If You’re A Vegan (or wannabe) Please Make Sure You Check These Out

Every good mom wants her family to eat healthy.  Growing up and taking care of others makes you put more emphasis on your own health, and definitely that of the people you’re shaping.  The moment you get pregnant, you are bombarded (usually FIRST) with advice on eating healthy.  If you take natural childbirth classes, the mantra is repeated.  If you breastfeed, the mantra stays in place.  Then when you’re trying to lose the last bit of that pregnancy weight, and the scale won’t budge, there is a temptation to go radical.

Plus, you’re getting older.  You’re more in tune with your body, and your body is more sensitive.  Whereas you once cut corners, now your body acts up if you do.  You might have symptoms you’ve never had before and want to find the culprit.  Or worse, your kids do.  Maybe they have allergies or attention problems.  So you turn to gluten-free and dye-free diets, hoping for relief. You try things you might have heard about and dismissed before, because you’re looking for answers.

The fact is, for whatever reason, many moms naturally start thinking more about diet.  Most moms still do the cooking and meal-prep in their families, and if you are the one buying and actually putting the food on each of your family’s plates, you start thinking about each item you’re putting on there.

There’s nothing wrong with this.  It’s love and survival, built-in to being a mom.  And sometimes a strange culprit is found and rooted out for the benefit of your family.  But I’m writing this post because veganism is now all the rage– i.e. Oprah had her “radical vegan” challenge.  And with all the food books and documentaries hitting the market, there is a lot of concern over agriculture and the meat industry.  I started digging into this area myself because some of my friends were going vegan, and some were just getting very food conscious, and I myself want to lose weight but wanted to know both sides of the story.

After reading some of the most popular diet books out there, and scanning many cookbooks, I am convinced that there are two nutritional trends.  One is “nutritional vegetarianism” and the other is radical veganism.  Nutritional vegetarianism has been around a long time, especially since the 1970s, and covers all those books out there which tout vegetarianism as the way to jump start your body’s metabolism and weight loss.  Usually these books are benign and include a more radical phase to detox your body, followed with a period where you gently add in possible offenders (i.e. eggs, gluten, meat) to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions.  These books vary in intensity and specific recommendations (i.e. some say potatoes are fine, others think they are the devil).  But they generally have a lifestyle change to whole foods as their goal.

Sometimes there are kooky things in there such as various water scams (i.e. Penta Water) that you have to look out for.  Others have more extreme views on chemicals and recommend getting rid of your caffeine, perfumes, soaps, and medicines.  But usually they are harmless and reflect the author’s specific idiosyncrasies.  After you read enough of them, there are several icons that come up fairly regularly and you can decide for yourself whether it’s a scam, a marketing ploy, or well-intentioned pseudo-science.  (Google is GREAT for this.)

As a rule, vegans hate the nutritional vegetarians because they see them as sell-outs.  Which is funny considering that if you are normal American eater, either camp will overwhelm you with their health consciousness and focus on veggies!  To the outsider, it doesn’t seem that there could be much difference between the two camps.  But there is.  My concern is not with the nutritional vegetarian camp.

My concern is with the radical veganism, a la Oprah style recommendations.  I got into some of this literature recently and was almost pulled in.  The promises sound so compelling: no cancer?  better sex life?  solving my sleep problems?  As a mom, much of the rhetoric plays on your fears about your kids’ health (i.e. autism, attention problems, growth problems).  It is easy to believe that veganism (or close to it) will solve all your physical issues.

The more radical the approach is, the more it purports to solve.  It is like conspiracy theory with a “the whole world is hiding something from you” tone.  You probably already believe that doctors can’t solve all your woes, so you’re looking for something that will give you the information you’re not getting.  And the radicals play on this.  They provide the missing pieces to why you’re tired, why you’re overweight, and why you’re experiencing more symptoms.  Where they really excel though, is the broader picture.  It becomes political very quickly, and religious in tone.  By eating in this way, you are saving the planet.  You are downing big agriculture.  You are solving world hunger.  You are stopping global warming.  You are supporting nations overseas.  You are making a statement.

This is where my concern is, and recently I read a very popular author who pretended that all those things weren’t her motivation when it all really was.  Her whole goal was to convert you by playing the diet card.  Covert you to what?  Not just the veganism but leftism, socialism, feminism, environmentalism, and Buddhism/Hinduism.  “Vegangelicalism” is what one author calls it.  New Age religion is very important to these radicals as well.  They are systematically undermining traditional religious mindsets and any conservative impulses you may have.  They want you to feel bad that animals have to die in order for you to live.  They want you to feel like you are an activist through your eating.  They want you to feel bad that your country is more prosperous than another, especially through its businesses.  And they want you to adopt a more humane and multicultural belief system which promotes alternative medicine, evolutionary viewpoints, and new age relaxation techniques.

Their goal is to save the planet and evangelize you to become a believer.

If you think I am making it up, please please please check out these websites. I only found these because I was intrigued by the vegan promises about health and I wanted to see if everyone thought they worked.  I wondered if there would be a small minority of defectors who had tried it faithfully and still experienced fallout: cancer, heart disease, or other health problems.  And I wanted to see how they interpreted that.  But what I found was much more startling.  I found an agenda was taking place beneath Oprah and flashy cookbook covers.

The first link here is one of the most important in the ex-vegan movement.

http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/

http://www.danielvitalis.com/2010/03/hunter-safety-why-i-am-not-a-vegan/

These are from ex-vegans who are important in the movement and explain the situation far, far better than I could.  You get a sense right away of the blend of feminism, evolution, New Age, animal rights, environmentalism, globalism, and anti-capitalism that they are in.  You get a sense of the urgency and need to evangelize others.

You will also get a sense of the whole neurosis behind the vegan mind.  Veganism is part a result of this mindset, and part a creator of it. You might have friends you know who are deep in this health stuff because they usually betray this mindset.  There is an anxiety, a legalism, an unrest.  There is extreme guilt, extreme self-loathing, and self-punishing going on.  They fly in the face of results.  They punish themselves with food.  They are not much different than an anorexic person— food obsessed and a love/hate relationship with it— and they usually have to stare down depression every day as well.

This is not my own judgment… see for yourself in these pivotal blog posts which have rocked the vegan world.

My conclusion: it is a religion.  It has cult-like following.  If you defect, you are considered a traitor.  One ex-vegan who was revered shut down her comments on her blog because she was getting death threats.  The inner pressure to tow the line and present to the world a happy face is phenomenal.  If you have ever studied Jim Jones, this is not much different.  They can’t let the world know that they are experiencing pain and suffering (self inflicted) because then that would mean that their worldview is faulty in some way… the worldview that includes feminism, environmentalism, animal rights, and third world activism.  They are saving the world, and their diet, which is so prominent an expression of their inner beliefs, must not be compromised.  Some even believe vegans should rather die than cave to the pressure to eat animal products.  The saving of the world is at stake.

Clearly, this is neurotic and wrong.  It is also false.  There are many good anti-vegan apologetics out there, and most of them are not quibbles over whether the human is biologically designed to be an omnivore or herbivore.  Most are corrections to the geopolitical vision they have…. i.e. that veganism doesn’ t hurt the planet, that a world without animal husbandry would be better, that veganism doesn’t require capitalism to flourish, etc.  Many vegans have a worldview actually very similar to Christianity… it has an original state, a fall from grace, and a solution.  It also has an apocalyptic vision of what will happen in the end times, and an ethic of how you should live in order to get there.  And it has heavenly desires and Christian values; the desire to alleviate suffering, the desire to solve the problems of the poor and oppressed, the desire to be in tune with oneself and nature, and the divine force.

But it is a false religion.  And like false religions, it has idols and rules and stiff punishments.  It is shame-based.  Your diet is never strict enough.  It has a lot of infighting as followers find one another traitors (if they deem a certain food kosher) and others gurus (if they discover a new superfood).  It is glorified anorexia, as many followers waste away and purposefully deprive themselves of food their bodies need… but it does this not for self and appearance, as anorexia does, but for the world because the suffering in the world demands it.  It is hypocritical as it saves countless animals from death but takes it from you slowly, as years of depletion exact their cost.

It has an even stiffer cost, as many vegans have alienated friends and family as they have pursued their values beyond the realm of mainstream.  You are lonely and walled off from others and any cultural joy.

I am still not sure how this takes hold in people.  It seems to be mostly younger, white middle class (or ex-middle class) people.  Often they have had a traditional upbringing and/or religious education.  Mostly they are an alternative crowd who rebel against their roots and then expand their followings among middle age or older people who have degenerative problems and are looking for alternative answers.  Or those who are skeptical or critical of traditional medicine/science.   They are the same demographic as those who went hippie, or those who join cults, or those who are radicalized in another way.  White self-haters?  Capitalist haters?  (I’m not sure what causes them to hate their own culture so much, though.  Whole Foods, for example, which has enabled many to go vegan who couldn’t have otherwise, is a successful business and fruit of capitalism.  So are organic food companies.  So are the airplanes, medicine, and technology which help feed and aid the Third World.)

Anyway, if this is you, or if this COULD be you because you have been enticed by vegan promises and led into their worldview, please please don’t take my word for it.  And don’t think I am trying to get you to stop eating healthy.  I truly believe there is much value to us all shaping up and losing weight.  And if that is through mega-veggies, great.  Vegetables are common sense!  They are not political! But please please read these blogs and make sure you aren’t mixing a lie with the truth.  Make sure you are not deceived into false religion.  Make sure you are not ignoring your body’s signals for the sake of idealistic principles.  Make sure you are not entrapped in a world you wish you could escape but feel as though you’re displeasing (God, the world, harmony, whatever) by staying.

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16 thoughts on “If You’re A Vegan (or wannabe) Please Make Sure You Check These Out

  1. Excellent post.

    I appreciate you talking about this issue. I am an ex-vegan also. I was severely depleted and depressed just like the gal in the first article. I was so sick and it has had lasting effects on my health even today almost 10 years later. I still have blood sugar issues and can’t tolerate a lot of things I ate when vegan. It was neurotic for me. I was also super underweight and had this going on when I was in high school so it affected my growth. It makes me sad to think all I missed out on. But thankfully these days I have learned what makes me feel good and I eat plenty of eggs, milk and meat along with lots of veggies. I don’t eat that many grain products because of my blood sugar issues.

    Anyways it’s so important for people to realize just how dangerous veganism is.

  2. Wow, that was an intense post. Who knew veganism was such a controversial topic? I was vegetarian for many years (18) and was an unhealthy form of vegan for about three of those years. I was a 20 year old vegan who lived on spaghetti, peanut butter and jelly, soymilk, tofutti, rice and veggie bowls–perhaps not the best diet! I gradually went back to being “just vegetarian” and that was fine for many years. Before my daughter was born, I added in poultry and fish to my diet and that worked fine for a time, but my body didn’t seem to like it. The consumption of dairy products is really odd to me since animal milk is meant for baby animals. As a nursing mom, the idea of taking milk that is meant for another animal’s baby is not so appealing. People often ask us when my daughter will wean and I wonder when they’re going to wean themselves off cow milk. Mmm, suckling at the teat of a cow–that’s surely a habit Americans could do without. At the very least, I am choosing to raise my daughter without dairy products.

    It is tricky to navigate all of the “This Diet Will Cure Your XYZ!” hype out there, especially with the internet. When people look at us quizzically when we say we don’t eat dairy, gluten or red meat, I have to remind them that most Asian countries fare well on dairy and gluten free diets with rice being the staple grain instead of wheat. I am still on the fence about eggs (our daughter has an egg allergy, so we’re not eating them right now).

    I think when people are heading in the vegan direction, it is good to remember that most of the diet should consist of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, sea vegetables, legumes, and beans and not just grains and processed foods. These foods are healthy, regardless of which dietary path one chooses to follow. Moving away from white is the ultimate goal in becoming a healthier American! :-).

    It is hard navigating the nutritional guidelines with a family in tow. What is healthy this week?

    I am glad I stumbled upon your blog while looking for advice about how to teach scissor skills to a three year old :-)!

  3. If it doesn’t work for you – don’t do it. And then leave every body else alone. I couldn’t possibly live happy as a meat eater and would love to knick the dairy and feel it’s only a matter of time. I could not be healthier. You want to be healthy and loose weight? Eat healthy, whole foods (which can include organic meats if you choose) and exercise.. it’s not that difficult. I think the whole world should stop killing animals for food – we would be better off and it would be a huge step in breaking the cycle of violence. But I’m dreaming, I know — so I shut up about it.

  4. I appreciate your thoughts, but fear that you’re assuming a lot about the vegan community.

    I am vegan because I couldn’t stand to kill another creature in order to eat it. End of story.

    I have my health checked regularly, eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains than ever before, and have not lost (or gained) an ounce. I consider myself to be healthy, as does my doctor.

    As a previous commenter mentioned, some of the most vocal ex-vegans never maintained a healthy vegan diet to begin with, so of course they had nutrition issues. Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you follow an sustainable diet (for example, oreos are vegan, but I wouldn’t recommend eating them all day long.)

    I do agree with you on a couple things:
    1. There are a lot of snarky vegans to like to attack ex-vegans, and that does get annoying. But there are also steadfast omnivores who will argue for hours about why eating animal products is vital to good health. I have a feeling that some vegans verbally attack ex-vegans because they are a minority of the population and a minority always hates to lose a “member.” If people want to be vegan, let them be vegan!

    2. Not raised in any organized religion, I do feel as though I am now part of a “church” of sorts–not because I think veganism is a “miracle cure”, but because I feel very strongly about ending animal abuse and I have found a community that will help me accomplish this. (I should add that not all vegans are animal welfare activists.)

    Also, as a final comment, if I could live on a nice, sustainable farm where animals were raised and slaughtered humanely, I probably would not be vegan. But the reality is that the factory farming “movement” is out of control, and in the shadow of this large-scale animal abuse, we need to take some more drastic measures. To combat this, I do three things: 1. refuse to eat animal products, 2. donate money to reputable organizations I trust and 3. spread the word to all who will listen. Will I alone bring down factory farming? Of course not. But I am doing what I can.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and thank you for reading mine.

  5. I am hurt by reading this. As a person first and vegan second, I believe grouping people who make certain food choices into a negative stereotype is wrong- be it carnivores or herbivores. Maybe I feel this way because I’ve been made fun of and ridiculed by family and friends for making these choices, but now those same people are turning to me for guidance because they are sick and unhealthy.

    Yes there is a culture and community that tends to shines through with vegans, but it focuses on positive change and the possibility that the world can be a better place, that the individual person can remain powerful and as you say “make a statement.” There is always someone out there to ruin it, and it takes a lot of work to regain respect thanks to those people, but we are all human. I know what it is like to focus on the negative.

    Personally, I’ve gone on a long and interesting journey since I’ve become vegan. It began with intense cravings so I would indulge in the faux meats and cheeses (all processed … little good) and over time became educated in the art of preparing food. I got to know my food and my body in a way I didn’t know possible. I realized that my choices in food and what I buy DOES say something about me and what I believe in. Some people choose to not support Wal-Mart or clothing made in sweat shops, others choose not to support animal cruelty, and in turn that person supports the alternative.

    I am not a preachy vegan, I have been preached to my entire life and know what that feels like. I am learning that sticking up to what you believe in is important and healthy and just as you have done so, here I am sticking up for other vegans or individuals it may apply to. In a world full of pain and intolerance for difference, it can be challenging to stand up. To be fair, it may have been nice to put up some other links in addition to the “anti-vegan” sites you posted. Not all vegans are bloggers, mind you.

    I am a Montessori teacher who works with at-risk children in a failing public school system. I teach peace and tolerance so that it may spread within the person and just maybe flow out into others. Teaching this is not a choice, it is a must.

    Your conclusion is harsh and hurts. I hope you continue your research and discover what so many of us herbivores are happy to share.

  6. Brittany, I am sorry I hurt you by the post. I am not maligning vegans personally. I am happy for people like yourself who have become educated about their bodies, food, and choices. I am happy you are well-balanced and expressing your convictions.

    What I am against is the political ideology behind much of the vegan movement today. This is largely a faceless phenomenon. I have read a number of the trendy pro-vegan books, heard the authorities in magazines and on TV, indulged in the fads a bit—and I am disturbed by the political implications. Food is a personal choice and I resent the lobbying going on around it that tries to smear people who eat General Mills cereal or Tyson chicken nuggets as some sort of Right Wing, Big Business Protecting, Trans-Fat Loving, Third World Stomping, Anti-environmental Animal Hater.

    While I believe pro-vegan lobbying is suspect, I would agree with you that anti-vegan lobbying would be wrong also. I do not seek to squelch your freedom to eat how you want. Food should be a libertarian choice rather than something incentivized by preachers and Leftist documentaries.

    Again, my apologies.

  7. Wow.

    “What you are critical of in others, is usually what you don’t like about yourself”

    Has it occured to you that you are the “false”, “neurotic”, “hypocritical” person that you speak of?

    Is your life “shame-based”? You’re making a ridiculous tie between a way a person eats and religion – Do you struggle with religion? Do you struggle with where you fit in? Are you guilty that you haven’t done more for your family’s health/the world/the environment?

    How does it feel to have assumptions made about you?

    Just because you are generalizing about a group of people, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt to each individual vegan that reads this.

    Please know that a couple of “ex-vegans”, and people like you who can’t deal with other people’s (ie: vegans’) choices that are benefiting….. I won’t even list them because you clearly know…. aren’t going to ruin it for the people who ARE willing to make a change. And to mock that shows YOUR true colours, not those of vegans.

  8. Thanks for the self-check, but I’m very secure in my walk with God and my family’s health/the world/the environment. I didn’t write this out of guilt, or to shame others who have made the decision to be different. I wrote it because there is a lot of pressure out there on moms to have the perfect family and perfect eating habits. Veganism is providing some of that pressure, as a cultural movement, and I think it’s unhelpful in many cases. I provided this link to offer an inner critic’s voice who had some authority on the issue.

    Thanks for reading, though, and being open-minded.

  9. I have found the commercialisation of veganism to be massively helpful in the effort to find foods for my toddler who is vegetarian and cows milk intolerant. Having easy access to a wide range of foods labelled as vegan is such is a blessing, and facilitates time to do things with my son other than cook, and to make healthy, tasty recipies whenever I/we do cook! I thank the people out there who are publically promoting and campaigning for veganism, and those wonderful people who are writing recipe books :)

  10. I was vegan for awhile, but when I first got pregnant, all I kept thinking about was…Mmm…meat. And after that, I never looked back. And now with this second pregnancy, I have had the easiest time. Is it because my reserves are built up by eating meat? We are now starting the GAPS diet for our late talking 2 1/2 year old and it is as anti-vegan as you can get…bone broths, fermented dairy, homemade ghee…we feel nourished. It is easy to fall into the snowball trap of veganism…my sister has just discovered it and she gets on her soapbox all of the time; posting videos and pictures to her facebook page. This coming from a girl who has eaten duck fat fries forever! Bottom line: I think we all have different nutritional needs at different points in our lives. GAPS diet is working for us right now. But we do love our fruits, veggies, and green juices.

  11. I get where you’re coming from with this post, but the irony is, that the exact same thing is in christianity (and I see you’re a christian). Many are zealots and evangelical. People are afraid to ‘come-out’ if they no longer believe because of how they may be treated. I was raised in pentecostal christianity and am now atheist after rejecting it because of the hypocrisy and failure to match up to the real world. A lot of anxiety about personal purity and who is a ‘true’ christian or not. Reading about the animal rights movement and veganism, I see a lot of parallels.

  12. My family’s history with veganism has pretty well shown that there are a lot of people who couldn’t do even a vegetarian diet, long term, not even with the assistance of professional help. I now have people in my family with permanent health issues that only got worse due to the guilt and pseudo-science attached. Had people been more clear-headed as to how this may, or may not work, and that we need to do what is good for us individually and that your Dr tests and sees working, things certainly would not have gotten to such a bad state. Not only that, but these are regularly promote fads and pseudo-science that has already been disproven like that whole “China Diet” book. There is a pretty serious market out there now of GMO-filled processed foods marketed as “healthy” simply by dint of their “certified vegan” status. Bad enough, but they NOT discuss or even permit evidence of the warning signs to watch for if this diet is not for you or that you are losing the ability to absorb critical nutrients or micronutrients from plant-based sources; fatigue, crankiness, argumentativeness, muscle-loss, thyroid impairment, bloating, dental corrosion and persistent cravings. Instead of warning people that having everybody argue with you is a sign *you* are now getting pretty cranky and argumentative, these ideologues go for echo-chamber isolation where bias-confirmation is the only content.

    I have had it up to there with the ideologues, tho, and they are not at all “Liberal” tho they generally think of themselves as such. Large groups are anti-personal freedom, anti-women’s rights and are pursuing a seriously scary anti-choice agenda. I could link you guys to some pretty awful, awful vegan site filled with vitriol, but you could just go to Care 2, which is nominally a news discussion site and not supposedly a vegan site, but where the vegan ideology is regularly promoted by the site and writers, and comments to non-vegans pretty frequently gets downright brutal and violent language, even racist, very common.

    The funny thing about this AR/Vegan extremism is that it has nearly shut down many fights to protect animals and their welfare.. I don’t think that is just an accident either. I went looking into PETAs and HSAs funding sources and found some of the very same animal-testing Big Pharma corporations feeding them major “Donations” to pursue this extremist public profile.

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