Monday, October 5, 2009

Lunch musings

There aren't a lot of openly fat vegans out there. Or a lot of openly vegan fatties. Whichever.

I've been fat all my life (since I was a toddler-- all my baby pictures are chubby). Of course, I got shit for it, because everyone hates on the fatties. [I opted to remove the stories about my disordered eating when I was younger, because I'm sick of trying to convince people that it's possible to be fat while still eating next to nothing.] Everyone also assumes that fat people are fat just because they eat too much and exercise too little. While that certainly CAN be true, it's not always true. In fact, some of the caterers for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) conferences were interviewed, and half said that NAAFA attendees ate the same as any other conference they catered, and the other half said NAAFA attendees ate LESS. It's also important to realise that there are thin people who don't eat healthy or exercise, but are naturally thin. It sure seems unfair to me that fat people are treated like second-class citizens because their biology is "inferior" to that of a thin person who eats similarly and has similar activity levels.

This picture is today's lunch. Honestly, I don't often eat lunch (I usually just have a light but late breakfast), but since I have an iron infusion today, and they tire me out, I thought maybe some fresh veggies and hummus would keep me perky. If you didn't know anything about the person who ate this for lunch, what would you imagine their pants looked like?

I actually don't mind being fat. Yes, it'd be nicer if I didn't get looks of disgust for enjoying a meal in public, but that's really not MY problem, that's THEIR problem. My body has served me well all these years, and I've treated it well in return, without excessive drinking or other toxic chemicals, I avoid fast food and too much processed crap. I move around to the best of my abilities (and in the past I was very active). I try to get enough sleep, wear sunscreen, wear my seatbelt. When I actively tried to lose weight, it just didn't happen. There seems to be some assumptions that imply fat people are constantly skyrocketing up in weight, getting fatter and fatter and ZOMG OBESITY EPIDEMIC OOGA BOOGA BOOGA! until they either have their own gravitational force about them, or they explode and shower the world with their offensive fatness. But, actually, the fat people I know and love (including myself) all have very stable weights. We're not ballooning out of control like Violet from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Just like thin people whose weight stays the same over the years, many fat people are the same way. My weight's been the same for *many* years, despite healthy vegan eating and moving as much as my body allows.

That said, I'm not trying to argue about the pros and cons of being fat. Nor am I going to use this blog as a means of arguing about what science *really* says about the "obesity epidemic." But since vegans do actually tend to be much thinner (statistically) than omnivores, I'm definitely in the minority as a fat vegan. And I've experienced a LOT of fat prejudice from vegans.

I'd really like to see the majority of vegans refrain from hating on fat people. It's frustrating (and hurtful) to hear things like "i don't want to look fat!" or "if i eat this mini fat-free vegan donut, i'll get fat!" I once even heard a vegan talking about the large salad she ate for lunch and how fat it was going to make her.

[The rest of this post is addressed to "you" as in "the people who make these assumptions. I'm not making personal attacks, or assuming the awesome folks who have taken the time to read this believe or do these things. It was just easier to write this way.]

There are two things wrong with these statements and this mindset. The first is that it's not true. For one thing, I assure you, no amount of vertical stripes and dark colors are going to make me look "thin." Just like no iceberg lettuce salad with lemon juice dressing is going to make people think I don't go home and gorge myself on Twinkies and Big Macs and wallow in vats of lard. I'm fat. I look fat. You're thin. You look thin. Stop caring about what size you look.

The second problem with these statements is that it's implying being fat is bad. More specifically, it's implying that being *like me* is bad. I'm pretty sure your feelings would be hurt if you heard me say "Ugh, you wouldn't believe what I ate today. I'm going to turn into a bony, ugly vegan! GROSS!" It's up there with calling something bad or stupid "gay." It's ignorant. There's a big difference between saying "I ate so much today, I'm stuffed!" and "I ate so much today, I'm gonna get fat!" The first one gets your point across without hurting feelings, and the second one makes you look hurtful.

I can't help but wonder if the vegan community stopped hating on the fatties, more fatties would be less turned off by vegans and veganism.


Kuntrageous said...

i'm proudly a fat vegan. I have always held a little extra weight; but honestly-when i went vegan i gained more. i really appreciate your words lady; they're obviously well thought out.

Anonymous said...

WOW. What an absolutely incredible post! Until very recently, I was overweight for most of my life, and after taking on a vegan diet four years ago, I didn't really lose any. It always bothered me when people would say things like "But aren't vegans supposed to be thin?" or "Vegans can't be fat." I would end up feeling really down about myself because I felt as though there was something wrong with me for being overweight.

I really liked how you pointed out that fat people aren't always unhealthy. People have been conditioned into thinking that fat=lazy & out of shape. But that simply isn't true.

Thank you so much for this post and not being ashamed to talk about the weight issue - far too many vegans choose not to!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking post! I think that people in general just need to learn to accept that some people are thin and some are fat and that's that. As long as someone eats fairly well and isn't completely sedentary, chances are that her weight is just where her body's meant to be. I'm on the skinny side of the spectrum and have gotten my fair share of emaciated/anorexic comments, and sometimes I wish I *weren't* so skinny because people automatically assume it's because I'm vegetarian/vegan, which just perpetuates the idea that veg*n = thin. Sigh. Live and let live, people!

~ Kely

Jeni Treehugger said...

People just need to accept that all people are different whether they're fatter, thinner, prettier, goofier >ad infinitum<
You just carry on being the lovely person you are. And you're vegan so you're better than everyone else anyway.


aimee said...

Hi I just found your blog (from the MoFo list!) I'm a fat vegan, too. No matter how much I work out or how well I eat I just can't lose weight. I really appreciate your post. Yes! We all need to love each other because of who we are not in spite of who we are!

Susan said...

People are so narrow minded. It's sad.

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

My philosophy has always been: fuck the haters.

Thanks for posting this!

Jennifer said...

thank you so much for your supportive comments! they really made me feel great. <3

Carla said...

Hey, it doesn't matter what other people think. As vegans, we're already considered weird by the haters. Just enjoy your life like you're doing right now! (By the way, your lunch looked awesome!)

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Have you checked out There is some serious fat vegan love there!

Suz said...

Very well written. I wish people weren't so judgmental about the size of others' bodies. It seems that what I call "fat hate" seems to be the last acceptable prejudice in our society. It's terribly sad.

jen said...

I'm a fat vegan myself. I pretty much have always been fat, too. Many people have commented on how my size does not reflect my eating habits. I think they're trying to pay me a compliment, or something, like "You're not a regular fat person, you eat healthy foods in small portions." It still doesn't come across positively to me.

Someday I hope to accept myself as you have!

Jennifer said...

Jen, I've gotten similar comments before. I always find it really insulting, because they're basically saying "wow, you're not one of those lazy gluttonous fatties!"

I've never been a big eater, but I *do* enjoy food and I try not to let it bother me that many people honestly think I should have my jaw wired shut because I'm so hideously fat. (I've heard this said before. More than once. It's really not cool!)

I sure hope the climate changes in the future and fat people are no longer demonized by our society. I also wish everyone would go vegan, but I guess that's asking for a lot. :)

veganf said...

Huh, I never noticed a specific "fat vegan" hate group before, any more so than the general discrimination that exists against larger than average people.
I would certainly say that a smaller percentage of my vegan acquaintances are over-weight, but I don't think differently about those who are. I just figure like anyone else that they consume more calories, maybe because they like to cook a lot or can't exercise enough or have some underlying health issue or whatever.

Jennifer said...

Veganf, actually, a lot of fatphobia is rather subtle. Making assumptions about what your larger friends eat (more than you) or what their activity levels are like (less than you), are both perpetuating the stereotype that fat people eattoo much and are too inactive. In fact, many fat people eat as much as or less than their thinner peers (even tho studies show they SHOULD be eating a little more because their size means they need more energy-- interesting stuff that most of us larger people don't pay attention to), and the majority are just as active. I know a lot of "fat athletes" and have even seen fat people do well in triathalons.

Some fat people, like me, have disabilities (like some thin people!), but my weight is stable as a less active disabled person just like it was when I was active. I also don't have some crazy Jabba The Hutt style appetite. Pain actually keeps me from eating some days, although that's new.

I think as a whole, I know more very active fat people than think people. That always made the idea that I was doing something wrong a bit hard to swallow. Especially when I hit the gym regularly and ate healthy and veggie, and my 92pound friend lived off mcdonalds cheeseburgers. (no joke... Ew ew ew. I still cringe.)

You just never know what a person's diet and activity levels are, regardless of size, so it's important not to make assumptions just because they're larger.

liss said...

ROCK ON. It's always hard to go against the grain but people are people for god's sake@@
Be your beautiful self and shine.