The Vegan Diet
A few days ago I picked up the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. I’m not usually a big fan as I prefer magazines with a more political bent or veg magazines that are coming from a vegan perspective. Still, the cover had a picture of a delicious looking bowl of soup and as I’m a sucker for soup in the winter, I had to pick it up.
It wasn’t until I got it home that I noticed the big headline above the bowl of soup:
Eat green, Get lean!
The pushing of veg*ism* as a way to lose weight isn’t a new thing. Almost anything you read promoting veg*ism will mention the possibility of weight loss. There’s even a best-selling book, “Skinny Bitch”, which looks just like any other diet book until you open it up and find that it is instead a book about animal rights which also asserts that veganism is the bestest and most effective way to lose weight.
The rationale behind this topic is that you draw people in with the weight loss angle and voila! you have new vegans.
Step one: Collect Underpants.
Step three: Profit!
To be fair, if veganism was in fact the holy grail of dieting (that is, a diet that actually works) you might be able to get people to switch to and stay with a vegan diet, but it’s not. The only reference I could find for any study done on the efficacy of a vegan diet for weight loss was published by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) which is a group that heavily promotes a vegan/animal rights agenda.
The authors found that the body weight of both male and female vegetarians is, on average, 3 percent to 20 percent lower than that of meat-eaters. Vegetarian and vegan diets have also been put to the test in clinical studies, as the review notes. The best of these clinical studies isolated the effects of diet by keeping exercise constant. The researchers found that a low-fat vegan diet leads to weight loss of about 1 pound per week, even without additional exercise or limits on portion sizes, calories, or carbohydrates.
So people lose weight when you put them on very low fat diets? Wow. Interesting how there’s never any follow-up data. As many many many people can tell you, losing weight in the short term isn’t always terrible hard especially when you’re part of a clinical trial that’s probably drastically cutting your caloric intake. But I’m thinking that if they really got great results with everyone in the long term, then we’d already be hearing about it on the news and being treated to whole aisles in the grocery store dedicated to highly processed vegan snacks and meals at ginormous prices. Since that’s not the case I’m going to go out on a huge limb and assume that people lost a bit of weight, plateaued, were swamped with guilt and feelings of failure, and then gained the weight back.
But Attrice, you say, veg*ns do, on average, weigh less than their omnivorous counterparts, right? True, but right off the top of my head I can come up with a few reasons this might be true that are not “being veg makes you totally skinny.”
1. Class. Having more money does correlate (probable for a number of reasons) to weighing less. Veg*ns tend to come from and be a part of the educated upperish classes.
2. Fat people are definitely less welcome in some AR groups. Fat discrimination and mockery is even built into a lot of AR campaigns so it’s not surprising that fat people aren’t as drawn to the movement or even feel hostile towards it.
Not to mention that 3-20% is quite a big range and we have no idea of how people fall into those numbers.
Going veg won’t make a thin person out of a fat one. And it certainly won’t do anything for animal rights and veganism. Because diets, by their nature, are just fads. They have to be because they don’t work. Some diet comes along, gets some buzz, makes a few people a lot of money and makes a lot of people hungry and miserable, then enough people gain the weight back that there’s a tipping point and the diet is abandoned. It comes back later when there are enough people who don’t remember the previous incarnation. The idea that turning veganism into a weight loss diet will turn people into vegans is silly. They’ll be dieters. And dieters will always be ready to move on to the next diet when the one they’re on fails as it will most certainly do.
Veganism will only succeed as a legitimate ethical philosophy when it is presented as such. The arguments for animals rights are, imnsho, good ones. It may not be as quick to explain the idea of using sentience as a measure of determining interests as it would be to say “you’ll look totally hot when you’re vegan” but it has the benefit of being based in reality.
Also, those who push the idea of veganism as WLD do a big disservice to veganism in supporting the idea that veganism is about deprivation and denial. Let us not bring to mind flavorless pseudo food and unfulfilled appetites when we talk about veganism. Let’s post pictures of vegan cupcakes, vegan crepes, and vegan frittatas Let’s share recipes and tell people about how much we love our vegan food. And let’s not prey on people’s insecurity and their fantasies in order to try and promote our movement.