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Last Updated on April 12, 2018

The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren’t the Same)

The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren’t the Same)

I’ve recently been on a date with a girl. When I told her that I don’t eat animal products, she asked me curiously: “So are you vegetarian or a vegan?”

“Wait what, do you know the difference?” – I replied. She answered with: “I think so, vegans completely avoid animal products while vegetarians sometimes eat eggs and dairy.” The definition was basic, yet spot-on. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Most people don’t know what veganism is nor the difference between vegan and vegetarian. In this article you will learn the difference between vegan and vegetarian so you are educated and can decide which one of those two are most suited for you.

What is veganism

Veganism is defined as:

“the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.”

To put it simply: Vegans neither consume or buy anything that comes from an animal.

    While most vegans act this way because of ethical reasons, the reasons don’t matter – the actions do. Behind veganism there’s often a cult.

    At its heart [of veganism] is the healing power of compassion, the highest expression of love of which man is capable. For it is a giving without hope of a getting. And yet, because he would free himself from many of the demands made by his own lower nature, the benefit to man himself would be incalculable.
    – Vegetarian World Forum

    Donald Watson coined the term vegan in 1944 (almost hundred years after the word vegetarian was founded) . He first meant vegan to be known as ‘non-dairy vegetarian’, until the Vegan Scoiety (yes, there’s such a thing!) defined it as:[1]

    “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”.

    Interest in veganism exploded in the 2010s.

    What is vegetarianism

    Vegetarianism is defined as:

    “the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. “

    To put it simply: Vegetarians don’t consume or buy anything that is directly correlated to animal slaughter. Namely: No meat and often also no byproducts of animal slaughter, for example: gelatin, which is obtained from boiling skin, tendons or ligaments of cows or pigs.[2]

      The word vegetarian was first used in 1839 and was refered to a “vegetable diet”. It’s commonly known to be a compound of vegetable and the suffix -arian.

      The earliest findings of vegetarians date back to 7th century BCE.[3] It is said that the Greek teacher Pythagoras has advocated a vegetarian diet.[4]

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      The difference between vegan and vegetarian

      Vegetarianism is the generic term of veganism. To put it blunt: Veganism is the more hardcore version of vegetarianism.

      When I started this journey of minimizing animal products, I first followed a vegetarian diets for a couple of months. To get used to it and build up the necessary knowledge for following a vegan diet. In fact most vegans started out as being vegetarians and then minimized their consumption of animal products until they’re getting on the vegan level.

      One may become a vegetarian for a variety of reasons – humanitarian, health, or mere preference for such a diet; The principle is a smatter of personal feeling, and varies accordingly. Veganism, however, is a principle – that man has no right to exploit the creatures for his own ends – and no variation occurs.
      – Vegetarian World Forum

      Veganism completely minimizes the exploitation of animals, while vegetarianism only minimizes direct slaughter. To reduce the pain caused on animals the most, one follows a vegan diet.

      One might not directly kill an animal by buying an egg of a chicken for example, but the nature of the competitive animal industry makes it necessary to eliminate male chicks immediately once their born. Over 3 million male chicks get killed like this (Warning: Graphic) every year.

        This also stems resentment between the veganism and the vegetarianism community, as vegans feel vegetarians are closing their eyes off to obvious suffering. I recently read a sticker on a vegan restaurant that said: “Vegetarian isn’t enough!”

        This is the reason I’m an advocate of veganism, as it always was an all-or-nothing case for me.

        Watch this video about all the reasons on why you should go vegan:

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        How to become a vegetarian (without overwhelming yourself)

        The best way you can start becoming a vegetarian is by getting knowledge. Reading this article is a great first step: How to Become a Vegetarian (It’s not that Hard as You Thought!)

        After that you should start slowly. The goal is to minimize all the meat in your diet.

        But instead of eliminating all meat from your diet, eliminate one animal at a time.

        For instance: start with beef. Don’t eat it for 30 days. Then eliminate pork in addition to beef. Continue to eliminate a category of meat every 30 days.

        Eventually you’ll elimate all meat and seafood, but because of the gradual approach, it won’t feel unmanageable.

        The key here is to keep it sustainable.

        A word of caution: You may experience resistance and questions about becoming a vegetarian, especially from close friends and family that don’t want to change. Be kind when answering questions and don’t preach the benefits of vegetarianism.

        Lead by example – then let them follow.

        How to become a vegan (a step-by-step guide)

        I’ve eaten meat my entire life. Maybe I even ate too much. I’ve followed the typical bodybuilding diet, rice and chicken with nearly every meal. This someties resulted in over 1 kilogram of meat a day.

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        Since more than 3 years I’m following a vegan diet and I have never looked back. While the original steps to go from meat eating to vegetarian are the same as to become a vegan, the vegan just goes a tad bit further.

        I’ve written down 8 steps to become a vegan here:

        How to Go Vegan (Step-By-Step Guide from a Fitness Coach)

        I especially recommend you reading step 7 and step 8, as it’s the main difference between veganism and vegetarian.

        Conclusion

        To put it simply, veganism is the more hardcore version of vegetarianism.

        Vegans aim to put the exploitation of all animals to an absolute minimum, while vegetarianism mainly reduces direct violence on the animals (e.g. slaughter).

        This is also the reason why veganism has a now cult-like status, as veganism is more about a compassionate lifestyle than a eating behaviour.

        Featured photo credit: QualityGains.com via qualitygains.com

        Reference

        [1]The Vegetarian World Forum: Veganism Defined
        [2]Wikimedia: What is Vegetarianism: Benefit Or Harm On Health
        [3]Source: Olivelle, transl. from the original Sanskrit by Patrick (1998). Upaniṣads (Reissued ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0192835765.
        [4]Borlik, Todd A. (2011) Ecocriticism and Early Modern English Literature: Green Pastures. New York City, New York and London, England: Routledge. pp. 189–192. ISBN 978-0-203-81924-1.

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        Florian Wüest

        Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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        Last Updated on June 15, 2018

        What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

        What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

        Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

        Video Summary

        Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

        Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

        Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

        Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

        This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

        Sitting Is the New Smoking

        Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

        The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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        Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

          Sit Properly

          If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

          Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

            Credit: StayWow

            Stand Up More

            Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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            Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

            Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

            Or get a standing desk.

            One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

            Exercise for Lower Back Pain

            Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

            But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

            The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

            Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

            Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

            This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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            Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

            Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

            There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

            Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

            I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

            Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

            If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

            Where to Start

            The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

            Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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            If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

            Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

            Keep a straight back.

            Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

            Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

            I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

            If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

            Stay Away From the Back Pain League

            Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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