Sometimes, I feel like my body is a real disappointment to the animals. Human animals, that is. But also factory-farmed animals. How is this? It’s all in the elevator eyes. Scenario: a new or quasi-familiar person and I get to talking, and the subject of my veganism emerges. “You’re a vegan?” they ask, not bothering to maintain direct eye contact. It’s in that moment—that elevator eyeball body scan—that I feel I lose some potential vegan converts. Their words are polite, but their eyeballs are screaming: “If you’re vegan, why aren’t you skinny?”
Now, I realize that the media promotes primarily bullet-proof, supermodel, vegan-athlete types, and that’s cool. Those Sexy MFs do a lot of good for the vegan community, and if even one person goes veg as a result of looking at Natalie Portman’s hot vegan bod, then a-thousand-times yay. But what about the rest of the 99%?
I do believe veganism is the healthiest diet in the world, and I love to hear health-transformation and cancer-be-gone stories after a person’s given up the meat teat. I also enjoy gazing with respect and envy at hot, healthy, vegan bodies—but sometimes I want to scream: THAT IS SOOOOOO NOT WHY I’M IN THIS.
I’m in this because:
A) Animals are awesome
B) This planet is awesome
C) Veganism is a spiritual mindset that feeds both my body and my soul
Thus, I’m not all about raw veggies and oodles of quinoa. I can savor a tasty raw-veggies and quinoa bowl, don’t get me wrong—but I also love me some Daiya pepperoni pizza piled high with savory Miyoko’s cheese. (That’s called A Typical Saturday Night in my world.)
Now that I’m in my 40s, French fries and Coke—formerly common companions—are rare and special treats, but food (and plenty of it) is a non-negosh. Being hungry is not part of my veganism.
I’ll always be in love with food, and I’ll rarely say no to a vegan doughnut (Dandie’s marshmallow, Nutter Butter, Oreo, Ritz bacon-flavored cracker…). Committing to veganism-for-life has significantly deepened my love of food, because at this point in history, there are just so darn many amazing vegan food options.
These days, you can veganize almost whatever you can imagine. I’ve heard a handful of stories about folks who go vegan and gain a fair amount of weight—and I totally get why. Pre-vegan, food was riddled with subconscious guilt and remorse. Post-vegan, the soul’s been released. It’s like we are the cows saved from slaughter, jumping and kicking in the field in joyful delight. Only we do this by buying ALL THE VEGAN FOOD and eating it with abandon, reveling in how delicious and cruelty-free it is. Point is, size doesn’t matter. Passion does. I wasn’t a wraith as a meat-eater, so why would I suddenly become a wraith as a vegan? Wraith isn’t my body type, and obsessively eating arugula while rejecting flesh-based chicken parm hasn’t changed that. And that’s OK.
At any rate, if a person’s sole reason for ‘trying out this new vegan thing’ is to lose weight and look hot, veganism is destined to fail them because it’s being treated as a diet. Those ‘potential converts’ I think I’ve lost by not looking like Natalie Portman are not real converts at all; thus, my un-wraithish body is nobody’s failure. Veganism is not a diet. It’s a mindset that holds passion for compassion at its lovely center. That is what makes me feel juicy, alive, sexy, spiritual, light, happy.
To all vegan body types, all over the world: You are gorgeous. You are doing more to heal this planet than you’ll ever know. You are a passionately compassionate soul, and that emotional eloquence glows all over your face. You are an inspiration, and that makes you unassailably attractive. Thank you. You’re making the world a better place with your bewitching bodies of all shapes and sizes: curvy, skinny, voluptuous, fit, flabby, squishy, stick, thick, muscular, round, sculpted, wish-you-could-lose-10-pounds, happy-right-where-you-are, whatever. Your heartfelt life force will live beyond your body anyhow, no matter what it looks like. So go forth: eat plants, eat dessert, eat dessert again, and love your luscious vegan body.
Michelle Schaefer has her B.A. in Writing, M.A. in Psychology, and is a Main Street Vegan-certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator. She writes a weekly Meatless Monday column for the Journal & Courier (jconline.com) She may be reached at veggiechel.com.