Guest Blogger: Rachel in Veganland – Not Skinny

15 Feb

It always makes me happy to see another lover of Alice in Wonderland. Everyone, please meet Rachel, she is the author of Rachel in Veganlnd and this is her first guest blog post. Here’s a bit about her: Rachel Fesperman is a vintage loving crazy cat lady living in the High Country of North Carolina. Her blog, Rachel in Veganland is just over a year old and chock full of (vegan) food, photos, and antics that range from rants on food politics to the adventures of Beans the Wonder Rabbit. You can follow Rachel’s posts through email, and find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Welcome Rachel!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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13 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Rachel in Veganland – Not Skinny”

  1. An Unrefined Vegan February 15, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    Yay! So happy to see Rachel here – – and with one of her intelligent and thought-provoking posts.

  2. Becky Striepe February 15, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    I really enjoyed this article, and it hit on some of the things that have been bothering me lately about the way veganism is portrayed.

  3. Vegan Rabbit February 15, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Yay! Glad to see such a great blogger get some well-deserved recognition!

  4. GiRRL_Earth February 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Beautifully written! I too am not a “skinny vegan”, despite being asked by people, “Why aren’t you super skinny like other vegans?”

    And I didn’t become a vegan to lose weight. I became a vegan because I became sick in 2010 and wound up in the hospital, undergoing 2 surgeries all the while asking, “How could this have happened.” while laid up in bed, I read Alicia Silverstone’s book: The Kind Diet. While reading it, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why do I rescue animals and yet, eat fish & dairy?” [I was a dairy eating vegetarian before becoming a vegan.]

    My blog is not for the faint of heart, as I blog about animals rights. Sometimes I blog about my other passions: food and 1950s fashions, but mostly I blog to be the voice of the voiceless.

  5. roughseasinthemed February 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    Excellent post. I wondered why I had seen a proliferation of vegan blogs all focused on losing weight and barely cognisant of the animal issues. Still, awareness of vegan and more people changing their lifestyle isn’t too bad. Maybe attitudes will change with time.

  6. Emma February 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Love this. Couldn’t have said it any better. Although I’m pleased to see more people embracing eating vegan, I too worry that veganism will get the reputation for being just another diet and people will entirely forget about the animals. Veganism for me is a lifestyle choice which encompasses so much more than simply what we eat.

  7. Nomstoppable February 15, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Pure love.
    I can relate – the media portrays vegans as super-healthy, fit and toned people who can run ultra-marathons, so is it a let-down for others to know we still have body fat? But it’s hard to differentiate between the ideals society places on you and the ones you place on yourself, yet they’re one and the same.
    Seriously though, vegans eat way awesome-r and more ethical foods, healthy or not :)

  8. Amy Marie Churchman February 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    The weight loss is an incidental bonus for me, although I am now starting a fairly intensive fitness program to prove that you CAN be super fit as a vegan and won’t blow over in the next strong breeze.

    I think a lot of the people taking up veganism now are actually simply eating plant-based, not fully embracing all that being vegan entails. They figure if they’re not EATING anything animal based, they must be vegan. Perhaps then the answer is more education about what it really means to be vegan.

    What I have noticed is that on many vegan Facebook pages, for example, some long-time vegans get very militant towards those who still have questions about going vegan and instead of answering with compassion and care (the cornerstone of our creed, is it not?) they jump down prospective vegans’ throats and put them off even trying it as a fully encompassing lifestyle. So that in turn may perhaps lead people to EAT vegan but not necessarily to LIVE vegan. As we vegans are the ones with the info, it is our duty to educate in a way that doesn’t make people think we’re a bunch of angry, human-hating psychos.

    • Vegan Gypsy February 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

      Great post! I’m an overweight vegan, proof that giving up animal products does not necessarily result in weight loss. Since my reason for going vegan was ethical, the two issues are completely separate to me.

  9. sweetveg March 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Thank you, Rachel.

    I know many people who became vegan for health reasons and have become more focused on animal rights over time. We build our cells with the food that we eat. I think eating animals causes desensitization. I know for myself I feel so much more connected and compassionate as a direct result of being vegan. So, I think people’s bodies will change as a result of eating vegan and this in turn will increase their ability to feel their connectedness to all life.

    Because I am a vegan blogger who tends to focus less on animal rights issues, I just want to acknowledge how hard it is to talk about. I think it’s one reason why more people aren’t writing about it. I get so sick when I think about how animals are treated that I feel paralyzed. I am so grateful for bloggers who are writing about it. I hope this post will give me some strength to move into a more active role.

  10. green coffee extract June 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Hi! I know this is sort of off-topic however I had to ask.

    Does managing a well-established website like yours take a massive amount work?
    I’m brand new to running a blog but I do write in my journal every day. I’d like to
    start a blog so I can easily share my own experience and
    thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for new
    aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!

    • veganbloggersunite June 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      Hello Courtney,
      Thanks for asking – yes, it does take a massive amount of work just to keep the posts ready, organized and populated for the week. I do this as a labour of love, I don’t have advertising and I pay for it out of pocket. It depends what your blog will be about. If you’re writing your own content, then it should be fairly simple, but in this case where I rely on others for content it does get a bit tricky.

      Sharing your thoughts online is fairly fun, the only thing is getting in a rut and figuring out how much you publicly want to share. Does that help?

      Thanks,
      Lidia

  11. shinygreenlife July 14, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    I know this post is a few months old but I just came across it now! I totally agree with everything said in this article. I became vegan solely for the animals, but I often feel like others only ask and care about the health benefits, rather than the actual reasons behind this way of life, which is extremely frustrating. I actually put on weight after becoming vegan, purely because I discovered so many new and amazing foods out there, and I enjoy every meal more knowing I’m not causing suffering and pain to innocent animals.

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