Commentary: Ex-vegan admits the truth

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I love the stories about former diehard vegans who turned away from their strict lifestyle and resumed eating animal foods.

Purely for physical reasons, it’s typically framed—they always have a heart-wrenching backstory about deteriorating health conditions that finally force them to abandon the holier-than-thou lifestyle they convinced themselves would make the world a veritable Garden of Eden, for people as well as animals.

One such case is Alex Jamieson, a self-styled nutritional expert and life coach, who touts her books, videos, her personal coaching sessions, recipes and especially her Cravings Cure Detox Program (just say, “Yes! I am beyond ready to get control of my cravings and learn how to give my body what it really needs”—and it’s all yours for the low, low price of only $1,187.50!) as the road map to better health.

She ought to know, seeing as how she pretty much ruined hers by trying to subsist on a pure vegan diet for more than a decade.

Jamieson claimed that she adopted the vegan diet as a way to “reboot her body” from years of eating unhealthy foods. She said she was “concerned about our food culture, how animals are raised in such horrifying conditions and how animal protein adds so significantly to global warming.”

(Really? Seeing as how the UN’s “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report didn’t come out until 2006—when the issue of meat production as a source of greenhouse gas emissions first got serious traction—her claim to have been concerned about that six years earlier sounds a little too after-the-fact to be believable).

She continued: “I resonated deeply with the vegan way. We could end hunger if we fed grain to people instead of animals; we could end global warming if we reduced the fertilizer, trucking and refrigeration required to produce meat; and we could end the obesity epidemic.”

That’s a nice summary of the talking points that everybody pushing an anti-meat industry agenda rolls out—not just vegans.

And all of it’s absolutely wrong-headed.

The idea that the world’s neediest people are “hungry” for a big ol’ bowl of cornmeal mush, instead of meat, milk or eggs, represents the height of elitist arrogance. As if the solution to food shortages is shipping sacks of grain to countries where people are starving for a whole variety of socio-economic, geographic and political issues—principally war, poverty and economic inequality—would solve the problem.

As for reducing all the inputs required to produce meat, great. And then replace all that nutritional value with, what? Oh, that’s right. Cornmeal mush. Forgot.

Finally, blaming meat consumption for the obesity epidemic is just plain wrong. Protein does not contribute to bodily conversion of calories into adipose tissue, ie, fat stored in the body. The consumption of carbohydrates, on the other hand, is entirely the reason the body ends up converting glycogen to triglycerides (“bad” cholesterol). We’ve all been eating less meat—not more—for the last three decades, while obesity has skyrocketed during that exact same time period.

Anyway, fast forward to February of this year. In an article titled, “I’m not vegan anymore,” Jamieson admitted she started carving burgers instead of salad. Salmon instead of tofu. To fight them off, she started eating more nuts, more sea vegetables and drinking more green juice.

“Finally,” she wrote, “I couldn’t stand myself. I had to eat some meat to experiment. So with the support of a few close, trusted friends, I allowed myself to eat an egg.”

Drama, much?

“My body felt good and strong. And it wanted more.”

So she decided to “come out of the closet” (her phrase) and being trusting in her body and adopting a “flexitarian” diet. Then, she broke the news to her family and vegan friends, although she never does tell us what their reaction was.

But in the end, what was more interesting that her long, drawn out sob story about ending her veganism (believe me—I left out 90% of it) was her statement of beliefs she posted at the end of the story. One in particular is worth noting, and I give her credit for stating what seems obvious to the rest of us, but would be heresy to the vegan believers she used to hang with:

“I believe you can love and care about animal welfare and still consume them.”

It may have taken 2,500 words to get to that insight, but if even one ex-vegan finally woke up to reality, there’s hope for all the rest of them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.

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usa  |  June, 03, 2013 at 06:15 PM

For every one person who goes back to eating meat, 10's of thousands go vegan. Nice try!

Chicago  |  June, 04, 2013 at 08:46 PM

25 year vegan, workout nut, at 58 lookn 15 years younger than my sisters, haven't taken a medication of any kind in 15 years. Total success story than when I was eating animals. An article like this on such a site is laughable.

Wyo  |  June, 03, 2013 at 08:23 PM

One of your best, Dan. As all of us with any REAL valid nutritional info know..........the toll of un-natural nutrition (no meat) on the body is devastating. It is always good to hear the story of someone who overcame the religious and social pressure and listened to her own body. Health is a VERY important thing........I always hate to hear how it can be come compromised in anyone from propaganda and ill- informed views.

Florida  |  June, 03, 2013 at 08:38 PM

The fact that there are entire cultures representing millions of people who have lived and thrived for centuries without meat is enough evidence that humans do not "need" it to survive and thrive. In fact, the evidence weighs heavily in the other direction -- the hazards of a meat and dairy diet and the benefits of a vegan diet are well known in the medical and scientific community. Most reputable doctors and scientists and people with "real valid nutritional info" agree that the chronic diseases are mostly due to lifestyle choices -- specifically the unhealthy Standard American Diet (SAD).

DC  |  June, 03, 2013 at 11:45 PM

What often happens with ex vegans is that they were never vegan to begin with. They dable in the idea but have always had one foot in and one foot out. One of the most famous so called ex vegans did not even follow a vegan diet and yet claimed she was vegan and it made her sick as she binged on animal products.

June, 04, 2013 at 06:07 AM

One of the "experts" at the Weston Price Foundation advocated eating healthy doses of lard and animal flesh b/c that's what the Massai ate. He died of a stroke right before his 40th birthday. Have at it, Dan Murphy! The vegan community has no power or ability to stop your food choices :)

Brooklyn, NY  |  June, 04, 2013 at 07:40 AM

So, your summary of the vegan position is that "we" think the world needs "cornmeal mush"? Nice balanced look at plant-based diets both for individuals in privileged, wealthy nations and their impact on the world at large (which, indeed, are two very different things). By the way, and I mean to brag here, maintaining my 6-3, 225 pound body, while having tons of energy, and NEVER getting sick, working a (gasp!) real job where I walk around parks all day and then grab a few beers (almost all booze is vegan) with work buddies who eat chicken wings with no stress/judgment from me is so very hard and "holier than thou." You don't have to change, but at least educate yourself.

Portland, OR  |  June, 04, 2013 at 08:34 AM

Alex Jamieson was never Vegan in the first place. She blames a plant-based diet for her poor research and even worse decisions, and when she has problems on the faux-paleo diet she will just jump to the next ship. Your article is obviously heavily biased, full of logical fallacies, and poorly written.

il  |  June, 04, 2013 at 09:11 AM

had a grandma that ate lard &molasses on bread back in the 40's and ate 3 eggs with 4 slices of bacon. drove a car until her death at the age of 94. killed by drunk driver. also took no medicine

Karen RN    
Arizona  |  June, 04, 2013 at 11:29 AM

The author conveniently left out Jamieson's other statement of belief: "I believe we should restructure the way animals are raised so that they live in more natural, comfortable, humane surroundings and stop force-feeding them 80% of all antibiotics used in the US."

IL  |  June, 04, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Problem is people like to blame the food when it's their own genes, and lifestyle to blame. Coronal Sanders lived to be 90 years old, and I bet ya he wasn't vegan.

Paul Carr    
Boston  |  June, 04, 2013 at 12:21 PM

This is hilarious to me. People are turning to vegetarianism and veganism in droves while few are turning back. The fact is, you get off this junk (dead animals) and your health improves almost overnight while your life extends extraordinarily -- by medically-measurable factors. It's that simple. Since going vegan, I lost a lot of fat -- amounting to 30% of my body weight -- am off a host of medications and am back to skiing, surfing and mountain biking -- and I'm 57 years old. I made just one change: voracious carnivore ---> vegan. Eating the flesh of an animal is grotesque to an increasing amount of people and the tide has turned and will not be coming back for the cattle industry. We vegans don't really worry about people like Dan Murphy because his ears are closed and he is in charge of his own destiny. Our attention is on people who are capable of understanding the dangers of eating meat because they can still make a change that will allow them to have longer, happier more productive lives. Vegans who fall off the wagon weren't destined to be lifelong vegans. That's all that means to me. It doesn't make a larger point because it is anomylous. Once a person understands genuinely and fully the health dangers to themselves, and by extension their loved ones, they will remain vegetarian or vegan.

kansas  |  June, 04, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Jamieson is the Jenny McCarthy of food, and she carries a heavy burden for the damage she's done to so many - for profit. Her drama-queen revisionist history, in service to releasing herself from any responsibility, is typical of the rationalizations of all do-gooders who turn out to be do-evilers. It's transparent, shallow and it stinks to high heaven of lying hypocrisy.

Los Angeles  |  June, 04, 2013 at 01:29 PM

True dat !!! Well put, Portland.

June, 04, 2013 at 01:44 PM

It's interesting that in your article you insist that a vegan lifestyle or the explanations vegans have for eating the way they do is "elitist". However, isn't the way that most of our country continues to use animals for meat and clothing elitist? Imagine for a moment that an alien lifeform (as unrealistic as this may be) came to our planet claiming that they had more intelligence than we do, began to slaughter us, torture us without anesthetic, impregnate our women and take away their babies so that they could breastfeed, all in the hopes to use our products. Would that be alright? The reality that you say vegans need to wake up to is based off of the slaughter of animals for your own appetite. The fact that vegans choose not to subscribe to your reality does not mean that they're delusional. It means that they have the same compassion for animals as they do their fellow man, and I see nothing wrong with that.

Chicago  |  June, 04, 2013 at 03:50 PM

Is it fair how we treat animals? Is it kind? Do we have completely viable options? Meat eating is a "been there, done that" way of doing things. Why are its defenders so hesitant to acknowledge and act? BTW, rodeos, zoos, circuses, horse racing, dog racing and hunting are cruel and nothing more than bloodsport.

Stephen L    
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada  |  June, 04, 2013 at 05:41 PM

Eating animals is entirely unnecessary, devastating to the environment and above all else - it's horrifically cruel. Humans were never meant to ingest animal flesh or secretions. Have been vegetarian for 10 years, and vegan for 2. Best decision I ever made. With more people giving up animal products every day, animal agribusiness is headed towards oblivion. Good riddance and God speed.

Ontario, Canada  |  June, 04, 2013 at 11:35 PM

These comments are hilarious. Has anyone here seen first hand anything that goes on at a farm of any kind? Everyone is an expert these days! Most of them take information and spin it whatever way they see fit! This person the artical refers too must not have been a true vegan or she would have seen the real health benefits, blah blah blah. Aliens, really? Anyone heard of the food chain? My grandmother smoked 3 packs a day until she was 92. Does that mean smoking is ok? I'd love to see a cow being force fed know they are extremely costly right. Treating an animal before it is even sick is a horrible waste of money, labour and time! No producer can afford it. One comment suggests that if I was vegan I would be happier and more productive. Seriously, give your head a shake, being vegan is like a religion to me, you can believe whatever you want to believe, but don't cram that garbage down my throat. Comments here claim that people are switching to vegans and not coming back. Based on what information, collected where? I don't even know a vegan or a vegitarian. I'm not saying there aren't any, I'm just saying that I don't know one, but based on that I certainly haven't come to the conclusion on my own that they don't exist. Most of these comments are based on second hand information at best. Visit a real farm that represents animal agriculture and maybe once you've left you can come to some informed decisions on how animals are really treated. Come to your own conclusions by visiting a farm and you might realize that we treat our cows better than some of you treat your own family. Find an expert that says vegan is good, find a vegan. Really funny stuff, the only poorly written thing here is the comments!

Canada  |  June, 05, 2013 at 08:27 AM

I've been vegan for 2 years and I'm just loving it. I did study environmental science in the mid-90s and even then we knew there were problems with meat production. At the time, the link to climate change wasn't firm, but there were problems with manure contaminating streams, rivers, and ecosystems, as well as the pesticides and herbicides to grow the grains for the animals. Of course, I wouldn't expect a balanced article in Drover's, but just sayin'.

Craig A. Moore    
Billings, MT  |  June, 05, 2013 at 08:42 AM

I find it humorous when someone says, and they always do, that humans were not made to eat other animals. In nature, every, and I mean EVERY animal, mammal or fowl, that has its eyes pointing forward is carnivorous. And even some with eyes to the side of the head will take advantage of a nice protein snack when available, such as the lowly little gopher taking advantage of his unfortunate road kill brother. It is just natures way for some animals to eat other animals and humans are part of that nature.

SD  |  June, 05, 2013 at 05:45 PM

Who's happier the lion or gazelle ?

Spruce Pine, NC  |  June, 06, 2013 at 03:07 PM

Dan Murphy is as biased and laughable in his "opinions" as Rick Berman. I don't know who he is but I'm guessing the same corporate interests fund his beliefs. The fear that such a small percentage of the population (vegans) instill in "farmers" is very telling. Its like you are afraid that lazy, stupid people will wake up to the fact that we treat the rest of the life on earth horribly, with extra special distain and disrespect heaped upon domesticated farm animals. I don't think you have a lot to worry about because people will continue to only care about themselves at the rest of the world's inhabitants expense. They won't evolve just because they know the levels of animal products in their diet is unethical and unhealthy. They, like you, don't care. Stop the hating already!!!

SD  |  June, 06, 2013 at 06:27 PM

It isn't boredom, is it? What a curiousity that so many professed 'vegans' lurk on agriculture information websites and post their ludicrous attacks on eating meat, raising meat, and generally minding OUR own business by the meat producers this site is intended to serve! If any of the vegan zealots here care to share their reasons for attacking meat eating, producing, etc. it might be interesting. By the way, isn't the population of vegans in this country maybe five percent of our population? If that is accurage, they do seem over represented here.

Spruce Pine, NC  |  June, 07, 2013 at 04:55 PM

Your business is sickness and death, both human and animal. By the way, it is more fascination with the thought processes in the folks that do this "business" than boredom, at least in my case. I read letters to the editor for similar reasons. Seeing how people with views 180 degrees from your view communicate. Trying to see what someone that makes a living off the flesh and blood of others tick. How they think. I bet your leaders, like the wonderful Rick Berman, keep a finger on the pulse of animal welfare websites as well. Watch "Earthlings" and let me know what you think of it. Best wishes Maxine, live well.

July, 04, 2013 at 03:45 AM

Why do people either talk about the bad farms and non organic meat eggs and dairy or fully vegan /vegetarian. A wholefoods diet with no or little refined sugar and no processed food with mainly plant based foods with little bits of organic meat or eggs is perfect. Its when people get all greedy and crazy eating all the wrong types of abused meats and eating too much of it. I was vegan but my health has not Improved. I was an ethical vegan but im happy with the organic route now. Fresh wholefoods

jeannie baker    
December, 12, 2013 at 07:32 PM

I'm sorry but was this suppose to be an indepth article. I am open minded and as a vegan I am always interested what the opposition has to say. This 'story' left me hungry, not for tofu and definitely not for animal flesh, but for an article with .... shall we say 'a bite' to it?

December, 12, 2013 at 07:40 PM

I find it comical in a sad, perverse way how you throw around the word 'attack'. Watch and honestly tell me who is being attacked. Perhaps you will choose a different word next time you feel 'threatened' by people that have empathy for the abuse and torture of millions of HARMLESS, INNOCENT animals murdered each DAY just to fulfill your desire to eat dead animal flesh and dead animal fluids which btw it has been proven all dietary needs can be met by a plant based diet.

Canada  |  March, 31, 2014 at 10:22 PM

indeed my friend, HEALTH IS A VERY IMPORTANT THING. You want some REAL VALID nutritional info? here it goes : bad cholesterol come from ANIMAL PRODUCTS. FATS AND REFINED SUGARS are what make you fat and are the REAL cause of diabetese, NOT CARBS. Carbs combined with fat is no good, but fruits, rice, potatoes, corn pasta... all of that is super healthy. And here, let me ask you this...if protein is so healthy and so needed... How come there are cases of OVERDOSE of protein yet protein deficiency DOESN'T EXIST ? ironic isn't it? With all the respect I owe you as brothers, Dan's article isn't credible. It is completly personal opinion that he is giving.

Vancouver  |  September, 02, 2014 at 01:56 AM

Seems to be a lot of self righteousness here, reminds me of the Vegan I used to work with with all his branded clothing shouting to the world how much better he was than meat eaters. Just a lot of anecdotal stories around here pointing to the worst examples of people who eat meat who are sickly and out of shape. I choose to eat grass fed beef and eat lots of beans, veggies, fruits and nuts. Too much extremism these days. A global vegan diet is a pipe dream. Just read Folks this Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin (featured prominently in Food Inc.) to find out why. Basically tillage totally destroys top soil. He laughs at Vegetarians ignorance in his book and basically says if every farm were tillage, the top soil would erode away in a matter of decades and be totally depleted of nutrients. He uses his livestock to replenish his soil with fertilizer he makes on his farm. In fact, he's been building the top soil back up over the years (think it was like 3 to 5cm) and is increasing the productivity of his land. On top of that, the Vegan I used to work for, apart from being a 90LB weakling and not exactly motivating anyone to sign up for Veganism, admitted to me that most Vegans he knows (he hangs out with lots of them) have terrible diets because a lot of processed crap is technically Vegan. I on the other hand would say that 90% of my diet is fruit, nuts, vegetables, beans and rice. I'll take my diet over theirs any day even if it does include animal protein. I'm 6'2" 200 Pounds and look 10 years younger than my age. Anyone can throw out anecdotal stories about how their lifestyle leads to superior health. I bet a lot of the posters here are pro abortion and don't care about minorities being slaughtered in Iraq

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