In the last decade, veganism has become more mainstream than ever before. From the rise of climate conservation and animal rights, veganism became an easy, sure fire way for individual activism. But the early vegan activists who preached about “your body is a temple” mantra may have contributed to the endless cycle of cult dieting.
Veganism is a lifestyle that rejects all types of animal products. No meat, obviously. Also, no dairy, eggs, gelatin, and whey. The term was born from a British woodworker, David Watson, in November 1944. He used the rise in tuberculosis in Britain—linked with dairy cows—to his advantage in his Vegan Society newsletter which had 25 subscribers. Watson died at 95 in 2005, in which veganism rose to a whopping 2 million in the US.
It can be a beautiful lifestyle, one that lessens your carbon footprint by a quarter. If you followed a select type of popular vegans on social media from around 2015, however that lifestyle cuts too close to disordered eating, steeped in the language of bikini body dieting.
Take for example, Freelee the Banana Girl—the mother of the vegan cult back in 2014. Her fame derived from the insane 51-bananas-a-day vegan diet. Yes, 51 bananas a day. That’s around 714 g of sugar. Not to say sugar is terrible, but 700 g isn’t great. She also started the popular vegan diet Raw Till 4, a diet that only consists of eating raw foods like vegetables and fruits until 4 p.m.
Freelee’s brand was heavily based on fatphobic and diet rhetoric to further her vegan agenda for “healthy weight loss.” In a YouTube video from 2014, Freelee bashes Jenna Marbles, a popular comedy YouTuber, for her non-vegan diet which Freelee claims has made Jenna gain weight. “She’s putting the animal products back in her mouth at a rapid rate,” Freelee says. In another video from 2013, Freelee excitedly claims she is “cellulite free” at 33 years old—even though 80 to 90 percent of women have cellulite. This type of weight loss emphasis is harmful not only to a person’s emotional wellbeing, but their physical health too.
Once religious followers of Freelee, popular vegan YouTubers Bonny Rebecca and Rawvana actually ditched their preacher vegan brand on social media after experiencing digestion problems possibly linked with their diets.
Bonny Rebbeca was slammed with hate after releasing her “Why I’m no longer vegan…” video in 2019. She explained she and her partner experienced painful gut issues, skin breakouts, and chronic fatigue. The restrictive rules of vegan diets such as Raw Till 4, high-carb, and low-fat diets led to disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with food. In many of her older videos, Bonny was afraid to use oil and salt in her meals.
Rawvana was another YouTuber famous for her intense raw vegan diet. Imagine recipe videos of just … fruit. Just like Bonny, Rawvana experienced adverse gut issues like SIBO and other health problems like anemia.
However, when done right, veganism still offers a wealth of benefits for personal and environmental health. Adopting a plant-based diet naturally increases intake of fiber, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, C, and E. It can also lower blood sugar levels and protect against risks of heart disease and cancer. Moreover, plant-based diets are still a hot topic, with many brands such as HelloFresh, a meal-kit delivery company, promoting plant-based meals as part of their marketing strategy.
There’s still a wealth of healthy vegan content on social media, with new vegan influencers on the rise and promoting a more well-balanced vegan lifestyle without all the dieting nonsense. For example, Nisha Vora, under the name Vegan Plant Life, offers delicious recipes that aren’t afraid of salt and oil like those of her vegan influencer predecessors.
Restriction of any type, diets such as Keto and the Atkins diet, can destroy the body long-term. These diets may achieve short-term weight loss, but at what cost? Any diet can be unhealthy if it’s interfering with your life.
Disclaimer: Always do your research when it comes to dieting and consult a doctor or nutritionist.
Cover photo courtesy of Today