinoa, brown rice and legumes whereas if I simply say I'm vegan this term doesn't automatically make you think 'health'. The vegan diet can of course be a healthy one full of so much goodness but it can also be full of refined sugars, white pasta, processed foods and those rubbish 'free from' products you get at the supermarket.
I also don't like putting myself in a box, feeling that pressure and like there are all eyes on me to make sure I'm sticking to the label I've given myself. When I say I'm plant-based that's exactly what I am; I base my diet around plants but that doesn't mean I never ever eat anything processed, ban alcohol and don't ever consume foods with sugar in. Yes, the majority of the food I put into my body is vegan (always meat free, dairy free and egg free) but I don't label myself as such because I'd feel like I was failing or being a con when I put honey in my porridge. I'm very open to different ways of eating and I do what makes me feel physically and mentally nourished, happy and content which is why my I focus is on natural, plant based yummy foods but I'm not opposed to other food sources if it's going to make my body feel good.
As I said above I don't eat meat, dairy or eggs because they don't make my body feel good, they have a negative impact on my mental health and the ethical reasons play a huge part too. However, I recently visited a chicken sanctuary close to where I live, the lady there has rescued former battery-farm chickens, nursed them back to health and lets them live completely freely on her land. These chickens aren't forced to lay and they're allowed to live out the rest of their natural lives without fear of being killed. You can buy eggs from this sanctuary and I think that's wonderful - the money goes to the upkeep of the chickens and you know they're being treated with love & care. Personally I'm not the biggest fan of the taste of eggs anyway but if I was I wouldn't be opposed to eating them, not from somewhere like that.
The other reason I promote a plant-based diet instead of a vegan diet is because I really want to encourage more people to try this lifestyle, to feel the amazing benefits and to understand how easy and delicious the food can be. By introducing people to a plant-based diet it's a lot less intense, less restrictive and people aren't so afraid of the words 'plant-based' as they are the word 'vegan'. The word vegan sadly has a lot of negative connotations, partly due to people naively thinking vegan food is bland & boring but also the idea that all vegans are extremists, which we know isn't the case.
Everyone has to start somewhere and I believe introducing a plant-based diet is much more sustainable and enjoyable for everybody because you can choose the balance that's right for you; you could be 100% plant based and only ever eat vegan, natural foods or you could be 60% plant based and have eggs for breakfast occasionally or fish for dinner. As long as your focus is on whole, clean, natural foods then you're winning really, aren't you!
The important thing is finding a healthy lifestyle that makes you happy, that way it's going to be the most sustainable and the most enjoyable. It's about eating meals that taste delicious, that make you feel strong and that don't make you bored! That could mean you have a green smoothie for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch and sweet potato curry for dinner or it could mean you have the first two meals and then a Chinese takeaway and a glass of wine for dinner, which is fine too. There's no such thing as the 'perfect' diet, there's no one-size fits all and you certainly shouldn't feel a pressure to eat a certain way 100% of the time.
If you are vegan that's totally and completely amazing, but for me I prefer to label myself as plant-based and that's the lifestyle I like to promote for health and happiness.