Veganism has again exploded into the mainstream public domain over recent weeks with Bill Clinton’s announcement that he is officially following a vegan diet for 364 days of the year. With support from his doctor, he has effectively reversed cardiac problems that he has been facing as well as dropping a couple of stone in weight. Thus, he has recently become a spokesperson for veganism, albeit somewhat unwittingly.
It seems like at the moment everyone is hanging off his every word on this issue. Many nutritionists are keen to dispute Clinton and his doctor’s claims that the diet is healthy and even heart-disease reversing. Vegans are relishing the fact that they’ve got a former President now backing their diet and ideas. The media and the public meanwhile seem just generally fascinated at the whole prospect – veganism is still not a mainstream diet by any means, and a high profile figure such as this abandoning animal products and espousing the health benefits is an interesting development.
What is at the centre of this fascination though? Is it as simple as the fact that a previous junk foodist has turned his life around? I’m sure this holds some degree of weight – the celebrity culture that we live in entails this. But there is undoubtedly an added degree of fascination over exactly how it has been done – by following a vegan diet. The very same diet that the mainstream media portrays as unhealthy, lacking in protein and various vitamins and minerals, and completely unnatural. Here’s a case of a vegan diet working wonders for someone on the road to heart disease and possibly an early grave.
Veganism gets a lot of bad press, we all know this. Not least though is in the area of health. Consistently, it seems to be believed that by denying meat and dairy one is also sacrificing their fitness. I have met people who have actually told me that they couldn’t be vegan because they play too much sport/lift weights/run marathons. Of all the bullshit excuses I’ve heard, this is pretty high on the bullshitometer, due to the fact that veganism will not impair their activity and may actually enhance it.
You only have to type in ‘vegans are’ on Google, and amongst ‘stupid,’ ‘retarded,’ and ‘idiots’ it suggests ‘not healthy.’
A badly planned vegan diet is not healthy. But what about a badly planned omnivore diet? Haven’t really seen obesity, heart attacks and diabetes plague the former. Sure, there’s anemia, but that’s not too difficult to overcome. Besides, someone who is playing sports or following any kind of fitness regime should be regulating their diet heavily anyway. No one gets healthy and fit without monitoring what they’re taking in on a daily basis.
Now, I’m sure that at some point in the near future I’ll probably write up a list of vegan athletes, or at least write about a few of my inspirations. But for now I just want to write briefly about what fitness means to me as a vegan. I am a keen runner and weightlifter. I’ve never been one for teamsports really, but I love sports where I can set my own goals and tackle them, and I am committed to doing so. However, at no point have I ever felt hampered by my diet.
I ate meat for years, and was very overweight. I turned vegetarian and shed most of that. Yet since turning vegan my progress has been hugely boosted. I no longer feel sluggish and bloated from dairy products, and I’m avoiding cholesterol entirely. People are often surprised to find out that I am vegan. And this is important to me.
As veganism is still a diet that is widely unpopular in mainstream culture, every single vegan is an advert for the diet. Most people only know one or two vegans, if any. If you are that one vegan, they’ll probably look at you and judge veganism based on you.
It is your duty to prove the vegan stereotype wrong. The stereotype shouldn’t be of a skinny, preachy hippie. Prove that veganism is better than that. To me, this is a real motivation to maintain my fitness. If I am vegan, yet can outrun and outlift the majority of my peers then they will realise that something is working. If I am vegan, yet my body is in better shape than those panicking about their next meat-based protein fix then I am doing my bit to smash that stereotype which veganism has acquired.
Every vegan out there is responsible for the stereotype that develops with it. If you are that one vegan that someone knows, surprise them. Prove what veganism can be.