The last month has brought a slew of ‘famous’ vegans renouncing their veganism. What can we learn from this?
YouTube is a haven for the white, middle class, Uber healthy vegans to share their success of a holistic approach to eating. Raw Alignment, Rawvana and Bonny Rebecca were women who epitomised the earthy, fashionable, healthy lifestyle that is sought after by so many. Their place was atop a pedestal of ‘#goals’ for vegans. With their video views totalling in the millions they had a lot of influence.
Many of them had their beginnings through dieting, favouring a plant based diet as a means to heal skin issues, excess weight or self confidence. And this is why I believe we have seen their platforms changing very abruptly.
The problem comes when we deny there is a difference between veganism and a plant-based diet. When we allow ‘influencers’ to be the guiding light of veganism.
What many of these YouTube influencers were doing was essentially living a plant based lifestyle and calling it vegan, maybe as a trend, maybe out of ignorance. But regardless of their motives, we in the vegan community must remember we are vegan for the animals first. Going back to eating fish and eggs (which seems to be the preference for the majority of ex-vegans, for whatever reason) isn’t so bad when you were just ‘on a diet’ but when you are aware of the suffering of these animals you would never consider going back to eating them.
Another unfortunate coincidence is that all of these ex-vegans claim that they were really sick on a vegan diet and that is why they abandoned it. I understand that people’s health is a serious topic and as I am not a medical professional I will not claim to know the ins and outs of their condition. But what many of us do know is that there is nothing you cannot get on a vegan diet. There are people who have been vegan their whole lives, or at least the majority of it, who are healthy. And the one thing they have that is opposite to the YouTubers is; balance.
Raw diets, water fasts, fruitarian diets, these are fads. They can be dangerous and they are not eating habits to base your life on.
I love raw food and I understand the benefits of keeping certain vegetables raw in order to get the best nutrients from it. But it isn’t something you should obsess over to the point where it makes you ill. You need a varied and balanced diet to not only keep you healthy but also happy. Restricting in any form is harmful and must be considered so.
Any extreme diet will make you ill if you follow it for long enough, and it is no surprise that people are discovering that. You should not take your health advice from people without qualifications on the internet and you should not stop eating whole food groups in order to ‘level up your veganism’. Instead of putting our focus on the latest food trends we should be focusing on how to help animals, which is what veganism is all about.
The frustration these ex-vegans bring to the vegan community is understandable, they lower the credibility of a vegan diet and stop people who are considering it from taking the plunge. They bring critiques from those who believe meat is a healing food and upset many people who are fighting for the animals.
We should not look to monetised videos to show us how to look better and eat smoothie bowls while looking cute. We should look to activists and normal, everyday vegans to bring us motivation.
My hope is that we will see an increase in the presence of the ordinary vegan. Those of us who eat a balanced and healthy lifestyle that includes all sorts of food, including beige and greasy food. Including late night snacks and chocolate. But also superfood smoothies and green juices.
Because vegan life is not restrictive. It’s expansive. That’s what we should learn.