That is the question.
I'm not sure what to call myself, actually. On one hand, I want to type that I'm simply not a vegan, but on the other hand, I would consider myself pretty dang close to vegan. So I guess it depends on who you ask. Sometimes, I just say I'm vegan because it's easier and less confusing that what I really am, I suppose. I'm probably really plant based, anyway!
What I do know is this: a vegan diet consists of no animal products including meat, dairy, and eggs. A vegan lifestyle adds in avoiding products that are made from animals or may have harmed/disrespected animals like leather, down feathers, and product testing on animals.
I also know that I do my best to learn and grow and get as close to vegan as possible, but I'm also not going to create extra stress in my life over a label. I'm not a purist, I guess. I just do my best, and what else can I really ask for?
I do not eat meat, ever. There are eggs in my refrigerator right now, but I don't eat them. They're for Stephen and my kids, but I did buy them. There's dairy-free cheese and dairy cheese in my fridge as well. I don't eat the dairy cheese. But sometimes I like to have a girl's night with wine, and almost always, someone brings cheese... dairy cheese. Sometimes I skip it, sometimes I indulge in it a bit. Sometimes I go out to eat with friends or family, and if there's a vegan menu item, I'll order that. If there isn't, I find the vegetarian item, and if I can remove cheese or any obvious animal product I will, but I'm not going to sweat it or get anxiety over it. I don't buy real leather, but I've been gifted boots made from leather and I still wear them. I bought Ugg boots years ago, and I still wear those too. I bought a comforter for our new bed last year and made sure the comforter was down alternative rather than real feathers, because those poor birds! But I do have a down coat from before I knew better that I still have and wear sometimes.
You see, when I got sick, diet was the first thing I changed, and I learned a lot! I started with macrobiotics, which can be pretty complex, especially if you're coming from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD). So Stephen and I sought out a macrobiotic counselor that walked me through everything. The one thing he said to me that I'll never forget was something like this, "Macrobiotics has the potential to save your life, but if you ever feel incredibly stressed over this, it's time to move on to something else. Don't give up, but don't create a bunch of unnecessary stress." And that has stuck with me. So while I have found I relate very closely to veganism, I also am not going to create extra stress that has the potential to make me sick. See what I mean?
My sister calls me a che-gan... cheater vegan, and I suppose that's pretty accurate.
Either way, I'm not going to get all caught up in labels or killing myself to fit perfectly into a label, ya know? That's not the point of all of this for me. I'm not really doing this to impress anyone else. Health is why I started living this way, but I also embrace the ethical and environmental reasons as well. I'm also not going to seek people out and shame them for their choices. Usually we make the choices we do because we don't know any better. Plus change is hard! I'm not looking to shame anyone or make anyone feel bad about themselves. I'll most certainly explain and teach them if they want, but I refuse to be forceful about it.
Instead I just do the best I can and hope that somewhere along the way, someone learns a little and maybe makes changes to make their lives better/healthier/happier which creates a ripple effect that begins to make changes outside of themselves into a much greater change! How cool, huh?!
So don't beat yourself up if you aren't perfect. I tried that, and it doesn't do you any favors. It does the opposite of what you're trying to do. Just do your best. It isn't definitive anyway. One day, your best might be just removing meat or eating more vegetables. A year from now, your best will be different if you just keep going!