Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 3: Body Positivity for Vegans

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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).

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Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 2: Eating Treats Without Guilt

Hi, it’s Fluffy here!

I want to talk to you today about something two concepts that never need to go together: food & guilt. Sadly, people often DO put them together.

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To avoid my salty unicorn tears from flowing, here is my take on the matter:

Vegan food, after all, is about eating with compassion and making a conscious effort to reduce suffering through our food choices. So, as long as you are doing the best you can to achieve this goal, there really is no need for guilt! (If you’re not vegan and are experiencing feelings of guilt because you’re becoming aware of the suffering that occurs from your food choices, there are plenty of supportive vegans who would love to help you make the transition! For example, my pal Laura, the owner of this blog, is a Vegan Outreach Mentor and also has her own site, veg-edu-ables.com that you might want to check out.)

I see a lot of people associate guilt and shame with supposed “bad” vegan foods as opposed to “healthy” vegan foods. There is no such thing as “good” and/or “bad” food. Vegan food is vegan food. Want to eat a delicious sugary vegan donut? Go ahead! Enjoy it. Savor each melt-in-your-mouth morsel. Think to yourself, well, that was magical! I deserved that experience! I am happy I ate that. Want to eat a salad? As long as you don’t feel with every bite that you live a joyless, hopeless, sad and tasteless existence, that’s okay too!

When we shame or guilt trip ourselves or others for eating certain foods it creates unhealthy problems with food, or our bodies, minds, and spirits. As long as you are eating a balanced diet that does not consist of around the clock cookies and nothing but cookies and turning into a cookie monster, you’ll be okay. In fact, you’ll enjoy life a little bit more when you allow yourself to have fun, enjoy, and savor all the delicious vegan treats that are exploding onto the shelves of grocery stores, in vegan bakeries, restaurants, cookbooks, blogs, Instagrams, and beyond. I know I do!

Tomorrow we’ll be talking about shame and guilt as it relates to people’s bodies, which goes together with this topic.

**If you feel like you have a real problem with guilt and food, or feel like you may have some seriously disordered eating habits, I encourage you to find a vegan-friendly registered dietician and/or a psychologist who specializes in disordered eating. It won’t be easy but you can recover. Fluffy loves you and wants to see you healthy, happy, and successful.