The goal of the vegan movement is for everyone to go vegan or at least incorporate more plant-based choices into their current lifestyle. In this mission, we vegans want to show how wonderful this choice can be and all the benefits that stem from it.
Except sometimes, we make veganism sounds a little too good. That’s resulted in some vegan false claims and misconceptions to swirl around. We make veganism into a cure-all solution to our problems, but at the end of the day, veganism is a diet and lifestyle. The more informed we are going into it, the more sustainable and realistic we’ll be continuing to live that way.
False claim 1: My skin will become a million times better.
Inevitably, when you’re eating more plant-based whole foods, that healthier diet will radiate through your complexion. Cutting out red meat alone decreases overall inflammation in the body that otherwise breaks down the skin’s collagen and elasticity.
The same goes for dairy. Since cow’s milk is technically breast milk produced during a cow’s pregnancy, it’s chock-full of excess hormones meant for cows, not humans. (What a concept, right?) The excess hormones thus contribute to oil secretion, breakouts, and acne.
However, everyone’s skin is different, and if you have certain food sensitivities and pre-existing conditions, ditching meat and dairy won’t automatically cure that. Veganism should not be a replacement for any medication or topical prescriptions you might be using. Always be in communication with your wellness team to ensure you’re treating yourself well.
Some people’s skin reacts to vegan staples, so they should still be mindful of how their body responds to their diet. A big example is soy. It contains phytoestrogens that potentially mimic natural estrogen levels that, when eating it in abundance, could cause acne. Basically, if you’re eating soy at every meal, try experimenting with less.
False claim 2: Veganism automatically results in weight loss.
In a similar argument as the skin benefits, many people who start out in veganism rely upon a lot of the substitutes and packaged products to ease into the lifestyle. First off, Oreos. Second of all, it’s never been a more exciting time to be vegan: practically any animal product has a vegan equivalent (many of which taste better than the original).
Just because something is vegan doesn’t make it healthy. It may still contain lots of empty energy and sugar and little nutritional value. I’m all about moderation for everything: if you want some peanut butter or even almond milk ice cream, have it. But also balance that with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Also, a diet that has an excess of a certain macronutrient (carbs, proteins or fats) or is always in a caloric deficit won’t be sustainable or healthy.
A major problem I see is how people promote veganism strictly for weight loss. Sure, you’ll likely find more balance in your life when plant-based, but this isn’t necessarily a sustainable motivation. If you’re pursuing weight loss or improved physical health, I would suggest also looking into the ethical and environmental benefits for staying vegan long-term, even after you achieve those personal goals.
False claim 3: Veganism is a great way to recover from an eating disorder.
Here’s where the false claim comes in: veganism is the best for everyone. It could even be dangerous.
As I just mentioned, your motivations and reasons for going vegan in the first place are key. When I first wanted to go vegan, my own eating disorder was still wreaking havoc. I hadn’t done much research into the environment or the animal industry: I simply knew many low-calorie foods were vegan, and it was a nice way to label me still heavily restricting my diet.
Be open and honest with yourself and others about this decision. Perhaps it’s something you’d like to do in the future, but you aren’t physically or mentally healthy enough to do it now; that’s okay. Take care of yourself first. Talk about what you’re feeling and thinking. Get the help you need, even if it feels like that last thing you want to do right now. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Before taking the plunge into veganism, do your research. Learn how to approach the lifestyle in a balanced way. Eat enough calories by incorporating plenty of grains and proteins. Allow yourself abundance. Healthy fats like coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds are good for you. Make sure you’re supplementing nutrients like Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D since it can be difficult to find these in plant foods alone.
Once I grounded myself and my health, I utilized my improved mental clarity to realize how amazing veganism truly is. Going vegan can be what helps you gain a healthy relationship with food. Not only can you view food and eating from a greater perspective, knowing you’re making a difference with every bite, but you can also find a new sense of purpose and passion in what is otherwise a source of distress.
Don’t just do your research: educate others, too. Your loved ones will likely be hesitant about you making a big change involving food. Allow them to hold you accountable to avoiding animal products for that greater purpose and not out of obsession or fear.
False claim 4: Veganism alleviates all mental illness.
Eating disorders are mental disorders, just like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and so many others. While having nature ways of coping and managing disease is a great option for many people, it’s a false claim to say eating plant-based will cure disease, especially mental illness.
There’s lots of evidence for veganism preventing certain cancers and reducing risks for high blood pressure/cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and more. The evidence for mental health is much scarcer. Some studies found dropping meat from your diet improves your mood and stress management, but it’s hard to judge how accurate and universal these results are.
Mental health is very complicated. It’s not physical conditions that have key visible symptoms to study. Any changes documented rely upon the subjects’ own opinions and experiences, what we choose to share and what perspective we have. There are so many factors that go into our mental health, citing only one thing as the main reason people’s mental health may change isn’t telling the whole story.
Mental illness is based in our genetics, our neurotransmitters, our experiences, our environments, our current circumstances, and so much more. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, just eating more vegetables won’t help. That’s equivalent to telling someone to just do more yoga or walk outside and “it’ll all be better.” In fact, if your vegan diet lacks certain key omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients, it could even be harmful to your mental well-being.
If you really want to take care of your mental health and address mental illness, you need professional guidance, whether that’s a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, and/or whoever else. You need awareness of your moods and thoughts. Veganism will never completely replace active treatment, medication, and support.
All of these vegan false claims, and many others, put the lifestyle in a bad light. Vegans paint their diet as something it’s not, and when these major results don’t happen, people are left discouraged and angry. Veganism is amazing, and I’ll sing its praises every chance I get, but I will only speak from my own experiences and research. With anything you do, don’t perpetuate false claims and be real.
What other vegan false claims have you heard?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie