TBT | The Inspiration for Issue Eleven

Photo of Sayward Rebhal of Bonzai Aphrodite

I can’t remember exactly when it is I met Sayward Rebhal of Bonzai Aphrodite in an online sense, but I’m sure we finally crossed paths in real life at the Vida Vegan Conference. In fact, a previous TBT to my first actual talk marked the event that brought us together. In a way, today’s throwback is referencing a point in time around that same year, but it also covers a few other things after that as well.

The Struggle Made Real

First, at the start of the year that I was to host a discussion in Portland and then meet Sayward, she published a blog post that turned out to resonate with many, both inside and outside of the vegan community.

As far as I can remember, when I first read Sayward’s public acknowledgement of her health issues and struggles with addressing them while maintaining a vegan diet, it stood out as a rather rare post that wasn’t just a build-up to someone announcing that they were no longer vegan.

Granted, I’ve never been one to join the vegan drama train in shaming someone who made a post like that, but around that time it did feel like those stories were getting rather familiar (and far too popular). So, to have someone admit to their audience that they had been struggling with health issues while also struggling with feeling like they were failing as a vegan was a new thing to me, and it struck a chord for sure.

Admittedly, that chord sat close to my heart since I too had struggled with this or that health issue since going vegan, and I often found myself thinking that I was strange since so many others seemed to be thriving on their plants and Instagram filters.

Of course, soon after Sayward published that post, it became obvious that plenty of other vegans were having issues too. In fact, even though the original post was created over four years ago, there are still people commenting on it to acknowledge how helpful it has been to them.

Sayward Rebhal of Bonzai Aphrodite speaking at the third Vida Vegan Conference

Everything Isn’t Fine

A couple years later, to further encourage people to talk about their poor health as vegans, Sayward gave a talk about her experience at the third (and final) Vida Vegan Conference. As I sat there to listen to it, I wasn’t surprised to see a full room.

Between that talk and the blog post, Sayward encouraged vegans from around the world to be open and honest about their struggles, but that’s not all she did. Reading that post and sitting in that room led to me realizing that I needed to cover the subject through T.O.F.U. as well, and that was the start of the idea that led to the focus for the latest issue.

Not only that, I also knew that if I was going to cover the topic of health struggles and veganism, I had to include an interview with Sayward to find out where things were now. Thankfully, with the help of Lyndsay Penner, that’s exactly what happened.

Look, veganism is amazing, and it’s going to save the world. But right now, in terms of human history, this thing is brand freaking new. So we’re still trying to iron out all the kinks, and figure out how to make this new thing work for everybody. Which is okay – it’s part of the process. But if we’re all just running around yelling “NO KINKS NO I’M FINE I SWEAR NOTHING WRONG” while we’re secretly hurting, well then how can we possibly ever figure out what needs fixing?
– Sayward Rebhal, Facing Failing Health as a Vegan, T.O.F.U. #11

Strength in Numbers

Needless to say, the reception the issue has been getting has been similar to Sayward’s post, and I’m happy to see that the topic is receiving more attention from people. Whether it’s those who have felt alone due to their supposed failure to be a healthy vegan or those who never really thought about the issue, it’s thanks to the willingness and honesty of folks such as Sayward and the authors involved in T.O.F.U. #11 that the conversation continues around veganism, failing health, and chronic illness.

Hopefully, through talking about all the ups and downs together, we can find ways to inspire others just as Sayward did over four years ago when she chose to tell her story without knowing what would come out of doing so.

If you’re interested in reading the full interview, as well as pieces written by numerous other vegans dealing with health issues, please download T.O.F.U. #11 through the online store.

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