The most disheartening thing about the more public breakups with veganism is not just that they are public. I can understand that a popular blogger will want to tell her followers that she is no longer eating a vegan diet. I can see the value of telling your readers that you are dealing with health issues and are struggling with staying vegan. That you need to take some time to sort it all out. And that because of that, you’re going to stop blogging for a while.
But some ex-vegans are so determined to share their new meat-eating lifestyle. And to garner praise for their decision. The disclosure that they are now eating animal foods is usually followed by posts all built around the same themes: listening to your body and having respect for other people’s choices as well as the need for “balance.” And because so many people want to believe that we need animal foods in order to survive, or want validation for their belief that veganism is just another dietary choice (rather than a moral imperative) those posts resonate with scores of readers. They regard the ex-vegan as “brave,” and “inspiring.”
And so seeds of doubt about the safety of a vegan diet are planted. And ex-veganism actually becomes something to admire in the minds of many of these followers. The ex-vegan isn’t just abandoning veganism but actually advocating against it with a revamped blog complete with recipes and photos that feature animal foods. Including foods like chicken meat that represent some of the worst cruelty in the world.
Are there healthy people who truly can’t survive and thrive on a vegan diet? I’ve noted before that we just don’t know the answer to this. There is no way to prove that every person can thrive on a vegan diet. What I do know is that I’ve not yet heard a convincing story from an ex-vegan—one that has persuaded me that the person needed animal foods in their diet. The stories are always either packed with nutrition nonsense, or they are too vague to be persuasive.
And too often, there are recurring themes among those who go public with their stories: unresolved disordered eating and/or a very restrictive approach to vegan food choices.
Some ex-vegans are clearly obsessed with “clean eating” (an unfortunate term that has orthorexia written all over it). Or with cleanses and detoxes. Or they are devotees of a health guru who tells people EXACTLY which foods they should and shouldn’t eat in order to experience optimal health. And when someone believes that there are foods that are so “toxic” that they should never EVER be consumed, it’s not surprising that they might be open to all kinds of unfounded ideas about diet. Nor is it surprising that some ex-vegans gravitate toward a Paleo-type diet which has its own set of rules and restrictions.
So, while I’m certainly sympathetic to anyone who is struggling to regain their health, I’m still skeptical about whether this ever translates to a need for animal foods. There are always too many other things going on with the ex-vegan stories.