Vegan Diets and Orthorexia: How Should Activists Respond?

Vegan Diets and Orthorexia: How Should Activists Respond?

orthorexia

I’ve been pretty much MIA from this blog and most of the internet over the past few months. My husband and I packed up our home, offices, and cats and moved 3000 miles from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula to the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts in early November. Driving across the country with 5 cats caused me more than a little bit of angst, and a lot of other things fell by the wayside this fall.

I’m only now catching up on vegan news. One story that has been on my mind over the past couple of months is the release of the book Breaking Vegan by Jordan Younger, formerly The Blonde Vegan and now The Balanced Blonde.

I don’t know what The ... Read More >

Preventing Ex-Vegans: Why Nutrition and Nutritionism Matter

Preventing Ex-Vegans: Why Nutrition and Nutritionism Matter

Natural vitamins in fruitEating healthy whole foods is important—and so is paying attention to individual nutrients. Lately, though, that’s become an unpopular thing to say. It’s what food activists like Michael Pollan refer to as “nutritionism.” That is, he and others say we should stop worrying so much about nutrients and just eat food (or “real” food as they refer to it). As physician David Katz says “If you eat whole foods, the nutrients sort themselves out.”

But this is not exactly a science-based observation; it’s an opinion or at best a hunch or casual observation of the world. Pithy observations like this make for engaging writing and perky sound bites, but not always great advice.

To be fair, though, unlike Pollan whose understanding of nutrition is practically ... Read More >

Pinto Beans or Tofurky? How Food Choices and Motivations Affect Vegan Health

Pinto Beans or Tofurky? How Food Choices and Motivations Affect Vegan Health

Vegan BurgerWhen it comes to vegan diets and health, a couple of misconceptions often pop up on blogs and in social media. One is that whole-food plant-based people are healthier than plain old vegans. Related to that is the belief that vegans motivated by ethics choose less healthy diets than those motivated by health.

Is it true? Do ethical vegans care more about animals than their own health? Research—or in some cases, the lack of research—casts some doubt on this.

Obviously, you can be vegan and still eat a pretty junky diet. There is the accidently vegan food as well as junk food developed just for vegans who like a treat. It’s not all that hard to eat a compassionate diet that is hyper-palatable, fun, and ... Read More >

Why Do Some People Fail at Being Vegan?

Why Do Some People Fail at Being Vegan?
Photo courtesy of Humane Research Council

Photo courtesy of Humane Research Council

It’s no secret that many people give veganism a try only to quickly abandon it. But the findings from last month’s Humane Research Council survey were especially sobering.

According to their study, a cross-sectional survey of 11,400 U.S. adults, nearly three-quarters—70% to be exact—of those who have tried a vegan diet end up abandoning it. The numbers are even higher for vegetarians. Alarmingly, the survey found that there were five times more ex-vegetarians/vegans than current vegetarians/vegans.

Now this is a single study that has not yet been peer-reviewed. As such, it’s not the final word on ex-vegetarianism. Also–and I think this is important–the survey did not ask people if they had gone vegan or vegetarian for weight control ... Read More >

Do Some People Need to Eat Meat?

It’s one of the most frequent questions I get from blog readers: How do we respond to people who insist that they require meat in their diets?

I know very well that some vegans struggle with their health, because I hear frequently from those who are looking for help. Most who contact me are animal advocates who are experiencing nutrient deficiencies (diagnosed through blood work) or they simply don’t feel well.

These are not people who are eating junk-food vegan diets. Anyone who gets sick from eating a diet based on potato chips and cookies will usually have a fairly good idea of why they got sick, and they also know how to take some steps to fix that. Instead, those who write to me ... Read More >

Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

There is a long list of reasons why people fail on a vegan diet and return to the world of cheese sandwiches and fish fillets. They might have developed overt deficiencies or vague symptoms of poor health. Some ex-vegans say that they experienced depression or foggy thinking or fatigue without animal foods. Others struggled with challenging social situations or with cravings for animal foods.

The following ideas for staying happy and healthy on a vegan diet are all things I’ve written about before, but I wanted to condense them into a sort of checklist for those who are struggling to stay vegan. It may not cover everything (let me know if there are things you think I should add) but I think it addresses the ... Read More >

Countering Claims Against Vegan Diets

Several months ago, I was asked to respond to an article about the “dangers” of vegan diets that had been published in At the Wedge, the newsletter of the Wedge Community Co-op in Minneapolis. It was written by a holistic nutritionist who, among other things, counsels “recovering vegans.”

People abandon vegan diets for all kinds of reasons, but those who are “recovering” from this way of eating obviously believe that being vegan damaged their health and that it may very well damage yours, too.

This isn’t a term that crops up in mainstream nutrition circles. I’ve never heard it from any of my dietitian colleagues.  In fact, while most RDs may not endorse vegan diets with wild enthusiasm, they don’t appear to have anything in ... Read More >

Being Picky About Vegan Nutrition

Psychology Today recently published the results of a web-based survey on why vegetarians return to meat-eating. The number one reason given was failed health, and this was followed by the “hassle and stigma” of being vegetarian.

Their study had just 77 participants (I don’t know how many were vegan) and, to my knowledge, hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so it’s not much more than food for thought. What impressed me the most about the article was the author’s reference to a 2005 CBS News survey which found that there are three times as many “ex-vegetarians” as there are vegetarians.

Whether or not the numbers are quite that dramatic, it’s fair to say that a lot of people fail to stick with vegetarianism for ... Read More >

Do Ex-Vegans’ Stories Make the Case Against Vegan Diets?

When I read the recent blog post by Tasha, who used to be The Voracious Vegan, it felt like déjà vu all over again. Just a couple of months ago I was blogging about another woman—Lierre Keith—whose vegan diet made her so sick that she had to go back to eating meat and, in the process, she learned about how “nutritious” cholesterol is, became an advocate for a type of sustainability that depends upon animal foods (ie, learned that it’s more ethical to eat animals than to be vegan), and realized that in the final analysis, “life requires death.”
There is so much that is eerily parallel in these stories—not just the vague descriptions of the health-related experiences but also the evolving philosophy regarding ... Read More >

Review of “The Vegetarian Myth”

Lierre Keith suffers from numerous chronic health problems. Unable to secure a diagnosis for most of them, she decided that the vegan diet she had followed for twenty years was to blame. But she wasn’t content to add a few animal products back to her diet. Instead, she set out to prove that healthy diets require copious amounts of animal foods and that small-scale animal farming is the answer to sustainability. To prove it, she has cobbled together information from websites (yes, she actually cites Wikipedia!) and a few popular pseudoscientific books.

It’s next to impossible to review this book; it is so packed with misinformation and confusion that refuting the claims could be another book itself. This is a long post, and it doesn’t ... Read More >

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