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“Vegan” Is Not a Fad Diet

cake I’m vegan. And that’s my birthday cake (back in September) from my favorite vegan restaurant.  It’s bar none the very best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.  And it’s vegan. No eggs, no dairy.

You’ve probably heard by now about Beyonce’s 22-Day Vegan Challenge with her hubby, Jay Z.  I heard about it when it was announced, and I’m hearing regular updates about how it’s going for them on what is often described as their “health kick.”  The Daily Mail (I know) reported that one week into her vegan “health kick,” Beyonce is flashing her abs.

Everywhere I turn these days I’m reading about how losing weight is one of the big reasons to become vegan.  It’s starting to drive me to distraction!

See that chocolate cake? It’s not health food.  Vegan is NOT a sure fire way to drop pounds.  Losing weight isn’t even the best reason to eat a vegan diet.  Why? Because french fries and potato chips are vegan. That cake is vegan.  Coconut milk ice cream is vegan. Vegans, no less than anyone else, don’t just eat fresh fruit and vegetables.

Now I think it’s a good thing that you can still find all sorts of indulgences and follow a vegan diet. But what that means is that you need to do a lot more to drop pounds than switch to a plant-based diet.  I myself didn’t lose a single pound when I become vegan.  Nothing. Nada. Rien. 

So why become vegan?  The two primary reasons have nothing to do with your health: 1. animal welfare reasons and (2) environmental reasons.  I won’t go into all the details here, but billions of animals a year suffer unspeakably and unnecessary cruelty in industrial farming.  I’m not talking about cruelty inflicted over and above the regular conditions of their lives. I’m talking about the very conditions they live in day to day.  If you’d like to know more about that, read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation or Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation or even just go to the Vegan Society website.

Livestock farming is bad for the environment and the atmosphere. It’s a huge contributor to global warming.  There’s that great statistic: a vegan who drives a Hummer makes a smaller carbon footprint than a meat-eater who drives a Prius.  Yes, there are other variables, but there is no question that mass livestock production is hurting the planet.

And yes, there’s lots of evidence that it’s good for your health. But there are still all kinds of not-great-for-your-health choices available on a vegan diet. So there is no automatic free pass or anything like that, and some things, such as lean protein, become a bit more challenging (not impossible with some knowledge).

Back to the 22-Day Challenge that Beyonce and Jay Z are on.  If the reasons for being vegan are compelling (and they are!), then being vegan for 22 days just isn’t quite “getting it.”  I mean, I’m glad that Beyonce and Jay Z are bringing some good press to being vegan. They’re even saying they feel great and it’s not difficult. Lucky for vegan PR that they aren’t having a negative experience — if it was a struggle and they had an adjustment period where they felt bloated or tired what have you?  Animal welfare and the environment would still matter.

But you don’t hear about animal welfare or the planet when you hear about their vegan challenge.  Given the facts, it’s just irresponsible to promote veganism without even mentioning these other reasons for being vegan.

Most ethical vegans extend their vegan choices beyond their diet, making an effort to avoid animal products in other areas of their lives. You’re unlikely to find a leather couch in a vegan home, and if you look on-line you can find all sorts of vegan footwear.

Another misconception that needs clearing up and now’s as good a time as any to do it: being vegan doesn’t mean being gluten free.  Gluten is from wheat; wheat is not an animal product. Therefore, you can be vegan and not be gluten free.  It’s very disappointing to someone like me who loves baking to go to a bakery where all the vegan options are also gluten free. Worse yet if they’re also raw.  There are raw vegans, but most vegans are okay with cooked food. Why? Because there is no animal welfare or environmental reason to go raw.

Here’s a nice article where the author promotes the idea of veganism as a lifestyle change, not a diet.

There are also successful vegan athletes like ultra-triathlete Richard Roll (author of Finding Ultra) and the no-meat athlete, Matt Frazier (author of The No-Meat Athlete). Although both emphasize “plant-strong” over “vegan” (see Sam’s posts about the difference here and here) the point is, you can be a vegan athlete.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming vegan, in addition to the resources above that outline some of the ethical and environmental reasons, I found these books to be really helpful:

The Ultimate Vegan Guide by Erik Marcus

Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World by  Victoria Moran and Adair Moran

Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy, Plant-Based Diet by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina

And some good vegan cookbooks:

Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitch and Terry Hope Romero

La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer

The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay Nixon

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

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