January. Now that the month is closed, I want to take a moment to reflect upon it and the up-and-rising popular yearly movement: Veganuary.

The first time I had ever heard of Veganuary was early 2018, when Beyoncé or someone else of high celebrity status announced to the world they were participating. Veganuary, in short, is a movement/pledge for going the entire month of January vegan, or at least following a plant-based diet. Now that January is over, I think it’s a more appropriate time to address the topic. Veganuary is a fad. Veganism is not.

What is a vegan?

For the vegans & plant-based eaters out there, you already know this: there’s a difference between the two categories, and I feel this is important to clarify before getting into a conversation about Veganuary.

Veganism, itself, is based on ethics. In my own words, it’s action as a result of a heightened sense of empathy towards all living creatures, practiced on a larger spectrum than any other current sustainable class. In this definition, I use the word sustainable to define the longevity of the practice.

The word ‘action’ is key in the definition, above. My mother, for example, is a highly empathetic woman. We’ve had numerous conversations about veganism and vegetarianism, and even she will openly admit that if she had to butcher her own meat, she’d be vegetarian in a heartbeat. However, when my father grabs the butchers knife, you know mama’s cooking a mean fried chicken for dinner.

Here’s where the circle is broken down, even further.

Much like how all squares are rectangles, all vegans are plant-based eaters. However, not all plant-based eaters are vegan. In a lump-sum comparison for general terms and simplicity, it can be summarized under following a vegan diet, however, they are two separate things. Plant-based eaters simply do not consume animal products or their derivatives. It can be for any reason, including but not limited to health, allergies, resource limitations, and pro-life ethics. Vegans come from that small bubble that do it for the animals. Vegans do it for the ethics.

In the definition above, empathy is the ability to feel what the animal feels—to put yourself in the shoes of an animal living on a mass industrialized farm, being separated from your child for milk production, or crowded so close together, thrown, and beaten, before being mass murdered. Many omnivores cringe or click away from PETA’s overly-graphic approach to opening the public eye, proving we can, for the most part, at least sympathize. But what are you going to do about it? If the answer is just walk away from the protestor, close the webpage, scroll past the video, or unfollow your vegan friend that posts way too many graphic images, well, you’re the 95%. The other (estimated) 5%, at least in the U.S., opt out of meat, poultry, and fish, with an even smaller percentage opting out of cheeses and dairy products, eggs, and other animal by-products, altogether. This smaller percentage can be overarchingly classified as plant-based eaters, with a smaller number (between 1-2%) claiming veganism.

Vegans not only are against the mass farming of animals for food, but they opt out of all animal products in all parts of their lives, from leather, fur, feathers, and wool, to cosmetics and cleaners that have been tested on animals or contribute to animal cruelty. The important part to double emphasize, here, is that the decisions of this small percent isn’t driven by medical restrictions, finances, or economics, but is the result of a desire to reduce unnecessary animal suffering and to improve the overall environment we all share.

Vegans are activists, through, at a minimum, the voice of their dollar.

That, friends, sums it up. Now, Veganuary. I support the idea of people who may otherwise be intimidated or unsure of how to proceed, trying out a plant-based diet for a short period of time. I’ve seen quite a bit of negative energy aimed at those trying Veganuary due to the differences in what makes a Vegan vs. Plant-Based, but personally, I think it’s a great start. Trial it, see how you feel, see how you adapt. Now, while I think for some (like myself), jumping in more-or-less overnight is doable, particularly with the diet. For others, know that it’s okay to start slow and just dip your toes. That being said, instead of Veganuary, I want to promote a transition. A transition not necessarily aimed at going 100% vegan, but a transition to making better choices. To adding more leafy greens to your daily diet (something you’ve probably already told yourself to do more, anyways, regardless of if you’re a herbivore or omnivore). Maybe reducing red meat consumption to only once a day, instead of every meal, or a few times a week, instead of every day. Maybe trying out a plant-based meal or two every week.

I want to promote a transition to loving a little harder and allowing yourself to feel a little more. To being a little more understanding and showing a little more compassion. A transition to slowing down more and self-evaluating, to making those small changes that make your heart happy. Honestly, starting with what you eat, what physically nourishes your body, is a wonderful place to start.

Take your time and try it out this February, making small dietary changes. You can check out my first meal video 10-min Meals on my new YouTube channel, for inspiration on how to start. Share what small changes you’re choosing to make. For me, I’ve got the homecooked streak going well, again, and so now I’ve started incorporating studio yoga. Small, baby steps.

Ultimately, I want to promote a transition to making those small, daily changes that not only will benefit you in the long run, but will benefit the world we live in, no matter how small or how large.

Ultimately, I want to promote a transition to finding what betters you, in your own right.

Ultimately, I want to promote a transition to Turning Strawberry.