So apologies in advance if this post offends. This is my truth about being a fat vegan with an eating disorder, and maybe some of it is yours, and sometimes, the truth hurts.
It's never easy being fat
So what's the big deal? Anyone who's fat has their share of problems. But it can be hard to be fat and vegan because:
Vegans are supposed to be thin
Everyone knows that vegans are skinny and weak! And the truth is that vegans and vegetarians are thinner than average. Vegans and nonvegans will make generalisations about veganism and weight loss. What is wrong with me, the vegan who is not skinny?
I feel like a poor role model for the vegan lifestyle. It can be uncomfortable to spread the word when I am spreading over my seat, even knowing that I have lost weight successfully and kept most of it off. I dream of a professional role in food advocacy, but I know my advice could be ridiculed and dismissed at my current weight.
Vegan food porn
Vegans are on a mission to show everybody how amazing vegan food is (and it is). We want to dispel the annoying but persistent myth that food is boring if you're vegan.
Vegans constantly share pictures and recipes of their latest amazing creation...far more often than omnivores. And it's usually the gorgeous chocolate cake, "cheesy" lasagna, and tofu burgers.
Vegan solidarity naturally gravitates toward food. We all have to battle in the nonvegan world to find suitable food, so when we get together, we celebrate our shared delicious all-vegan food (see above).
Yes, veganism is about much more than food...but we don't throw vegan shoe parties.
Vegans love food, and so do I. But for my health and happiness, I need to think less about food. I especially need to think less about chocolate cake, "cheesy" lasagna, and tofu burgers.
An alcoholic or cigarette addict can just not have alcohol or a smoke ever again. I can't just not eat. Well, I could and some do: people in treatment for severe eating disorders often report themselves as vegetarian (1/3 to 1/2) But that's not the answer.
So what can I do?
Vegans are not all about your health - in fact a vocal and popular expert camp argues that human health is a lesser issue, or even a barrier to the vegan cause.
I don't go a week without hearing some variation: how selfish and shallow it is compared to animal rights, or how it's not really vegan, to care about your own health. (Not surprisingly, I also have an opinion.)
So look to plant-strong nutrition and health gurus rather than vegans. Their recommendations are 99 to 100% vegan anyway, so vegans hardly have to flex our well-developed modification muscles.
Dr McDougall, Dr Esselstyn and Rip, Dr Greger, Dr Campbell, Dr Barnard, Dr Klaper, Dr Popper, Jeff Novick...
They have published so much free information that you can become an expert too.
There are vegan advocates who have never struggled against gaining weight. They may not get it - some will be casual or even cruel about the power of the vegan diet to cause easy weight loss. But there are experts out there who have fought our battles.
- Fitness: Lani Muelrath really knows how to get your body through the hurdles.
- Cooking: Chef AJ. Again, plant-strong recipes are your new best friends.
Food is a basic fulfilment. But when I start using it to fulfill all my needs because my inner child thinks that food is the only way to feel good, something needs to change.
Find a happy healthy habit away from food: exercise, declutter and donate, volunteer, play with the kids... When that habit is no longer exciting, find another exciting fulfilment. Repeat and enjoy.
Get a support group
Find (or start) a group who will help keep you on track. This can be in person or online. Stay connected, so you don't become isolated in a world full of trigger foods.
Limit food-related vegan activities
This is a tough one, because I love getting together with vegan friends. But I'm fighting for my life here. Or maybe I'm fighting because my daughter recently found a box full of my pretty dresses under the bed, and I had to tell her why I couldn't wear them.
In the same way an alcoholic shouldn't visit bars, I need to stay out of rich food environments. My friends will understand.
And the rest...
Standard dieting tips can also help. Mindfulness, brushing my teeth to signal I'm done eating, drinking plenty of water, drinking green tea, writing a food journal, etc.
Be aware that all these methods have a honeymoon period. Be ready with another plan for when you start cheating.
There is no one solution to this complicated problem. This story is not done. I welcome your contributions.