If you would've asked me three months ago if I could imagine myself being vegetarian, I would've said no in a second. Even right now, although I technically consider myself vegetarian, I feel weird using that label. 

Becky Hughes

I didn't become "vegetarian" until about a month ago. Beginning this summer, one of my friends decided she was going to go vegan. Although she loved eating chicken and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, after reading all about its benefits for the environment, she decided to give it a try.

She's still vegan, but she doesn't fully believe in the label. She's had ice cream once and a piece of cake with dairy and eggs in it for a friend's birthday, but that doesn't make her any less vegan in my eyes.

vegetable, broccoli, chicken, rice, stir-fry, pepper, meat
Katherine Baker

My new "journey" started when I was at Chipotle and I got chicken in my burrito bowl. As I was eating, it was sitting kind of weird and heavy with me and I suddenly just thought, "Wow, this doesn't really taste that good to me right now."

I've always been a big fan of chicken (and I won't lie, I still sometimes want it—especially fried chicken) but a few days later, I vowed that I would stop eating meat.

vegetable, tomato, legume, chili, sauce, meat, pepper
Katherine Baker

Now there are a few reasons why I don't eat meat. And I do think that views on labeling yourself "vegan" or "vegetarian" changes depending on the reasoning behind choosing a certain lifestyle. For me, I decided to become "vegetarian" (avoid meat and fish as much as possible) mostly for the environment.

vegetable, pepper, tomato, garlic, cucumber, salad, pasture
Carolyn Chin

I understand that it is not for everyone. And considering myself "vegetarian" doesn't mean I'm not going to sometimes (very rarely) eat meat.

Yes, I know that sounds ironic—but sometimes, people go crazy and are so harsh to others who do not strictly follow living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. I truly believe though, that no matter what, even just limiting your intake of meat and dairy is a step in the right direction.

vegetable, kale, cabbage, pasture, lettuce, collards
Adnan Amin

The ultimate goal is to reduce the intake of meat products. The incessant desire to place this solid, no mess-ups restriction on people's diets isn't very helpful and ultimately makes others feel bad if they do fall short or eat meat once in a while. It also turns people away from attempting vegan and vegetarian diets, because if they feel as though they cannot restrict themselves fully, why try at all? That shouldn't be the point

I'm Vietnamese and that means a lot of amazing cooking that comes straight from my grandmother's kitchen. But a lot of her food contains meat, and two of my favorite dishes she makes both have pork. So yes, if I go visit my grandmother and she makes me food, I am going to take advantage of eating my favorite dish. Of course, I won't eat that much, but I don't think that it makes me any less of a vegetarian. I still aim to–and do–avoid meat daily

sweet potato, sweet, squash, kale, potato
Megan Prendergast

However, I do understand that the idea of labeling yourself as vegan and vegetarian and how much you believe in following those labels can depend on the reason you are vegan or vegetarian. For me, because it is more for the sustainability of the environment, I am okay with sometimes eating a piece of meat.

Although that desire has died down and I've slowly become more and more turned off from it, that varies for each person. The point is that you are trying, and all the trying and little steps help! I also understand that maybe because this is all new to me, I may eventually stop letting myself eat a piece of meat every few months, but I know that I still won't believe in the label and the strict restrictions and pressures it places on people's diets.