Laura here: Yesterday Fluffy talked about food shaming and guilt and why it does not need to happen and how to be better at avoiding it.
This week’s MoFo topic is “Changing vegan perceptions.” Today I want to talk about another big bummer that plays into the topic of guilt and shame that I see happen within the vegan community a lot. Shaming people (or yourself) for their whole body or an aspect of it, beyond their daily food choices.
When I say the term “body shaming” let me be clear. I mean that these are negative comments directed at someone else’s (or your own) size (small or large or in between), disability, health status (such as a chronic illness, having a cold/flu or colds more frequently than others, or any other diseases, as well as general ideas about a person’s overall health, etc.), appearance, gender presentation (for instance, whether they look feminine or masculine or are non-binary), choice of aesthetics, and can go on to include even more. I think you probably know the type of comments associated with these areas, so I’ll spare you the added negativity.
But here is a personal example of body shaming from my own life and my experience in the vegan community. Several years back, I read this statement from a prominent vegan activist or media source that said, essentially, we cannot be good vegan advocates if we look unhealthy (as in fat).
I considered their rationale and took it to heart. I lost around 70 pounds. But I was obsessed with being thin to the point I was kinda miserable (I didn’t realize it right away because I was getting so much praise and attention for the way my body looked.) I was training for and ran a half marathon that I wasn’t quite ready for because I thought that was what good, successful, and most influential vegan advocates did.
Before the half marathon, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. Shortly after I thought I had recovered from my half marathon, I tried to start Crossfit in addition to running again, and I badly injured my back. I couldn’t even stand with my spine up straight, and I was barely able to walk and in excruciating pain.
After almost a year in physical therapy and chronic pain that continues long after I was discharged from physical therapy, and having gained a lot of the weight back due to my thyroid condition, my injury, reduced ability to exercise and no longer depriving myself of foods I love, I appear to be back to the body they said couldn’t be a good advocate for veganism.
Except they were wrong. My body is not wrong. I can assure you that despite my larger size and illnesses/disabilities, the fact that I do get colds once in a while, that I don’t conform to certain standards of beauty, etc. that I am just as good an advocate for veganism as I was when I was running half marathons and thin. In fact, I’d say I am now a better one because:
- I am not grumpy and miserable all the time from depriving myself of foods I enjoy. Veganism should bring joy.
- I have time to focus on my graduate studies in humane education instead of spending most of my time training for runs and doing a half-assed job at school
- I can help vegans who get sick realize it is beyond their control and that they are not a bad vegan because of their illness
- I can show vegans that you can still be a healthy vegan if you are a larger person, as my blood work levels are the same as when I was thinner
- I have found a form of mind-body exercise that leaves me feeling restored and in less pain overall, that I devote a manageable amount of time to practicing and is ultimately a form of self-care so I don’t experience as much burn out when I’m wearing my vegan advocate hat.
- I have been going to talk therapy and working on loving my body for what it does for me and how strong and powerful it can be rather than attaching it to others’ ideals and ideas of perfection or what kind of a body is suitable to be a vegan advocate, which is what I am and will always be
Says Fluffy: All bodies are magical bodies. Never assume you know someone’s health story by looking at their body. Humans are complex and their uniqueness and differences make them beautiful. Vegans can come in all shapes and sizes, it’s not a one size fits all movement. Now it’s time to eat some cupcakes and do my Prancercise. (In case you were wondering, that is the official exercise of choice for unicorns).
Yes, yes, yesss, yessss, YESSSSS! I can’t fist pump in agreement enough here! Thank you for writing this!
I’ve spent the last 18 months really working on loving and accepting my body for what it is. It’s a challenge but has opened my eyes to how big this problem is in the vegan community.
It’s a problem in our culture in general. I think it’s easier for us to feel bad about our bodies than feel good sadly because those are the messages we get from our media and the consumer market, etc. I have a lot of respect for people who are working on accepting and loving their bodies without constantly striving for a different body or feeling bad about its current state.
Yeeeeessss! I freaking loved reading this. Fuck diet culture and the validation we get when we loose weight. I think that people need to learn how to compliment each other in a way that doesn’t revolve around weight / appearance!
Yes! I totally agree. I’m part of a community of people who intentionally try to do this but it still seems challenging at times especially when people are wearing cool things. But at least we’re trying and aware of this problem. However, others outside of the community could definitely stand to learn how to do this more too! At the very least, stop commenting on people’s weight and size! Like how is that even considered appropriate?
So totally agreed with you! I have a few chronic illnesses and I’ve been told in the past that I’m not a “good example” for veganism because I’m not healthy. Now sure, if I could magically get rid of the illnesses I would, but I can’t, and it doesn’t make me any less of a vegan.
Yes, vegans are the same as any other large group of people that share something in common. They’re all different. Just because vegans are identified by their choices of food that are usually pretty healthful, doesn’t mean they are immune from being sick or can cure any disease with their food choices. That’s another dangerous perception that I’m going to talk a little bit about today maybe when I talk about researching food for health impacts, cruelty towards animals and humans, and the effects on the environment.
Thank you for writing this!
Great post, thank you for sharing! Body shaming amongst vegans happens more often then not, unfortunately…