All foods fit. Unconditional permission to eat. Food freedom. No foods off limits.

Sound familiar? These are the mantras of the anti-diet world and they totally rock. But how does veganism fit into that?

 

Veganism is not a diet.

Veganism is a lifestyle based on ethics and the belief that animals should not be harmed or exploited by humans. When vegans don’t eat animal products, it’s not because they’re on a diet.

Vegans abstain from consuming animals and their products in the form of food, clothing and cosmetics; vegans eschew products tested on animals; vegans do not attend or support animal-exploitative events or industries or such as rodeos, circuses and zoos. These things have nothing to do with dieting.

Where it can get cloudy is sometimes people with disordered eating or dieting tendencies are drawn to plant-based eating to use it as a way to further restrict food. However, this is usually just about food and typically does not extend to the lifestyle part of veganism. (Check out this post I wrote about the relationship between orthorexia and veganism).

Vegans don’t view animal-based foods as food, so not eating them is not a form of restriction. However, it is possible to be vegan and restrict certain vegan foods, which is a form of dieting.

It’s important to have a healthy relationship with food before going vegan. 

If you’re thinking about going vegan, first examine your motivations. Is it purely because you love animals or are there some dieting motivations under there? There are loads of health-based claims floating around about plant-based diets and while it is a nutrient-dense way to eat and is associated with lower risk of certain chronic diseases, it is not required to live a happy, healthy life. Eliminating all animal products does not guarantee good health.

If weight loss or restricting certain foods is part of the reason you want to go vegan, I highly encourage you to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist (who specializes in intuitive eating and uses a non-diet approach) to first address those issues.

You’re more likely to stay vegan (and save more animals) if your veganism is not conflated with disordered eating or dieting.

The world of vegan food is expanding at an unprecedented rate and there are loads of vegan versions of animal-based foods (burgers, ice cream, donuts, pizza, etc.). Make sure you’re applying “all foods fit” within veganism and allowing yourself to enjoy those foods when you want them.

What if you’re craving animal-based foods? Try a vegan version of those foods and stock your kitchen with them. If you’re still feeling restricted, it’s probably time to reevaluate your reasons for living a vegan lifestyle.

If veganism is something you’re ethically committed to, volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary can help reaffirm that. Connecting with other vegans is important too.

Being vegan and anti-diet is two strikes against mainstream culture so it can feel extra challenging following this path. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve chosen this lifestyle out of compassion for yourself, the earth and all other animals.

 

See more that I’ve written about this topic:

How to Practice Intuitive Eating as a Vegan
When Is Going Vegan Just Another Diet?
Why All Vegans Should Be Weight-Inclusive
3 Strategies for Maintaining a Vegan Lifestyle in Eating Disorder Recovery

 

5 Comments

  1. Love this, Taylor! Too often veganism is perceived as an exclusionary diet and not an ethical stance. We like pizza and dessert, too! Also dislike some of the opinions I’ve read insinuating you have to eat animal foods (all foods) to practice intuitive eating.

  2. What a fantastic post Taylor. I’ve been reading your blog all morning after FINALLY finding another vegan advocate that also follows a non-diet, intuitive eating approach. To top that you’re also a dietitian nutritionist 🙂 We need more of you out there! You’re so right about it being two strikes against the mainstream view of things, but you do such a great job at explaining all of this.

    We’ll be sharing this and many of your other posts and work in a new course we’re writing so people can come to you for consultations if they need support. I know our audience will love you so much and find your work so helpful.

    I have question, how do you like to explain the need to meet nutrient requirements as vegans within the scope of a non diet approach? I always guide people to Virginia Messina’s “plant plate” as a general guideline, but I was wondering how you manage to ensure vegans get what they need while also focusing on eating based on what they desire to eat at each moment. I know that eliminating unnecessary restriction is such a big part of it as you mention in this post, but I was curious about how you go about this (would love to read a post by you on this!). I guess it has to do with the gentle nutrition part of intuitive eating and also what you say here (which is so well put omg!) about healing your relationship with food first, before going vegan, but I was curious about your opinion since I know you also like and recommend Virginia’s work. Thank you so much for the wonderful work you do! Subscribing to your blog now so I don’t miss anything! 🙂 Will be doing a little share on instagram today too ;o)

  3. I’m so glad you found me and love the posts! 🙂 As for vegan nutrition, it definitely needs to be approached carefully for someone who has a history of dieting/disordered eating. I love Ginny’s “Vegan for Life” book because it doesn’t use fear-mongering, doesn’t perpetuate sensationalist claims, doesn’t label foods as good or bad and makes it clear where vegans can get the nutrients they need (from food and when they may need to supplement). I also wrote a bit about gentle nutrition in my 6 Common Questions about Intuitive Eating post. As always, each individual requires a personalized approach so the exact strategies vary depending on with whom I’m working.

  4. Thanks so much Taylor! Love Ginny Messina too. Love her science based approach and the fact that there’s no fear mongering attached. Thank you! 🙂

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