vegans & body image: stephanie

Here it is, the first in this new biweekly series of vegans and their body image stories. Some of us don’t have any issues, but some of us do, and some of our issues are intertwined with our “vegan” label. In this series, vegans of all shapes and sizes and origins share their stories with you.

Today’s profile is a friend and fellow blogger here in Portland. She’s one of the loveliest folks I know, working her butt off for the critters with Vegan Iron Chef and hugging as many dogs as she can. Cheers to her for being brave enough to go first!

stephStephanie, 30 years old, pear shape (so vegan). 5’6″, 165 pounds

I’ve been vegan for five years now, after going vegetarian in 2004. I have a very, very sensitive stomach and spent a lot of my childhood either a) not eating out of fear of getting nauseous or b) getting nauseous. Right out of high school, I moved in with my boyfriend and just stopped caring for myself, which led to depression and incredibly unhealthy eating habits. Then I went vegetarian and lost 80 pounds (very slowly) over four years and improved my self-esteem by leaps and bounds. Cutting meat also made a huge difference in how I felt. I decided to take on a vegan diet in an attempt to lose more weight. Yeah, I know. I actually gained and have hovered around this weight since, in a 10-pound window, depending on if I’m training, I’m stressed, or I’ve just taken a three-week walking tour of some hilly European city.

As an avid runner, I run to feel better and stronger, not to maintain my image. I’ve trained for five half marathons and have gained weight every single time, but I would much rather fuel my body and feel strong than cut much-needed calories.

Currently, I just wear what’s comfortable to me. Usually that means jeans and a t-shirt, but sometimes I throw in a cotton skirt or a comfy summer dress. I will admit to wearing waist-high tights under dresses, if only to sorta tuck everything in since, unfortunately, some years back I was asked when I was due. (I’ve never been pregnant.) And I absolutely hate shopping for jeans, so I try to avoid doing that for my own mental state (which, in turn, means all of my jeans are ripped and worn and falling apart).

My history with veganism and body image is, I feel, slightly complicated. Like I said, I first went fully vegan in an attempt to lose weight, which you could say backfired. However, I also started running as a vegan and have never felt stronger. When I’m not training, I feel frumpy or sloppy or a total mess…which affects my mental state…which means I’m not very nice to myself. I go through stages where I just feel horrible about how I look, but this tends to coincide with stressful times in my life, and I can usually work through it with running and paying attention to what I’m putting into my body, rather than lamenting over how badly I’ve eaten or how little I’ve exercised. Something that has come on in the last couple of years is an issue with binge eating, but I try not to focus on that and instead work to prevent it from happening in the first place by identifying why I want to stuff myself rather than punishing myself for letting it happen.

I have zero responsibility to look a certain way as a vegan. We come in all sizes, just like everyone else! However, how I feel is extremely important, and if I don’t feel good, it shows. So, again, I say nourish your body the way it deserves to be! To me, “healthy” is taking care of yourself. Whether that’s feeding your body the best foods you can, moving it as much as you can, or just making sure your water intake is consistent, healthy is more about the individual than the collective. We can all agree on eating more plants, though, yeah? Minerals and stuff.

Right now, as I type, I have an empty pint of coconut milk ice cream and a beer sitting with me. I earned these treats for getting through a really rough day at work. But why am I rewarding or punishing myself with food?! Food is something my body needs to thrive, to move, to do all the things I ask it to do. I do not need to reward or punish myself with the very thing I need to survive.

Well, I am a constant work in progress, but veganism is such a huge, healthy part of my success that I can’t even begin to imagine my lifestyle any other way.

Read others in the series here.

Please share your story. Find more info here or email me at VegtasticVoyage@gmail.com.

Thank you! I know it’s not easy!

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