Recently, a post on Compassion Co’s Tumblr caught my attention. The original post was by someone who admitted that they decided to no longer eat a plant-based diet. Their reasoning behind their decision was that, “Veganism wasn’t the “miracle cure” a lot of people say it is”. Now, this post is not about judging that person for their decision. Everyone has to make the decisions that are right for them. But what really interested me about the post and the resulting discussion was the concept of “veganism as a cure”. As much as I am passionate about and advocate a plant-based diet, I would never go so far as to call it a “cure”.
“Cure” is a loaded term. It conveys the idea of a permanent solution to an ailment, a complete reversal of illness. I think the term “cure” is used far too often. Let’s face it “cure” sells. Having dealt with years of chronic pain, I can completely relate to wanting to find a cure. I spent so much time, money and energy searching for a complete stop to my pain. Part of the reason I adopted a plant-based diet was to help reduce my inflammation-related pain as a plant-based diet has anti-inflammatory benefits. Emphasis on the term “benefits”. A plant-based diet is not a cure. If one is allergic to dairy, and cuts dairy completely from their diet, their dairy allergy is not “cured”. It is controlled, the symptoms will not occur as long as they don’t consume dairy, but it is not a reversal of the allergy.
If you are looking for a cure for any personal ailment by adopting a plant-based diet, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), those who eat a plant-based diet are at a lower risk for developing heart disease, certain types of cancers, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure). Studies have shown that a plant-based diet appears to be “useful for increasing the intake of protective nutrients and phytochemicals and for minimizing the intake of dietary factors implicated in several chronic diseases”. Basically, if you are eating a plant-based diet, you are incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet, which results in better nutrition overall. Better nutrition equals better overall health and wellness. However, as much as nutrition can assist in resolving certain ailments, it should not be considered a cure.
As I found, chronic issues are something we often have to learn to live with. My hip, the source of my chronic pain, will most likely never be “100%”. It will always need a little extra love, on and off physical therapy and it is very likely to cause me more pain the future. I spent 3 years looking for a cure and being met with disappointment after disappointment when the pain returned. This led to misery, depression, overall hopelessness. I endured so much suffering. I turned a corner when I reframed my approach to the pain. All I can do, every single day, every single moment, is to practice compassion towards my body and my pain. Part of my compassionate practice is to also practice compassion towards other living beings. I find it makes it easier to practice compassion towards myself, when I take the time to show it towards others. Instead of a cycle of pain and suffering, I have been focusing on a cycle of compassion and healing. There will be bad days and hard times, but overall the journey has been a far more positive experience.
A related post by Compassion Co pointed out that “veganism” is different than a plant-based diet. While we use the term interchangeably on this website, he has a point. Veganism, as Compassion Co so eloquently put it, “is a way of living that seeks to exclude all animal exploitation from one’s daily life as far as is possible and practical”. A major component to practicing veganism is by eliminating animal ingredients from one’s diet as our current food industry practices are filled with animal suffering, exploitation and death. Together, those who practice veganism are strengthening a movement which reduces the exploitation and consumption of animals. Veganism is an act beyond one’s self and one’s own needs. The long-term vegans I know are ones who are passionate about the ethical reasons for going vegan. I tend to believe that if one’s intentions to make a lifestyle change encompasses reasons beyond themselves, they are more likely to be successful in creating a lasting change.
For all its benefits, a plant-based diet is a choice one can make that gives back for all the reasons I’ve covered here, and I’m sure even more. But, if you want to go plant-based permanently, please don’t consider it a cure. When you go into a diet, any diet, expecting a permanent and complete change, you will be disappointed when things don’t go exactly as planned. I think it helps to view a plant-based diet as a practice, one that helps to promote healing and strengthen your body’s immune system. Additionally, every day that you practice a plant-based diet, you are furthering yourself from the suffering of other beings. It is an act of positivity and resolve that creates a cycle of compassion and health. To continue the cycle, do not focus on permanent solutions or cures. Focus on the benefits for yourself and for others.