I'd easily say my diet is plant-based, but I cannot so easily call myself a vegan. I've been vegetarian for two years now, and I guess I've been in the process of becoming vegan for about six months. When I moved into my own apartment last semester I became a sort of "social vegan."

This just means that when I do my own grocery shopping and cook for myself, I don't prepare any animal products. However, when other people cook for me, when I go out to eat, or when I'm not in control of my food choices, I'm more lenient (I still never eat meat, but I'm more relaxed with dairy products and eggs).

Transitioning to veganism isn't easy. There's a lot of pressure to immediately cut all animal products cold turkey. There can also be a lot of judgment from both vegans and non-vegans alike whenever you go to make your food choices ("What is that?" "Wait aren't you vegan?"). So below is a short list of advice and encouragement for my fellow "almost" vegans:

You don't have to be perfect.

When people ask me about my diet, I now usually jokingly say I'm "85% vegan". Know that It's okay if you don't want to/can't switch to vegan all at once. Don't beat yourself up. Food choices are hard, and any sustainable change takes time.

It's okay to admit that you're transitioning, and it's okay to be flexible! Have some self-compassion and don't worry about what anyone else thinks. You're doing this for you.

Also, you get to define your own "perfect."

Your choice to go vegan cannot be separated from your economic, regional, and cultural circumstances. For instance, I buy regular yogurt because the store I can afford does not carry non-dairy yogurt, and I have a thing for a good breakfast parfait and making sure I get my probiotics. I've also bought eggs twice this year because I like to use them as a protein source occasionally.

Because I'm vegan mainly for environmental reasons, I find it hard to deny myself the occasional local, organic egg. That egg, sold to me by a local farmer, is surely more environmentally sustainable and ethical than an avocado (which ships from Mexico and is produced on corporate farms by near slave labor). What I'm saying is you don't have to follow anyone else's definition of "good eating." You have to weigh your own costs/benefits and make your own decisions according to your own morals, financials, etc.

Check in with your mental health.

I wrote an article awhile back about how to take care of your mental health when going vegan that's worth a read. Food restriction of any kind can be emotionally and mentally troubling, especially for those who struggle with eating disorders/disordered eating behaviors. I know for my own health, it's more harmful than beneficial to deny myself my cravings.

So I willfully "give in" to cravings for ice-cream, pizza, and cheese curds, even when they aren't vegan. Also, for my own health, it's not worth the stress of trying to find/coordinate a half-assed vegan option at restaurants, so I just eat vegetarian instead. Maybe if I lived in a big city with plenty of vegan options, it'd be different. But to go vegan while taking care of my mental health in my small town means that all I can do is give it my best in my given circumstances.

Remember what you're doing this for.

There are a lot of reasons that people go vegan: animal rights, health, environmental sustainability, human rights, etc. So if veganism starts to become a big list of "don't"s, take time to remind yourself why you're here in the first place. Remind yourself that the grain used for livestock could feed the world's hungry. Remind yourself that meat is worse for global warming than cars, and you can save 1,100 gallons of water a day by refraining from animal products. Remind yourself that heart disease and cancer are our number one and two killers, and think about how good you feel when you eat a plant-based diet.

Long story short: don't let anyone make you feel bad about your food decisions. This is YOUR journey, YOUR life, YOUR diet. Sending you all the love and encouragement!