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My Special Diet

August 20, 2013

Weight LossFat HealthDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of how some have appropriated veganism for weight loss.

pizzaRecently, Jen wrote a post about her need to change her diet in response to some gallbladder issues and her fear that people would assume she was attempting to lose weight. Jen, I totally hear you as I’m in a similar boat. Being vegan and gluten free is kinda tough on it’s own. I mean, a lot of vegan meat substitutes are wheat based and I love me a good wheat loaf. Also, cut out sandwiches and my lunches boil down to veggie dogs with no bread and tomato sandwiches on gluten free bread because, yes, even vegan deli slices have wheat in them.

Being gluten free makes meals somewhat restrictive, so maybe that’s why so many people have turned to it as the next fad. Now, I’m not going to bemoan this too much because gluten free’s popularity has made it helluva lot easier to find vegan gluten free products from pasta to cookies to protein bars, oh my!

But — and this is a big but — I get tired of people doing it for weight loss and, more specifically, assuming I am too. Perhaps even worse is veganism as a fad diet to lose weight because not only is it not proven to make you lose weight, it’s an appropriation of what actual veganism is: an entire lifestyle that seeks to help end, as much as possible, animal suffering, cruelty, and exploitation. Yes, that means I don’t eat animal products, but it also means I don’t wear animal products, I don’t use products tested on animals, etc. So imagine my annoyance when “dietary vegans” or “health vegans” assume I’m trying to lose weight on the “diet.”

I wrote a post called “Vegans, I need to talk to you,” that covered the fat shaming in the vegan community (which is utterly disgusting and altogether pervasive as hell), but it gets old explaining to people what veganism actually means, and that includes it not being a weight-loss diet. And Fat Acceptance bloggers are no better, often lumping veganism in with eating disorders and fad diets. Do I really have to get crap from both sides? Veganism is not a weight-loss diet, gluten free is not a weight-loss diet.

I’m gluten free because I have Hashimoto’s, which often leads to a gluten intolerance. I need to be gluten free for my health, but please don’t confuse that with weight loss. I never lost weight going gluten free or vegan, and I’m not planning on any weight loss any time soon. So all I can say is back the hell off and stop assuming other people want to participate in your diet rhetoric. No I don’t want to hear how much weight you lost. No, I don’t want to tell you how many carbs my gluten free pasta has in it. And no no no I don’t want to hear about the health benefits of a vegan diet because veganism isn’t about that.

And a big part of the problem is, of course, the fact that diet culture is so ingrained in our society. We believe that we can talk about weight loss and fat-shame ourselves and others, and other people will join right in. And, most of the time, they do! Because we are a culture obsessed with thinness even at the expense of health, while also being under the guise of health. This is especially true among women, but it’s becoming common among men as well.

Only one person ever stood up to me when I tried to engage in diet talk and that conversation lead me to becoming a fat activist. So I encourage all of you to stand up against diet culture and especially diet and fat talk. It makes a difference because everything I’ve been talking about in this post? People assuming weight loss just because of how you look, what you eat, or, hell, just for existing? That’s some bullshit ignorance right there and we need to make it right by educating people, and by getting people on board the Fat Acceptance train. Just remember, it’s never someone else’s right to comment on your body or your diet in any way. Your body. Your business. Period.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. nof permalink
    August 20, 2013 11:08 am

    Well said!

    As an aside, I’ve always found it confusing that some vegans on the one side point out veganism must be healthy because look!–gorillas, hippos, etc, are all huge animals that subsist on vegetation!– and yet cannot fathom how someone can be fat *and* vegan–gorillas, hippos, etc, are all *fat* animals. Gorillas are extremely chunky creatures that essentially eat salad for every meal. (Yes, I’m aware that gorillas and hippos have a vastly different digestive tract from humans. However that invalidates both points, not just the fat-and-vegan one)

  2. Twistie permalink
    August 20, 2013 11:37 am

    A good friend of mine went gluten-free about a year ago when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s. Now this is a woman who has been on a weight loss diet the entire time I’ve known her… and we met in 1980! She’s tried one diet after another with literally no result in terms of weight loss. The only time I’ve known her to actually lose weight was when she was undergoing chemotherapy, and then she was honked off at her doctor for interrupting her happy dance at actually losing a whole two pounds by telling her it was NOT a good thing.

    So one night a couple weeks after she started making the switch, we met up in a cafe and were discussing how she was adapting to her new style of eating and how much better she felt when two friends of hers arrived and heard our conversation. They immediately started in on the hopeful smiles and coded messages about ‘other benefits.’ It was kind of amazing after all these years to see her look annoyed and say: “I don’t know and I don’t care. I feel better.”

    She still hasn’t made the broader connection, but at least she’s made the big first step of seeing that how she personally feels is more important than the size tag in her jeans.

    Maybe someday she’ll be able to see the broader truth that it can be the same for others, but for right now I’m taking it as a victory that she can see it about herself… sort of like I’m taking it as a victory that she has learned after five years of me being an FA activist that I’m NOT interested in hearing weight shaming about ANYONE.

    Before I learned about FA, though, I did tend to assume that whether or not it was the object of the person doing so that being vegan probably did make one thin. All the same, I always got that it was a political/social statement rather than a weight loss diet. I honestly don’t get why others can’t grasp that simple fact.

  3. Purple peonies permalink
    August 20, 2013 1:22 pm

    Im a fat vegan with celiac disease. I’m sick and tired of the FA’s hating on Veganism & the vegans hating on fatties. Then I figured out my worsening debilitating illness was celiac disease (I was diagnosed as fat/lazy for years), and now I have to contend with the gluten free fad dieters.

    I too appreciate what the trend has done for product availability but the diet trend followers can kindly buzz off.

    I did lose weight but not because I was trying. Pre-diagnosis I got VERY sick, then continued losing as my body became less inflamed from ingesting poison. Still fat tho & I don’t talk publicly to anyone about it unless its a way to make a point and shut people up. Our weight & Any changes in either direction are no ones damn business. Same as our diets.

  4. Verging on Vegan permalink
    August 20, 2013 2:24 pm

    I have been 100% vegetarian (and mostly vegan) for 40 years. I do it for the animals. I also don’t buy leather, silk, wool or feathers. I also buy cruelty-free cosmetics and cleaners which do not contain animal ingredients and test on animals. Oh, and I’m fat and have been for most of my life. I felt conflicted when I first heard the term ‘plant-based’ eater. I thought it would confuse people all the more. But, now I’m glad there are two terms for very similar dietary practices. I do think veganism goes beyond diet, and while there may be some health benefits to the practice, that it isn’t the primary motivator behind it.

  5. Stacy permalink
    August 20, 2013 8:53 pm

    Most of the time I eat Vegetarian (not the same thing, I know), but I also get a lot of assumptions when I’m in restaurants and I chose the vegetarian options. I do it because often times meat makes me feel gross when I eat it, not because I want to lose weight. And yet I get the “good for you” pat on the head when I chose those dishes.

    I just wish people would stop putting “bad” and “good” labels on food and people depending on what they chose to eat. Particularly fat people. We’re “good fatties” if we pick salads or vegetarian or vegan options, but “typical disgusting junk eaters” if we chose to eat other types of foods. People don’t put these judgments on thin people. A thin person can feast on all kinds of stuff our society labels as “junk food” and no one bats an eye. Yet if a fat person eats in public and is eating anything other than what is deemed “health food” (and sometimes even then) we are given dirty looks and given comments about what we are eating …by complete strangers.

    This was a good read, thank you for the post! This needs to be talked about more.

  6. October 30, 2014 10:12 am

    No hyperbole, I think I actually am about to shed a little tear, both in joy and dismay from the fact I can relate. I read your article and kept shouting YES, YES, YES! There is at least 1 other person on this planet that ‘gets it’ HORAAH!

    I am a proud fatty with no intention of weight loss. I am a vegan, have been for more years than I’ve been alive. I went vegan before it became ‘fashionable’ amongst the food snobs. I went vegan due to ethical reasons, these are my personal standards I choose to live by. I don’t judge others who choose to live by other standards I may not like, not least because it’s a waste of my energy. People are entitled to believe what they want to believe (though I do wish humanity would adopt a more critical thought to their own beliefs, but that’s another topic). I don’t preach veganism – quite the opposite – it’s a very private thing for me. I’ve never tried to convert anyone. I certainly did not become a vegan due to wanting to lose weight.

    But virtually every single time I mention I am a vegan, people assume it’s because I am trying to lose weight. It annoys me so much, for many reasons on many levels…. not least of which is because I am pretty damn happy to be fat and I am also pretty damn fit and healthy – I’ve got the doctor checked metabolic markers, V02 max and physical endurance to prove it . Whenever I explain why I’m a vegan to those making assumptions, I just get blank stares.

    In many ways I am glad there are more vegans now, mainly because vegan labeling is pretty common nowadays. When I became vegan, I had to read through the packet ingredients, and check all the obscure ingredients against a huge print off of ‘safe for vegans’ I carried around with me. BUT, I dislike that the ‘veganism’ label has been appropriated by the food snobs, body fascists and plain old diet trendies who are always ‘doing’ the latest fad diet. It’s taken away from why veganism started. I’ve met other fair weather fashion vegans, never once is animal cruelty mentioned… it’s all about their weight loss or health. Each to their own, it’s a minor irritation. BUT, I am genuinely irritated by a sub species of the ‘fair weather fashion vegan’, and that’s the ‘fair weather fashion vegan from Monday to Friday’! The ‘part time vegan’. NO you are not vegan, you are just as omnivorous as the majority of our species. They have appropriated the vegan label and went all reductive with it, thinking they get some sort of kudos for adopting the vegan label. They are increasingly common!

    Anyway, I have rambled, a lot, many apolgies lol – this has been a long needed vent for me.

    On a different note, I love wheat. I regularly make seitan and eat it almost every day. I have often wondered what I would do if I were gluten intolerant. I know someone who is genuinely gluten intolerant, and it’s a very real, life altering problem, but a rare one. But during my regular trawl amongst the vegan cookery blogs, it seems the majority of them have terrible problems with gluten… at least from Monday to Friday. I feel your frustration.

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