You can honor your ethics and values around food and still be anti-diet.
Some of you have asked how veganism and intuitive eating/a non-diet approach can work together? This is an excellent question that I’m happy to address.
I see how it can be totally confusing—veganism is sometimes viewed as restrictive by people working in non-diet spaces. I see people lumping veganism with keto, paleo, and other weight loss diets in memes and posts frequently. There are also endless influencers/health coaches/bloggers misappropriating veganism as a weight loss diet, which adds to the confusion. Diet culture strikes again!
As with most things in life, intention and nuance matter.
Why is the person vegan (or desiring to go vegan)? Is it ethics/values-based or because they are trying to manipulate their body size? How is their relationship with food and their body? Are they also cutting out multiple vegan foods because they’re “processed,” “fattening,” or “bad?” These are things I feel are helpful to explore with my vegan clients.
Veganism is an ethical stance that seeks to avoid harming and exploiting animals as much as possible, not a diet. What you eat is one part of practicing ethical veganism but not the whole picture. People who eschew animal foods in the name of health or weight loss, not ethics, are typically said to be following a plant-based diet. Not all plant-based eaters are dieting though. Some choose it as an eating pattern that best supports their health and feels good to them. Not everyone who eats outside of a mainstream omnivore diet is doing it for disordered reasons. Again, intention and nuance!
People of all body shapes and sizes are vegan. There are vegan versions of pretty much every food these days including donuts, burgers, and ice cream, as well as numerous recipes for vegan comfort foods and decadent baked goods, so there’s no reason being vegan = restriction or deprivation. Including pleasurable and fun foods can provide more flexibility and satisfaction with eating. Of course, these foods are harder to access for some people depending on where they live and if they fit in their budget, which can make it more tricky. I’m not saying veganism never feels restrictive for everyone.
A non-diet approach is so needed in the vegan community because no one is immune from food and body shaming messages and sadly there is plenty of that in vegan/plant-based spaces! I wish more people were talking about sizeism, healthism, and other forms of oppression in the vegan community because they’re all connected. A small number of people are and hopefully that grows. I know I can do better with this.
Intuitive eating/a non-diet approach can certainly take into account values, ethics, culture, health conditions, and personal food preferences.
The chapter on gentle nutrition in The Intuitive Eating Workbook goes into this if you’d like to read the authors’ take on this topic. The book Heath at Every Size also discusses many of the issues with our food system and marketing of foods. You don’t have to eat everything under the sun to ditch the dieting mentality. This applies to non-vegans as well. You get to decide what feels right to you based on your inner attunement + health values (described as “authentic health” in the IE book).
Some may disagree with this, but these are my thoughts based on my current personal and professional understanding. My intention with writing this is to reach vegans interested in intuitive eating, but not sure how it fits with their ethical stance, as well as non-diet practitioners who aren’t quite sure how to proceed when clients are vegan. I could write so much more on this topic but for now I hope this is helpful!
If you’re considering going vegan I encourage you to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in vegan nutrition + Intuitive Eating!
There are so many myths and misconceptions out there, so seeking professional guidance can help navigate through it all. A healthy relationship with food and your body is critical before making major changes to how you eat. You can schedule a free introductory call with me if you’d like to work together.
Further reading regarding intuitive eating and veganism:
Other RDN accounts to follow on Instagram if you’re interested in a non-diet approach to veganism:
Do you know others? Share in the comments!