I'm no stranger to dieting. I've battled with my weight since my preteen years, and like I wrote about previously, I've struggled with an emotional eating habit that absolutely contributed to a great amount of weight gain. That all being said, weight loss wasn't on the forefront of my mind when I first decided to go vegan. I was mainly inspired by my desire to improve my health. In the six months since I've been vegan I have lost about twenty pounds, a fact that I won't deny that I delight in. However, it wasn't veganism, but rather my commitment to whole foods, plant based eating and consistent exercise that did the trick.
I say this because I worry that with all the publicity now surrounding the veganism movement, a lot of misconceptions are being spread around, some of which are purposeful attempts at casting a negative light on what is way more than a simple change in diet. Let's be clear. Diets do not work, at least not in the long term. Anything promising that you'll lose a ton of weight in a short amount of time with very minimal effort will more than likely lead to a dangerous cycle of yo-yo dieting. To rope veganism into the world of fraudulent, dangerous diet gimmicks is mistaken at best, dishonest at worst.
Veganism is not a fad diet. At its foundation, veganism is a fundamental shift in consciousness. The rejection of animal foods is not for the purpose of losing weight, but rather to minimize and reverse the damage caused by animal agriculture, not only to our environment but also to the animals themselves. It just so happens that vegan diets also tend to be healthier for the body, particularly if whole, plant-based foods are prioritized over processed junk foods.
So why is veganism picking up steam now? Because we've reached a critical point where individuals, as citizens of this Earth, are deciding that something must be done to stem the detrimental impacts of animal agriculture. People are coming to the realization that cutting down entire forests for the sake of acquiring additional land for grazing and growing feed crops simply isn't sustainable for our collective future. They're realizing that we'll all suffer if we continue overfishing our oceans.
People are hearing the horrific stories and seeing with their own eyes the sadistic treatment of the animals that eventually become our food. They're learning about the unhygienic conditions and cramped quarters that animals are stuffed into, which create breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. People are learning about the nightmare conditions that factory farm workers have to contend with, as well as the physical and mental health consequences of this work. They're learning that these factories are all too often located in the neighborhoods of low-income Black people and other people of color.
Sure, there are going to be those who see veganism solely as a weight loss technique, but to reduce an entire movement to the next dieting fad obscures the fact that the meat and dairy that we consume are linked to animal abuse, worker exploitation, environmental collapse, environmental racism, and poor individual and collective health outcomes of many kinds.
And to be clear, you can be vegan and not lose weight at all. With all the meat and dairy substitutes on the market, it's ridiculously easy to indulge in meals that taste just the same if not better than those made with animal products. This is also part of the growing veganism appeal. People are waking up to the fact that they don't have to deprive themselves of the types of meals they love. They can refuse to participate in animal cruelty AND still have a delicious burger, fries and milkshake if they so desire. Those who are more health conscious have learned that they need not worry about nutritional deficiencies. People are going vegan because in this day and age, going vegan simply makes sense.
Veganism is not a fad diet, it is a moral decision. It is the choice to actively put the future of the planet, of humanity, and of one's individual health before the desire to consume animal meat and dairy. It is an urgent clarion call to corporations to reject practices that result in the unnecessary destruction of life and environment. It is the growing recognition of the inextricable connection between ourselves and the other living beings that walk this Earth with us. It is the selfless desire to leave old paradigms behind for the sake of creating a better future for our children, their children and generations to come.
My name is Nivea, but you can call me Niv. I'm an independent Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Coach hailing from the Bronx, NY.