Veganism: Obsessive or Principled?
With stars like Beyoncé and Jay Z doing couples' cleanses, and Gwyneth Paltrow being papped every other day with the diet deity that is cold-pressed green juice, veganism seems to be this year's must-have accessory.
Could it be that this fashion for deprivation, veiled as nutrition, is doing something damaging for our already body-conscious society? A vegan diet was once an ethical life-choice, the preserve of so-called hemp-loving hippies concerned with the moral dilemma of eating produce from sentient, living things. It has now morphed into a dietary fad which arguably excuses an obsessive and dangerous attitude to food and body image.
Genuine veganism itself should not be vilified, often promoting a varied, nutritious diet, filled with protein from nuts, nutrients from vegetables and fibre from pulses. However the re-appropriation of the practice, away from food philosophy, and towards an increasing emphasis on diet and weight-loss under a façade of “wellbeing", is perhaps cause for concern.
There are 150,000 vegans in the UK. This does not include the rise of 'part-time' veganism, fueled by fads like the VB6 diet, which encourages you to be vegan before 6pm every day. 'Veganuary' marks the latest trend of detox, which has seen 3,200 people sign up to go vegan for one month. 'Go vegan for January' hitches a ride on the back of the new-year-new-you bandwagon of self-flagellation, successfully encouraging people to limit their eating after Christmas excess.
This no meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, no honey diet of denial could simply be a new form of calorie counting. A means of keeping check on what you're eating so that food can no longer be a source of joy and pleasure, but guilt and disciplined restraint. Although granted, almond butter is delicious.
The dangerous habit of lauding veganism as a trendy way to 'be healthy' (aka lose weight) needs to stop, along with the media furore which only serves to fuel obsessive eating habits which teeter on the edge of disorders. By all means I would encourage eating consciously, ethically, pleasurably, but living off kale and flax seeds is not healthy (even if Gwyneth does say so).