Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fat Vegans 101 - from the inside out

Fat vegans - we know who we are. Dr Mcdougall has a whole chapter in his latest book, The Starch Solution, called simply, Fat Vegans. Ouch - not popular. I didn't like it either. I could debate his points, but that wouldn't win my anything in my constant struggle with being one.

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?

Vegan advocacy

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 gatherings

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.

Food addiction

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?

Get plant-strong

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.

Plant-strong experts:

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.

Get expert help

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.
Get a life

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.


  1. I have a binging at night problem. My husband enjoys lays potato chips and it seems if I start I can not stop. Same with other junk food. I even cheat on my veganism. I have found that I really can't eat anything after lunch or I binge. I'm not much for cooking so I eat lots of rice, beans, peas, cereal & pasta. I have struggled with an eating disorder for many years. I was anorexic in my 20s. I have gain 35 lbs. since then and that may not sound like much but I am pretty short and I love being thin. I feel your pain. I think it's also a metabolism thing as we get older. I really don't have vegan friends to hang around with so I guess it's all me. My husband is a meat eater but he is willing to try vegan foods. I'm not sure what the answer is. I guess I just needed to vent and confess. Thanks for listening.

    1. Hi, thanks for your story! It is so hard to make sure you're not around the foods you know are not good for you, because there are more of them.

      Corn chips are the trigger food I can't stop eating.

      Are there no vegans you could connect with?

    2. There really aren't. I know of no other vegans in my town. There is a vegetarian meetup group in my town but I feel there is a big difference between vegetarian and vegan. There may be vegans in that group. I would just have to make myself go. I have several vegan friends on Facebook who I am very thankful for but it's just not the same as someone I could go do stuff with. Thanks so much for your reply.

    3. Yes, a buddy can make all the difference!

      I hope that maybe you can go to the group and see if there are any vegans - or maybe you could make some. :-)

    4. I think it would be easier if I lived in a bigger city. Our restaurant choices are limited. Also, I live in farm country. Meat and potatoes and such are pretty much the norm.

  2. I was thinking about this very topic today. I want to be an extra good advocate for veganism, meaning I want to look fantastic so people ask me what my secret is and then I can tell them! My weight is creeping up too but past experience has taught me; it's as simple as it is difficult. Eat more veggies! I know this but sometimes have trouble following my own advice. I think the key is to tell yourself you can eat any treats you want, AFTER you have eaten that big salad or soup or a plate full of veggies. The truth is, with all of the fibre and nutrients from the veggies, you won't have as much room for the high fat/carbohydrate foods as well as less cravings for it. You also need to eat more veggies more often = don't let yourself get too hungry and always shop on a full stomach. Good luck!

    1. Thanks! Eating veggies first is great advice.

  3. I'm a brand-new vegan - 3 weeks into the program - and I feel wonderful! I'm having a ball creating yummy vegan recipes and trying some from the many vegan cookbooks in our local library. This all started when I decided to deal with high cholesterol and triglycerides, non-insulin-dependent Type II diabetes, and arthritis through nutrition (also to get off meds). I'm struggling with making meat dishes for my non-vegan bbut very supportive hubby....I hate to touch meat since I'm not eating it myself. He won't cook for himself. Any hints on how to deal with this?

  4. Just discovered your blog today and am really enjoying reading through it.