Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Final Word on Health

With the rise of smartphones and the newly formed habit of humanity documenting our lives via pictures posted on social media platforms, our species had figured out yet another novel way to aggravate and torment one another: judging and shaming strangers from a distance. No subject is off limits but very often it’s about the health, body size, food choices and morality we can assume about one another based on those posted pictures.

Let’s look at just food photos and assume that we’re talking about ones that document vegan food. Here’s no need to argue about the ethics of eating animals because I am just talking about vegan food here. As much as some vegans say that omnivores are always attacking them, my observations lead me to believe that vegans attack from within just as often if not more. There are various ways that vegans make assumptions about and attack one another in the public square of social media using just food photos as the springboard.

One way we do that is to assume that a picture of one meal is indicative of that person’s entire diet. (Not that it is anyone else’s business if it is.) Another way is to issue random opinions on the healthfulness or lack thereof on social media shares where that opinion wasn’t solicited. Yet another way that we issue create a hostile environment around food is asking a fusillade of questions – some clearly “gotcha” style – or by blurting out shaming opinions about innocuous food posts: “Is it gluten-free?” “Is it GMO?” “Yikes, look at the sodium content!” “I don’t eat processed foods.” (Um, did anyone ask? And yes you do eat processed food.) I see this happening on vegan Facebook pages all the time. And there is yet another way that we feed into an environment of hostility and competition about food, one that I have seen creeping up a lot these days. It is acting as the arbiter of what is and is not the healthiest way to live as a vegan. No wonder people just exploring veganism are intimidated: they will post a picture of an ingredient’s panel, asking if it’s vegan, and an hour later, they’ll have 2,013 opinions – often very combative ones – on the ingredients that have nothing to go with veganism.

Let’s see the people they may encounter. We have:

* Vegan A, who claims that eating mono-meals of fruit is the ideal diet. Consuming massive amounts of bananas, mangoes, watermelons, dates and papayas is advised. If you’re not eating only fruit, you’re killing yourself! Or we have…
* Vegan B, who claims that Vegan A is wrong. Don’t just eat fruit: as long as you are a raw foodist, that is enough and that is the ideal diet. If you don’t cook anything over 104 degrees, you will be the eating the healthiest diet. If you’re not a raw foodist, you’re killing yourself! And we have…
* Vegan C, who claims that Vegans A and B has it all wrong. Vegan A isn’t eating enough variety and Vegan B’s diet is too high-fat with all the nuts, seeds and avocados. The true ideal vegan diet is high-carb, with lots of potatoes, beans and rice but very limited fat. If you’re not a high-carb vegan, you’re killing yourself! But don’t forget about…
* Vegan D, who claims that Vegans A, B, and C are all wrong because what you really need to do is limit carbs – simple and complex – to be the healthiest vegan. If you’re not a low-carb vegan, you’re killing yourself! Vegans A, B, and C are totally wrong. And, of course, we will return to...
* Vegan A, who claims that D is very wrong, as well and B and C, of course. Also: you’re killing yourself!

Be forewarned: vegans A - D will have ample proof and “proof” to back up their claims and they will post – again without solicitation – copious links to random websites, two-hour long videos you’re expected to watch, articles, memes, personal testimonials and on and on and on to make their case. If you don’t read their lengthy articles or watch their long, poorly produced videos, they will say, “Did you even look at the link???” They will often say that you can do what you like, but they are interested in being “healthy” vegans.

This is why I am wary of people who claim to be “healthy” vegans: while one person thrives as a raw foodist, another does not, whereas someone else can load up on grains and potatoes and feel great while another feels awful with an emphasis on carbs. The fact is, no one has the final word on what constitutes “healthy;” it really does come down to how individuals do best. Some of us do just fine as regular ol’ vegans and haven’t asked for opinions.

The conceit that there is one way to be a healthy vegan is just that: a conceit. Implying that you have the insider knowledge on being bulletproof is solipsistic, dishonest and presented on the wobbly platform of confirmation bias. None of us knows the ideal vegan diet for someone else and we need to stop acting like we do. Vegans creating a hostile and obnoxious environment around animal-free food is probably the worst thing we can do to the beings who so desperately need positive and effective advocacy on their behalf.

PS - Could we mind our own business unless asked for our opinions? That would be fab!

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