Here's why I'm happy I failed at being a vegan
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On World Vegan Day, reporter Laura Dennison discusses her time as a vegan and why she decided to leave the lifestyle behind. I know, I know, I know, I know. I know – this is dangerous territory. The same vegan community who pose gently with bowls of courgetti could be willing to beat me around the head with the vegetable from which it came should I bad-mouth their way of life…so I’ll try to tread lightly. It’s totally understandable that the subject of food and diet is one that is so emotionally fraught and contested. Food is individualistic and central to our social lives, our economy, our physical self and our mental health – having tussled with years of bulimia, I know this better than most. Those who believe that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to our diets are being held to ransom, dismissed as simply being stubborn, unhealthy, confrontational or just pure stupid. “Look at her! Using real butter on her toast like a heathen!” Truly, I am Quasimodo. I am an ex-vegan of six months who did the unthinkable and went back to a world of eating flesh, pus and chicken brains coated in fried batter. I am the dirt through which your legumes and cauliflower grow. I am the Croc and you are the Louboutin. I am the present-day beast, you are the beauty and I stare at your Instagram account while gnawing on a leg of raw lamb, spitting fleshy juices at my iPhone screen. I’m okay with being Quasimodo though, and not just because he was a lovely chap, but I’m also okay because since successfully dislodging my fingers from down my throat for long enough to gargle an audible opinion, I believe that I deserve for my voice to be heard. A voice that is honest and shaped by six years’ worth of eating disorders. Veganism – you might’ve heard of it? It occupies your social media feeds and provides ample ammunition for many a think piece to be thrown down the internet’s well, along with this one, maybe. What was once a diet constructed to protect animals, the environment and the human conscience, has now been hijacked and reincarnated into the more marketable terms of #cleaneating and #plantbased – trends centred on vanity and giving yet more reasons to feel completely inadequate. Many of us who have grown up online are constantly searching for justifications as to why we are yet to fulfil our potential – to find love, unearth abs and build a successful career with tonnes of money. We’re trying to figure out why we are 28 and living with our mums, who still wash our underwear. Then came a-marching the polished, clean eating brigade with their laminated answers to our existential questions typed up in a minimalist font. Hey! Maybe you’re just ugly because you are eating the wrong things? Courgetti, chai seeds, Instagram, bone broth, spirulina, kale, quinoa, yoga, coconut oil, beach waves, white teeth, high-waisted thongs and sparkly eyes. These are the ingredients for a perfect, alkalised life. Wake up and smell the fermenting nut milk, won’t you! It appears that you must now be beautiful and “plant-based” to give nutritional advice. Food historian and writer Bee Wilson, wrote on The Pool after being jeered and reduced to tears by fans of a prominent clean eating blogger: “The implication is that – forget knowledge – you are only allowed a view on nutrition if you are young with model looks.”
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