This weekend: Food and Body Shaming in the Vegan Movement

by JL Fields on October 5, 2017

This weekend I’ll be doing a cooking demo + speaking on a panel at the New Jersey VegFest and I’m super-excited!

Saturday I will do a basic air fryer demonstration at 1:15 and I’ve decided to use prepared foods. A little odd for a cookbook author and chef, yes?

Let me tell you why.

There will be all kinds of speakers throughout the weekend representing the pillars of veganism: animal rights and welfare, the environment, and health. I’m incredibly impressed with the NJ VegFest organizers and the care they’ve taken to meet the attendees wherever they are.

And I’m honored they invited someone like me who they know won’t promise veganism as the fountain of youth or a guarantee of perfect health. Instead, I will promote it for what I believe it to be: a lifestyle compassionate toward animals, good for the environment, and includes tasty foods, many of which can simply be the plant-based version of foods that we grew up with.

These days, from vegan events to online Facebook posts, there is a loud chorus of people suggesting that people avoid a number of vegan foods in order to to be “disease-proof” or to live to a triple-digit age. Those messages are far more about dieting and restricting foods than about simply eating vegan foods. In general, I get that health reasons do pull people into veganism and that it can have a profound impact on some people: better health, weight loss, and even disease reversal and prevention.

For some people.

But what about the people who eat animals and are in good health, fit, and meet society’s standard of beauty RE “skinny”?  Those health arguments aren’t going to necessarily influence the many, many people who don’t fall into the category of “fat” or “unfit” or on the verge of a chronic disease. In fact, it’s confusing for those people because they are under the impression that eating vegan means not eating animals or their byproducts.

And that impression is correct.

They need to hear other about the impact of animal agriculture and the use and abuse of animals  … on animals. And the environment. (And, bonus, it can be pretty darn good for you, too.) They need to hear that eating a vegan diet and living a vegan lifestyle is within reach. That it isn’t a sacrifice of food flavor or fashion sense.

And here’s the other thing about the “live forever!” and “look 30 at 70!” and “go plant-based, get skinny!” approach to veganism: Many people aren’t influenced by other people’s version of beauty or fitness. They (and I) believe that health and beauty can come in a variety of shapes and sizes and that how someone chooses to eat vegan is their choice and isn’t up for debate or judgment.

And those vegan promises skinny and eternal youth can sometimes make people like me – and maybe you – feel really horrible. Like we aren’t doing it “right,” this vegan thing.

Listen, I’m 52 and I look 52 (grey hair and all). I’m going to die – maybe tomorrow, maybe 40 years from tomorrow, and possibly well before I’m 100. And I sure as hell am not skinny.

And I’m an awesome vegan.

And I want every person I meet this weekend in New Jersey to know they are awesome, too. So on Saturday, I’m going to air fry tasty packaged vegan food from a store. Because, yep, that is vegan food, too. And if you’re new to this vegan thing and you think it’s way too complicated, I’m going to try to break it down for you. We can eat lots of whole foods (I do! And I’ll share some of my favorite and fast ways to prepare them!) and we can enjoy some amazing packaged vegan foods (I do! And I’ll share some of my favorite and fast ways to prepare them, too!).

Then Sunday I’ll be on this panel with Ginny Messina and Andy Tabar: The Herbivore in the Room: Body-Shaming and Food-Shaming Alienate Vegans and Pre-gans. We’ll be diving deep into this topic of health promises and how we treat people who don’t fit the “ideal” image of “healthy vegan” and how this needs to stop if we’re going to widen the vegan circle.

I hope to see you there! Get your tickets at THIS LINK and I’ll get to pick the nonprofit of my choice to receive a percentage of the ticket sales – and I choose New Jersey’s own Skylands Animal Sanctuary!

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  • Katie Ruiz

    Excellent post and I couldn’t agree more. It’s about the animals!!

    • JL

      Thanks, @disqus_6QozDuNXj4:disqus !

  • veganinbrighton

    Yes! l love everything about this and I wish that I could be there to see the panel discussion and your cooking demo.

    • JL

      Thank you, @veganinbrighton:disqus ! I wish you could, too!

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