The Dangers of Veganism: Enemy On Your Plate
So, did the title grab your attention. Good. Many of you clicked the link, ready to pounce with a slew of soundbites. It is not what you think, but the day of the “unhealthy vegan” needs to end. Polls are showing the many are making the transition to this healthy and wonderful lifestyle. Many do it for more selfish reasons (personal health), but some will make transition into the compassionate side of the diet (care for animals). WE then become the example to those around us for what it is like to be vegan, and for how to best connect to not only the world around us, but to ourselves in a more compassionate way. Working at PETA I got to see first hand the dangers of what the vegan lifestyle could create. Being aware of these pitfalls helps us to eliminate them. In turn making us more effective in being the example of compassion vs the “unhealthy vegan stereotype”. The biggest enemy to those moving towards a compassionate lifestyle are sometimes the food choices that are presented to them as “vegan”, the second is the stress some of us internalize due to feeling we are not doing enough. Some love using the “we must have all billion tasty options to help those make the transition” excuse. Well, once you are there it does not mean that your diet should only consist of french fries, Oreos, and fritos. I agree that it is important to support vegan options at restaurants, but your diet should not be Taco Bell for breakfast/lunch/and dinner. We have to not only be conscious of making “vegan” choices, we must also be conscious of making “healthy vegan choices”.
Enemy number 1: Sugar/cupcakes/cookies/and all things unholy from the vegan bakery case
While these delicious vegan doppelgänger to hostess cakes might be more compassionate for our animal friends, they are not forgiving on our waistlines and our health. Now, I am in full support of the “everything in moderation” mantra, but many of us have very loose boundaries when it comes to moderation, and even less connection to what an actual portion size looks like. When was the last time you actually saw a calorie sticker on that delicious vegan pastry you were chomping down? How much fat, sugar, carbohydrates, ect are you putting in your body? Are the ingredients natural or are there chemical substitutions to the typical non-vegan ingredients? I am also not saying that you have to stress over every single bite, but we do need to take responsibility for what we are putting into our bodies.
Enemy number 2: Assuming something is “healthier” just because it is vegan
While I would love to thing that Oreos and Pepsi were healthier to a Twinkie and milkshake, this is alas not true. We are at times hypnotized by the illusion of what certain words create in our minds. We hear the word “vegan”, “vegetarian” or even see the word “healthier” written on shiny packages and naturally assume that this is a better choice. If you took a moment to look at the label, you would see the amount of chemicals that you are putting into your body are just as damaging as their animal hating counterparts. We need to not only be conscious of what we put into our bodies. We have a responsibility not only to the animals but to ourselves to be healthy and informed.
Enemy number 3: Not reading labels— on vegan products
While some of us take an hour to look for the smallest non-vegan ingredient in a loaf of bread, we will quickly whip a box of Boca burgers into our shopping carts without question. Take a moment and read the labels on the vegan products you are consuming as well. It takes a lot of chemical process to take a soy bean and make it look just like a “hamburger”. Many vegan foods are also loaded with sodium. Too much sodium can add to elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Be mindful of everything you purchase. Do not just assume that the word vegan eliminates all damage.
Enemy number 4: Compassion
Now, you are probably wondering why our compassion can also be our biggest enemy. Stress, is one of the biggest causes of overeating. Many who chose a compassionate life do so because of the horror that many animals face on a daily basis. We do the best we can. Live through an action of making sound choices, treat yourself with just as much kindness as you would extend to those suffering daily on factory farms, circuses, and countless other horrible situations. Do something daily to help alleviate stress. Workout, do yoga, meditate. When we internalize our stress it becomes a mountain and it damages us on much more than just the physical, it hurts our spirit. Take your anger and turn it into something productive for your body. Be proud of who you are and for what you do to extend compassion into the world. We might not save them all by ourselves, but if we die because of our stress we can no longer be their voice.
Ahimsa is a word that is invoked a lot when it comes to veganism it simply means: non-harming. We extend this to those that suffer at the hands of an uncontrolled and unregulated food production industry. Most forget however, that we must also extend this sense of non-harming to ourselves. We must be kind to our bodies, make compassionate choices, and then be a living example of better health.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
I just dumped a lot on you, good. Ponder some of these points, and these are just a few. In the next few posts I am going to discuss some specifics of stress reduction, intention setting, and eating structure.
Think, grow, connect and love yourself fiercely!
Mahayogi Das CFT CSN MAT PAT