Vegans Need to Stop Body and Food Shaming
I see a lot of body and food shaming going on in the vegan community, and honestly a lot of praise for those who from my perspective promote restrictive eating. I know what your thinking, people think being vegan is restrictive and I get it, from an outside perspective it can seem that way. Veganism is not a diet, but a lifestyle choice, whereas clean eating and plant-based diets promote weight loss through dieting and restriction.
Vegan, Clean Eating, and Plant-based, not the same:
Somehow veganism and clean eating and plant-based have become synonymous with each other and here is why they are not the same:
1. Vegans, choose a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons, not for health or weight reasons. Adopting a vegan lifestyle is not a diet, diets restrict certain foods, and while vegans opt not to eat foods that contain animal products, they eat diverse foods that include processed foods, fried foods, and plant-based foods.
2. Clean eating/plant-based are diets, not lifestyle choices. Clean eating and plant-based eating promote disordered eating through a restrictive mentality (diet culture) with the goal of losing weight or detoxing.
Veganism has been a trending topic over the past few years with celebrities going vegan, and the awareness around animal rights have brought the movement to mainstream audiences. Anything that gets people talking about the treatment of animals, I am all for, but at the same time, marketers, influencers, and companies have taken advantage of veganism and made it into something it is not; weight loss and health. The goal of veganism is to end animal suffering, but we’ve seen it change into a form of dieting and another way to body/food shame those who do not follow a similar diet.
Veganism, Weight Loss, and Health:
The promotion of veganism as a cure-all to weight problems and health ailments is fabricated. Popular documentaries note going vegan will decrease health issues like heart disease and diabetes, which I am sure for some it can help reduce the chances of developing certain conditions, but it is important to remember vegans get cancer, have diabetes, live with chronic illnesses, and gain weight. Going vegan does not 100% protect you from illnesses, disease, or weight gain.
A notorious vegan YouTuber, whom I will not name would make regular videos calling out other YouTubers/influencers on their diet choices, noting it was contributing to their larger body size. The YouTuber always said people should go vegan to lose weight. Body shaming anyone is a big NO, and as someone who comes from a body positive, health at every size perspective, I don’t believe larger bodies equal unhealthy, nor do I believe small bodies equal healthy. A diet and body size don’t necessarily correlate as genetics plays a role in our body size and weight.
If you search what I eat in a day as a vegan on YouTube or websites/blogs you will find content that includes fruit smoothies, grilled tofu, and salad, rarely do you see fried tofu, pizza and cupcakes showcased. Clean eating is a newer diet concept aka “The Wellness Diet” - focuses on eating organic, fresh, healthy, no-processed foods. Taken too far, this diet philosophy has been linked to orthorexia and other eating disorders. Clean eating is another form of dieting that gets linked in with veganism.
Vegans are not the only population who body and food shame, I am only addressing this from my perspective and the conversations I’ve had with individuals within the vegan community and outside the community. As vegans, we need to be more compassionate and understanding of other people's food choices, physical ability, access to food, and socioeconomic status- not everyone has access to or the resources to eat balanced, nutritious, and delicious vegan food.
Lastly, as a community need to be more open and honest about the foods we eat and show more diverse vegan bodies. We’re all not walking around eating salads and drinking smoothies all day, and living in smaller bodies. Showcasing the pizza, cookies, curry, and other diverse foods we eat and showing larger vegan bodies will give those outside our community perspective on the reality of what we eat and look like.