Guest book review: Veganist by Kathy Freston!  »

Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World came out last year and spurred several notable Kathy Freston appearances on major talk shows, including Oprah, Martha, and Ellen (my fave, duh. I LOVE YOU ELLEN!!). Surprisingly, it didn’t make the VegNews list of 2010’s most influential non-cookbook books and frankly, that’s a mistake. However, its message is not abolitionist, so I can see why it might be omitted. The book simply encourages you to make gradual changes and provides convincing evidence and testimonials.   

I understand why some vegans have a problem with the non-abolitionist approach. I get this way occasionally, too. Even though Meatless Monday is great—and I’m grateful for friends who’ve said my influence has caused them eat more vegan food—it’s still annoying sometimes. I want to shout at everyone, “DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO STOP EATING THINGS THAT USED TO BE ALIVE?” This book does not shout that.

Veganist is super-interesting. It outlines 10 promises that Freston assures will come true if you make an effort to adopt a vegan diet. A good chunk of it focuses on the health benefits of a vegan diet, the evidence for which is overwhelming. She interviews several specialists on heart disease and diabetes and knocks your socks off by showing you how far-reaching the effects of eliminating cholesterol and animal fat can be. She also has a few weight-loss testimonials. I can’t totally agree with that one however—I haven’t lost a pound since going vegan. I am still sexy though. And single. Ahem, gentlemen. 

The most powerful chapters for me were the ones on animal suffering and spirituality, especially the story of two generations of cows who live and work on a dairy farm. This is a heart-wrenching and in-depth tale that reveals the horror of the milk and cheese industry, told convincingly by Freston. It’s nice to see her focus so clearly on the foodstuffs most folks have the hardest time giving up. Talking about a slaughterhouse or a broiler farm would be almost easier and more acceptable, but she takes the difficult path and does so brilliantly.  

The spirituality chapter is wonderful. It shows many angles of all religions and encourages you to question what your god would really think of you eating animals and participating in a world of violence. It is a fascinating argument, backed up with evidence from spiritual texts and testimonials from different spiritual advisors, and it got me thinking in a way I hadn’t before. 

I was apprehensive about reading this book. My opinion of Kathy Freston has always been tainted. She has written a bunch of self-help-type “finding love” books, she used honey on her Martha Stewart appearance, and her whole involvement in that “vegan-ish” Oprah episode was annoying—I felt like the whole thing was basically just Michael Pollan jerking off. 

However, she handled Martha Steward’s difficult questions with grace, she put her hand on Michael Pollan’s arm when he said there was nothing wrong with eating animals and gently disagreed, and my distaste for self-help/love books is mostly just because I am single (and sexy!).

Ultimately, I think Veganist is excellent. It’s an easy read, but her arguments are indisputable. Though I don’t know how many people it will actually convince to go vegan, it’s an excellent source of inspiration and information, especially regarding health issues. It provides great insight into the vegan lifestyle: There are shopping lists and meal suggestions in the afterward, which any parent or sibling of a vegan would find informative and useful. It would make a fantastic gift for a non-vegan family member, too.

If you are already vegan and looking for a solid read, pick it up. If you’re feeling particularly abolitionist, you might not like it. Nevertheless, it’s very good and I think Freston’s exposure, along with the great information she provides, will create a huge ripple effect. Even though it may not make people go vegan, it will open a lot of eyes, minds, and hearts to the long list of benefits this lifestyle provides. 

Good job, Kathy Freston. Now, let’s get me a boyfriend!

Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.

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