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STOP BLAMING VEGANISM FOR YOU NOT BEING VEGAN ~E.G.PLOTT~

STOP BLAMING VEGANISM FOR YOU NOT BEING VEGAN

 

Lately (again) some ex-“vegans” are in the media proclaiming their love of eating animals. The usual reason for them going back to exploiting animals, though they still maintain their love for them, is they listened to their bodies and their bodies told them that they must eat animals or they will perish. Or something very close.

Sometimes their bodies talk to them by making them lethargic and hungry all the time; other times their bodies speak to them in their dreams and tell them to eat the flesh, muscle, and tissues of cows. Seriously. That’s some sound medical science, right there.

If I listened to my body, I’d subsist on tequila, chocolate, and vegan cupcakes. Luckily, I also have an intellect and a heart, one of which advises me to have a well-rounded diet, and the other advises me not to take the lives or property of fellow sentient individuals. If I listened to my dreams, well, that would be a nightmare.

And what is it with the ex-“vegans” who eat the flesh of a person and are magically cured of whatever plagued them? I hate to inform you, but there is no Vitamin Meat. Let’s keep in mind that obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol are all at epidemic levels in the United States. Let’s also keep in mind that at best one percent of the population is vegan. I think it’s fair to say that eating meat, dairy, and eggs does not equate to being healthy.

Literally every week some plant-based diet blogger goes public, declaring that they were wrong, eating animals is awesome, and not unethical. Or they are careful to point out that now they only eat happy meat now.

Of course the media jumps all over stories of ex-“vegans” because it fills their desire to paint veganism as unrealistic, unachievable for mere mortals, extreme, wacky, unhealthy, you name it. And they really sink their teeth into stories where the hero happens to directly blame veganism for their eating disorders.

One ex-“vegan,” whom I shall call The Blonde Exploiting Animals for Money and Fame, went on a long juice fast and felt great, so she decided to become “vegan,” i.e. eat a plant-based diet. And because she was young and attractive, she got a lot of attention online and realized she could make money off of the backs of animals by selling t-shirts. She ate a plant-based diet for one year. Then, when her body told her to eat animals again, she went to the media, painting herself as a victim of veganism: veganism caused her eating disorder.

I must make two things very clear. First, veganism is not a diet. Veganism is “a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom” that recognizes that nonhuman animals have the right to bodily autonomy and the freedom to not be oppressed or exploited by others. Second, eating disorders are very serious and prevalent mental illnesses in our culture. I do not in any way want to minimize how destructive they can be to the person with the disorder and those who love them.

It’s clear from reading her blog that she had an eating disorder well before she ever started eating a plant-based diet, and like most of these highly vocal ex-“vegans,” ate an extremely restrictive plant-based diet. They are very forthcoming about this fact, because they believe that restrictive diets are purer, cleaner, more perfect.

Guess what? This fixation on perfection and purity ultimately becomes onerous, tiring, annoying. It becomes hard to maintain. No wonder when they “listened to their body,” it told them to eat a damn cupcake and move on. It’s not veganism’s fault, it’s these bizarrely strict, out-of-balance diets that exclude so much of the variety, diversity, and fun of vegan foods.

I view this as a symptom of exaggerating the health benefits of plant-based diets. When we focus on weight loss, clear skin, shiny hair, detox, increased energy, great sexual prowess, perfect health including never getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic diseases, when we say eating a plant-based diet will make you attractive and popular and help you live to be a hundred years old, we make it very attractive to people with orthorexia, body dysmorphia, or low self-esteem. (Who the hell wants to live to one hundred? I digress.)

And lets face it, the health and vanity angle is pretty much all we hear about in the culture about veganism – certainly not the ethical position.

We must also look at the dozens if not hundreds of “vegan” and plant-based diet “gurus” who help to perpetuate these exaggerated health claims and distract us from the ethical message. Some have no initials after their names indicating any education or training, and others have multiple initials but are still out to demonize vegan food. You see them everywhere, from social media, to health webinars, to VegFests, to your email inboxes. They are the ones touting a plant-based diet that is highly restrictive. No oil, sugar, or salt. Gluten is the devil. Soy will give you man boobs, or breast cancer. Cooked food is poison. Green smoothies are bad for you. Fat will kill you. Nuts will kill you. You must cleanse. You must juice. You must fast. You must do 80/10/10. You must pay for my coaching, my books, DVDs, cooking classes, weekend intensives, etc.

What all of these gurus have in common, aside from making money off of people’s vulnerabilities, is that that they perpetuate the idea of their brand of restrictive diet as the perfect diet, the magical diet that will turn you into a supermodel, help you find the perfect mate, shield you from disease forever, and more.

When the gurus, ex-“vegan” bloggers, and those who follow restrictive diets publicly shame perfectly good and sometimes healthy foods, they create a lot of confusion about what is vegan and what is not. Mentoring people for The Thinking Vegan, I have seen this confusion firsthand. Is gluten vegan? Yes. Is oil vegan? Yes. Can I eat processed foods? Yes.

Ethical vegans, who may or may not care about reaching perfect levels of health or having a bikini body, frequently endure attacks for eating processed foods, oil, cooked food, baked goods, etc. We’re accused of harming the movement unless we look a certain way. I’ve covered this topic multiple times and don’t need to revisit it here.

The last thing we want to do as vegans and activists is to give the impression that a plant-based diet is highly restrictive. The average person already perceives our diets as restrictive just from omitting animal products. As an ethical vegan, I don’t give a shit what you eat, as long as you aren’t eating animal products. What you eat or don’t eat is your business and should remain that way. It’s important for us to stay focused on the nonhuman animals who are confined, tortured, mutilated and killed for people’s tastes, pleasure and traditions: not health claims, demonizing perfectly good foods, and perpetuating restrictive diets.

 

 

 

 

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Tagged: ex-vegans, orthorexia, plant-based diet, The Blonde Vegan, vegan, veganism

Comments

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  • Ulrike Bialas
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    I remember how annoyed I was when Natalie Portman started eating meat again when she became pregnant, and the press congratulated her as finally having chosen the sensible, responsible path. I feel like you can only be the „I finally came to my senses“-ex-vegan if you saw veganism as a diet, which, like you said, it isn‘t. If you see veganism not as a diet, but the only ethical way to live, then your fatigue, eating disorder or whatever other problems you have would never cause you to „examine“ your veganism, but the actual physical, behavioral, and emotional factors behind your issues. As you said, it‘s ridiculous to blame your health problems on veganism or the other way around to thank your return to meat for your health. And if some study did come out that said „Vegans have a lower life expectancy“ or something similar, it wouldn‘t even cross my mind to stop being vegan, because I don‘t see veganism as an option to be dropped or resumed as new „evidence“ emerges.
    And I‘m completely with you on exaggerated health and beauty claims distracting from the ethical message which is so much more important, because a) it‘s by far the more valid one and b) once you‘ve internalized the ethical position, it‘s more likely to permanently keep you vegan than some health promise that may or may not come true and whose non-occurrence may cause you to disappointedly drop veganism.


     
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  • Steven Todd Smith
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    Excellent job again, Gary! You always express, so eloquently, the thoughts that furiously swirl around my head when the above happens. It’s SO important to make the distinction between LIVING a vegan life (completely, based in belief and values and unconditional and conscious compassion) and EATING a plant-based diet (for health, for fun, just food-based). Squares and rectangles, squares and rectangles. Thank you for the post. Vegan for life.


     
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  • Nance
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    I disagree with the conclusion. I strongly feel that ethical vegans should make sure they get enough vitamin D, B-12 and iodine, not to mention other necessary vitamins, minerals and protein, so we shine as healthy, strong and living proof that animals are not necessary to human survival and health.

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    • Kezia Jauron
      July 29, 2014
      Leave a Reply

      In what part of the article does he say not to take vitamins?
      Unfortunately convincing people a vegan diet is appropriate for “human survival and health” leads us to the very problem this article defines. How about this: a vegan diet is necessary to animal survival and health?


       
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    • Teed
      July 29, 2014
      Leave a Reply

      Or else you can just eat well and not fixate on any of this stuff. For three years, I’ve eaten vegetables, fruit, grains, snack foods, potato chips, chocolate, beer, wine, etc without devoting a moment’s energy to any of this angsty nonsense – and amazingly I’m healthy, shiny, and still alive.


       
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  • Jeremy
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    Is it a little paranoid to think the meat and dairy industry is contracting these ex”vegans”? As in, setting them up, making them popular with the intention of them “failing” by design?

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  • Nance
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    I agree with the premise of this article, for sure. I’ve just come across so many health-practitioners, chiropractors, and even a progressive women’s MD who on their websites in conversations, declare that none of their patients ever do well on a vegan diet and alarm their patients. This is alarming to me, when there is so much scientific evidence to the contrary and Kaiser Permanente has even gone public with this important information and is focused on re-educating their MDs. I feel very strongly that we need to provide strategies for vegans to succeed on plant foods and make clear that there are always plant-based ways to adjust a vegan diet so anyone can thrive without turning back to animal foods in desperation.


     
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  • Ciera
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    YES YES YES!!!! *cheers*


     
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  • Sian White
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    It’s like you broke open my head, had a look around and then wrote down your findings.
    Amen.


     
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  • Seba
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    On POINT! All of it. Thank you Gary, for this commentary. As a lifelong ethical vegan, it pains me to hear people speak of Veganism without the focus being on sparing the lives of fellow beings. Being vegan is a selfless way of living when we do it for the animals.


     
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  • Rebecca
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    I think I love you, Gary Smith!
    As someone said recently, “I am a vegan who eats a plant-based diet.” All too often, we forget the reason we are vegan in the first place. Thanks for the great reminder!


     
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  • Erika
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    This has the basis of a really thoughtful essay and you make some very salient points.
    However, I feel like that all goes out the window the moment you start diagnosing someone with an eating disorder and furthermore using that potential ED as a tool in your argument rather than respecting it as the intensely personal struggle it is. It’s really passive-aggressive to refer to her and her blog without directly linking to (or at least quoting) her posts or simply naming her, because we already know who you’re talking about. Creating a tag with the ‘nickname’ you’ve given her just makes me think of ‘Mean Girls’- are you expecting to be flaming this person more in the future? Why would you expend so much energy on “The Blonde Vegan?”
    It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to play amateur psychologist. I fail to see how tearing apart one individual who may or may not have a serious mental illness benefits the animals.

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    • Gary Smith
      July 29, 2014
      Leave a Reply

      Point one, she self diagnosed herself with an eating disorder. I didn’t diagnose her. Feel free to Google Blonde Vegan and you can read about her diagnosing herself as orthorexia AND blaming it on veganism. Here’s one recent example: http://www.people.com/article/blonde-vegan-jordan-younger-blogger-eating-disorder-orthorexia
      Point two, I made it very clear in the post that eating disorders are serious business that effect not only the person with the disorder but those who love them.
      Point three, I don’t like to directly link to people or posts where they attack veganism because I don’t want to give them additional hits. Most people are aware of her because of how much attention she has been getting in the news.
      Point four, I can promise that no animals were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

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      • Erika
        July 29, 2014
        Leave a Reply

        Okay, fair enough. Since you didn’t link to her posts about that, it wasn’t clear. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t link to someone to give them exposure but will still talk about them on your blog. If you don’t want them to get attention, don’t give it to them.
        I still don’t think it’s acceptable to discuss someone else’s ED and how it may or may not affect their decision to be vegan. I did read the post and saw that you made the point about EDs being very serious, but I don’t think issuing that disclaimer gives you the right to weigh in on an intensely private struggle.
        I appreciate you didn’t harm any animals in the making of this post. I do have to wonder how likely it is that Carrie will return to veganism once she is healthy, if these kind of personal attacks are what she associates with the vegan community. Sure, she walked out the door, but posts like this are slamming it shut and locking it behind her.

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        • Erika
          July 29, 2014
          Leave a Reply

          Sorry, meant to say Jordan. My BFFs IRL are named Jordan and Carrie, got them mixed up in my head .__.


           
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  • Mariana
    July 29, 2014
    Leave a Reply

    Great article! so clear and concise. Thanks for sharing!
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