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 Dealing with Social Pressures and Expectations as Vegans: Meal Perfectionism, Weight Loss, Having a Specific Body Type & More

Dealing with Social Pressures and Expectations as Vegans: Meal Perfectionism, Weight Loss, Having a Specific Body Type & More

diet & exercise on being vegan podcast Apr 14, 2023

Show Notes:

Meet our online vegan cooking classes and lifestyle program My Brownble

Episode 233 where I share our favorite vegan registered dietitian nutritionists



Through the years I’ve heard from many of our students about feeling certain pressures once they go vegan.

Although we often feel these pressures coming from friends, family members or maybe even other vegans, I find that oftentimes these pressures have an inner origin in that they are expectations we project onto others but mostly have towards ourselves.

These can come from what we’ve seen in social media, what we’ve seen in documentaries, what we’ve heard discussed around our new habits with food, definitely from the ever present diet culture that surrounds us. We see veganism portrayed one way, and we feel we must meet or surpass these expectations, and funny enough, we also keep this cycle going by placing these expectations on others.


I’m going to name a few common ones and I want you to think about whether or not these pressures or expectations applied to you at any stage in your journey:

  •  The pressure to cook the most elaborate meals and especially ones that meat eaters will be impressed by
  •  An expectation or the pressure of weight loss or having a “perfect body” if you’re vegan
  •  The pressure or expectation of having glowing skin and perfect hair or aging at a particularly slow rate
  •  The pressure to never get sick
  •  The pressure to eat the most natural diet possible and criticizing any consumption of vegan processed foods or convenience foods
  •  Having a picture of what a vegan plate looks like that is more similar to low calorie foods than the vast array of vegan food options out there and thinking that your plate should always look like that

No matter what change you’re going through, it is so common to begin your journey having certain expectations based on what you’ve seen around you, and it is only after going through the experience that we begin to add nuance to how we go about our day and navigate this new space we're in.

When it comes to being vegan some of these pressures have been around for ages but others shift as the culture shifts, and in today’s social media age, we have to tread waters carefully because everything we see, all those images and videos that are seeping into our experience every day, often paint an incomplete picture and are fully doused in perfectionism.


It’s also quite common for people who follow a vegan diet to think that by trying to paint it as the perfect or ideal diet with countless benefits in all areas of life they will bring more people into the fold, ignoring the massive amount of nuance that is involved when it comes to how our bodies feel or look when we eat a vegan diet or plant based diet. Many people feel that they need to show this way of eating in an absolute perfect light in order to bring people on board and people indeed might come along for some of these highlighted side perks and if they don’t experience them, they can either feel they’re doing something wrong, find a more restrictive and often harmful approach and more.

I always like to remind you that the only expectation that absolutely should be present if going vegan is something you want to do, is finding a way for these vegan choices you’re making to be able to comfortably live side by side with all your other life plans, circumstances, likes, dislikes, hobbies, jobs, responsibilities, time, finances, values, etc. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a learning curve, whenever we incorporate anything new into our lives we have to get used to it, we have to find what works and leave the rest, we have to rinse and repeat until everything becomes habitual, but being vegan should fit inside your life, and not be this external image you are constantly chasing after to the detriment of your own well being.

It isn’t as difficult as many people think it is, for me it’s as easy as substituting an animal based ingredient with a plant based one, choosing one product over another, making easy substitutions in recipes (that’s all a part of what I help you with in this space), but it takes a bit of tweaking until you find a way to make it fit seamlessly into your life.

It’s when we add on these mountains of expectations that the journey gets rocky and can even be detrimental to your own health.


I would love to help release you from the tight grip you might be having over some of these ideas of what the process should look like.

  • You don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to make every single food item that will cross your lips from scratch in order to be a happy and healthy vegan.
  • You don’t need to drive miles from where you live to buy superfoods and powders for you green smoothies to be a happy and healthy vegan. You don’t even have to have said green smoothies, unless you love them of course.
  • You don’t have to engage in forms of exercise you don’t enjoy because some of the vegans you’ve seen have a particular body shape or size.
  • You don’t need to restrict further foods or food groups to be healthy.
  • You don't have to be a particular body size to be a part of this movement.
  • You don’t need to become a 5 star chef and present loved ones with incredible feasts that took hours of your free time to prepare.
  • You need to remember that vegans also get sick, that you are allowed to have sick days just like every other human, and that health is determined by so many other factors, not just what you eat.
  • You need to remember that sometimes, that image we have from that person that is 70 and looks like they’re 40, or the person with shampoo commercial grade hair or flawless skin has that appearance because of many other factors, a huge one being genetics, and even more importantly, a big reminder that a “beautiful”, “attractive”, or “perfect” appearance isn’t synonymous with health. And that it says nothing about your worth as a human being.
  • You need to remember that it is very hard to clearly separate the cultural moment we’re living through as a social being from our experience or our beliefs. This is especially true with food. Just as culturally we had the low fat days and the low carb days, and the eat like your ancestors days, we’re now firmly in fear mongering days when it comes to the process food manufacturing goes through, and a moment in which there is a lot of romanticizing of doing everything naturally, of eating foods that have come with a figurative halo in terms of "purity".


This means that the expectation we might have of how others will judge what’s on our plate might be coming from our own beliefs based on the culture we’re currently living in and the messages we’ve received, and we might need to take a step back and see how the evidence-based approaches in fact show us that we don’t need as much of a militant regime, and we don’t need to be curators of the perfect plate of food each and every time. We can be flexible and there is a whole spectrum of how each of us might feel and how we can meet our nutrient needs in a way that doesn’t add stress or obsession.

An Important Reminder of What Being Vegan Means

This might be the perfect time to remember that the word vegan, the vegan movement, veganism, are all centered around reducing the harm caused to animals.

It is a beautiful movement that seeks to exclude harm, and you don’t need to be anyone other than who you are to be a part of this ethical stance.

You don’t have to look differently.

You don’t have to change your political views.

You don’t have to change your hobbies, your likes your dislikes, you don’t have to have a certain body type.

Everyone and anyone who is making kinder choices for animals (and that includes people who aren’t able to go all the way to being vegan), deserve to be whoever they are.

How wonderful it is that we can be a part of this change and that we are all different and that often that is exactly the example that another person needs to see to think "well, maybe if you can be a part of this, and I look like you, or sound like you, or think like you, maybe there is space for me too."



So what can we do when we feel the pressure of certain expectations?


The first thing we can do is remember that a lot of this has been conditioned by the culture and the images we see.

We can shine a light on that pressure we feel and see if it’s truly something that’s coming from someone else, or if it has to do with an internal belief or expectation that is weighing us down and causing unnecessary pressure.

We can remind ourselves that we are human, and that although we love a quick fix, a magic bullet that fixes everything in life, that actually goes against the complex reality of what it means to be social, biological and psychological individuals.

We can repeat as often as we have to, that the way we eat or the choices we make need to be adjusted to what works for us, so that it can fit into the life we love and have already.

We can remember that the only expectation that should be there is that you find a spot within this journey that makes you feel at ease, that is health supportive, yes, but not at the cost of your overall well being and mental health.

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