Rebecca Nahid discusses how societal prejudices surrounding vegans and weight loss are unhelpful, and why we shouldn’t feel guilty about eating the odd vegan cupcake now and again.
I am sure that the first thought that pops into most people’s heads when they hear that I’m vegan is: "But you’re not thin?" Imagining endless days of me picking disconsolately at limp and leafy greens, they can’t understand that I eat more – a lot more – than salad. You see, I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with food!
I am not one of these vegans who will blithely walk into a non-vegan restaurant and order the plate of chips. I like to phone ahead, get friendly and on first name terms with the chef until I feel comfortable enough to blurt out: “I WANT A BIG MEAL AND I WANT IT NOW!”
From morning ‘till night I am thinking at regular intervals of the nutty praline contained within Vego chocolate bars*. By 9.20am at work, I am recalling past vegan feasts. When I get in from a day’s toil at the office, I drop everything and start cutting doorstep slices of bread for immediate comfort toasting.
And do you know what? I don’t care if I have love handles. I don’t care that I wobble in many places. I don’t want to wake up every morning sipping green juices and snapping my tiny washboard waist in ‘cute bod selfies’ for my blog entitled: ‘Raw Chiselled Vegan’. More like pre-menopausal, coffee and wine drinking, vegan cupcake guzzling late-30s layabout. If you are that way inclined, and you love to look great and hit the gym, then that’s great too! All I ask is that you do not judge me for not being that way.
"We don’t have to be ‘fit’ poster girls/boys for veganism. We represent all that is good about being vegan by loving animals, our families, our friends and, most crucially, ourselves."
I haven’t always been so accepting of myself. I, like many others, have had issues with food and body image all my life. When I, and people like me, see blogs where gym-toned vegans mock others for putting on weight, it’s not only hurtful, it’s a highly privileged position to take. No matter what some people do, losing weight can be nigh on impossible – especially if you are in a situation where you don’t have the time, ability or resources to go to the gym.
Luckily, I find my inspiration away from the judgemental weight loss vlogs. I attend vegan festivals and witness beer bellied bikers eating tofu burgers and supping vegan ale, normal looking people with split ends and cellulite all walking round, enjoying the whole experience and remembering why they do it.
I remind myself that vegans preach compassion – why shouldn't we apply that same compassion to ourselves? Not beating ourselves up for every slice of cake we eat. Not standing miserably in the mirror wondering why our stomachs aren’t flat. Not shaming and thus provoking others into mental health crises because they’ve swallowed some trans fats. Because newsflash! We don’t have to be ‘fit’ poster girls/boys for veganism. We represent all that is good about being vegan by loving animals, our families, our friends and, most crucially, ourselves.
I don’t stand scanning ingredients in supermarkets and sacrificing animal products for the sake of my body image. I do it so that fewer animals die for my palate. And you know what? I doubt that they care if I am fat or thin - I know my cats don’t!
If you are interested in health and fitness as a result of being vegan, I take my hat off to you: but if that’s all you care about, we have very, very different priorities.
So pass me the tub of Almond Dream Salted Caramel* and let me worry about what I do with my body - don’t chastise me because I don’t eschew sugar like you do. Happy eating!
By Rebecca Nahid
*Indicates a product which is not Vegan Trademarked. While the company has said the product is vegan and not animal tested, The Vegan Society cannot verify if it is vegan unless the product registers with the Vegan Trademark.
You can check out Rebecca's tasty and simple recipes at her blog Lush Vegan Food.
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.