Vegan Myths that Sabotage the Lifestyle’s Sustainability
As January is now the past, I wanted to address a common approach to veganism where eager and well-meaning people give themselves a 31-day experience with this lifestyle. A UK charity and campaign, Veganuary is a challenge for all who are curious about veganism. Armed with daily emails and online support, the aim is to showcase the easiness of becoming vegan along with all the benefits of making this change in lifestyle.
For the most part, this campaign has proven to be successful. According to VegFund, 168,500 people signed up to try this challenge in 2018. With the rise of documentaries on streaming services such as Forks over Knives, What the Health and Cowspiracy, veganism is presented as the ultimate moral and healthy choice. As a vegan, I know this lifestyle can be powerful and transformative in terms of health and in relationships with fellow humans, animals, and the planet. However, there are myths around veganism that sabotage this awesome lifestyle's sustainability.
Veganism is a New Fad
On a superficial level, veganism is often presented as a new-age, hippie-dippy, fad that requires plenty of privilege and wealth. While I recognize that there is a privilege in making ethical choices in terms of diet (and lifestyle in general), I want to emphasize that vegetarianism and, by extension, veganism, is not a new movement. Claire Suddath traces the history of vegetarianism in her Times article aptly titled, “A Brief History of Veganism.” She credits ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies as the first communities to pass up eating animal flesh. In Greek philosophy, vegetarianism became a topic of discussion around 500 BC by Pythagoras.
Veganism through the Ages
In fact, various faiths promoted vegetarianism along with abstaining from harming animals, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Funnily enough, vegetarianism did not thrive until 1847 in England. As for America, it happened three years later, when the inventor the Graham crackers, a reverend by the name of Sylvester Graham, founded the first official American vegetarian society.
The term “vegan,” though, did not come into existence until 1944, when a woodworker called Donald Watson claimed that not consuming dairy and eggs would eliminate contaminated foods. His idea stemmed from the outbreak of tuberculosis at the time and its connection to cows’ milk.
Veganism Can Be Done One Way Only
Veganism has taken on various forms throughout time. The worst aspect of the media’s coverage of veganism is that it focuses mostly on celebrities and people living on islands. Somehow their homes have readily-available fresh fruit in what may seem like infinite supplies. Because of this, I know from experience that a lot of people may present veganism as a monolithic system but I invite you to see all the options available to you.
Find Your People...Or Branch Out
The nice thing is that there is the internet and you can now explore all the different ways of being vegan or plant-based. Some vegans use this lifestyle as a way of losing weight or maintaining their body weight. Some vegans are strictly against using oil, some avoid salt, and there are all kinds of ways to tailor this lifestyle to suit your needs and your resources.
My favorite discoveries have been those of underrepresented vegans, like ex-ranchers who turn their farms into animal sanctuaries or heavily tattooed alternative vegan families, people who are trying to merge their cultural heritage and dishes with veganism or people from non-western countries who are among the forerunners of veganism in their countries.
Some of my favorite vegan content creators are below.
Walk the Walk
Rowdy Girl Sanctuary
An ex-rancher couple, now vegan, and on a mission to introduce other options for farm animals.
This woman is a treasure. Her Instagram stories and Facebook videos will bring you joy. Bringing in veganism and a healthy dose of spiritual awareness, be prepared to feel some serious loving when watching her videos.
The Raw Boy
Ernesto frequently demonstrates how to be creative with his vegan diet. Once exclusively raw, now this content creator incorporates cooked foods in his videos.
BOSH TV and the Happy Pear
Bringing in two channels that focus entirely on recipes to round out this list.
Veganism is Automatically Healthy
Just like omnivores are not automatically healthy, the same goes for vegans. There are vegans who have disordered eating habits or full-blown eating disorders. That’s a possibility no matter the diets involved. Restrictions can exist regardless of diets. You may have an eating disorder prior to being vegan and, no matter what other vegans may tell you, trying veganism does not “cure” you of these illnesses. Like every illness, you need medical help and support first and foremost.
Get a Clearer Picture of Your Food Intake's Nutrition
If you want to see how you’re doing and how you can improve, you can use a website or an application that breaks down your food intake and analyzes the nutrients missing from your diet. My go-to has been My Fitness Pal, but I do know that it can sometimes be triggering for those who are sensitive to calorie-counting. Commonly within the vegan community, the other most-suggested website is called Cronometer. Having tried both of them, I do prefer My Fitness Pal because the app for my iPod is free. I don’t really like needing to log on my computer just to enter my food diary.
Vegan cookbooks can create fun cooking challenges but, as someone who is not skilled at cooking much, I also revel in the simple dishes. For me, Pinterest is excellent to have easier recipes that are quick. A nice sandwich with side salad easily makes me feel energetic. I am all for one-pot dishes and nourishing salads. Again, it’s about you recognizing your abilities, schedule, and the resources available to you.
Finally: remember to get your bloodwork done and get a check-up once a year. Work closely with your doctor to find what suits your body’s needs and match it to the resources available to you.
Listen to a Vegan Get Real about Protein
Veganism is about the Animals Only
This is a big one because vegans are often painted as these intense animal-lovers, which may be true to some vegans. I found that many vegans carry this lifestyle beyond their diets. I like to think of veganism as a movement for compassionate consumption of food as well as reducing cruelty. It extends beyond just animals. Humans are just as worthy of our compassion. The meat and dairy industries are not too kind to their workers. Dakota Gale’s 2019 essay on factory farming highlights some of the harsh realities of what workers experience on the job.
They work in conditions where inhaling noxious gases is part of the daily routine. Many suffer from bronchitis due to the fumes, dust, and other lung irritants. Of the 700,000 people working in factory farms, 50 percent of them require treatment for serious injury over five years.—(Dakota Gale).
Veganism is just about people who work on factory farms. It about other people on this planet, too. Red meat requires at least 11 times more water than chicken or pork and it causes five times more emissions that cause climate warming (Arsenault). This lifestyle does not automatically solve everything as a diet, and we need to confront this urge to force it as the end-all-be-all to all our problems as humans. Rachel Nuwer points out that vegetarianism if followed immediately, would put a lot of people out of jobs. As a lifestyle centered on compassion and reducing suffering, I firmly believe that it’s just as vegan of us to care about those who have no access to food among other basic needs and rights.
Arsenault, Chris. “Cutting Back On Meat Consumption Could Help End Hunger by 2030.” Huffington Post. 11 Sept. 2015. Accessed 4 Feb. 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cutting-back-on-meat-consumption-could-help-end-hunger-by-2030-experts_us_55f3424ee4b077ca094f27a5
Gale, Dakota. “What I Wish Everyone Knew About Factory Farming.” Mind Body Green. 9 Feb. 2019. Accessed 10 Feb. 2019. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-23866/what-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-factory-farming.html
Nuwer, Rachel. “What Would Happen if the World Suddenly Went Vegetarian?” BBC. 27 Sept. 2016. Accessed 4 Feb. 2019. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160926-what-would-happen-if-the-world-suddenly-went-vegetarian
Suddath, Claire. “A Brief History of Veganism.” Time. 30 Oct. 2008. Accessed 2 Feb. 2019. http://time.com/3958070/history-of-veganism/
“Vegan Food Pyramid for Health, Wellness, & Optimal Nutrition.” 15 April 2014. Accessed 10 Feb. 2019. https://ordinaryvegan.net/veganfoodpyramid/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.