In the midst of World War II, when bombs were still falling on London, the Vegan Society in the UK was established in 1944, which must have been perceived as a rather an odd thing to do given the times, or, perhaps, it was viewed as a small, pacifying, but defiant gesture in the face of such chaos. Regardless, 50 years later it became a “day” on our calendar in 1994 and, as a lifestyle choice, enjoys considerable worldwide popularity today. However, the particulars of veganism are still rife with myth, and so we connected with Ottawa’s vegan lifestyle expert, Pamela Tourigny, a 12-year vegan, to debunk some of the top myths about the vegan way of living. Pamela co-founded Ottawa Veg Fest, and runs Vegan Eats Ottawa and Eat Your Veggies Institute. She’s also a marketing consultant for businesses in the health and wellness sector.
Myth #1 All vegan diets are healthy
While there’s a strong body of science showing that vegan diets have numerous health advantages, mostly on account of what is omitted (meat, dairy and eggs), what you do eat is as important as what you don’t eat. A vegan diet filled with junk food is not going to have the same health benefits as one centred around whole foods.
“When I first went vegan I ate a lot of fat and sugar,” says Tourigny. “People don’t need to be perfect in their diets – I strongly urge against seeking perfection – but the health benefits come from eating plants. Consuming heavy amounts of processed and fatty foods isn’t good for anyone.”
Myth #2 It’s hard to be vegan
We are all creatures of habit so yes, there is a learning curve. Once you’ve learned the ropes (the Internet, as well as the many vegan-friendly local businesses make that easy) choosing vegan options doesn’t have to be difficult. “Most people eat some vegan food every day, without even realizing it,” Tourigny says. “You might have to do some advance planning, and accept some restrictions on your selection, but these days it’s way easier to be vegan.” When cooking at home, the Internet has millions of vegan recipes waiting for you.
Myth #3 Being vegan means I’ll have to cook all the time
The healthiest, cheapest way to eat is definitely preparing your own food – vegan or not. But exploring veganism does not relegate you to a life spent in the kitchen. “So many restaurants are now providing vegan options. I created the directory at www.veganeatsottawa.com so that people would know how to find the best ones,” Tourigny says. “There are now vegan meal delivery services – get ‘home-cooked’ meals delivered right to your door. And I created Eat Your Veggies Institute to teach people how to create simple, healthy vegan meals.”
Myth #4 Vegans are a “type” of person; I’m not that type
People are fearful of having to become a stereotype, but the good news is that vegans can be found amongst all types of people. There is no stereotypical grass-munching vegan. It is no longer a fringe, sideline movement; Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, and the world’s strongest man and top ultra marathoner have all called themselves vegan.
“The only ‘type’ of person you need to be is someone who is concerned about your health, the environment, and the wellbeing of animals. It doesn’t even have to be all three,” Tourigny says. “Many people fear that being vegan will conflict with their personal identity, but ultimately find it brings them closer to living in alignment with their stated values of kindness and non-violence.”