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While plenty of diets and lifestyles have come into popularity in recent years, the habit of reducing your meat and animal product consumption has become the most popular and widely respected by a long shot. While some people are vegetarian or even flexitarian, plenty of people have taken things to new heights by going vegan or plant based. Whether you’re already vegan or plant based, or you’re curious about the lifestyle, the difference between the two and the meaning behind them might get a bit confusing.
There are plenty of definitions and ideas floating around about what it means to be plant based, and one of the biggest questions that people ask themselves and others about the plant based lifestyle is if it’s okay to “cheat” and if the occasional slip disqualifies you from being plant based. Really, there’s no hard and fast rule. While many people are vigilant about their beliefs, everyone has a different idea of what it means to be plant based or vegan. From honey to thrifted leather, there are a lot more grey areas than you might think, and that’s why examining what it all means to you is important. So, what does it mean to cheat on your plant based diet?
Plant Based vs. Vegan
One of the first ideas to get settled in is the difference between what it means to be plant based and what it means to be vegan. While each person has their own definition of what veganism or the plant based lifestyle means to them, many people are much more comfortable with one definition than the other. Essentially, the difference comes from ideology. According to most, while neither eat animal products, vegans do it for ethics, the environment, animal welfare and philosophical reasons, whereas plant based individuals do it solely for the dietary benefit.
In addition to this divide, there are some people who think that plant based individuals are okay using animal tested products, wearing leather or fur and engaging in other behaviors that aren’t “vegan.” Some people also say that the “based” part of plant based makes it a blanket term rather than a set of principles, meaning that plant based individuals can cheat on their lifestyle. However, this simply isn’t the case all the time. Just like plant based individuals don’t need to disregard animal welfare or cheat on their diet, vegans also experience the health benefits of eating nutrient-dense plant foods. There’s a lot of crossover, and it covers a lot more nuance than meets the eye.
What is Cheating?
Just like in anything else, cheating can be a number of different things. Anything from eating a friend’s birthday cake to a weekly coffee with caramel flavoring can classify as “cheating” when it comes to a plant based diet. While some people and sources have a lot of politics surrounding what kind of vegan or plant based person is allowed to cheat, at the end of the day, nobody can tell you what to do. If you’re going to have coffee with milk, you’re going to have it. And if that’s the thing standing in between you continuing to be plant based or completely throwing in the towel, it almost seems silly to deny yourself that.
While of course, everyone is different and your ideology should matter to you, diet is a spectrum, just like everything else. It’s all about keeping things reasonable.
The Dichotomy of Absolutist Diets
One piece of food for thought — no pun intended — is that every diet includes vegan food for the most part. From pasta to salads to french fries, most omnivores consume plant based food already. Really, vegetarianism, flexitarianism, veganism and being plant based are different degrees of removing animal products from your diet. And while some people function best with more intense principles around their diets, diet culture can be toxic for some people, and having a few allowances can make the difference between striving to be plant based and not trying at all.
The Bigger Picture
Really, it’s all about looking at the bigger picture. When it comes to plant based diets, whether you cheat isn’t up to anyone but you. And if “cheating” is your way not to completely throw in the towel and stop trying entirely, that can be the best way to make the biggest, most sustainable impact for you and the world.
Plant Based Diets
Being plant based and being vegan mean different things to everyone. Whether you’re more strict with yourself or you allow some cheating every once in a while, the most important thing you can do is try your best to eat more plant foods for the planet, your body and the environment. No matter who you are, taking that step is something worth celebrating.
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