Embracing the “V” Word

Make your own at Keep Calm-o-matic

Make your own at Keep Calm-o-matic

I started my whole food, plant-based way of eating after watching the movie Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Esselstyn‘s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. A few months later we went to a seminar where Dr. Esselstyn presented and he made the point – as do others like Drs John McDougall and T. Colin Campbell – that they don’t like to refer to their way of eating as vegan. They point out that there are many vegans who are not healthy because they eat too much oil, or nuts, or processed vegan foods. Also, the word vegan is too loaded, they say, and is a turn off to some people.

I went along, telling people I had adopted a whole food, plant-based diet. When pressed, I would say that it was essentially a vegan diet.

But, like Somer McCowan at Vedgedout.com, I’m ready to embrace veganism.

In her post Under the Banner of Veganism. Deprivation Diets, Eating Disorders and Orthorexia she talks about some of the issues related to veganism. She is very passionate about being vegan and makes some good points, but I don’t agree with all of it.

(BTW – for those, like me, who haven’t heard of Orthorexia nervosa, it is an “eating disorder” or “mental disorder” that some doctors and therapists define as characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. It is not an officially recognized eating disorder.)

Somer has a wonderful story – how changing her diet cured her Colitis and helped her lose weight and feel great again.

In my diet transition, I originally went plant-based for health reasons. It wasn’t until about 6 months into my journey that I really made the connection that the decision to stop eating animals and their secretions wasn’t only better for my health, but also that I didn’t want to eat them anymore because I love all creatures and I don’t want to contribute to their suffering when I can live a healthy and strong diet by consuming plants.

Her post is:

  • Part rant – how celebs are jumping on the vegan bandwagon, but then quickly jumping off
  • Part scold – why are we vegans dividing ourselves into all these sub-groups? Oil-free, gluten-free, raw, etc. Many times these additional restrictions cause people to give up on being vegan
  • A reminder – veganism is more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

Veganism isn’t just some restrictive fad diet. It’s a lifestyle and a belief system. So, if you’re a vegan, I’m asking you to evaluate that belief system and be honest with yourself about your motivations and your goals. Are you in it for the animals or are you in it because you have self-destructive tendencies? …

Being a vegan makes me feel a lot of joy! I love my diet. I eat a more varied, colorful and beautiful diet than I ever did before eschewing animal foods.

I realized that eating a vegan diet has a profound environmental impact for good. It teaches my children compassion and love. Something hopefully that they’ll carry on and teach their children.

All that being said, my vegan diet is mostly oil-, nut- and GMO-free. If that makes me someone with a “restrictive and obsessive dietary lifestyle,” I’m OK with that. I cook and eat for health and my vegan diet works for me and my family.

I don’t see being vegan as a choice between healthy eating and helping animals. I don’t see the vegans I know having self-destructive tendencies. I was bothered by her either or argument.

If you are not vegan or not eating a whole food, plant-based diet right now, maybe the time is right to make the change. If you are eating vegan, but struggling, do what you need to find the right vegan diet for you. Find a meetup or other groups that can support you, find a vegan friendly doctor, and know that you are doing the right thing for your health, the health of the animals, and the health of the planet.

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