There’s no doubt about it: plant-based eating is in. From major celebrities to everyday folks who want to be healthier, do better by animals, or save the planet, interest in vegan eating is going up.
But there’s a big difference between interest in vegan eating and interest in being a full-time vegan. As a recent poll from Gallup shows, the percent of Americans who consider themselves vegetarian or vegan hasn’t changed in decades. But the number of Americans trying to eat less meat…now that’s a different story. Plant-based eating is all the rage these days–among meat-eaters!
This reminds me of a time I was giving a speech and a woman in the audience announced that she could never go vegetarian because she couldn’t say no to her grandmother’s Friday night (Shabbat) turkey. I told her: then eat the turkey on Friday and be a vegetarian the other six days of the week! That’s not what I would do, but if this was truly the roadblock for this person, of course she’d be doing much better being a six-day-a-week vegetarian than a no-day-a-week vegetarian. Why let the perfect be the enemy of the good? (And in reality, there’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to dietary choices anyway.)
Plant-based eating isn’t some type of purity test where you commit one slip-up and you’re out of the club. It’s not a religion in which temporary imperfection leads to excommunication. For me and for many others, being vegan isn’t a declaration of some type of elusive “perfection.” It’s an aspirational statement to try to reduce the amount of harm we cause in the world. And in that game, doing less harm is better than doing more, but we recognize that we can’t eliminate all the harm we cause and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up–nor others–for not living up to some hallowed orthodoxy.
So, if you’re thinking about giving plant-based eating a try, pay yourself on the back. Don’t worry about going “all the way.” Just like with running, worry about taking your first step and then your next one. Progress begets progress. Just go at the pace with which you’re comfortable, have supportive friends and family around, and you’re sure to do better tomorrow than you did yesterday.