Bug-eyed gold fish with a big frown swimming in front of seaweed.

If you give a vegan a fish, the whole internet freaks out. If only it were for the right reasons.

Yovana Mendoza, or Rawvana, may be the most infamous influencer to reverse her veganism, but she certainly isn’t the only one. Since January, at least 2 other prominent vegan YouTubers, Alyse Brautigam (Raw Alignment) and Bonny Rebecca, have admitted they’ve also started eating fish, eggs, or both.

The backlash has been immense. The vegan community feels betrayed. After all, these influencers have continued to tout the benefits of a plant-based diet on their social media while eating animal products behind the scenes. But, there’s nothing inherently wrong with people changing their mind about their eating choices.

While there’s plenty wrong with the vicious, public shaming these women have received, the real issue “Fishgate” has revealed is the alarming rise of people taking health advice from unqualified sources.

 

Three raws don’t make a right

These 3 influencers are ex-members of a large social community promoting questionable dietary and health information. Among these practices are 25-day water fasts, which have limited human studies and no scientifically-backed guidelines. One influencer even claimed they don’t believe in taking antibiotics because they treat symptoms and not the root cause of disease.

The overarching trend, however, is that these “raw vegan” influencers have often promoted restrictive diets. They rely on an abundance of detox smoothies, fruits, and vegetables with limited protein and fat intake.

It’s no wonder they were suffering from digestive issues, weakness, loss of ovulation, and anemia. These are all symptoms of undernutrition, according to Dr. Gurmkh Singh.

Vegan influencers are also not the only ones at fault for promoting dietary practices without proper qualifications. There are also plenty of well-known social media figures touting all-meat diets, like Jordan Peterson

These influencers whose brands are based around their eating habits will often cite that they’re not experts. Rather, they’re just documenting their life.

But with millions of views from a younger, impressionable audience, is there a responsibility for influencers to remind viewers to talk to a doctor before changing up their diet?

 

The importance of qualified medical guidance

Yes, says Dr. Matthew St. Laurent, it is essential that you work with a qualified doctor if you plan to change up your diet. It is essential you work with a doctor when making any major changes that may impact your health. Self-directed diets, vegan or not, can lead to too few calories, too many calories, or skipping meals.

“The vegan lifestyle is safe”, says Dr. Ed Friedlander. Dr. Liawaty Ho agrees – you won’t become malnourished if you become a vegan or vegetarian, as long as you’re eating right.

But, what is “eating right”?

Eating right is eating in a way that address your unique health issues, family history, and lifestyle. Regardless of whether you want to pursue a vegan diet, a paleo diet, or a diet to promote a healthier heart, you need to coordinate with your doctor.

When making any dietary changes, doctors are essential to helping you determine if you need supplements or if a particular way of eating may negatively impact your health. Vegans in particular need to be diligent about supplementing for key nutrients, like B12. Those with chronic illnesses, like diabetes, should take particular care to frequently coordinate with their care team about their eating habits, as they have a huge impact on their overall health condition.

If you’re thinking of changing up or cleaning up your diet, talk to a doctor. At HealthTap, our team of doctors can help you navigate dietary changes in a healthy way tailored to your unique lifestyle and needs.

 

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Hannah Dennison

Content Marketing Manager and Writer at HealthTap. Lover of all words, most books, and the Oxford comma.

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