Care For Some Egg Whites With Your Veganism?

by Gena on June 27, 2010

Good evening! Hope your weekends were fab. Mine, though speckled with work, was also full of highlights. These included, but were not limited to:

  • Red – totally terrific play, and it’s a shame today was the last performance.
  • Spontaneous movie date with my Mama – can’t be beat.
  • Coffee delivery from one of my besties as I was working on Saturday morning. (Thanks Nel!)
  • The purchase of a new salad spinner, about which I am terribly excited (yes, it’s the little things that make me happy in life.)
  • My first jog in over two long months. Hooray for the recession of tendonitis! I ran just under two miles in about thirty minutes, and I think a few octogenarians passed me along the way, but I could care less. It felt great. I won’t be making a frequent habit of it until my groin is totally pain free, but it was a happy start.
  • An uproarious hydrate/dehydrate (i.e., coconut water+coffee) date with this sassy, smart, and vivacious young woman:

Kailey, you rock. Thanks for adding a spark to my morning.

…on my way from afternoon tea with the Momz. The hippie just happens to be visiting town for a weekend, and I just so happened to have crossed paths with her. Life is funny – and awesome.

And now, the usual Sunday night work scramble has begun. It hasn’t stopped me, though, from thinking back to a few comments I’ve heard recently about my veganism. The most notable took place last weekend. I was at a post-wedding brunch, and in spite of a cornucopia of food choices—fresh omelets and eggs, smoked salmon, muffins, yogurt—there was nary a vegan option in sight (with the exception of fruit, which wasn’t enough to satisfy my hunger). I’m accustomed to these situations, and always come prepared, so I had a Flying Vegan bar in my bag. I knew it would pair nicely with a banana for a hearty breakfast. Before I produced it, though, I wanted to double check with the hostess that there wasn’t any whole grain bread somewhere that I might eat instead. I don’t mind pulling out my own food at a brunch or dinner party, but I see it as a last resort: I’ll ask if there’s a vegan friendly option on hand before I do it.

Upon my friendly inquiry of, “I’m a vegan, and I was wondering if you have any whole wheat toast in the fridge that I might steal as an alternative to the baked goods?” the very gracious hostess replied that no, she didn’t. “But wait a minute! She chimed in hopefully. “We have egg whites! They can make you an omelet with just the whites?” This response, though truly well intentioned, echoed a question I’ve coincidentally gotten numerous times in the last few weeks when I’ve told people that I’m a vegan, “Do you eat fish?”

For the record, world: when I say I’m a vegan, it means that I don’t eat anything that used to be an animal. Or that comes from the body of an animal. It’s actually a stunningly easy position to explain.

The fish thing doesn’t shock me. I think people ask, in part, because so many people who identify as vegetarians eat fish on a regular basis (in other words, what’s really pescatarianism is defined as vegetarianism). Maybe this is a part of why some people’s notion of veganism includes fish eating.

But lately, I get more and more queries about whether or not I eat egg whites. And while many of those queries are due to simple confusion about what veganism means, I know that others–including the encounter described above–happen because someone has made an assumption about my motives for eating the way I do. What’s going on, I think, is that someone hears, “vegan” and assumes “healthy eater,” and immediately ascribes his or her own ideas about what “healthy” means to me. When my hostess heard “vegan,” she didn’t hear “I don’t eat animal foods.” She heard, “I’m healthy,” or “I’m body/weight/calorie conscious.” And the foods most associated with healthy eating, at least by conventional standards, include egg whites.

The purpose of this post isn’t to put down egg whites or salmon. My point is that veganism is often, and incorrectly, associated with weight-consciousness, and I find this unfortunate. It’s no secret that many people who are drawn to plant based diets are body conscious. But at bottom, veganism isn’t synonymous with the desire to be thin, or healthy. Most vegans I know are health-conscious, but I’ve also met plenty of vegans who aren’t: after all, vegans who eat meat analogs and carbohydrates at the exclusion of vegetables may indeed be eating a less nourishing diet than certain omnivores.

Yes, veganism can be a supremely healthy. But it’s not the only way of eating that is. Ultimately, veganism is a position that goes far beyond health concerns; for most of the people who find it fulfilling, I think, it has a sense of ideals at its heart. Anyone who misses this is missing the point.

It would be wrong for me to say that health or body are irrelevant to me. Health is extremely important to me, and body-consciousness is, for better or for worse, a significant part of my psychological disposition and history. My veganism is deeply tied to both of those things. But to be fair, I’ve had periods of time when I wasn’t a vegan and was nevertheless healthy. And conversely, the years of my life most characterized by body obsession were not vegan years. They were the years in which I counted every calorie, skipped most meals, and yes, nibbled on egg whites (along with plain yogurt and salads with no dressing). These foods kept me thin, but they didn’t make me healthy, and they didn’t make me happy. Veganism did–for reasons that went far beyond health or body.

The point, I guess, is that lumping veganism together with whatever our “healthy” diet of the moment is (low carb, omega-3 obsessed, high protein, whatever), is a huge oversimplification. Certainly there are and always will be people whose interest in veganism is exclusively health and/or body related. That’s fine, but given how many ways there are of eating healthily, veganism might not prove desirable for them in the long term. Veganism tends to be most worthwhile if one’s motives are myriad.

What do you all think? Is veganism the same as eating “healthy”? Does it bother you when people assume that veganism is driven only by vanity or by health?

Deep thoughts for a Sunday night. I’d better get back to work. Till soon!

xo

Print Friendly
Be Sociable, Share!

{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

molly @FuelHerUp June 27, 2010 at 11:25 pm

I loooove this post! Once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

Reply

Serena June 27, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Oh my gosh! I completely agree with this! Arghhh. It’s so frustrating when people judge each other for things like this, and frustrating when “I’m vegan” is met with “Why are you obsessed with weight!?”

Reply

Sonia @ Master of Her Romaine June 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm

You are so right about this!! It drives me absolutely wild when people ask me if I eat fish, or eggs, or even try to convince me that PEANUT BUTTER is meat! I always chalked it up to people being uneducated, but really I think you have it right saying that people now associate terms like vegan with healthy eaters. Veganism is so not the same thing as healthy! I mean, obviously it can be- but it’s not always the case. Something else that drives me nuts is the vegans, vegetarians, gluten intolerant, etc…that just try to veganize/de-glutenize food like mac and cheese, pizza, donuts, you name it… it’s still not healthy! (for the most part) Know what I mean? Why not go back to the basics- more fruits and veggies and nuts and seeds!
But anyways, I have become so sensitive to people getting strange ideas about me after I say I’m a vegetarian or vegan that I am hesitant to talk about it or bring it up! I hate feeling like that and I really wish I didn’t feel like I was talking about my diet too much when I know I’m not… Know what I mean?

Reply

Amanda @ Vegacious June 27, 2010 at 11:35 pm

I love this post and whole-heartedly agree with what you are saying. I am in the process of becoming vegan (increasing my vegan eating each week by 25%). Yesterday I was at the farmers market and one of the vendors needed me to explain what veganism is, and exactly what I don’t eat! I was kind of shocked, but after reading this maybe it is more common than I think….. Great thoughts – thank you!

Reply

Jackie (Peaces of Earth) June 27, 2010 at 11:37 pm

I don’t consider veganism the same as eating healthy. I think it’s the motivation that is outside of ourselves that keep us on the vegan path. It is very frustrating when people say things like this, though! But, some people don’t know any better. I just try to remember the journey I’ve been on and that I didn’t always know these “obvious” answers. It’s our job to inform them!

Reply

Jo June 27, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Excellent post! I think many people tend to mix up the 2. When people ask me why I am vegan I try to make 2 separate points as clearly as possible: first, I eat vegan for ethical reason and second, I also eat vegan for health reasons too. For me it is both, but I feel like my ethical reasons are more important. I always give that reason first. I also agree with your last point about people turning to veganism for body/related reasons probably not being able to sustain it long-term.

Also I notice that people treat healthy eating and weight loss synonymously in general. When people hear that I would like a healthy option, they assume that I am dieting. I have been guilty of this mentality too. I remember a couple of years ago when a healthy fast food restaurant opened that I was so irritated by the fact that their options were not all low calorie. Well, duh, there’s a difference between healthy and low calorie. I just didn’t know that then, but I do now.

Sorry for writing a book with this comment, but your post really hits close to home for me!

Reply

Mama Pea June 27, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I really think a lot of people just don’t really understand what veganism IS, let alone what motivates us. There are so many styles of eating, be it veganism, vegetarianism, pescetarianism, octo-lavo vegetarians, etc. that I really just think your waitress didn’t understand what you could or couldn’t eat.

When I go to restaurants, I don’t even use labels anymore to define myself, because a lot of times, it’s irrelevant. I can make a pretty good decision without explaining my motives. That’s just what works for me!

I’m beyond jealous that you ran into Kailey and Elise! I love both of those girls!!!! Too much fabulousness in one city.

Reply

Molly June 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I think people have various reasons for eating a vegan diet, just as they have various reasons for doing anything in life, be it exercising, working, getting married, whatever. To say that one reason for being vegan is superior to other reasons is, in my opinion, a bit elitist. If someone becomes vegan for health reasons, the end result is still the same – a reduction of suffering for animals. When I became vegan, it was for environmental reasons. Then I became interested in the health aspect. It is only within the last month or so that I’ve become concerned with animal welfare and reducing suffering. Does that mean that the last 4-5 months of my eating a vegan diet are somehow worth less? No. They are just as valid.

Whatever someone’s reasons for eating/being vegan, let them be. The end result is what matters.

Reply

Gena June 28, 2010 at 6:26 am

Molly,

I basically agree 100% that whatever one’s reasons are, they’re valid and worthy. No motivation is better than another. My initial reasons for being vegan were 100% health/digestion related, too.

With that said, I think the point I’m making is that many ways of eating offer good health, so for me, the thing that made veganism worth it in the long run was that it offered me other things (environmentalism being one) that were important to me, too.

However, you make a great and sensitive point, and I actually tweaked my last line in because of the thoughtfulness you prompted. Thanks!

Gena

Reply

Molly June 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm

You’re right about the long-term aspect of veganism. If I’m to continue this lifestyle forever, it has to be for more than just the health aspect.

I also like what one poster said: If I’m doing it for health, it’s a plant-based diet. If I’m doing it for animals, then I’m vegan.
I think I agree with that, overall… though I’m not sure which camp I fall into – yet!

Reply

Molly June 28, 2010 at 12:45 pm

What am I saying? Of COURSE I know which camp I fall into. Yeah, I eat a plant based diet, and yeah, I am concerned with my health, but after reading the literature and seeing the films (Earthlings is a great one), there is no way I could go back to consuming and using animals.

Reply

Blaine June 27, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Thank you. Just…thank you for writing this. I couldn’t have said it better.

Reply

Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) June 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm

I’m not a vegan, but I know from experience and observations that the specific title of a diet doesn’t equate to health. There are unhealthy vegans, vegetarians, “primal eaters,” and Mediterranean eaters. Good health has a lot more variable than the type of diet one follows, especially when they may be a vegan on a technicality. Pepsi and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups are vegan, and I’m sure many people have diets that consist of nothing but these things, or similar.

Bottom line: Weight, diet type, or creed doesn’t necessarily add up to optimal health. I believe that a healthy mind and body can be achieved by many types of diets, but activity and other factors, including genetics, all play a role as well.

When I was little, I believe that vegetarians were truly what they are defined as and adhered to a diet of many fruits + veggies, but as I learned more, I realized this wasn’t the case at all. Not every vegan or veggie is a “health nut.” :)

Jenn

Reply

anon June 28, 2010 at 7:15 pm

hate to be that girl, but reese’s cups aren’t vegan – they have milk chocolate in them which is made with MILK :) just had to point that out

Reply

Danielle June 28, 2010 at 12:02 am

So happy you had such a fun bloggy day! And to finish with such deep thoughts… you never fail to impress me. I’m hardly a vegan myself, but I will say that I agree with completely agree with you, and your frustration. I think it’s hard for the general public to believe that people make life choices that directly impact their well being for reasons other than losing 10 lbs or following a doctor’s last order. But that, my dear, is exactly why blogs like yours are so important. Education is key. Maybe then I’ll one day be able to order the greenest, freshest, and most healthful plate off the menu that won’t be located in the light section :).

Reply

Rachel June 28, 2010 at 12:06 am

I agree with Mama Pea, I just don’t think everyone knows what vegan is. I tried eating a vegan diet for 3 months, (before I fell off the wagon with cheese,) and I discovered that a lot of people think its the same thing as vegetarian, or else they really don’t know what it is. So she may have thought you just didn’t eat meat. I am a pescatarian, (sp) but I KNOW people wouldn’t understand that if I said it, so to make things easier I say I am vegetarian. It’s not totally true, but it avoids an explanation every time it comes up.

Reply

MarathonVal June 28, 2010 at 12:17 am

Yay for the tendonitis going away… hope you had a lovely weekend!

Reply

jenny (green food diaries) June 28, 2010 at 12:19 am

it’s funny, i had a similar experience this weekend. i went to a meeting for a student-led nonprofit group this weekend and in the middle of the meeting we were interrupted by a pizza delivery that the organizers had made. i said something like “that was really nice of you to order pizza for everyone” to which he replied, “no problem, would you like a slice of hawaiian or bbq chicken or vegetarian?” to which i turned a little red (because i didn’t foresee this coming) and had to explain that i am vegan and refuse the food. i hate using the word vegan to describe myself because i would much prefer using the word plant-based and own leather/wool items and eat honey. but usually when i use the word plant-based people give me the funniest look. everyone in the room froze and gaped at me – this was a group of asian students and most of them couldn’t fathom giving up korean barbeque. after the series of “you don’t even eat fish?” and “wow”s subsided i expected them to offer me pop, because that’s technically vegan as far as i know, but they didn’t, and the head organizer went over to his place (the meeting was held in his apartment building) and came back with a dish of organic brazilian nuts and exotic looking dried fruits. then he assured me that they were organic. i could not have been any more surprised at this reaction… i don’t “announce” that i am “vegan” to a group often… this was the really the first time that i did. no one asked me how/why i got into it, even though there was plenty of talk going around, and i think most of them assumed that all there was to veganism is to eat healthily, as one guy told me “i could never do it, but it’s definitely good for you”. it absolutely puzzled me!!!

sorry for the ultra long comment. your post hit the nail right on the head as usual.

Reply

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) June 28, 2010 at 12:27 am

“vegans who eat meat analogs and carbohydrates at the exclusion of vegetables may indeed be eating a less nourishing diet than certain omnivores.”–oh How TRUE!! but that’s not the point of the post really :) but god, yes…omg “vegetarians” who dine on white bread, Twizzlers licorice and Juice Drinks come to mind. But they’re veggie. Okay then… :)

But I honestly think to your question that most ppl are just clueless! about veganism. It’s not their path, so they just dont pay much attn and just dont get it. Once explained, I think they get it. They may not fully comprehend it, but I dont think it’s judgment, more bewilderment. Like huh?! really!? you dont eat anything that came from an animal?! But that at the heart of it is just cluelessness, nothing more. After all, what shall we say of society…a bit of ahem, dumbing down, seems to be occurring.

Glad you liked my spring rolls :)

And the fact that you ran into Elise AND met up w/ Snackie? Omg jealz. Big time!

Reply

Natalie June 28, 2010 at 12:33 am

hey gena! this post gave me a lot to think about… i live in the suburbs and among my friends here, even the concept of vegetarianism is foreign to them – to be “vegan,” that would seriously just knock their pants off. i remember having a similar conversation last summer with my best friend (as the one you were having with the host), where i was talking to her about veganism and she said to me, “don’t do that to lose weight ok?” those were not my intentions at all, but i totally agree that people do seem to associate veganism/vegetarianism with weight loss/diets, even if it is, for a lot of people, a moral choice. i think people automaticaly make assumptions because there are indeed who are vegan for health reasons – but at the same time, i think people should not be so quick to make generalizations about veganism and also be informed. but i think that’s why a blog like yours is so great – because it is raising people’s awareness of what veganism is and more importantly, what a nourishing lifestyle is.

Reply

ilaj June 28, 2010 at 1:37 am

Consciousness…it’s a beautiful thing to waste. Glad you were prepared with your own food. I’ve been in that position and wasn’t as wise as you. Hard to feel welcome when you are starving.

Would you please write a review on your salad spinner? I returned another unsatisfactory unit on Friday and would love to hear of one that really dries the greens.

Thx.

Reply

bitt June 28, 2010 at 1:55 am

thank you. i have been wanting to write about this but going about it the wrong way. too many people are saying they are vegan and are really not 100% committed to it, which is fine, but getting the rest of the world confused. I just tell people i have food restrictions because if I say just vegan they will be pulling out the whole wheat bread for me and I can’t do that either.

Reply

Alejandra June 28, 2010 at 6:06 am

I think one goes on a plant-based diet to become healthy and becomes vegan for ethical reasons. And it is absolutely possible to be vegan and very unhealthy, though a shame really :)

Reply

JL Goes Vegan June 28, 2010 at 6:15 am

A very good friend continues to ask me “but why did you give up fish?” I finally, lovingly, said “What part of I don’t eat animal-based products do you not understand?” I guess she got it then. I’m beginning to feel that often people’s response to me is really about their own anxiety. I’ve had a few different friends respond in the same way when I shared that I was now eating vegan. “What will we do when you come visit?” I’m not worried, so why are they?

But to your point, yes, I do think some people feel my gradual progression to veganism was about keeping weight off or a health kick. When, if they really observed me over the past years, this should be not a surprise at all. (and, in the world of true confessions, I was absolutely one of those pescatarians disguised as a vegetarian for years. I do believe it is a process)

Really excellent post and great discussion. Thanks for that!

Reply

veganlisa June 28, 2010 at 7:11 am

Hi Gena,
Another fantastic post (aren’t they all!). I’ve been vegan for 26 years (since I was five) and I’ve certainly seen an evolution in the general awareness of what the word means. Unfortunately, as ‘veganism’ becomes more mainstream the definition of the term becomes fuzzier. There are a number of celebrities who “eat vegan” for health and do not see it as an ethical decision. Because their behaviours are seen far and wide it creates some confusion between a plant-based diet and veganism (which to me, are two different things). Mark Bittman’s vegan-til-6 and Oprah’s 21-day vegan challenge both use the term veganism to describe dietary parameters rather than ethical motivations. I’m excited people are talking about veganism and thinking about what they eat – but it does make ordering in a restaurant a more difficult experience. I have a lot of intolerances so I lay it all out on the table “I can’t eat – meat, fish, eggs, milk, butter, etc”.

Reply

Danielle (Runs on Green) June 28, 2010 at 8:01 am

AAAAMEN.
Veganism is *not* the same as eating healthy. I could sit around eating Alternative Baking Co cookies (which, are absolutely delish), trans-fat laden packaged foods, sugary candy, HFCS, not exercise, etc. and although animal-free…it’s not healthy.

I actually like that people outright ask me “why are you vegan?” It shows that they’re interested. I’m not sure why some people feel uncomfortable asking- like asking someone why they’re Christian (which also isn’t a rude question).

And yes, I get asked if I eat fish too! Last time I checked, fish were animals :)

Reply

Evan Thomas June 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

Gina, I can so relate in my own way. When I was with my grandparents for Father’s Day, my grandma asked me what kind of chocolate I ate. I told her just chocolate, pure dark chocolate with nothing weird in it. And in response she asked “so, sugar free chocolate?” It’s amazing what some people see as healthy vs others and what’s good to eat and what’s not

Reply

Hannah June 28, 2010 at 8:30 am

Really great post, Gena! You showed me a perspective that I didn’t consider before.

I have a question about the party-what did you say to the woman about the egg whites? Does it ever feel socially isolating because there were no vegan choices there, and so you couldn’t talk about the food with fellow guests? I’m just curious, because I sometimes eat vegan here and there and am curious to know…

Reply

Gena June 28, 2010 at 9:01 am

Hannah–

In a word, no. I’m used to these situations, and my personal feelings of social cohesiveness and inclusion don’t depend on whether or not I’m eating what others are eating.

G

Reply

Ilana June 28, 2010 at 8:31 am

I experience this same thing – especially the fish and the egg whites. When it gets to that point I don’t even care to explain the nuances, I just politely say, No, I don’t eat animal products. My family thinks I’m vegan because I’m “body conscious” but … well let’s just say weight gain was never a fear or a problem for me so that’s NOT where my veganism comes from – at least in the sense that my weightloss obsessed family thinks of “body consciousness” anyway.

I can be vegan and eat completely unhealthlfully, I did it for a really long time! Now things are different, but the two are not synonymous!

Reply

Sarah June 28, 2010 at 8:38 am

Yes, it drives me mad when this association is made! Likewise, the widespread belief that fish is somehow a vegetable. It also really bothers me when people are eating a vegan dessert and they say, “it’s vegan, so it’s healthy, right?” Well, often vegan desserts are healthiER, but not necessary healthy. And when they are healthy, a lot of that has to do with the ingredient choices of the cook.

Another one I get a lot: “Is the soup vegan?” “Yeah, but it has a LITTLE bit of chicken broth.” I don’t actually think some people realise that broth is made from the boiled carcass of an animal and is thus, not vegan. Or it may be the health association…as though a vegetable broth with ‘a touch’ of chicken broth should still fit the bill!

Reply

Candi June 30, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Wonderful point! I’ve encountered this myself and was told by my dining partners that “most Southerners” would consider broth to be vegetarian — to which I pointed out it was animal soup (that didn’t go over very well with them…but then again, their comment didn’t go over very well with me!)

Reply

Tyler June 28, 2010 at 8:46 am

I work at Whole Foods, and I have been asked more than once if our vegan cookies have sugar in them. I say, yes they have sugar, but they do not have eggs or butter. Then comes the very confused look from the customer (or questions like,
“what is bad about eggs?), so I explain what veganism actually means.

I also see confusion about gluten-free products…many people want to eat gluten-free muffins, brownies, breads, etc. while having no clue what gluten actually is. They have gotten it in their heads that these products are healthier and lower in calories than their gluten-containing counterparts. Not always true.

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm

You totally just hit on one of my pet peeves! Thanks for the comment. I agree that people only see things through the lens of what society has vilified at any given moment (in this case, sugar and gluten).

It also bugs me when people assume I’m gluten free, simply because I am a very healthy eater. I eat plenty of gluten — but I eat it in the form of whole or sprouted grains. Works for me. My veganism doesn’t mean I’m a part of every healthy eating movement, allergy-consciousness included.

Reply

Susie June 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Hi Tyler at Whole Foods – someone really said “what is wrong with eggs?” Were they living in a cave?, You can answer that the cholesterol in the yolk contributes to bad cholesterol, causing stroke and heart attacks! You can say that the antibiotics the laying hen was given shows up in the egg and ultimately makes you less sensitive to antibiotics when you get sick! Add tell this silly woman that eggs contain choline which can cause prostate cancer in men and other bad stuff! Veganism is an ethical choice for most, but it is also the starting place for a very powerful anti-cancer diet, especially if the fruits and veg are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory qualities, and the, processed foods and fats are held to a minimum! The more you know, the easier it is to defend a vegan diet and lifestyle!

Reply

Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg June 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

When I did my “vegan for a month” challenge back in January, I disocvered just that– veganism is NOT synonymous with healthy! There is a LOT of vegan junk food out there! So, as with almost any diet choice, it’s up to you to decide how healthy you want to make it– which, I think, in some ways is a good thing, as it opens up the doors of Veganism to people who might dismiss it, saying, “Oh, I wouldn’t be able to live without cookies or cupcakes.” Well, now the vegan world is full of them (if you wish to partake in them)!

I can definitely understand your frustration with the egg white thing, as I think you’re exactly right– it means that the waitress was making the assumption that your being vegan was actually an attempt to be “healthy” or calorie-conscious, and basically didn’t factor in the actual root of veganism (no animal products) at all.

Long comment! Have a great Monday, Gena!

Reply

Kenzie (HealthyPurpose) June 28, 2010 at 9:23 am

i haven’t really gotten the vibe from people that vegan MEANS “healthy.” Because I think a lot of people believe you can be healthy and not a vegan and that sometimes vegans are kooky and uninformed. After all, diet food is chicken and veggies to the SAD right? I usually get more frustrated with “vegan” meaning animal rights activist, because while that’s fine and all, it’s not why I eat mostly vegan. I eat a plant based diet for a health standpoint, and I want more people to see it that way.

Reply

nelly June 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

oh how annoying this all becomes…and is…i have this happen to me ALL the time…and at first, i didn’t mind explaining…but now…i’m slightly tired of it all…

veganism is not brand new…it’s been around for ages…and i would think that people in the service industry would have a clue by now.

last christmas, i asked for a vegan meal at our office christmas party…and i was told i could eat the salmon, and buttery roasted veggies…and it was very hard to get the message across that i do not eat flesh nor do i eat anything that comes from an animal…thankfully i have a few executives in my corner that had my back!

meh…i am hoping that one day, very soon, this will all become a non-issue, and people will understand vegans!

great post, as always!

Reply

Gena June 28, 2010 at 10:08 am

Guys, just to be clear: this wasn’t a waitress. It was a person whose home I was invited to. Not that it changes the point — I just like to make context accurate :)

Reply

Sylvia June 28, 2010 at 10:33 am

Hi Gena,

Hi from a loyal reader but rare commenter. Thought I would add my two cents.

I totally agree that you can be a healthy vegan, and you can be an white bread and potato chip vegan, just as much as you can be a healthy or unhealthy omnivore. Ugh this makes me think of a time a co-worker explained to the office that she was vegan, and another co-worker looked at her with concern and pleaded “pleeease promise me you won’t be a vegan if you ever become pregnant.” As if her dietary choice was somehow selfish and unhealthy and “merely” for animal rights. So frustrating!

I don’t define myself as vegan because I actually DO eat fish and eggs, but sometimes wish I had a word to describe my eating habits because it is kind of complicated to explain the reasons why I don’t want to split the cheese platter, when I don’t have a word to describe my eating habits (I guess I am technically an ovo-pescatarian but that just sounds pretentious to announce). I suppose it’s not that big of a deal to explain but I’m still getting used to it.

PS: I was in New York this weekend and thought of you and your blog. I had such a great time and didn’t want to leave! I ate at a great vegetarian Korean place, Han Gawi. Have you ever been there? Highly recommend the avocado rice bowl :)

Sylvia

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I was JUST informed about that place and am now dying to go! So glad you liked it!

Reply

One Healthy Apple June 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

I have seen lots of vegan cookies that I’m pretty sure aren’t too healthy, so it’s all a matter of perspective. I see it more as a lifestyle choice, but I am sure that there is a high correlation among vegans who are healthy.

I always read your posts on my iPhone on the way to work- just wanted to stop by. I love your writing and thought-provoking topics.

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Thanks for saying hey!

Reply

Sandi June 28, 2010 at 10:55 am

When people see what I eat the always ask if I’m vegetarian, and I say yes, and then they ask if I’m vegan, and I say yes. Then they often ask “do you eat eggs? do you eat fish?” and so on. I think a lot of people just don’t know and are curious, in which case I’m happy to talk about it, but I do think a lot of it is just what you’re describing, of people equating vegansim with healthy or restrictive eating.
Also, this is totally unrelated, but when you tell people you’re vegan have you ever had someone say “oh, my friend was a vegetarian/vegan for years, and then one day she/he ate a hot dog and it was SO good s/he just had to start eating meat again!” Or, “oh, my friend was a vegetarian and she lost so much weight she had to start eating meat again!” I don’t think I have to explain what’s wrong with these comments, but I hear them more often than I would like!

Reply

Jess @ MTL Veggie June 28, 2010 at 10:58 am

I think with Veganism or Vegetarianism, like all other diets/lifestyles, you need to do your research and learn how to follow it properly and healthily. There are unhealthy variants to every diet. You can be a vegetarian while eating a bag of potato chips and sipping on a diet coke, but you would be better off eating a piece of salmon with steamed veggies, brown rice and a salad. It all depends on how you follow your diet of choice that depends on how healthy it is.
Because there are so many misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, I find more often than not, the people who question my choices as a vegetarian view it as an unhealthy diet supported by activists and hippies.
People typically assume I’m not eating a healthy or balanced diet and worry that I am lacking proper nutrients in my system: “But how do you get enough protein/ iron”. If i had a nickel…
Ironically though, most of the time these people who question my choices are perfectly content to enjoy overly processed foods, fast food, imbalanced meals, junk food and sugar-y foods, more meat than vegetables, etc…; while the people who are well informed about proper nutrition and follow a healthy diet that includes veggies, meat, dairy, eggs and carbs are simply curious and supportive of my decisions and like trying out a few recipes I’ll give them.

Reply

leslie June 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

as usual you have echoed my thoughts 100%. i’m no vegan and never intend to be, but i am clearly a lover of health and the foods that come with it. my lifestyle is about eating what makes me feel good and what i feel good about (and what tastes good!). the reaction you got is a large part of what i truly believe is wrong in this country’s mindset: that health is not associated with vivacity, energy, long life, or happiness, but instead with dieting and deprivation.

over the weekend, a friend of my sister’s commented that i eat “like a rabbit.” (i wasn’t even there, so who knows where she got the basis for that judgment.) anyone who understands my lifestyle knows that i love food and eat plenty of it, and i’ve reconciled this all-too-common misconception with the realization (which took me a long time to arrive at) that i don’t have to explain myself to anyone other than, well, myself. to steal your words, there are a myriad of reasons why people eat in certain ways – it’s unfortunate and certainly frustrating that the majority see body-consciousness as the only one. but as long as i make choices i believe in, everyone else can believe what they want.

ps: glad you enjoyed red. :) i’m sorry i missed it!

Reply

Megan June 28, 2010 at 11:41 am

First of all, I am loving your blog!
And I don’t necessarily associate veganism with “healthiness,” it is just type of eating that people choose. I’m sure a lot more of it is healthy than in a typical diet, but I really don’t even know enough about it to say that. I definitely agree that people oversimplify it though.

Reply

Jess - The Domestic Vegan June 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

Love this post, Gena! Thank you for writing it. A lot of great comments here, too! I’m really enjoying this conversation.

I have been sitting here thinking about the thoughts I’d like to add (and I have a lot of them in response to what you wrote!), as I don’t want it to get too long. I’m having a hard time… Where to start?

I think what confuses me most about some responses to veganism is just what you said: A lot of people think of it as a “diet” or an easy, trendy way to lose weight. Even long before I was vegan, I was under the impression that vegans (crazy as they were ;)) chose to eat that way because of a deeper set of values about animals. I didn’t fully understand it (and in fact I disagreed with it for awhile!), but I knew that much. Now I think the term “vegan” is confusing to the general public because a lot more people are doing it strictly for health reasons, and loudly proclaiming that they don’t care about animals; that it is “just about health.” (I’m not judging those people in case it sounds that way. I totally agree with commenter Molly that people can be vegan for a variety of reasons, and I respect all of those. It’s just that traditionally, at the heart of veganism is the belief that animals are not here to be exploited by humans – and it can be bothersome to see the general public’s perception of veganism veering away from that.) So, yes, veganism CAN be a very healthy way to eat, but that isn’t the driving force for many of us. The good thing is that with open communication, we can try to keep opening eyes about WHY we choose this “crazy” lifestyle! :)

Reply

kelli June 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Ahhh I love this post! My mom once told me “veganism is for weightloss” I told it is simply not true, while most vegans are health conscious like me, there are some who simply are more unhealthy than carnivores. Some people just look at one side of things!

Reply

Lis June 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm

There are so many misconceptions about the way people eat and why they choose to eat that way. It’s frustrating when other assume things about you because of what you do or do not eat, but then again with all hype in the media and all the opposing opinions circulating, I don’t really blame them for their misconceptions. These people are often just misinformed, which I have to always remind myself of when I find myself getting upset. I experienced one of these situations in the grocery store the other night when a man asked me where the chocolate section was. I directed him to the correct location and as a nice gesture he soon returned to offer me a piece of the chocolate he has just purchased. I do love chocolate, but politely declined. When I said “no thanks”, he assured me that it was the “light”, “low fat” variety. I thought to myself, “eek in that case I definitely don’t want any”, but I smiled and said “no thanks” again. This got me thinking though. Why did he just assume that I’d be ok to eat the “light” variety over the real stuff? He obviously meant no harm by it, but I just feel like most people jump to the conclusion that you are watching your weight, on a diet or eating light if you decline an offer. What I really wanted to say was if it were the dark full fat variety I would have loved a piece!

Reply

Mia June 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm

For me veganism was a consequence of my anorexia – but not a negative one! Actually, I think it’s the best thing that this sickness has brought along.

Anorexia made me become overly interested in nutrition (just like everyone else does), it started out as obsessing over carbohydrates and the amount of protein I ate, the more protein the better.
And as I spent countless hours exploring food blogs I came across the vegan and raw community, and that is truly a blessing – I think that veganism has really saved me.

Veganism made me appreciate the food I ate, it wasn’t an enemy anymore. I slowly started to feel like by eating I was saving the world bite by bite.

Though I feel like veganism is the dietary way to go for me, I still eat fish maybe once in one or two months, just to make my parents feel like I’m not being too restrictive, and I actually enjoy eating it once in a while. And when I’m eating fish, I make sure it’s wild and from a Finnish lake so that the fish has been living in a healthy habitat and is as local as possible. But, to be fair, if I lived alone I would leave the fish alone.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, because I still buy leather shoes, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s no one’s business to judge my clothing and shoes choises. I make sure that my cosmetic is vegan and everything else I use, so buying a pair of leather shoes once a year doesn’t make me a horrible person. (And everyone living in Finland knows that leather is the way to go if your planing on having comfortable shoes in which to confront the heaps of snow in winter.)

I feel like this is the optimal level of veganism for me, I don’t feel restricted at all and I’m still able to enjoy some vain things every once in a while.

Although I’m extremely pround of my dietary choises, I’d actually rather not call myself a dietary vegan or, for that matter, a vegan because I think it makes people think, just as you said, that I’m overly healthy, counting calories and so on, but it’s the easiest thing to do to make people understand what I eat. I’d rather refer to my diet as Mia-nism, i solely eat what I want and what feels the best, and that happens to be a vegan diet, but I think it would sound even weirder :D Usually I make sure that when I say that I’m a dietary vegan I make it clear that it’s not because of the diet, it’s because it makes me feel the best and I can live my life to the fullest that way.

And finally I wan’t to thank you Gena from all my heart for your blog, you have made me appreciate the food I eat and slowly but surely, thanks to you, I’m also starting to learn to love my body just as it is and exercise solely for fun! I congratulate you if you made it this far, this has become an essay but I’m so passionate about this that I couldn’t help myself. And hey, it’s good to brush up my English with the matriculation exams coming and all ;)

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Mia,

I am SO deeply touched by this comment. I am thrilled to hear that you’ve embraced your own path to recovery — congratulations! You’re to be commended on the strength of will that you’re showing with each new day. Mia-nism sounds like the perfect path for you, and you should enjoy it and allow it to evolve the way it needs to evolve.

Gena

Reply

Willie June 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

These are some really insightful comments on the misperception of vegans by non-vegans, but perhaps your hostess was not being as presumptuous as you suggest (or, rather, was being presumptuous in a different way). For example, I think one of the reasons some people think vegetarians can eat fish is not because fish is the ‘health-conscious’ meat, but because they think vegetarianism means ‘no meat’, and then, paradoxically, that fish is not meat. And this isn’t just dumb ignorance. Think about it: fish and meat occupy two different sections at the supermarket, are listed as two separate options on a plane or at a wedding, and so on–as if fish weren’t itself meat. I think this also explains why some people even think vegetarianism allows one to eat poultry (again, think of supermarket sections that are labelled as ‘Meat & Poultry’, as if poultry weren’t meat). My point is, our language and culture (and surely, the food industry) systematically mask the myriad ways in which we consume animals. (Which is not to say that people would deny that beef, pork, chicken, or fish are animal products if you asked them, just that they are inculcated not to dwell on these matters.) And so I think one of the reasons that the hostess may have jumped to thinking of egg whites upon hearing of your veganism is not because they’re ‘healthy eggs’ but because they are sold in an innocuous box container, which effectively detaches the consumer from the fact that, yes, they did in fact come from an actual egg which came (and would have been) an animal.

What I mean to say is that I think some of the confusion surrounding vegetarianism and veganism is not confusion about what these labels really mean but rather confusion about what the things we’re eating actually are. And one of the things I think it is our responsibility to do as vegetarians and vegans is to be the ones fighting against this cultural ignorance and disregard. And this means patiently correcting people that can be embarrassingly ignorant on these matters, as well as educating people about things whose animal origins are not so obvious (gummi bears, marshmallows, and beer come to my mind).

That’s not to say that the hostess was not still in some way culpable. But with our food culture being as it is, I think we as vegetarians and vegans must take on some of the responsibility for keeping people informed, and not expect them to do it all themselves. I agree with you that veganism is an extremely easy position to explain–nothing that used to be or comes from an animal–but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy position for the average person to understand, and we must do our part in helping people learn what things do in fact come from animals.

I don’t know if you would agree with these sentiments, though, and I’d be very interested in hearing any thoughts you have. And thanks again for such a thought-provoking post!

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Willie,

Totally amazing and insightful comment! I feel as though I’ve just gotten a Marxist reading of my post, except it wasn’t Marxist — I only mean that you brought a tremendously unified and fascinating economic explanation to light.

On paper, your suggestion that the hostess may only have been voicing a confusion born of our confusing, corporatized food system is totally valid. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that that ISN’T what was going on, only because I was there. I had a sense from the way she said it that she had heard the “I don’t eat animals” part, but what she really heard was “this girl is calorie conscious.” I can’t be sure that’s what went on in her mind, but that’s the impressed I got from the interaction.

Even so, I believe that the degree to which we’re all alienated from our food and where it comes from certainly can lead to confusion over what a vegan diet is, and I’m glad you raised the point!!

Gena

Reply

k8 June 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I think it comes down to experience. What has someone experienced as a “vegetarian” or picture of a “vegan” in their life. My previous roommate was a vegetarian with a nightmarish eating disorder. And she wasn’t vegetarian for the reasons I assumed most people were vegetarian (i.e. conscious of animal rights, how they are raised, etc.) she was a vegetarian to feed the restrictive aspects of her eating disorder. So now, when someone tells me they are vegetarian, I get a flash of suspiciousness, even though I know not every vegetarian has an eating disorder. I’ve been reading lots of really amazing blogs – including yours – that are shaping my new view of veganism.

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Hi K8,

Thanks for commenting!

I think it’s no secret that vegetarian diets are often ways of masking eating disorders. So your previous assumptions were understandable, if wrong. I’m so happy that my blog has actually helped to alter that!

Gena

Reply

Patricia June 28, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I’m vegan for over a year now, but I haven’t lost any weight so far. I experimented a lot with recipes and people (vegan or not) love my cakes, cookies and so on. My boyfriends mostly eats my vegan food and often enought non-healthy vegetarian foods. So both not very healthy. Right now I’m starting to get to know more fat-free or raw recipes and startet to excercise and feel wonderful. I hope now I will lose some weight and get a more healthy relationship to food. (sometimes I couldn’t stop eating, because of so many vegan options. yes I just said that there are ridiculously plenty options for vegans! ^^)
But often enough I was asked if I would eat no chicken or fish, because they thought vegetarians would not eat red meat. Or if I do consume olive oil (so maybe again calorie concerened theory there). But I’m always happy to educate people, even if frustrating how less people know about their food.
So thanks for your blog and I hope to become from a savoury, vegan, animal-rightist plant-based dieter to one who lives really healthy.

Reply

Diana (Soap & Chocolate) June 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I wish veganism didn’t have to have a negative connotation to some people, so yeah I guess it does bother me when people make assumptions about a vegan’s motives when s/he is identified as such. I don’t call myself a vegan (though, in other news, I now openly call myself pescatarian), but I do have this instinct to fly to vegans’ defense when I hear them criticized. Case in point: we have a fabulous new hire in my office, who recently revealed that she’s vegetarian, but doesn’t eat much dairy since it bothers her stomach. Office response (myself excluded, of course): You’re not vegan, are you?! Her: No. Office: Thank GOD! Ugh!

So we would have had a major problem on our hands if we had a vegan in our midst?! I was so effing offended on, well, no one’s behalf, so I held my tongue on the grounds that ’tis better to choose my battles with care in this very small office. But yeah, feathers ruffled, safe to say.

Anyway, all that to say HI! and I miss you and I hope all is well in Gena-land. xoxoxo

Reply

Earth Mother – In The Raw June 28, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Wait, you mean veganism isn’t driven only by vanity or by health? *wink*

You hit another one out of the ball park with this one, Gena. Brilliant post, darlin’.

Reply

Casey June 28, 2010 at 7:26 pm

This reminds me of poor reactions I’ve received from a couple of the attorneys I work for regarding my veganism. And I live in San Francisco!

One is always saying in a denigrating sort of way “are you going out to get your vay-gun (purposely mis-pronounced) seeds and nuts or whatever” (Grown man in his 50s). “Are you going to watch people eat steak right now?” “I’ll give you 20 bucks to eat that (fill in none vegan item here)”.

I kind of feel like when I first meet people. They look at me like the healthy, active young woman I am. Then, when they hear I’m vegan, they immediately look me up and down again and decide, on second thought, that I’m malnourished! “How do you get your protein!?” How many times have we all been asked that one?

Just last week, another attorney I work for said that I needed to eat more cream cheese. “You can eat cream cheese right?”
People are constantly asking me if I “can” or “can’t” eat things. I’m like, I CAN eat anything I want!

I always refer to veganism as being in vogue and talk about how the New York Times is always writing about it and how I’m shocked that it’s a controversial issues for said vegan-detractors.

I understand that the host of your party was innocently misunderstanding the meaning of the term vegan, but I think it’s funny (and worth commenting on) how many people actively RESIST understanding the correct motives behind our way of life.

Reply

Fusami June 28, 2010 at 8:05 pm

That was a truly wonderful post. My friend asked my a few months ago why I wasn’t eating any ice cream (she knows perfectly well that I am vegan), and I just stared at her. “What do you think is in ice cream?” I asked. “Sugar,” she replied. After more prodding, she finally realized that milk is in ice cream. Who would have thought?

I’m just saying that not everyone fully thinks through what they say. I agree, though, that too many people associate veganism with eating disorders. I make it clear to people that I choose not to eat animal products for ethical concerns, not because I think that I am fat. Another of my friends even asked if what I was eating was hummus, and is there any fat in it, and why are you eating that because aren’t you afraid of getting fat?

Sigh. I care about my health, but I care a hundredfold more about whether an animal gets to live.

Reply

D June 28, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I mostly agree with everything you wrote, and I’ve definitely had a few of those moments myself. I’m in the somewhat complicated category of “no meat, poulty, dairy or eggs whatsoever – plain or in products- but eats fish upon occasion”. However, I think that, while most people have expressed indignation that others would assume a preoccupation with health based on veganism, I think it’s important to recognise that this is, for a vast number of people, the truth. I think that it is far more rare to find someone who is truly a vegan, meaning that they don’t consume, wear or buy anything with animal products or anything that in some way has contributed to animal suffering. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you choose to be vegan for health reasons, and I believe that it is definitely the rule, not the exception, in our society. We should embrace it, rather than creating another layer in the foodie hierarchy.

Reply

J@WholeBodyLove June 28, 2010 at 9:13 pm

When I became vegan, I was living in my hometown which had a small population and small views. I always had to explain why I did not eat butter since it had “just a little dairy” or why I didn’t eat tuna because “fish isn’t a mammal”. I am no longer vegan and haven’t been for a couple of years. I still don’t eat meat. But, I do eat organic dairy and rarely some organic fish or chicken. My reasons for veganism were mostly issues with factory farms. That was also a tough one top explain to my little farming community.

Reply

James June 28, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Hey, guys, just found the site today. Love the articles, and the comments.

I think Willie is probably right that many people just don’t notice where there food comes from or what it used to be.

One point I would add, though, on the “vegan = weight-conscious” angle, that it’s probably a thousand times worse for women vegans. No one would ever look at me, a young male, and assume I’m counting calories or “on a diet.” (They assume all kinds of silly things, to be sure, when I say I’m vegan, but at least not that.)

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm

James,

Great comment. I’m a relatively slender woman with a history of anorexia, so I’m basically an open target. I’m no shrinking violet, and I can handle the assumptions — in fact, I sort of enjoy educating people about the many motives for veganism. But I do regret that the assumptions are so widespread, especially since there are so many vegans who most certainly are *not* vegan to maintain a low weight, or even to be healthy.

Gena

Reply

James June 28, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Whoa, embarrassing typo above. I obv meant ‘where their food comes from’ and not ‘there.’

Reply

Dianne June 29, 2010 at 12:06 am

At one time, veganism HAD to be synonymous with extremely healthy, because the only foods available for vegans were whole foods they would cook themselves. But at this day and age, there are so many substitutes available for everything that I wouldn’t dream of linking veganism with health. Omnis probably do, but I think of veganism and healthy eating as two separate steps in someone’s diet, and veganism, in the strictest sense, isn’t really food-related, it’s a lifestyle. Good post!

Reply

Nachos June 29, 2010 at 1:57 am

Very well said, Gena. This is something I’ve been thinking about just recently!

I’m a very health conscious vegan but stress out about food when one of my vegan friends comes to stay because he’s the opposite! He loves mock meats and loads up on things like mashed potatoes, bread and soy milk. Quite frankly, just the thought of eating like that, even if for only a weekend, makes me sick!

Being vegan might be something we have in common, but our diets are incredibly different.

What’s going on, I think, is that someone hears, “vegan” and assumes “healthy eater,” – I think you’re absolutely right about that.

“Does it bother you when people assume that veganism is driven only by vanity or by health?”
Not really, no. Assumptions like that can only be ignorant and there’s not much point in being bothered by someone else’s lack of knowledge about something.

I also tend not to care what other people think of my choices, which is a wonderful luxury.

Reply

The Voracious Vegan June 29, 2010 at 9:10 am

Haha, I feel you on this Gena! Sometimes people tell me I can have milk because it is low-fat, or I can have the soup because it is only chicken stock, no meat, etc, etc, ETC! But then you’ve got people at the other end of the spectrum who freak out when they see me eating potato chips or chocolate. “I thought you were vegan!” they will shout. “I am….” I’ve had to tell many, many people that I’m ‘allowed’ to eat potato chips.

Veganism can be the healthiest diet out there, but it doesn’t have to be at all. I can have a green juice and whole grain bread for breakfast….or deep fried vegan donuts and a pile of hashbrowns! I am not a vegan for health reasons at all, only for the animals, but I do like to eat fairly healthy a good portion of the time.

Reply

delaney June 29, 2010 at 10:22 am

I think people have no idea and just think of a vegan as whatever their personal experiences have been. It could be a militant PeTA member, a tattooed person working at the co-op, or the nice friendly girl at the shelter. Who knows. They just lump you in with it. I’m always surprised by people. :)

Reply

Angela June 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

It’s so interesting how so few people really understand the nuances between raw, vegetarian and veganism. I don’t know much and I’m none of the above, but I know the basics. It can be frustrating when people assume you eat a certain way for looks/weight, if they actually those eating styles they would realize how much of a difference it makes on energy and balance. Even though I’m not currently vegetarian or vegan I definitely feel the impact of certain foods and try to steer clear of them. I think it might be time for me to start thinking more raw…

Reply

eric June 29, 2010 at 11:34 am

I agree with the others, this post was dead on. I don’t think any one reason for choosing the vegan life style is superior to the next, but if ones only goal is to be healthy it seems a great deal easier to slip back into eating animal products when you hear what the new hype is in the media rather than if the well being of animals is on your list.

Reply

Linda June 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I have met many people who say for example “I am a vegetarian, but I eat fish,” or something similar. Some vegetarians eat eggs, milk products or both. I know someone who claims to be a vegan in her eating, choice of clothing, etc., but is known to treat other HUMAN beings with disdain and disrespect. I myself was turned off by the Fuhrman followers because they come off (to me) as elitist and condescending. And unless you really read and understand food labels, you may unwittingly consume something that you thought was OK but isn’t. So the confusion regarding food and food choices does not surprise me, nor does it annoy me. I think it is unfair to assume that people who ask or misunderstand are clueless or uncaring. I see it as an opportunity.

Reply

meandchew June 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I recently posted on this very topic! How funny!

Veganism is not synonymous with “healthy.” Every body has different needs, and additionally, health is psychological. If the mind is not healthy (and manifests in an eating disorder, anxiety, etc.), it isn’t realistic to expect the body to be healthy, no matter what type of food is given to it.

Reply

Adventures in Veg June 29, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Another great post! I totally know what you mean. Like Mama Pea, when I eat out I don’t usually use a label, I just indicate what I would like removed from the dish, or check if it has dairy or eggs, etc, in it.
I blogged recently about a bad experience I had in a restaurant where the waiter made comments about what I ‘couldn’t’ eat – including saying that I couldn’t have my FRIEND’S onion rings…!

As for veganism and weight, people definitely do make that link, although I haven’t come up across it too much here thankfully. But some of my co workers do assume I don’t eat ‘fatty’ food…I do try to eat as healthy as possible but I am only human and do eat fries and dark chocolate etc, and love dairy-free ice-cream.
I suppose it’s up to us not to take it personally when people make assumptions about us. We just gotta do what we do!

Reply

Crys June 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm

It depends on the person I think. It is always varied for me. Some knew a vending machine vegan. Some equate it with losing weight and health. And some are avid meat eaters that stare at me cross eyed at the thought of going one meal without meat. I remember trying to find flax oil at GNC and the lady said they were out but that they had fish oil which was better for me anyways. Even when I explained that I was eating vegan (and explained what veganism was), she didn’t understand and repeatedly went on to explain to me why I should switch flax oil with fish oil. I just smiled and thanked her anyways. Everyone has their own opinion but I figure that at the end of the day, it is my body and therefore my opinion about what goes in it that counts. They are free to have their opinion about their body.

Reply

Annie@stronghealthyfit June 29, 2010 at 6:56 pm

What an interesting post! How did you explain to the woman that you don’t eat egg whites either?

Reply

Gena June 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Oh, I was very sweet. I just said, “No, actually, the veganism means I don’t eat any animal products at all.” Her response was, naturally, “so remind me what you DO eat?” And mine was, “vegetablesfruitsnutsseedsgrainsbeansseaweeds” :-D

Reply

BroccoliHut June 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I get that question a lot as a vegetarian too. Fish=animal, therefore I do not eat it. I don’t get too frustrated though, because eschewing any animal product is pretty rare in my hometown. Alabama is not exactly known for its progressive thinking when it comes to ethical eating…
It does bother me though when people say things like, “you don’t need to be vegetarian–you’re already thin!” Oy.

Reply

banandrea June 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I get similar questions all the time, though as a vegetarian I do eat eggs. I was placed under particular scrutiny with respect to my vegetarianism when I began intensive outpatient treatment for my five year battle with an eating disorder. Throughout the program, the rationale behind my vegetarianism was put under the microscope time and time again, especially as several others started the program as vegetarians and quickly changed their tune, citing vegetarianism as a part of their disorder. For some people, vegetarianism can easily be a front for restriction of entire food groups, but it is irritating when people lump all vegetarians or vegans into that category. I feel like I’ve proven to myself, my family, and my treatment team that it IS possible to recover physically and mentally from an eating disorder while maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle. In fact, as I’m sure you and most of your readers are aware, many vegetarian foods are extremely calorie-dense and lend themselves to healthy and necessary weight gain and subsequent maintenance.
Thank you for your thought-provoking post!

Reply

Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA June 29, 2010 at 11:52 pm

This was really interesting, and I’ve definitely had the same type of comments. My grandpa is one of those people who doesn’t even want to try and understand what I eat (like it’s so complicated), so asks me for every dish – “Will you eat the shrimp?” “Will you eat cottage cheese?” When I try and say “I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal,” he cuts me off because he doesn’t even want to hear it. It’s weird.

I have also had people assume that I’m gluten-free, raw, don’t eat garlic and onions, and lots of strange things.

Another thing that’s kind of a flip side — I have lots of people assume that I’m vegan because I just loooove animals. I think this helps them feel better about themselves because it makes veganism a quirk of mine and they can tell themselves that they just don’t love animals like I do. Except I am not a huge animal lover and definitely don’t want any pets – I just don’t want to kill them, either.

Reply

Kelly Mierzwiak June 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

“vegans who eat meat analogs and carbohydrates at the exclusion of vegetables may indeed be eating a less nourishing diet than certain omnivores.” – I think this hits the spot in so many leves.
When i first went vegetarian, i used to eat cheese puffs, blue cheese, iceberg lettuce, diet pepsi and oreos. honestly, thats ALL i ate. I was first more concerned with animal welfare and i couldn’t go vegan (and i’m still struggling with it, but i’m on my way), so being vegetarian was my way of showing respect to those creatures.

With time, the more i understood how much vegetarianism could heal me, help me and give me the long healthy life i desired, the better i ate and HEALTHIER i became. But i do receive lots of “oooohs” and “aaaahs” about not eating animals and people seem to love making me “lighter” salad dressings and serve me only salads at lunches and dinners because they mainly think that yeah, losing weight its pretty much the reason anyone would stop eating those poor little cute furry things.

Eating mainly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unprocessed foods has helped me be a better , more compassionate person, has made me calmer, helped with my eating disorder and depression so i feel quite sad that anyone would think this effort to cause no harm (even to yourself) it’s only about a scale. People really seem to find impossible to fathom that there are some of us that might be better than that, i guess. And i’ve learned that i am, and i owe that to my little animal friends ;)

Reply

Catherine June 30, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Great post! Gena, I love your blog. I am a frequent reader, but infrequent commenter. I agree that a lot of people think vegan = healthy. While I have not quite labeled myself yet one way or the other, I focus on a largely plant-based diet and my co-workers know I eat “healthy.” Some call it rabbit food. In office environments, where cake parties are frequent, I often notice that it comes down to being “good” and “bad” in the minds of many. Dairy has never agreed with me, and after politely declining ice cream cake, someone will inevitably say, “Oh, you’re being good?” Translation = they think they’re being bad. It’s sort of sad to me that people view food as either good or bad. I view them more as a choice.

I think it’s nice when people are legitimately curious about what being a vegetarian or vegan means. But often, I think many people are not curious, and instead are simply translating it to their own lives. They silently wonder, “could I give up ice cream?” “Could I stop eating hamburgers?” Because that answer is usually no, that person may feel a lack of willpower or control over his or her life or food choices. So again, it doesn’t end up being curiosity about the vegan’s lifestyle, but an internalized frustration with the commentator’s own lifestyle or choices. This is similar when a vegan’s decisions are based on ethical reasons. Immediately that commentator thinks, “so I’m being unethical?” In sum, I think the person ends up feeling judged, when the vegan never judged him or her, and it was actually self-judgement!

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but is just something I’ve noticed when the discussion turns to food. This is my own two cents about why I think the topic of food becomes so passionate.

Reply

C.L July 1, 2010 at 2:15 am

I totally totally agree with everything you’ve written in this post, Gena! It irritates me to death when other people think I’m vegan because I want to lose weight or I want to starve myself. But worse still, there are people who think being vegan is VERY UNHEALTHY and accuse me of being malnourished. I’m trying to go raw now and when they find out that I predominantly eat fruits and veggies, the Twinkie-chomping and animal-flesh eaters say, “What? You eat just that? That’s so… UNHEALTHY!” and i’m just so speechless, I don’t know what to say.

However, there ARE vegans who are also really unhealthy. i’m currently interning at an animal rights organization and I bring my raw veggies for lunch everyday because our office lunch though vegan, is always really unhealthy – stuff like vegan pizza with just small thin shreds of overcooked zucchini, eggplant, or super oily pasta with nary a trace of vegetable in it. Oh, did I mention Oreo is our office’s fav vegan snack? I feel kinda sad cos as vegans, we often tout the health benefits of our diet to animal-eaters, but really, my co-workers are not eating any better than the omnivores, with their emphasis on MSG-laden, salt-soaked, sugar-drenched vegan food.

Reply

Tera July 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

Actually, yes, it bothers me when people ask if I eat milk or cheese, when I say I’m a vegan. It also bothers me when people say “that’s why you’re so skinny’. I have an extremely fast metabolism, and I have to eat a lot to keep up. It’s not the food; it’s my body.
I am vegan for moral reasons (not to torture animals).
When I go to other countries such as France and Italy, I’ve seen their farms and know their dairy comes from happy (literally, not the crap some farms like to claim in America) animals. Is it actually bad to eat/drink dairy/ eggs from those animals? (not eating the animals themselves; I’d hate eating a corpse) They’re not stressed, and have a lot of comfort. That question has been bothering me for a while..

Reply

wendy July 2, 2010 at 8:22 am

Absolutely. People are so misinformed and prejudiced because they they assume rather than becoming educated. This is the problem. People turn the other cheek because they do not want to know. It’s very fearful. But in order to be a vegan, it takes much discipline and courage to look at what is really happening to animals. It’s horrifying. For me, it is purely for ethical reasons. And I love it because everywhere I turn, I am gaining more and more respect and love for all creatures.

Reply

elise July 2, 2010 at 1:04 pm

While my veganism is a GI related choice (as opposed to an ethical one ) and I occasionally eat eggs from time to time, I still think it’s quite annoying when you say no animal products to someone and they then go on to ask, well how about ______ (which is clearly an animal). I guess it’s just because there are so many exceptions and variations to each that people don’t know which kind you are/may be. It’s when people look at me in shock and ask “well what DO you eat!?!?” that really annoys me. I hate the laugh and nudge that they give to the person next to them, as if I’m making some huge sacrifice to be this way. As if I’m the sucker who is missing out. C’mon people. You know there is more out there than meat and dairy. It’s that exact uneducated population that I’m nursing back from their quadruple bipass surgery…
Anyways, all I really wanted to say was it was good to see you the other day and I just sent you a pic :)

Reply

Allison July 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I used to be a vegetarian (I was for about a year or so). I remember a few times, telling people that I had stopped eating meat, and having them ask, “oooh, have you lost any weight?”

The funny thing was, I actually ended up GAINING some weight while I was veggie because I was eating so much cheese to get my protein. =P

Reply

Sonja October 10, 2011 at 9:31 am

Good point! Yes, I think many people are very confused when they hear a person is vegetarian or vegan. I’m vegetarian and people are constantly extremly surprised when I explain to them that I don’t eat meat AND fish. Many people still think that it is very difficult to cook easy and good tasting veggie/vegan meals. I went to a birthady party last weekend and the hostess was so lovely and made some extra veggie-pizza just for me but she told me “I really had no idea what to put on a veggie-pizza!” Crazy, right?

Reply

Scott July 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I have been vegan for almost a month now.

Everytime I have to ‘sell’ why I go Vegan lol.

What I say now is, well, I do it for health reasons.
Then since they usually no nothing about what a vegan is..

And they seem interested, I just say: #1 health reasons.
#2, ethical reasons.

Good post!

Reply

Teresa August 24, 2013 at 7:58 am

I love the post…but…doesn’t most whole grain bread have eggs in it?

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: