What Vegetarianism Will NOT Do For You

What Vegetarianism Will NOT Do For You

A quick pasta dish straight from my own kitchen!

As I prepare to draw the Clean Eating Boot Camp to a close, I want to talk about the obvious… and that’s the choice to adopt an alternative eating lifestyle. What’s an “alternative eating lifestyle?” I’m talkin’ raw veganism, veganism, vegetarianism, pollotarianism, pescetarianism, flexitarianism… those. I’ve written about what each lifestyle stands for and what it provides before, but today I want to talk about what it does not guarantee you.

It guarantees you nothing more than, perhaps, a clearer conscience.

I made the decision to give up red meat and pork in high school. In a house where we were literally eating steak, ribs, pork chops, fried chicken, roast and goodness knows what else far too often… for me, it felt like the opportunity to try to lose a little weight. And while my Mom didn’t really like the idea of me willfully not eating what she was cooking… I’m pretty sure she secretly hoped I’d lose a few pounds. Let’s face it – all parents secretly hope the same for a teenager over 200lbs. Maybe even not-so-secretly.

It didn’t work. In fact, as soon as I left for college, I morphed into a pollotarian. Since I couldn’t really buy or cook chicken in my dorm, it was a rarity that I enjoyed it.. but I did enjoy it. Sure enough, I still managed to put on the weight. At a rate of 20lbs a year. I actually developed hypoglycemia, and was severely lethargic. It was the epitome of foolishness. I never went back to red meat or pork, but as I picked up a job at the end of my sophomore year of college at a well-known franchise restaurant.. I began eating their food instead of my own… so it was a slight upgrade. Emphasis on the “slight” part of that.

A while back, I spotted this post regarding Angelina Jolie

[insert eyeroll]:

Angelina Jolie has thrown some negative light on the vegan scene with some comments she reportedly made during a press briefing for her new movie SALT.“I joke that a big juicy steak is my beauty secret,” she quipped. “But seriously, I love red meat. I was a vegan for a long time, and it nearly killed me. I found I was not getting enough nutrition.”

It’s like… I read that, and even though that echoes my experiences – because I wasn’t being properly fed, either (and more on that, later) – I still have to roll my eyes again… because now both her [assumed] mistake and mine seem to be the same.

Considering the premium I place on clean eating now, let me explain this further. No matter what alternative eating lifestyle you embrace… it is not synonymous with clean eating. Being a vegan doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be eating clean. Think about it – if you hit the “healthy” section (!) of the grocery store, what do you see? You certainly don’t see produce.You see boxes. Cans. Packages. You see “vegan cheese (and it melts!).” “Vegan chik’n.” “Vegan sausage.” Meatless versions of everything. All kinds of substitutions.

C’mon – processed, processed, processed and processed. If you’ve adopted your lifestyle based on the fact that you could “replace” cheese with something processed… you’re going to suffer the same fate. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow.. but it absolutely will come.

When you live your eating lifestyle based on processed food replacements and substitutes for what you used to eat… I can’t imagine what makes one think they’d be spared from the consequences of “un-clean eating” just because their eating habits become more restricted. It’s just… it doesn’t make sense to me.

As this blog post pointed out, it also doesn’t help that alternative eating lifestyles (AEL for short) are marketed as some kind of cure all for whatever ails mankind.

For example, a popular raw food website states:

There are numerous benefits to eating a raw and living food diet. Some of these benefits include people healing themselves of diabetes, fibromyalgia, acne, migraines, back pain, neck and joint pain, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypoglycemia, colitis, diverticulitis, Candida, arthritis, serious allergies, depression, anxiety, mood swings, heartburn, gas, bloating, skin diseases, obesity, chronic fatigue, cancers and many more. Excess weight seems to just melt off your body when you eat a raw and living food diet! The raw and living food diet has helped many people feel better when nothing else has worked.

By eating a raw and living food diet you will begin to turn back the hands of time. People who eat raw food have a glow to their skin, a shine to their hair, a sparkle in their eyes, a healthy, fit, body and look younger than their age. They have a youthful energy and they feel good about themselves and happy to be alive!

People have reported their hair turning back to its natural color, teeth getting tighter and gums stop bleeding, wrinkles, deep creases and age spots disappearing, dark circles, bags and eye puffiness vanishing, acne and blemishes fading, looking better without make-up and having a natural sunny blush.

If you are sick, tired, overweight or just want to feel better than you do right now, this way of eating could be the answer that you are looking for. The raw and living food diet has been one of the greatest miracles in many peoples lives.

With these kinds of benefits, who could lose?

Of course, the diet makes intuitive sense in some ways. There is, of course, the evolutionary perspective, that our digestive systems evolved under conditions of a [presumably] mostly raw diet. A oft cited example of the negative impacts of our novel culinary environment comes from Polynesians, who have experienced considerable problems with weight gain and obesity after the introduction of foods high in fat and sugar. Their pre-industrial diets, of course, didn’t include McDonald’s, so digestion of fatty foods has been detrimental in a number of ways.

(note: Polynesians do, however, eat cooked food, so this might be a better example of the argument against heavily processed, high fat content diets)

Unfortunately, evolutionary theory has been commandeered to support raw food fanatics and other “health proponents”, such as those of the paleolithic diet (oh dear). According to raw food enthusiasts, we are better suited to uncooked fruits and veggies, and unprocessed nuts and grains. Who are we to go against millions of years of evolution? Right?

The post continues on to do its best to debunk the philosophies behind why raw veganism is “so great,” but I’m wholly unfocused on that. There’s an underlying point here that needs to be addressed.

If you choose to adopt an AEL as your own, then do so consciously… not because of how it was marketed and packaged up for you. There’s no logical reason to assume that simply choosing to cut meat from your system… while still making use of highly processed replacements and substitutes just to make it “easier” on you. That’s just not going to cut it in regards to health.

Not every lifestyle is for every person – in fact, I alternate between three different lifestyles – and no lifestyle guarantees you anything especially if you aren’t eating clean. When you make the decision, do so because you have thoroughly researched how to do so in a clean and sustainable fashion… not because it’s a trend or because it’s wrapped in pretty and colorful promises. If marketing doesn’t work for a carnivore.. it certainly shouldn’t work for anyone else.

Facebook Comments
By | 2017-06-10T11:28:18+00:00 November 14th, 2013|Healthy Eating|37 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Eunice October 7, 2010 at 10:29 AM - Reply

    So, so many times I’ve heard of people who go vegetarian to lose weight. Thank you for writing about this. Like you said, vegetarianism, veganism, raw food(ism??) are ways of life and should be thoroughly researched.

    • Erika October 7, 2010 at 10:43 AM - Reply

      Right! I mean, approaching a veggie-heavy lifestyle – regardless of how much meat you do or don’t consume – and cutting out processed foods is going to bring about improved health… and while science can dictate further than that, that “science” element is something I’m going to talk about TOMORROW. NOT today. LOLOL

    • Camcrdz July 13, 2015 at 11:59 AM - Reply

      it is because of the animals and all the cruelty they suffer i dont think people do it because they want to lose some weight tbh

      • Erika Nicole Kendall July 15, 2015 at 7:35 AM - Reply

        You’d be surprised. I hear it all the time, and have been hearing it for years. For crying out loud, a celebrity trainer JUST published a book about how to use veganism as a weight loss tool, which is in the same vein as one of the most popular weight loss books of all time, Skinny Bitch.

        I mean, come on. It’s TOO common.

  2. Sarah October 7, 2010 at 11:43 AM - Reply

    “No matter what alternative eating lifestyle you embrace… it is not synonymous with clean eating. Being a vegan doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be eating clean.”

    THIS! Once again, divine timing! Over thE past week, I’ve had a strong and heartfelt desire to become vegan — the images of factory-farmed laying hens got right into me — and so I’m taking tiny steps into changing my diet.

    But! Yogurt! I’ve been doing the Fage 0% with a little bit of honey and nuts because it works well for my carb load. So, I’m taste-testing a variety of other milk-yogurts (soy, rice, coconut), and am 1) disheartened by the overprocessing and additives, and 2) shocked by the syrupy sweetness of so many of these non-dairy yogurts.

    But! I don’t want to do the regular Fage, because I’m pretty sure their milk comes from the standard factory-farmed cow.

    So, the options for me become:

    1. Eat an organic version of the Greek yogurt (not a complete resolution to my moral dilemma, but better)

    2. Find a minimally processed, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (possible, but a quest)

    3. Or, don’t eat yogurt at all.

    Rinse and repeat for anything I eat now that includes dairy and eggs.

    You’re giving me more things to think about, Erika — thanks.

    • cptacek November 22, 2013 at 6:18 PM - Reply

      Make your own yoghurt with milk you feel comfortable with? Cheaper and very easy! Make Greek yoghurt by straining the yoghurt you make through a coffee filter.

      My technique to make homemade yoghurt:

      Buy plain yoghurt (with no additives, sweeteners, etc). I buy Dannon. Make sure it says with “Active Cultures”. Those are the little beasties that will make the yoghurt for you.

      Take 1/2 gallon milk and put in your crockpot on low for 2 1/2 hours.

      Unplug the crockpot and leave the lid on for 3 hours.

      Once this 3 hours has past, scoop out 2 cups of the warm milk, add 1/2 cup of the Dannon and stir together. Add this mixture back to the crockpot.

      Put lid on, wrap with a very heavy towel or two, and leave it out overnight.

      The next morning: Yoghurt!

      Strain through a coffee filter for Greek.

    • Charles January 16, 2014 at 4:25 PM - Reply

      The whole point comes down to High fructose corn syrup, SUGAR and it is in most of all processed foods, sugar being a big problem, I don’t care what diet you claim if you don’t cut the sugar you will not lose the weight.

  3. N.I.A. naturally October 7, 2010 at 12:57 PM - Reply

    As a vegetarian/sometime vegan, I agree with everything you say. Being vegan is a lifestyle change that, for me, included cutting out as much process as I could, no deep fried anything, and eating seasonally. I think people get so caught up in losing weight, that they don’t really consider what it takes to be vegan. When I was completely vegan, I rarely ate at restaurants, and cooked 99.67% of the time. For a lot of people, that is darn near an impossible feat because of time restraints, responsiblities, etc.

    An old friend told me he gained weight when he went vegetarian, and I told him 1.) he only became vegetarian because I was and had lost weight, and 2.) everything he took out he replaced with processed junk. Of course he gained weight. It wasn’t the vegetarianism, it was his lack of information.

    Now, I don’t tell others to become vegan or vegetarian, but I do advocate eating more fruits/veggies and whole grains in general. And cut the processed stuff.

    • Hazelphine Townsend January 23, 2011 at 5:57 PM - Reply

      I too gave up on meat for about 11 months and i tried to replace my proteins, but i found out my body did not do well on the diet. I incorporated a little meat, fish and seafood(shrimp), but i drink my green
      smoothies and i eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and less processed foods. I cooked my own foods 90% of the time. I will not tell anybody what type of diet they should ensue. I will say research so you can make your own decision.

    • Chandra February 21, 2011 at 1:22 AM - Reply


      My choice for not eating meat and dairy has nothing to do with a love for animals. I have been a vegetarian for 2 years. Protien is so misunderstood by many. One of the 1st benefits I enjoyed when giving up meat was the benefit of lighter mences and underarm prespiration. I think it is a choice and each individual makes their food decisions based on their own journey’s and their own reasons. I also don’t eat processed foods like Morning Starr products, meat crumbles etc. because I think they are unhealthy. Congrats on your 4 year journey.

  4. Stephanie October 7, 2010 at 3:21 PM - Reply

    This was a great post to read. I have friends who are different types of AELs. Some try so hard to convert others by simply disgusting them about what they currently eat and I have always been against that. Research, research, research before you do anything life-changing because most people have to tweak these lifestyles to benefit from them anyhow.

  5. Mayotte C. October 7, 2010 at 8:32 PM - Reply

    I was Vegetarian for 4 years and I lost nothing! Why? Because Vegetarian to me was avoiding meat, but eating everything else processed and “meat free” in mass quantities. It was something like being on a “snack” only diet for 4 years with the occasional meal.

    *What Vegetarianism did do for me, was keep me out every McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and fast food anything.

    I only had an awakening upon my move to California and had easy access to large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables. Once here in this awesome state, I started eating more vegetables/fruits and less “soy-cheese/soy-milk.” I then realized my error and now I don’t support any “random vegetarian crusades” because it’s an easy way to screw up your health and rid yourself of nutrition.

    That’s my spiel!

  6. TSWSarah October 9, 2010 at 1:48 PM - Reply

    Somewhere along the line we started to equate vegetarian and vegan with healthy, which is a mistake.

    Most of my vegan friends will freely admit that many ready-to-eat vegan or vegetarian foods (Morningstar and the like) are overly processed junk food and liken those products to the hastily bought meat-lovers pizza, bought only when in a rush or craving something from their past meat and dairy lifestyle.

    (I mean, I love the veggie Buffalo “chicken” nuggets they sell, but five small nuggets are 200 calories. Hardly seems worth to me as I work to keep my weight in check.)

  7. Ain HD October 9, 2010 at 1:58 PM - Reply

    I agree Erica. I try to warn people about being “junk food vegans” all the time when they assume that the only reason I’m thin and healthy is b/c of my vegan lifestyle. I tell them that it’s just not the route to take if they’re looking to lose weight.

    • Erika October 9, 2010 at 2:14 PM - Reply

      Everyone, meet the reason I chose to become a vegan. 🙂 You’re absolutely right.

      I’m glad you take this stance… it just has to be a conscious decision. Because if people convert just because of weight loss and fail… they’re gonna go RIGHT back to being omnivorous and it’ll be even more “bad PR” for veganism… it’s just not worth it, IMO. Believe that this is right and right for you, and that conviction will carry you through all of the things you have to leave behind (I don’t like the term “give up.”)

      The more conscious I became, the more I felt like this was the right decision for me. Not everyone will come to that conclusion (and I believe that, so this site won’t become a ruse for pushing the vegan lifestyle) but everyone should have proper facts.

  8. Tracey October 25, 2010 at 6:36 PM - Reply

    I know this so well. Basically, going from eating meat to being vegetarian for me went something like this:
    pasta, chicken, alfredo sauce, lots of eating out, and whatever I could get from my fast food jobs to
    pasta, alfredo, tvp, lots of eating out,and whatever I could get from my fast food jobs
    Not to mention frozen mac n’ cheese by the barrel full.

  9. Diane Banks February 1, 2011 at 10:44 AM - Reply

    I haven’t eaten meat for about 30 years. I dont eat meat because I dont like it, the smell, texture, taste does not appeal to me. Finding how to eat well has been a journey because of all the readily available processed foods and this culture’s obsession with meat. I have lived or traveled in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, nobody on earth eats as much meat as Americans. What people think they need they dont really need.

    Will I eat a salad and baked potato at Wendy’s absolutely! Its the one fast food place that has readily identfible whole food a real potato and a one dollar salad w/o cheese. Its called lunch! Need a protein? Pick up some sliced almonds or pop-top can or vacuum pouch of black or red beans and toss them in the salad and call it lunch or dinner.

    I will say that despite all of the debates about eating or not eating meat, I have seen many overweight vegetarians/vegans, some of us love our own cooking and too much of even a good thing can pack on the pounds.

    Overweight or not, I have never seen a vegan with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

    • Erika February 1, 2011 at 10:47 AM - Reply

      No, you wouldn’t see a vegan with high cholesterol – cholesterol is something only obtained from animal or animal by-product.

      I’ve seen vegans with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, simply because processed foods – something that LOTS of vegans subsist on – tend to be LOADED with salt and hidden sugars.

      • Takia January 11, 2014 at 11:46 PM - Reply

        Erika, most ppl who you say are vegans & have high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes… already had or was close to gaining those ailments before becoming vegans. Of course no doubt that the loaded salt & hidden sugars in the vegan foods aided in this, but to say they were caused by vegan foods, would be too much & out of line. B/c any food whether regular or vegan has loaded salt or hidden sugars except fresh foods in general…
        I’ve been vegan for 2 months, & I’m realizing I haven’t lost any weight.. & its not b/c I eat junk food, b/c I don’t…. & I hardly eat processed foods either. So not sure what my deal is, but the post was right, ppl need to educate themselves before switching or making a lifestyle change.

        • Erika Nicole Kendall January 12, 2014 at 1:30 PM - Reply

          “to say they were caused by vegan foods, would be too much & out of line.”

          Not only is it not out of line, but that is exactly the point. Simply because a food is ‘vegan” doesn’t mean it’s inherently healthy. There are “vegan” foods that still have trans-fats, high amounts of sodium, high amounts of sugar, and still contribute to heart disease and diabetes, regardless of whether or not you had the condition before you became vegan. People who were born into a family that never ate animal byproduct still develop these issues all the time. Begin vegan doesn’t save you from those ailments, just like being vegan doesn’t automatically mean being skinny or losing weight. Buying animal byproduct-free does not mean you’re “safe” from all the crap in processed food that causes poor health and, potentially, weight gain. You both missed my point and proved it at the exact same time: processed food, vegan or not, still contributes to poor health… so be careful.

  10. Kim Brown February 1, 2011 at 11:18 AM - Reply

    Interesting post and very true. I stopped eating red meat and pork about twenty years ago, because I was never able to digest it very well. In the last three years I have been primarily vegetarian/vegan. My primary reason again, was digestive problems that I had with chicken, and dairy products. I will say that whatever you decide to do you have to do it because it fits with your lifestyle and your overall wellness goals. For me vegetarianism has helped me re-discover vegetables in a whole different light and has forced me to become more creative in my cooking. Do I still fall back on processed “vegan” foods every once in a while absolutely, but I don’t eat them everyday. I will say the one drawback is that you do have to watch your protein and vitamin levels as you are not going to get all the proper nutrients from just vegetables. I in fact had to start back eating egg whites and taking Vitamin B as I was not getting nearly enough of these.

    No matter what type of lifestyle you choose, there are benefits, pitfalls, and trap that you can fall into with your eating. Just do your research and pick what works best for you.

    • Serenity March 22, 2011 at 2:51 PM - Reply

      I am a decade plus vegetarian, sometimes vegan, seasonally raw foodist. I didn’t do it to lose weight. It’s not a diet. That is a silly reason to change your life. And that’s what this is. Life changing. Also, I find folks who get ill while following this lifestyle to be lazy. Yeah your body will reject foolishness. But fruits and vegetables aren’t foolishness. Buying other people’s creations, processed foods, not eating and such is what made you ill. Not doing the knowledge for self made you ill. Removing meat did not. You need to study food combining, starch dependance and get some vegetarian cookbooks from all over the world. But every time I hear someone say cessation of meat made them ill, I cringe long enough to ignore them.

Leave A Comment

Are you ready to join the #bgg2wlarmy and achieve your weight loss goals?



Join the squad, and let's reach our goals together!

— Weekly positive affirmations

— The latest news in food & fitness

— Delicious recipes

— Insightful discussion

— Tips to help you on your journey