Is Oprah Still Vegan?

There may be trouble on the horizon. Radar Online Magazine is reporting something we've been feeling (we found this via Vegan.com). It looks like Oprah might not make her 21-days on this cleanse. She seems to be missing her alcohol quite a bit.

When I wrote my Oprah vegan update on Saturday, I was somewhat concerned, but still optimistic. Her blog seems to be petering off a bit. She doesn't post every day (well, neither do we). But if she's supposed to be blogging about her 21-day cleanse, I would expect there to be a discussion of what she's actually eating and how the meals/snacks taste for each of those 21 days. Instead, the last few posts were more about her activities, and the posts are late. (It's Tuesday night, and there hasn't been a post since Saturday, and that post wasn't online Saturday night when I wrote my update.) Granted, the woman is busy. But do any of us actually believe that it is Oprah herself who is writing her blog posts?

Anyway, Radar is reporting that Tal Ronnen is no longer cooking for Oprah (noted on her blog post Saturday night). Where'd he go? Why would he desert her in the middle of the cleanse? Could she and her staff be that demanding? Or was this planned, and if so, why didn't the vegans helping her plan these 21 days get someone else to pick up the slack? On Saturday, Oprah wrote she was in New York and complained about the black bean burger she'd eaten. Although the food was good, it wasn't as wonderful as what Chef Ronnen typically prepared for her. So what, you can't find a decent vegan chef in NY? That's as crazy as saying you can't find a good vegan restaurant in Portland, Oregon.

I guess I'm a little freaked out by this. This was a mere 21 day experiment. 21 days of someone else shopping for you, and preparing your food. Okay, that's probably her typical day-to-day experience... but I would imagine it would be rather easy to do this for 21 days. Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me fame (this is a link to the documentary in streaming video), was able to eat McDonalds exclusively for 30 days. I'm being a little flip here, but in reality, I'm saddened by this. Jane and I had really high hopes when we found out that on the first day of her cleanse, Oprah had written:

How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?

It looked like we would have a mainstream champion for our cause; and what reach she has. Unfortunately, there is also a level of risk here which we have been optimistically avoiding. If Oprah "can't" finish out her 21 day vegan stint, the world will know how "hard" it is to be vegan. She's in the final stretch... Perhaps it's time for all of us to send her some encouragement.

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Comments

  1. Reminds me of Kevin Rose who twittered that he was going on a “cleansing” vegan diet for a week or two. By the end of the first day he was whining about how much he missed sushi (presumably the non-vegan sort) – and by the second day he’d already caved… disappointing.

  2. I’ve just cracked the 40-day mark (feels smug and superior to Oprah).

  3. I really hope she’ll stick with it. Until I read this post, I hadn’t thought about the potential this has to backfire on veganism if she gives up.

  4. I saw this coming from the beginning. The whole thing is a bit ridiculous. Sure, she is bringing a lot of attention to the vegan cause. However, does a vegan diet really look viable if you need some amazing vegan chef around just to get you through your day?

    Best case scenario, she makes it through the end of the cleanse then never speaks of it again.

  5. A new one was just posted today (a Wednesday “Tuesday” post, with a note to check back Friday for the next one). Where she says that Morningstar veggie sausages “are a keeper” — except I see ingredients like “egg whites”, “sodium caseinate”, and “whey powder”, things that bring out the “not vegan” penalty flags. Also if this is supposed to be a “gluten free” 21 days, the TVP adds another level of “cheating”.

    (meat-free for years, vegan for months, myself, btw)

  6. “Freston lent Oprah her personal vegan chef, Tal Ronnen, who made delicious “feasts” that kept Oprah happy and full. ”

    Hahahaha! Kathy Freston ‘lent’ Oprah her chef! Oh my god, that is hilarious.
    I’m laughing/crying now.

    So, let’s write Oprah letters offering to cook for her :) We can take turns!

  7. Hi PaulPet,
    Well, she’s lasted a bit longer than Kevin anyway. I would expect she’ll last the rest of the week. She’s posted again (as Eric comments her – #5), and it’s not that much longer. But if you want to get technical, she’s fallen off the wagon again. Alas.

    Hi Kate,
    Congratulations! 40 days! I read somewhere, that it takes 3 weeks to make or break a habit. So it looks like you’ve made the transition. I find myself having to beat the “smug and superior” out of myself from time to time. But it feels pretty good, doesn’t it? ;-)

    Hi Susan,
    Yes, it could be bad if she talks about how “tough” it is. On the other hand, she seems to be missing alcohol more than anything else, so maybe that’s what she’ll focus on if she has anything negative to say. Hopefully, I’m misinterpreting her meaning. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. (I cannot believe how much time and energy I’m focusing on Oprah!!!)

    Hi Sat,
    You are so right. This has the potential to make “vegan” look difficult and extreme. However, I believe she always has a personal chef around — so, perhaps her audience is aware of that and will discount that facet of her experiment.

    Hey Eric,
    Thanks for the update. Wow, she’s not even aware of what she’s eating. Interestingly, Freston didn’t catch that either in her comments back to Oprah. Morningstar is tricky. We tend to avoid their products because of all the hidden ingredients, however their Grillers Vegan burgers are delicious.

    Hi Elaine,
    I don’t think the woman cooks for herself, ever. But then again, she’s busy saving the world and what’s more important?
    Okay, Jane’s willing to sign up for the Chana Masala, and I’ll do vegan waffles. You?

  8. She has a chef who cooks frozen sausages? I’ll sign up for that. I think I could do a better job at reading labels. Maybe the LightLife brand can be a “keeper.”

    Also – kind of serious here – does she have a drinking problem? It shouldn’t be that difficult to go three weeks without alcohol.

    I have to admit, I was wary of the whole “cleanse” thing from the start, since it makes going vegan sound like some self-deprivation chore that you endure, rather than a life-affirming decision to practice non-violence – and have wonderfully diverse and satisfying meals while you’re at it.

    OTOH, as you’ve pointed out, she seems to grasp some of the ethical reasons for going vegan, and maybe she’s just having a short-term crisis. Or she had a couple of unrelated bad days and a mediocre black-bean burger. I know…all this psychoanalysis of Oprah’s every move.

    As you and others have pointed out, there is some risk when high-profile figures “try” veganism if it’s not clear that they’re ethically committed to vegan principles. If they declare that it’s too difficult, that could be worse than them never trying it at all.

    Well, I’ll send Oprah a letter of encouragement. Maybe I’ll remind her that every day, people without personal chefs go vegan and stay vegan, and none have super willpower, and most are not super cooks. They’re simply showing compassion and respect for animals, and bringing their lifestyles into accordance with their deepest morals, which are probably about the same as Oprah’s deepest morals. They’re making a decision not to kill and inflict harm for pleasure. That shouldn’t be that hard; it is actually much easier on the soul than participating in violence and engaging in denial every day.

  9. I did the clease with Oprah, and I made it all 21 days. And you know what? I really didn’t find it that difficult! Now, eating out was a challenge, but I found that I was perfectly happy to eat at home.

    I’m not sure that I’ll go back to eating meat anytime soon. I didn’t even miss cheese all that much. I’m hoping that caffeine will also stay off my list of things to eat, too.

    Thanks for this blog – I found it via the Eco Carnival ( I think?) and have been reading daily. Thanks for the inspiration for someone jumping on the vegetarian bandwagon and toying with the vegan life.

  10. Hi Gary,
    Actually, I wouldn’t think it would be too hard to forego anything for three weeks, but then I don’t really drink that much anyway.
    As for the “cleanse” — it’s not just a vegan thing. She’s also giving up sugar and gluten too. That would be a really tough sell for Jane.
    We’ve had a few people indicate they’ve sent letters too, so – here’s hoping… Oprah seems to be moving in a more spiritual direction, so perhaps appealing to her sense of morality will have some success.

  11. Hi Sara,
    Thanks for your kind words. We’re so happy you’re finding value in our blog.
    We were especially happy to hear that you were able to complete the 21-day cleanse without feeling overly deprived. It’s encouraging to know that this might actually be a stepping stone for more people to, at the very least, cut down on their consumption of animal products.
    We’ve got a great audience here too, so if you’ve got questions or need some hints, just ask!

  12. Going cegan IS hard for many many people. I was vegetarian for nine years before I went vegan and it was STILL incredibly difficult.. I cheated a number of times. Most people do. Many animal products have addictive chemicals in them (supposedly), the worst being dairy. What counts is that, even if she cheats, that she eventually gets back on the wagon.. if she goes vegan and sticks with it that will be awesome.. even if she cheats a few times. But I don’t think we should go around saying that it’s necessarily incredibly easy to do.

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