Ever since a certain fear-mongering documentary came out on Netflix, I've been getting a ton of questions about veganism. And since Netflix likes to suggest more fear-mongering documentaries after you watch one fear-mongering documentary, I've been getting more questions about "clean eating" and "sugar addiction." as well.
Just to preface this post, I see absolutely nothing wrong with going vegan, if done for the right reasons. As a whole, our world would be a lot better off, in both health and the environment, if we ate less meat. While I do think there are health reasons to at least include some animal foods in your diet (omega 3s, B12, and other nutrients to support brain health for example), if you've taken a deep dive into examining your ethics and choose not to, these aren't life or death things.
What I do have problems with are documentaries that harness fear and inaccurate or wildly exaggerated science to scare people into making changes that a.) rarely last and b.) fuel disordered eating and c.) trigger eating disorders in susceptible people.
Also, in the name of full disclosure, I have not watched the currently popular documentary because I just don't have the mental energy, but I have watched others of a similar vein and have read from a lot of dietitians I respect discussing the science (or in some cases, "science") that ws brought up. You can listen here or read here.
So, let's say you've just watched a fearmongering documentary. You're feeling scared. You're feeling anxiety over every food you usually eat. You're ready to jump in and make a huge change to your diet, without really thinking it through.
Time to detox your brain.
What I've noticed is that most documentaries take extremes in eating and use that to scare people who don't eat that way. Take that sugar documentary from a few years back for example. They highlighted a bunch of kids who were suffering from diet-related diseases at a young age and showed how much sugar they were eating. It was really sad, and no doubt, a lot of parents probably saw it and thought Oh my God, my child eats Fruity Pebbles too! Are they going to develop diabetes at 12?? But all the families I remember had a low socioeconomic status, and presumably, most people watching a documentary on Netflix are probably upper/middle class or at the very least, food secure. It seems really disingenuous to me to shame people are are eating poorly because they don't have access to healthy food, and use their struggles to scare people who do.
Take a step back and look at the big picture of your eating. If you regularly eat plant-based meals, include veggies and grains in your meals, and generally eat a wide variety of foods, it's highly unlikely you're eating enough animal food to be harmful. If you cook at home, don't guzzle soda or sugar sweetened beverages all day, snack on a variety of whole foods as well as some convenience snacks, and aren't restricting sugar (which we know triggers overconsumption), then it's highly unlikely you're eating enough sugar to be harmful.
Just because there's some shred of truth in the documentaries, that doesn't mean we have to take eating to an extreme. Ethical issues around meat consumption are real. I don't like the way factory farmed animals are treated. I really don't like the way workers at meat plants are treated. I also don't like the way poor communities are exposed to pollution from factory farms. That's one reason why I don't eat much meat, and thankfully, can afford buying meat, cheese and eggs from local farms whose ethics align with mine.
If those are things you care about, you don't have to go to extremes. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I think recycling is really important. I'm that kinda gal who will take stuff out of your garbage can to recycle it. But if I throw away a can because I can't find a recycling bin, I'm not going to geek out and feel so guilty about it that I stop recycling entirely. Just like if I'm at a friend's house and they're grilling chicken made with regular meat, I'll eat it.
I think the best think you can do is make each food decision in the moment rather than setting broad rules. If being vegan truly aligns with your values, you'll still be vegan. Not sure if you're going meatless for the right reasons? I wrote a whole post on it here.
Have you ever watched a fear-mongering documentary? How did it make you feel? Did you make changes to how you ate afterwards? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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