Well, it’s taken 9 years since I went vegan, but I’m officially no longer a freak: The vegan diet has decidedly gone mainstream, and I couldn’t be more excited!
It probably started when Skinny Bitch became a best-seller, convincing all those Cosmo-reading 20-somethings that you could slip into a size 2 and be kind to animals at the same time, all without ingesting any of those *$#@(*&! chemicals. Around the same time, Colin Campbell published The China Study, which convinced some big-named football player to go vegan, and that caused a stir in the sports world. Then Kathy Freston appeared on Oprah, explaining that you could be “vegan-ish” and still make a difference in your health and weight (read about my thoughts on that in next week’s blog.) Oprah challenged her whole staff to go vegan for a week, and the world followed. That’s when we vegans were finally vindicated: If Oprah endorses it, everyone knows it must be okay.
More recently, Bill Clinton came out of the vegan closet when he told Larry King and, later, Sanjay Gupta, that his newfound health and physique were due to a vegan diet. Sanjay Gupta ran a 1-hour program on the diet, highlighting Caldwell Esselstyn and friends, and we vegans were jumping up and down in our living rooms saying, “I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING THEIR WORK FOR YEARS!!!” We vegans have been following, promoting, touting, recommending and worshipping people like Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, Colin Campbell, PhD, John Robbins, Jeff Novick, RD, Joel Fuhrman, MD and John McDougall, MD for years. So it’s a happy day for us to see our heroes finally making it on CNN and Oprah. It just doesn’t get any bigger.
However, what makes me so excited about it is that, unlike Atkins, Weight Watchers, gluten-free diets, etc, I truly believe the vegan diet will have a very high retention rate. The reason is simple: We Americans say we want to be thin, and we continually diet in the pursuit of being thin, yet research shows that somewhere around 96% of people are not successful at getting the weight off and keeping it off. This tells me that our motive (getting thin) is simply not compelling enough. If it was compelling enough, we would have lost the weight and kept it off the first time.
So what does motivate people to lose the weight and keep it off? Well, for most of us, it’s not our vanity, much to our surprise. It usually ends up being something like a serious health problem due to being overweight or, for those who come across the information, the knowledge of the atrocities in factory farms.
While many people will become introduced to the vegan diet after seeing Oprah or President Clinton on TV, they will likely start googling “vegan diet” and checking Amazon for related books. Eventually, they will come across Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, or one of the many ground-breaking books that goes beyond the health benefits of a vegan diet and covers the extreme cruelty and environmental destruction of our mass-farming system. That’s the information that will convince people to go vegan for life. You see, the motivations of life, compassion and stewardship are compelling enough for people to stick with this diet.
So, cheers to Oprah, Caldwell, Sanjay, Colin, Bill and all the others that are helping to make vegan mainstream! With every new vegetarian or vegan, 100 land animals are saved every year!