This public confession by 13-year vegan and health coach Alexandra Jamieson has captivated my attention for the last couple days. I had been following her for a few weeks after listening to one of Kris Carr‘s telejams in which Jamieson was introduced as “the Cravings Whisperer.” While I’m surprised by her announcement that she is no longer vegan, I’m more astonished by the hundreds of comments, some of them vicious attacks by vegans who feel betrayed and disappointed.
In her letter, Jamieson talks about how her cravings for meat began a few years ago, but she was afraid to tell people for fear of judgment. She secretly started eating meat and then realized her body was telling her that it needed animal products. Though she built her reputation and business on the vegan diet, she decided she would not be ashamed about living “her truth.”
Immediately in the comments I saw a huge backlash from the vegan community, calling her selfish, weak, undisciplined, a sellout, not truly ever a vegan, not really caring about animals, not doing the vegan diet correctly, and so on. There are a lot of supportive comments, too, from vegans, vegetarians, or former vegans/vegetarians who identify with feeling sick or weak without animal products.
I admit that I find the more militant or aggressive vegan comments pretty scary. It sounds like they are quoting from dogma, and it sounds like a legalistic religion. Others respond that they are being hypocritical and uncompassionate toward their fellow humans, or joke that they are bitter and hungry. Or that they are actually less healthy than omnivores for eating so much soy and wheat.
This blog post and its comments were so fascinating to me because I never thought about our food choices as moral choices, as our current food culture would have us believe.
I was seriously thinking about becoming vegan, but just for the health benefits and not because I consider animals our equals like they do (though I do think factory conditions are horrific and I would try to buy only organic, pasture-fed/raised meat from Whole Foods or the farmers market). But this article makes me hesitate, which is exactly what the vegans are bemoaning–that it will stop people who would otherwise have become vegan or vegetarian from doing so, giving them an excuse to keep eating meat.
I also feel pretty relieved, because I wasn’t sure if I could go the rest of my life without eating meat. Also, every person’s body is different, and if I happen to be of the type that needs animal products to thrive, I probably would have felt guilt or shame. There are tons of comments by people who were feeling weak and sickly without meat, and felt much better after they started eating it again.
This article made me realize that veganism is not for everyone, and there is no one no one diet for everyone. I wish it were so simple as finding that one perfect diet, learning it, and following it for the rest of my life. Rather, it really is up to us to take charge of our own health and take the responsibility for figuring out what works for our health and what doesn’t.
In the comments, I found out about the primal diet, which is similar to paleo. I also learned some new terms: flexitarian (a vegetarian that eats meat sometimes) and nutritarian (a healthy mostly plant-based diet, with reduced animal products). There are a few references to Dr. Fuhrman and the Weston A. Price traditional diet which I plan to research.
In the end, I don’t think labels are healthy, even though they let you feel a part of the community. Once you become known for eating a certain diet or promoting it, it seems like there’s all this pressure to adhere strictly and be perfect, that can lead to orthorexia (obsession with eating only right or perfect foods).
The incendiary comments from vegans and all the debate really made me think about how huge a role our beliefs play in food, which in turn is such a big deal because it’s a daily ritual and highly personal.
I think Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, said it best: “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” Everyone can agree on that. In the meantime, I will continue on my path of discovery and keep experimenting with different foods and holistic/natural healing.