Originally, this entry was going to be about grace and gratitude but a passing comment during a recent conversation with a new friend has really gotten under my skin. The conversation centered around a lunch he had with a yoga teacher and he said (I might be paraphrasing a bit), “She’s so authentic – she eats eggs, drinks wine…” In my mind, the conversation was over at that point but in its aftermath, I have been wondering: What does it mean to be authentic? And what do my dietary choices have to do with it?
Now, I could have been completely cheesy and started this blog entry by going to the dictionary and sharing the definition for authentic, but I didn’t. Instead, I made up my own and according to the definition in my head, being authentic means making decisions that nurture strength, growth, happiness, and/or peace within one’s own self and in turn for others. Furthermore, leading an authentic life is not easy – it takes looking inward and getting acquainted with the self intimately. This topic of authenticity is vast but given time, space, and energy limitations, for the purposes of this blog, I’m only going to address authenticity in terms of my second question: How does living authentically relate to my dietary choices?
But first, a nugget of history about me: Since I was old enough to feed myself, I began disposing of the meat my parents put on my dinner plate – I spat it out in napkins, fed it to the dog or cat – anything as long as I didn’t have to eat it. Add to that the fact that dairy products have always been difficult for me to handle and I don’t like to see cooked eggs (baked in a cookie is another story – yum). In his defense, my new friend didn’t know any of this about me, but it still felt a little yucky for someone to insinuate that electing to eat a diet free of animal products made one less than authentic.
Yes, I am a vegan. Being vegan is not new for me, I have vacillated between vegan and vegetarian for about 25 years now. If you saw me on the street, you would never know I’m a vegan. I don’t advertise my diet status on a t-shirt or via a bumper sticker on my car, nor do I constantly blare Meat is Murder from my stereo. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I prepare my nephew’s bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches in the same skillet in which I saute vegetables. As a matter of fact, when dining out with friends, I don’t strong-arm them into eating at vegan restaurants and never comment about or judge what they choose to ingest. Sometimes I do think it would be easier to justify my decision if I could just say I’m allergic to all meats, eggs, and dairy products. Somehow, folks find food allergies or diseases easier to swallow (ha!) like when someone is gluten-free because they have Celiac disease.
To bring this back to the conversation that was the impetus for this entry, if eating eggs makes that yoga teacher feel stronger, happier, and healthier, then yes, she is being authentic. Not any more or less so than I because I have made the decision to eat vegan because it works for me. I just plain feel better, stronger, happier, and healthier – oh wait – AUTHENTIC – eating vegan.