“Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up.”
This post has been building up for a while. I’ve had many discussions lately with people and read online commentary of people being judgmental, self-righteous, and downright hateful to others in relation to diet and lifestyle. This isn’t a new topic of discussion but is something more and more people are speaking out against. JL wrote a post that really hit me hard after Vida Vegan Con (because I’m one of those healthy people, but I also know how to enjoy a damn cupcake). Dreena wrote a post later down the line about not feeling “healthy enough” or “vegan enough” (which even I feel sometimes). My friend Allyson Kramer has talked about getting hate emails from people who deem her recipes unhealthy (though she has never once made a claim that they are going to meet everyone’s dietary restrictions). Chocolate Covered Katie has one of the most beautiful, delicious dessert blogs and is probably one of the nicest people I know and she still gets hateful comments (even though it’s a DESSERT blog that shows people how to make them healthier and clearly states that treats are an occasionally thing). I watch some of the most respected vegan authors and bloggers get beat down because of their dietary choices. And it is time for it to stop.
There are a number of points I want to touch upon in this post and I hope I can make my thoughts clear and orderly. You may not agree with what I have to say and that is totally cool! But we are here to have a conversation, a healthy discussion if you will. Comments will be moderated, but I would love more than anything to know how you feel about the topics discussed. This post is in the context of the plant-based/vegan world, not necessarily comments between meat-eaters and plant-eaters. Sorry for the lengthy rant.
My first thought is the fascination of reaching “purity” or perfection with one’s diet. I strive everyday to be the healthiest, most radiant self I can be but am I perfect? Not even close. Am I ok with this? Hell yes. I follow an 80/20 Rule (more 90/10 lately) that has served me well for the almost 11 years I’ve been vegan. It allows me to keep a balanced perspective, enjoy events and time with friends, not feel guilty for having a treat, and eat in a way that not only nourishes my body but allows my mind to be at peace. I am super healthy, strong, rarely get sick, have stopped aging, have abundant energy and don’t feel like I need to be any more strict with my diet. I know that being vegan is enough because everything I do is helping the animals, the planet, and my health as a side bonus.
This idea that we can reach perfection is something I see mainly in the raw food movement and the “plant-based” community. Most of these people are trying to be the healthiest they can be (or they have a serious health condition they are trying to fix) and there is nothing wrong with that. But the standards unto you hold yourself are not meant to be placed upon others. Purity activism in general leads others to feel like they aren’t good enough. I often see people type “well I’m not 100% raw yet” and I see their face go into a sad pout and they spin into a shameful downward spiral. It’s OK you aren’t 100% something! A healthy diet does not have to be about achieving 100% of anything (except in rare cases of serious illness)! And that frankly is proven with science and studies no matter how people want to twist the studies to fit their own agenda (check out the book The Blue Zones and look at how centenarians eat).
Another thing I’ve noticed is when striving for perfection you become so completely self-absorbed and start to think your way is the way. This is not surprising when your diet is all about you rather than for something higher than yourself like veganism. I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to be your best. It’s everyone’s personal responsibility not to let the actions or words of others bring you down, but for those people in the limelight (anyone out their spreading a message) it’s OUR responsibility to choose our words carefully and send a message that is inclusive. I get this vibe from many people in my field that what they do is what everyone else should be doing. If you have these thoughts you are setting up your fans and readers for failure before they even get started. I talk more about this in the video below.
One woman in a vegan fitness forum on Facebook constantly posts about her raw diet and says things like if you aren’t eating her way you aren’t healthy. First of all that is very insulting to imply that what I’m doing isn’t healthy. I know for a fact I am healthy. My bloodwork is amazing, I can run circles around people at the gym, I wake up everyday with the sun, and many other things that are an indication of health. No one appreciates those kinds of comments, so like momma always said, if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all.
And if you are trying to reach a level of perfection in your diet go for it! I’m all for whatever you want to do with your life. Just don’t try to tell me what to do or “should” on me. I see people hate on “health vegans” and that’s not cool either. I’ve witnessed a great deal of these people educate themselves on the ethics and find compassion in themselves they didn’t know existed. Wouldn’t you rather have someone go vegan for health than have one less person eating a vegan diet? Let’s be real. For instance, the people of Marshall Texas, a very white, Christian, Republican, conservative town, would not go vegan or plant-based if you had talked to them about animal cruelty. My friends Ed and Mandy transformed their small town, having vegan potlucks and outreach programs, even got four very popular restaurants in town to offer vegan items. That is an amazing feat and deserves to be commended. We are all spokes on a wheel and have valuable stories to share that can inspire others. Let’s just leave the judgement and ego out of it ok?
We can all live harmoniously with a little more compassion and respect toward each other.
Now let’s talk about bullying on the internet. If someone is sharing their experience of a meal or a recipe they enjoy and it doesn’t meet your dietary restrictions why do people think it’s ok to make a negative comment? Also, I’m not a fan of when someone posts a photo related to their body image or weight-loss progress and people post negative comments. If you don’t prefer the way someone looks then keep your mouth shut! It’s ok to have certain preferences when it comes to beauty, looks, personality, and body shape. But it’s not ok to make people feel bad for the way they look!
Currently I’m on the most restricted diet I’ve ever eaten and I’ve spent the last 9 weeks trying to perfect my body for a bikini competition. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done. My reasons for doing it are varied. I find it interesting that I’ve become MORE sensitive to peoples’ actions and words. That I feel even stronger than ever to stand up for the injustices of others even though I have become the antithesis of perfecting ones self. But the urge to go out and convert everyone to what I am doing has never been a goal! I am happy to share and inspire others through my journey, but I have never once told you that you should do what I’m doing or you are lazy and pathetic. The thought has never crossed my mind and it’s not appropriate!
The video below sums up how I feel about the exchanges I see on the internet. It seems that since we are sitting behind a computer and aren’t face to face with someone that it’s ok to type rude things. Think before you type!
(Please click through to the post if viewing this on email to see the video!)
Now I wouldn’t want to leave out fanatical vegans from this post now would I?! They can be a judgmental bunch and I can say this because I was once one too. Veganism for me is not completely black and white. We can only do the best we can do. We live in an imperfect unvegan society. And some people don’t want to go all the way. They want to do Meatless Mondays, or vegan before six, or vegan at home but not when they are out with family. Whatever the case may be, I’m happy that people take any steps toward eating less animals. It’s good for everyone. So it bothers me when vegans get bent out of shape when someone doesn’t make the full commitment. Let’s show them some positive vibes and encouragement! You never know if one day they will make it a tried and true commitment.
This attitude towards others is counter productive to our cause as animal advocates. No one likes to be micromanaged. And don’t you think we could be using that time and head space being all judgmental for more important things. Like helping those who are not even close to being vegan jump on board. I don’t see why so many people waste their time writing posts, comments, tweets, whatever discussing small instances of not being vegan enough which may make up 1% of their life. We practically have those people in the bag! Let’s get moving on the other 98% of people who aren’t vegan//part-time vegan/vegetarian/omnivore.
Having true compassion is not judging others, meeting them where they are, and helping them along their way. My whole life personally and professional is dedicated to spreading veganism, helping others be more vegan, and showing others that vegan food is totally awesome. I try to live my life according to my values, the best that I possibly can. I’m I perfect? Nope, but I try my hardest because as someone once said to me most of us are SO privileged that if we don’t try our best we are assholes. It’s just not possible to live and breath in this world and be perfect though. Let’s all just take a breathe.
I’m almost positive that Donald Watson did not have all these stipulations when defining veganism. I see comments all the time, well vegan means this and that and that person was never really vegan and you can’t do that and be vegan. Sometimes I just want to say well who made you the all knowing one? People are so egotistical about their veganism. We are making so much headway with bringing veganism more mainstream. That is what we need to do if we are going to stop factory farming and save this planet. Those of you that are out there making a difference, making waves, influencing others, being advocates for the animals, please stop and think about your thoughts, your actions, your voice, and your tactics. And go out there and be awesome!
I love you all.