Some people say that lately there’s been a “trend” of famous vegan YouTubers who have started eating meat again and made a sort of “coming out” video of why they’re no longer vegan. For some, it’s confirmation that the vegan diet doesn’t work. But I’m not so easily fooled.
First of all, this idea of people trying out a vegan, or ANY other diet, and then giving it up for whatever reason is not new. I’ve met countless people over the years who told me why they stopped eating a particular diet — not restricted to veganism.
For some reason though, the subject of ex-vegans is more touchy because people tend to make a big fuss about it and also pretend that this diet is unsustainable. For example, there’s a book called “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith, that claims that the vegetarian diet caused her a long list of health problems and is unsustainable, either for human health or planetary health. This book has been debunked many times — an easy task because it’s quite a weak target. In reality, the author had many health problems, to begin with, blamed them on the vegan diet, which she didn’t follow (in one interview, she says that she ate eggs and dairy “every chance she got”).
But I don’t doubt for a second that Ms. Keith was sincere in writing this book. She convinced herself that the vegan diet, in general, was responsible for her health problems, which made her feel better because it gave her an answer. But it confused a lot of people who also experience health problems and are seeking for an answer.
So how can we relate Ms. Keith’s experience to the recent YouTubers who have come out as “ex-vegans” and claim that the diet “didn’t work for them.”
A vegan YouTuber, Gojiman, currently completing a Masters degree in nutrition, and qualifying as a nutritionist, has recently made an answer video to this trend, identifying 13 factors that those ex-vegans have in common. (Gojiman’s channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8zKmTVcs5s3IIR2DVlxfzA)
Let’s take a look at them:
Goji Man’s 13 Common Factors in Ex-Vegans
1) Start With Ill-Health
Many of those ex-vegans started with existing health problems. This might include anything from digestive issues, anorexia, or mental health problems. This doesn’t make them bad people but is one factor in explaining their failure.
2) Adopt Extreme Diets
Nearly all ex-vegans end up adopting unbalanced, extreme diets. Very restrictive raw food diets were common, or just unbalanced vegan diets relying too much on vegetables.
Many but not all of those ex-vegans were motivated by appearance and were posting photos of themselves in bikinis showing how great they looked on their vegan diet. They were obsessed with their weight and probably restricted their diet too much to accelerate the loss.
4) Recreational Drug Use (Mushrooms, LSD, Cannabis, Steroids)
It’s surprising but true. Drug use is widespread in the vegan world. Some ex-vegans had mushroom trips, during which an inner voice told them that they should start eating meat. Cannabis use is also common among raw-vegans (to my great surprise when I started on this path).
Generally, those ex-vegans went from one extreme to the next, trying out raw veganism, juice fasting, fruit-only diets, and water fasting. While all of those things have their place, they can be pushed to an extreme and should never be used to lose weight. Many underwent long water fasts when they didn’t need to do it, and had a terrible re-feeding period.
6) Conspiracy Theorists
They tend to be fans of conspiracy theories and reject all modern medicine.
Gojiman says that they are arrogant because they claim to know better than scientists. In many cases, like the recent Rawvana story, they consulted with health professional but refused to follow their advice, instead going their own way. This reminds me of a lot of my early raw food days when I got terribly sick once but refused to go to the doctor. I probably had a life-threatening infection, but I fasted my way out of it. (I tell the story in my book, Raw Food Controversies).
8) Digestive Issues From Restrictive Eating
Many of those ex-vegans experience digestive problems, which is often a consequence of extreme and restricted diets.
9) Always Right, Not Taking Responsibility
Like Ms. Keith in “The Vegetarian Myth,” who wrote a book trying to prove that a diet is unsustainable for humans, when it is not, just from her anecdotal evidence – the ex-vegans preferred to attack the vegan diet rather than taking responsibility for their own mistakes.
10) Need to Tell the World
As a result, they feel it’s their duty to tell the world that this diet doesn’t work.
11) Various Warning Signs That They Ignored
If you follow their story, you will find many warning signs that they were heading downhill, which they ignored.
12) Never Concerned About Animal Ethics
They did the vegan diet for their health and never were interested in animal ethics.
13) ‘A few Ex-Vegans Prove That Vegan Diet Doesn’t Work’
They claim that the fact that a few people have quit being vegan is a proof that the diet doesn’t work for everyone.
I will say that it’s possible, in some cases, that a purely vegan diet might not be appropriate for some people. However, this doesn’t mean that the vegetarian diet is flawed and unsustainable.
If those ex-vegans didn’t wreck their health through extreme diets and the obsession to be as thin as possible, and if they listened to real experts instead of coming up with their own theories, they might have been able to make the vegan diet work for them. Granted, it might not have solved all of their health problems (what diet can?), but it would have worked for them.