Politics has gradually made its way into the world of nutrition, and the number of ‘diet identifiers’ on social media is at a fever pitch. Look no further than the ongoing childish, emotional battle between Carnivore and Vegan tribes. * (I will note here that I fully understand the Vegan identity runs more deeply than just diet, but for the sake of this example I am looking at Veganism through a dietary lense).
As most of you know, I believe that (most) human beings can live a long, healthy life on pretty much any diet that is whole foods-based, includes movement, stress management, and adequate sleep, and avoids the visible problematic behaviors like smoking, drinking too much, and eating trash food.
Sure, there are probably some diets that are better than others- and there is nothing wrong with promoting the dietary approach that you believe to be ‘optimal’ (whatever that means), but at the end of the day the amount of broccoli you eat vs. steak is probably the least of your dietary issues.
When I hear the arguments and banter of most extreme proponents of both Vegan and Carnivore worlds, it reminds me of the alt-left and alt-right in politics. It is less about what is best for people and more about being argumentative and being a part of group identity.
Diet has replaced purpose. Diet has replaced tribes. Diet has now become who we are.
The extreme spectrums of Vegan and Carnivore have now become alt-left vs. alt-right
Both groups have a few sane people who are just following a diet that makes sense for their lives, most are purposeless people who are struggling with their identity and are seeking that identity through diet
Dietary tribes and cults have replaced purpose, identity, and the innate tribalism that is central to the evolution of the human race.
You can tell the difference between someone who just ‘eats a certain way’ and a dogmatist by the anger, sarcasm, and pretentious responses to reasonable criticism or inquiry that threatens the person’s way of life. You can also spot a diet identifier by his or her constant need to kowtow to the internet leaders of the group. This is another way of saying the person makes comments or insults toward the enemy for the sake of puckering up and kissing their ‘Gods’ ass.
So why am I picking on the Vegan and Carnivore movements? Because in my observations, these are the communities that thrive re on emotion rather than rationality. They preference attacks over conversations. And each group pushes their ideas rather than look for the flaws in their reason.
Another observation that I find quite interesting is the number of Vegan dieters who then jump straight into the carnivore diet. It makes me scratch my head. How come nobody in the Carnivore community finds this suspicious? Someone becomes Vegan. Then they talk about how amazing their health is since switching to a Vegan lifestyle. Then the thrill of Veganism fades. Then they jump to Carnivore. Now Carnivore is the best, Veganism made them sick, and they have a new tribe and leader.
What this looks like to me is ‘I lack purpose. Veganism gives me purpose and a community to be part of. The reward of Veganism is starting to fade. I’m going to jump ship and refresh my lacking purpose and need for a tribe by jumping into another dietary extreme and now talk shit about the Vegan community that I once claimed to have saved my health’.
Let me be clear: there are people with digestive issues and autoimmune disorders who are following a Carnivore diet, seeing results, and occasionally talking about their findings without getting on their high horse about it. I am not talking about you right now. Some Vegans don’t claim that their diet is the ‘be all end all’ or that meat is dangerous- but the deep emotional connection to all animals that he or she has made animal consumption a conflict of conscious. I am not referring to you either.
Person A cares more about groupthink, belonging, and finding purpose while person B is just quietly living life the way he or she sees fit. There’s a big difference between those two people.
So why do I give a rat’s ass about any of these people? Because when it comes to the internet and social media, the average person (unfortunately) looks to these conversations for answers for their own health problems. There is a lot of noise and minimal signal. Idealist arguments that are motivated by diet identity make up the majority of internet noise that is hurting a lot of people. That and diet identifiers are intensely annoying.
So if you come across someone who:
Calls him/herself a name that is rooted in a diet (I am a vegan, I am a carnivore)
Argues for their diet with emotion and anger instead of conversing with rationality and curiosity
Has a social name that is diet identifying (i.e., @veganfeministleftistsocialist1975)
You can probably do better with your dietary resources.