Double Standard: Health

Vegetarians and vegans are used to being the brunt of many jokes and criticisms around the dinner table.

But what upsets me the most is the double standard that people hold, especially when it comes to health.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say some variation of the following, “I don’t care if you are vegetarian or vegan, but  you should learn about nutrition so you stay healthy.”

I always want to respond with: Well, duh!  Everyone should have some basic knowledge of nutrition; not just vegetarians and vegans!

Why aren’t you concerned about everyone’s health?  Why specifically mine?  If you’re so concerned about people’s health, why don’t you go support school lunch reform, or nutrition label reform, or start a petition to require nutrition classes in public school?

I realize that this misguided concern people have about vegetarian and vegan diets is a product of a cultural and historical bias towards a meat eating diet– rather than any substantive study of vegan diets that shows that they aren’t healthy.  The ideas that most people in the U.S. have about nutrition come from ads, family doctors, and parents.  Few people have actually studied or taken classes about nutrition.

Of course, I’d rather have people be concerned about my health, and at least acknowledge that a vegan diet can be healthy, rather than just automatically assuming that it’s impossible to be healthy and vegan.

And sure, you can be an unhealthy vegan; but you can be an unhealthy anything!  And in my experience vegans and vegetarians are more conscious about the source and nutrition content of their food than most people.

So be careful what you say to vegans about their health.

They probably know more than you do.

That concludes my rant for the day.

If you want to know more about being vegan– or just about being healthy– look up Dean Ornish, John Robbins, or T. Colin Campbell.

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Golden Rule

I’ve just finished my first two months of being vegan.  And I’ve noticed that I’ve been living my life more consciously.  Not only have I become an expert ingredient reader, but I’m more conscious of how I live my life as a whole, how my actions affect others,  and how I treat myself.  So, I thought I would mark this anniversary by reflecting on the Golden Rule.

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Treat others as you wish to be treated.  That’s the Golden Rule that has been instilled in us since we were very small.  It’s the basis of all major religions in the world.  It’s repeated so often that it’s joined the ranks of motivational poster sayings.

But most of us don’t really live the Golden Rule.

When you really think about it, we don’t treat ourselves very well.  If we treated other people like we treat ourselves…the world would be a really crappy place to live.  We reserve a lot of judgment, self-doubt, criticism, guilt, and name calling for ourselves.

What we need to recognize is that the Golden Rule isn’t just about treating others well.  It also reminds us that we need to learn how to treat ourselves with the same compassion we extend to others.

I am the first to admit that I’m a harsh critic of myself; but when others are genuinely compassionate and caring towards me, that little nagging voice of inner-judgment in my head gets smaller.  So lately I’ve been trying to direct some compassion inward.  This not only means being  mindful of my self-judgment, but also compassionate towards my physical body and the things I put in it.

I went vegan because I wanted to live the part of the Golden Rule that tells us to treat others well; for me this meant animals.  But now I’m also trying to live the part of the Rule that asks that we treat ourselves with kindness as well.

I don’t eat animals because I see it as an act of disrespect towards them and towards myself.  I do not condone the torture that is used in factory farms, and the suffering that animals have to go through for people to enjoy a meal.  I do not eat any animal products because I wish to treat all beings as I wish to be treated– with compassion.

But, in these past two months I’ve also recognized that being vegan is a way of caring about myself as well– emotionally and physically.  Since becoming vegan I have experienced first hand the health benefits of this compassionate diet.  I have more energy, I am less stressed (although stress never completely goes away, especially for college students), and I feel that I am living a fuller life.

I feel better that I am not forcing others to kill or torture animals so that I might enjoy a meal.  I feel better that I am not putting anything in my body that had to suffer or endure pain.  And I feel better because I’ve learned how to eat healthier and make new and exciting meals for myself!

In other words, now I’m truly living the Golden Rule; by treating myself just as compassionately as I treat others.  This doesn’t mean that I’ve eradicated that little nagging voice of self-judgment completely.  But now whenever it speaks up, I refuse to let it beat me down; and instead I act compassionately toward myself and others… by making myself a vegan cupcake :)