Inspired by a few things I’ve spotted online recently, I wanted to take this opportunity to tackle some common misconceptions of veganism, from the pseudo-science to the world of social media, veganism has its fair share of (for want of a better word) bullshit. So, let’s delve a little deeper in the world of veganism, from spotting the cons to learning accept your own flaws. It’s all part of the journey.
I’d like to start this off by saying I am not an expert in any of this, all of the following is purely my opinion based on my own exposure to the world of veganism since transitioning in March of this year. For me, it’s incredibly important, especially for new vegans, to learn that veganism isn’t a cure all – it’s not a magic pill, at the end of the day, we go vegan for the animals, first and foremost, and after that anything else is a bonus.
As with my previous long reads, this was inspired by my own experiences, particularly online in the vegan community. I am an avid watcher of YouTube, I love Instagram and I am reasonably active on Twitter – one thing I have noticed is rife in the vegan community is the idea that veganism can cure EVERYTHING. From serious illnesses like cancer and diabetes, to chronic illness and even more inconvenient ailments like acne and IBS, going vegan will cure it all! Or will it? Of course, there is considerable research to show that a whole food plant-based lifestyle can help reverse Type 2 Diabetes (see Forks Over Knives), and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli can stop certain cancers in their tracks (see How Not To Die), however not all vegans eat this diet and therefore I don’t consider the two to be mututally inclusive.
Anyway, the point of this post isn’t about serious or chronic illness, I wanted to focus more on every day ailments and mental health worries, as this is where my own personal experiences lie. If you’re entering a lifestyle like veganism with the purpose of curing your acne or losing weight, then it makes it ten-times harder to stick to your convictions, especially when they don’t always transpire the way you want. Plenty people struggle to lose weight on a vegan diet, many people suffer with migraines, aches and pains and low immune system. Don’t get me wrong, a healthy diet plays a huge part in battling these things, but I’m not talking about healthy diets in particular, just the idea that going vegan will cure everything.
My Own Experiences
From my own personal experiences, I have seen some amazing changes to my health since going vegan, but I have also found other issues of mine have remained or even worsened due to other external factors not relating to diet. I have suffered with IBS for around eight years, brought on by stressful events in my lates teens, this issue has plagued me for the best years of my life. However, since adapting to a 70% whole food, always plant-based diet, I have seen significant improvement in my symptoms, to the point where I sometimes don’t think about it for days – which is remarkable for me, given the restrictions it previously places on my life.
Spots, Spots and More Spots
Another smaller but no-less frustrating issue I suffer with is oily and acne-prone skin… go vegan, they said, your skin will glow, they said. Guess what? That’s not necessarily true. I know plenty people with beautiful skin who eat and drink crap all day long, and I know just as many people with healthy diets like my own who suffer the same or worse skin complaints as my own. This one that drives me absolutely crazy as IBS and mealth health worries can be hidden, but acne cannot (or not particularly well anyway!). My point is that being vegan might not make your skin glow, but that’s OK because what you’re doing the right thing for the animals, the planet and yourself.
Another condition I often see veganism ‘cure’ is that of mental health issues. I am a member of a couple of vegan groups on Facebook and every so often someone will post asking if they should accept anti-depressant medication for depression/anxiety from their doctor as all medication is tested on animals. A side note – the vegan society does not recommend avoiding medication, as veganism is supposed to be practised “as far as practicable and possible”.
Medication and Veganism
Anyway – there is always a mix of opinions here, some say medication is fine and take what you need, and others say that we shouldn’t need this type of medication if we are eating the right thing (i.e. whole food plant-based diet). This is where I disgree – in my opinion, it is seriously unfair to claim that mental health conditions can be eased, or even cured by implementing a certain diet. Of course, again, a whole food plant-based diet will help support positive brain functioning and certain foods, particularly the likes of hormone-filled dairy products, will have significant impact on mood. But that’s not to say that medication isn’t important, in fact, for many people, it’s necessary to get them out of bed (I know it is for me on some days!).
Veganism Isn’t Enlightenment
As vegans, we should aim to make the vegan lifestyle attainable – it shouldn’t be seen as nearly impossible to go vegan. Veganism isn’t enlightenment, it’s a means to an end. Social media is incredibly important to a lot of vegans, particularly new ones, as it offers a sense of community as well as a place to find people to ‘idolise’ and follow. I am certainly guilty of this, but I always aim to remind myself that when I’m watching a YouTuber with a seemingly perfect vegan family life (and flawless skin!) that not everything is always at it seems, and we must stop comparing ourselves to these standards as they are not realistic.
If you are a new vegan, or are thinking about going vegan, remember this – we’re vegan because we no longer want to support the violence and abuse of the animal agriculture industry. As long as we are healthy and able to promote the vegan message in a compassionate and comprehensible manner, then we’re winning – anything else is a bonus!