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The unhealthy vegan: When your values let you down

Food <- -> Values

Recently some things I've read and written have prompted me to ponder (yet again) the values behind how we live, including how we nourish ourselves. I suspect most people don't think about that very much, but if you've had a health problem you've wanted to fix (whether it's obesity or illness) or an ethical aversion to eating the animals you love, then you're likely making a value-based choice about what you eat. I'd even argue that the people who eat "badly" are doing so as well, and it may be that the value they're knowingly or subconsciously honoring is that they don't matter enough not to, or eating better won't make a difference, or they're not strong enough to do that very hard thing.

The other day my friend posted this quote on Facebook from Veganism Is The Future with the comment "I'm not there yet, but getting closer". Danger, Will Robinson, danger! I quickly leaped onto my soapbox (box jump!) to say that while I sincerely admire the values behind the ethical decision to become vegan, the reality is that is it not the healthiest choice for our body. That's a simple fact, and it doesn't in any way negate my belief that there are plenty of laudable reasons to choose a plant-based diet. But understand you may pay for your values with your health, and that if health is your driving reason to choose to become vegan you are terribly mistaken.

My first and best advice to everyone who wants to become healthier, regardless of whether or not they eat animals, fish, eggs, or dairy is: For the love of god do not eat processed foods! Start there. What about the type 2 diabetics who were cured of their disease by eating raw vegan? If they'd simply swapped their processed foods for real, fresh ingredients, I contend they'd have gotten there no matter what their diet. That said, a diet which includes animal protein will keep the vast majority of us healthier in the long run and that's a hard fact of life backed by science and our growing knowledge about human evolution.

So it was kind of odd, almost fortuitous, that just moments after my passionate rant to my friend I stumbled across a link to this recent post by a raw vegan author and blogger named Kristen Suzanne: My Vegan Diet Caused Health Problems. Would Primal, Paleo, Or “Real Food” Be Better?

It made me sad.

Luckily Kristen's post has a happy ending: Her family is healthy now and feels better than ever; that's great news. And they're doing it by eating along paleo lines, which if you're the kind of person who takes sides, would seem like a win for "our team".

Except I'm not on a team; I'm part of the stream of life (dare I say The Human League?!). So I feel genuinely sad that someone like Kristen who for ethical reasons turned to eating a vegan, sometimes raw, diet almost 10 years ago, would find she has to reconsider those values in order to stop being sick. I'm not surprised that she feels so much better adding back eggs, meat, and seafood, but as an idealist who genuinely loves all animals and hates that I enjoy eating their flesh, I secretly hope that anyone who makes such difficult, self-sacrificing choices founded in love and peace will be repaid for their faith. To put it bluntly, it sucks that she got screwed.

In a separate post I'll go into the details of my belief - in fact, my conviction - that paleo and vegan lifestyles share more in common than not, even though as "animal eaters" and "animal protectors" these groups would appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. But the conscientious eater should always be an animal protector to some degree (yes, even as we sometimes eat them). Just as I believe that to be a whole, loving, compassionate, happy person we need to care about Mother Earth and not simply wring what we can from her to fulfill our own needs. More on that soon. In the meantime, don't miss Kristen's insightful post on the details of her courageous but painful change of heart.

Have you read Kristen's blog? What do you think?

xo Danielle

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3 Responses to The unhealthy vegan: When your values let you down

  1. I wanted to comment how refreshing it was to find a post filled a I struggle with the innate ache in choosing to eat meat back in to my diet. I was my heaviest as a grain grinding, bread baking, pasta filled almost 270 lbs I started making small changes. I am now maintaining 150 lbs through a grain and sugar free..well unprocessed diet and lifting heavy things..I added fish an seafood back into my diet as I now deal with constant anemia which makes me feel so tired all the time.
    I just wanted to shout out a great big hey!!! I love your blog and look forward to reading all about your journey as I continue on mine.

    Be well,

    1. Hi Missy, thanks! Wow, you are doing a great job!!! That's just incredible! It's a bit scary to see veganism being pushed so much in the media right now. I know it's a fad (just like the current CrossFit and Paleo booms will also simmer down in time) but some people may get sick. It's wonderful to live by your values (in fact, crucial), and saving animals is always laudable. But to put your health at risk is kooky. There's a lot of misinformation. The sustainable alternative to the SAD isn't veganism, and probably not even very strict paleo, but something that takes the best of both and removes all processed foods.

      Keep up the great work and thanks for the shout-out!

    2. My choice not to eat critters is based on my value of... if I couldn't hunt it and kill it myself I shouldn't be eating it..
      Well that and mass consumerism in general.
      I find that if you listen to your body it speaks to you. We are simply so out of tune with ourselves and surroundings. It speaks but we ignore.
      Live simply, we complicate everything.



Hi! I'm Danielle

I'm Danielle Bartholomew and this is my blog!

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