Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated with the emphasis on weight loss, skinniness, and veganism as health craze. For me, my veganism has always been multi-factorial. Here on Veganland I’ve taken a pretty bold stance on animal rights, that has left little if any wiggle room for my reasons for this lifestyle. This is why I find the health fad surrounding veganism to be so incredibly frustrating.
No, I don’t eat refined sugars, fats, or carbs. Yes, I do include alcoholic beverages in my lifestyle, as long as they are cruelty free. I do salt (some of) my foods during preparation, but rarely at the table. Of course I am concerned with health, but I’m not monitoring my food intake rigorously. I choose the foods that are best for me and Maddie, and I don’t pick anything that I wouldn’t give a scrap or two (or three) of to Beans the Wonder Rabbit.
Processed foods tend to have complications that far succeed health. These foods are often very cheap, and if something is low in cost, it means that someone somewhere is bearing the brunt of that cheapness, usually animals, and workers both in the food processing/packaging industry as well as in the farming/growing industry. So why isn’t this our focus? Why aren’t basic safety, wellness, and (human/animal) rights at the center of our discourse? Why are we so compulsively attached to this health-based obsession centered on skinny=healthy=better?
While I am happy that people choose to go vegan, and am glad to see more and more people adopting a cruelty free lifestyle, I’m frustrated that our vegan community (especially the blogosphere) seems to focus almost solely on the healthy foods/lifestyle side of things. I’m glad that people will eat Daiya over cheese, broccoli nuggets over chicken, but I’d like to see our focus shift from counting calories and eliminating saturated fats to the exploitation of the beings who have to give us those lipids in the first place. I am glad to see healthy vegans, I am inspired by healthy vegans, but I am more inspired by a healthy vegan who has a healthy outlook rather than waistline. I fear that Naomi Woolf’s fabled “Beauty Myth” and our distinctly Western cult of thinness control the vegan psyche.
When you become vegan, you change your relationship to food. Well, now it’s time to change it again.
I am not a “skinny” vegan. I am a happy, healthy vegan not just in form but in mind and spirit. I care about issues far greater than my own body and health, though I know that the intersectionality of veganism and human health is not solely coincidental.
What kind of an example are we setting for the people who read our vegan based literature and for our (vegan) children? If we are compulsively healthy, won’t they be too? What kind of self-esteem does this build, for adults and children alike? Unfortunately the health-centric world leaves a lot to be desired, and often readers and others who watch from the wings might feel that they come up short.
I believe this dominant healthy obsession over the vegan blogosphere continues and upholds the fixation on women’s bodies. It is an obsession that enforces smallness and being tiny, slapped with the label “healthy.” Such a paradigm forces thousands of women to struggle with their relationship to food. I believe that our (vegan) blogosphere should focus on abundance not deprivation.
I invite you to comment, and if you’re a blogger I invite you to (re) blog about this issue. Please add to the discussion by sharing your thoughts, ideas, and responses via Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere.