I’m vegan. I love kale, quinoa, and legumes. I drink green smoothies and make my own peanut butter. My clothes are free from animals, with the exception of cute images of pigs and cows. My makeup and household products were not created with the use of animals or tested on animals. I embrace and embody the vegan lifestyle. Did I mention I am also overweight and sometimes shunned by fellow vegans?
Veganism is a relatively new term. The founder of the American Vegan Society, Donald Watson, coined the term in 1944. Although this was never the intention of those early vegans whose motivations were entirely ethical, the word quickly became associated with being thin, fit, and healthy. I have seen dozens of marketing campaigns that swear if you go vegan that you will lose weight, be fit, get healthy, and look great! Yes, vegans generally do eat a healthy diet. Our foods are free of cholesterol and usually have fewer calories. But what does healthy mean and what happens when a person is vegan and still not thin?
By looking at me, you would never know that I am a vegan or that I have lost 100 pounds. Granted, being a vegan has helped me lose 100 pounds, but those pounds did not fall off the night I changed my diet. I worked those pounds off through sweat and sometimes tears. Yet, I am still looked down upon because my weight doesn’t align with all that a vegan is “supposed” to be.
Our media and culture have conditioned us to think and believe what is healthy and beautiful. Thin is healthy. Thin is beautiful (hence the marketing campaigns that tell us we will look great!). We have created these labels to place our fellow humans into categories. There are almost seven billion people living on this planet and we all have our own unique bodies. Many of us do not fit into certain categories. These categories have enabled us to see a person and quickly judge how they live their lives based on the way they look. But looks are deceiving and everything is not always the way it appears.
Each time we notice that we’re judging someone based on what we think and believe, stop for moment and question why we think and believe those thoughts. Chances are, we’ll find it is because we’ve been conditioned to think a certain way. How can we honor and embrace one another’s uniqueness? Instead of judging, get to know that person and find out about their life and their story. I’ll bet you will find you learn more about them than expected — and you might learn even more about yourself.
Kristy Draper is a Main Street Vegan Academy-certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. She is currently earning her Master of Arts degree in Humane Education from the Institute for Humane Education. She will be integrating her vegan coaching business into a humane education nonprofit she is starting in Portland, Oregon. You can find Kristy at www.vegfullife.com and @vegfullife on Instagram.