The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.
She’s not the first — nor will she be the last — to abandon veganism, but a YouTube ‘star’ who spent years pushing a no-meat-never-ever diet is getting excoriated by her former fans.
It’s axiomatic that the more “enlightened” anyone professes to be — whether it involves religion, politics or lifestyles — the less tolerant they are of anyone who disputes or criticizes the credibility of the wisdom they insist the rest of us must embrace.
Case in point: If veganistas find out that one of their tribe let the flesh of a slaughtered animal touch their lips, they’re ready to kill the heretic who dared to violate their peaceful, non-violent philosophy.
Of course, there are myriad examples of religious intolerance, past and present, that literally sentenced people to death, but even within that vast sphere of intolerance, there’s at least the possibility of repentance and forgiveness.
Not so with strict vegans.
That latest evidence of such fanaticism is the recent flap over one Yovana Mendoza, who goes by the stage name of Rawvana. She’s built an online reputation via a series of YouTube videos espousing the raw vegan diet as a cure-all for whatever ails people and society.
Only one problem: Her strict vegan diet apparently caused Rawvana some serious health problems, to the point that she resumed eating animal foods on the advice of doctors.
She got caught on camera with what appeared to viewers as a piece of fish on her plate, and you’d think she killed a farm animal live on her YouTube channel, given how harshly vegan haters attacked her.
Mendoza tried to explain her change of heart (and diet), as any well-meaning person facing a health crisis would do, but her words rang hollow with the born-again vegan believers who’d slavishly clicked on her videos.
She told BuzzFeed News that her “intentions are and always have been good,” saying she wasn’t ready to go public about her dietary change when she was outed.
“I wanted to make sure [eating animal foods] is something I really had to do and would really make me feel better before sharing it publicly,” she told BuzzFeed. “I’m listening to my body and learning to adapt to eat without self-judgment towards myself and others,” she said. “It makes me sad to see so much hate on the internet.”
Get used to it, young lady, because there’s no walking back the crime of being caught with a piece of fish on your raw vegan plate.
No universal prescription
Rawvana’s experience with veganism isn’t unique, of course. As BuzzFeed News reported, she developed a number of health-related issues while on her extreme diet, which included a 25-day water fast. She acknowledged that “something wasn’t going right with her body,” and she began to lose her menstrual cycles.
Eventually, doctors told her she had developed something called “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth” and recommended that she include eggs and meat in her diet. She said she began to add salt, fat and cooked food back into her diet, along with supplements. However, she admitted she was still “physically getting more tired,” and doctors prescribed testosterone and thyroid medication, as well as again recommending that she eat eggs and meat.
That’s when the (animal) flesh hit the fan.
“I decided to put my health first ... that’s exactly why I hadn’t shared [eating meat] with you,” she told her online followers. “For me, it’s still an experiment,” she said, adding that she felt a lot of shame for eating eggs and fish.
No, what’s shameful is the vitriol her former acolytes heaped upon her once she modified her diet to deal with serious health problems, calling her a traitor and accusing her of animal cruelty.
Let’s be clear: Vegetarian diets are neither intrinsically inappropriate nor universally superior. The choice to eschew animal foods is a luxury available to a mere sliver of the world’s seven-plus billion people. But those fortunate few able to afford the tropically grown, highly processed food products developed as a result of specialized food science and modern distribution infrastructure, God bless. Go forward.
But there is one simple, straightforward determination that everyone, no matter their principles, needs to make: How does the food I eat make me feel?
In the case of Rawvana, in a word — rotten.
And that’s true of many millions of people who decided they should live primarily on fruits and vegetables, uncooked or otherwise, only to discover that neglecting to consume necessary fat, protein and minerals doesn’t lead to either enlightenment or good health.
Veganism isn’t for everyone, nor are the variations on the Paleo Diet.
We’re supposed to utilize conscious consideration, coupled with thoughtful trial-and-error, to arrive at a diet that provides us, as individuals, with optimal energy and well-being.
As opposed to watching some 20-something spouting off on YouTube.