Nutritional Moralization

When it comes to ploys for the adoption of veganism, weight loss is right up there as one of the top. Hell, Skinny Bitch alone was so popular I couldn’t chuck a block of tofu without hitting a Skinny Bitcher. Unfortunately it was a nutritional atrocity that set people up for failure all the while dangling the skinny carrot. Appealing to people’s obsession with weight loss is a common tactic for the quick sell but it becomes much more than mere calories with vegans. It’s about the goodness of the food itself.

So it’s curious but I guess not surprising that vegans are poo-pooing this experiment where a nutrition professor goes on a “twinkie” diet and not only loses weight but gets healthier. And no it doesn’t look like any of those snack cakes are vegan, now go tell THAT! His point is that if you want to lose weight, it’s the calories stupid. When you eat too many calories you become overweight which lead to many of the afflictions that vegan advocates often claim their diet cures. Raw foodists have this correlation confusion honed to perfection where they give credit to the raw state of the food rather than to its low calorie content.

Eating “healthy” food it doesn’t guarantee weight loss. Dietitians refer to this as the health halo effect. Basically people tend to overeat when they believe a food to be healthy. The food gains this halo of goodness and anything else is devilish. Skinny Bitch actually has a chapter in its book called “Sugar is the Devil”! For vegans, anything with a modicum of animal derived product is verboten but I wonder if this experiment was slightly altered to employ only vegan junk food if the poo would still be flung. Morgan Spurlock in his documentary Super Size Me lays blame to the poor quality of fast food as a contributor to rampant obesity. I wonder though if the results of eating the same fast food diet like he did for 30 days but under the caloric limit would result in similar health benefits as the Twinkie diet.

Professor Mark Haub’s Snack Food Diet has been generating a lot of attention for the “diet” part when in reality it’s not a plan he recommends, it’s just a nutrition exercise. He’s exploring the ideas of “good food” and “bad food” in a culture that yearns for an easy demarcation when it looks more and more like the demarcation that counts most of all is simply the number of calories. That would mean though we would need to consume less calories…and that would be a bummer now wouldn’t it?

Vegans love the polarization of food into “good” and “evil” though because it dovetails nicely into their own restrictive diet. It also doubles as a tool for which to hammer their square peg Vegan Diet into a round hole of how everybody should eat. If you are what you eat and the food you eat is “evil”…well…

Also see:
Nutrition Unplugged: What’s the Point of the Twinkie Diet?

7 comments to Nutritional Moralization

  • gladcow

    eh, I’m not sure vegans have a corner on the market of food demonization. They just use it for a compassionate end (or they hope). I think American culture is a better target for your finger pointing. This happens on the regular (fat is bad! no, carbs are bad! butter is horrible for you, no it’s the margarine after all, etc etc etc) The earliest I can think of off the top of my head is when formula was introduced as a superior food because it came from Science!

  • The rawfoodists have that market cornered. I’m not sure whether they borrowed from the vegan playbook or if it just happened to rub off on the vegans because both happen to not include animals. Vegans are in a unique position to take advantage of the moral dichotomization of food and they fall prey to this regularly. Seems like a slippery slope to DichotomyVille.

  • Sorry to comment on a post that’s nearly a year old, but I don’t think I’ve come across this one before. You and I don’t always agree – for example I see a lot of value in hanging on to the word ‘vegan’ and making it work, rather than letting the faddy dieters or cliquey elements take possession of it – but on this point I agree with you totally. One of my initial reasons for starting a vegan blog was to counteract the SB love I saw being flung around the vegan quarters of the internet – that was around the time the book came out in paperback in the UK, and I had put my initial prejudice aside long enough to read it. Needless to say that prejudice was confirmed. I think a lot of the love came from the fact that it got people interested in veganism beyond the usual demographic. I wasn’t convinced at the time that it was a good basis for getting people to STAY vegan, especially if they then realised that they weren’t automatically getting skinny. But my main problem with it was, when a whole lot of people outside the bubble already connect veganism with eating disorders, why are we basically promoting a book which expresses sentiments that wouldn’t be out of place on a pro-ana site?

    • Don’t apologize LiseyDuck, I love that people are still reading these posts! Thanks for your comment too!

      I totally respect your defense over the word ‘vegan’. Maybe one day you’ll win me back and maybe one day I’ll convince you to do the right thing. 😉 heehee.

      Anywho, Skinny Bitch was a huge contributor to my vegan downfall and it went beyond the numerous things that were actually wrong with it. It was that I was contributing to a culture that justified this kinda behavior in the name of achieving it’s goal of getting people vegan. Skinny Bitch did that in droves but did those people stay vegan? I know many who didn’t. Even beyond my own anecdotes, if they did, is it justifiable to encourage that line of pseudoscientific thinking? To make matters worse, vegan leaders stood by silently (I still have yet to see a public critique, I challenge ANY vegan advocate to do so) or even espoused it! The demographic we really should concentrate on are those who might be more susceptible to ideas that recognize other animals’ interests. Instead these short lived gains are crippling any chance of a movement. Vegans cannot be counted on as allies in this regard.

      So yeah, Skinny Bitch was just an abhorrent abuse of dead trees. If I ponder the public’s uptake of that trash too long, I become entirely despondent over the state of critical thinking. There is much work to be done and undone.

  • I can attest that caloric restriction is really what matters. If you’re trying to lose weight and you don’t feel at least a little bit hungry 90% of the time, you’re not doing it right. For 3-4 months I swore by caffeine, Truvia, small meals, and a deep abiding love/hate relationship with hunger pains. You have to learn to recognize hunger as a good thing. Oh, and nixing booze (entirely or mostly) is also a great idea. That helped a lot. It was the only time I ever had real, sustained weight loss. I know this is anecdotal evidence, but when my experiences jibes with what tons of experts say…

    People should try to eat healthy food in general, but when it comes to weight loss, it doesn’t matter if the food is vegan or not, junky or not.

    Skinny Bitch was popular right around the time I was going vegan (although I didn’t hear of it until months after). I think a lot of people had the “whatever gets them in the door” attitude toward it. That’s pretty disingenuous. I assume that convincing people to make life-long commitments to good things for bad reasons rarely ends well.

    • Hey wow, that’s a similar story to mine! After getting put on meds for high blood pressure (yeah, as a 10-year vegan) recently I started really getting serious about the calories I was eating. I don’t wanna be no old guy on meds! I learned that liquid calories (booze) was a major contributor as well as the munchies they game me. Also I’ve had to learn to put up with slight hunger pangs and it’s been working. 12 pounds over the past 2 months! Nice and gradual like my dietitian suggested. I also do what my buddy calls the 2/5 diet. Eat consciously during the week and allow weekends for splurges. Anywho, it’s all anecdotal of course so I’d never espouse anything I do as a recommendation. But I’ve discovered a similar plan to lose the extra weight.

      Diets like Rawfood constantly invent superstitions regarding food except for anything BigScience says. What kind of food, what order you eat it, what you eat it with, when you eat it, do you drink liquids with it, is it cold, warm, cooked, raw, etc etc ad nauseum! The paleos are practically as bad now except they’re all for eating animals. I’m waiting for the SkinnyPaleo book to come out!

  • I think the SkinnyPaleo book should be called Skin and Bones (because most of what they eat contain them).

    It sounds like you’re doing pretty damn close to what I did around this time last year – c. 18-20 pounds in 3.5 months. Good luck with it. Just remember that hunger is your friend/enemy (your frenemy) and you’ll be fine.

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