In fact, most of the time, any publicity is bad publicity for a vegan lifestyle.
Consider today’s little piece from the humble Metro free paper on the 80/10/10 diet. First, it seems to make no distinction between the average vegan diet, the 80/10/10 diet, and a raw food diet. I’m surprised the article doesn’t mention the Paleo diet, though it hasn’t been able to keep the word “detox” out.
I’m not even going to start on why I disagree with the concept of an 80% carbohydrate, 10% protein, 10% fat diet. There is more than enough information out there and I’m no authority. Besides, the entire point of my blog is that we all need to find what works for us.
But what I would like is for people – vegans, non-vegans, and especially prospective vegans – to realise that there is no such thing as “The Vegan Diet”. There are vegan diets. There are high-carb, low fat vegan diets. There are high-protein, low carb vegan diets. There are high raw, low processed, wholefoods, healthy, and unhealthy vegan diets. There are as many vegan diets as there are non-vegan diets – hell, there’s even a veganised Atkins diet.
The Metro article is studded with little gems of quotes, reminding us how difficult it is to plan a vegan diet correctly, and how leaving out any of the major food groups is leaving ourselves open to malnutrition. Fair point, vegans do leave out some major food groups. So what of omnivores who eat only processed foods? What of that person we all know who doesn’t touch anything green? What of the lactose-intolerants, the coeliacs, and otherwise allergic people among us? Why do they not have articles written about them pointing out how difficult their lives must be?
Often, well-meaning writers will speak about vegan diets by highlighting a vegan athlete. I have no doubt their goal is nothing more malicious than to show your average moderately-active Earthling that it is possible to live a healthy and active life fuelled by plant sources.
However, what is our go-to reaction when reading about a successful athlete’s lifestyle? I bet for most of us it is something along the lines of: “Hmm OK but they have different needs to me“; “Well, fair enough, but they have coaches and nutritionists helping them“; “Yeah well they earn enough to afford a vegan diet“; etc. Basically, we’ll find any excuse we can do justify why it may work for them but definitely won’t work for us.
People always ask me where I get my protein, and even as I write this I hear vegans around the world groaning and nodding in sympathy. My answer is I take a protein shake. Several a day in fact. But I would be doing that even if I wasn’t vegan. I know vegan athletes who don’t take protein shakes, and I know non-vegans who take more protein supplements than me.
What I’m trying to say here is that any time veganism appears in the media, it makes it look like something strange, difficult, and extraordinary. People are so surprised when they find out I’m vegan because I seem so normal to them. I know most people would argue that it’s great that veganism is becoming more publicised, but I disagree. At least until writers and readers become more informed on the basics of health and nutrition, I would much rather veganism be left to quietly exist. After all, no news is usually good news.