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.
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.