Welcome back to Vegans & Body Image, the biweekly series in which vegans share their stories and thoughts on body image in general, and what effect, if any, veganism has on it.
Janessa Philemon-Kerp is a Portland blogger, one of my Vida Vegan partners, and one of my favorite Portland finds. A native Oregonian, she’s lived and played all over the world, and she’s one of the most genuinely positive people I’ve met.
Janessa, 33, female, squishy & soft
Raised as a vegetarian, I turned mostly vegan at 22, and went the whole soy-hog at 28. In the early ’80s, white meat didn’t count as “meat,” so I ate chicken and turkey until I was 9.
I’ve never purposely eaten hamburger, steak, or any other red meat. I’m a born pastatarian. Drawn to foods like pasta, breads, and desserts, learning how to eat and like vegetables was something I actively worked on in my 20s. To this day, I’ll still typically pick a pasta salad over a kale salad. My appetite is not large, but I can put a lot of food away if there’s a plate of tacos or a bowl of popcorn sitting in front of me. I eat for enjoyment probably as much as I eat for nutrition. My diet generally consists of cereal, smoothies, salads, tacos, fake chicken, desserts, pasta, and champagne cocktails.
Growing up, my mom did her best to keep me active and signed me for group sports like soccer, basketball, and softball. One of her favorite stories recalls watching my entire fourth-grade team chasing a soccer ball down the field in a match…then turning to see me slowly following behind, chasing a butterfly (it was pretty!). In middle school, I was on the basketball team for two years. I made one basket.
Needless to say, I’m not naturally athletically inclined. I like playing sports, and I enjoy working out—but the thing is, I enjoy eating and drinking SO MUCH MORE. Given the choice of a hike or Happy Hour, I really struggle with picking the former. Now, if you tell me you’ll bring snacks, I’m much more inclined to lace up my hiking shoes.
Since my 20s, I’ve been an occasional member of the gym, and sometimes even think about doing sit-ups at night. I’ve owned two workout videos: Tai Bo with Billy Blank on VHS in college, and Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. I stay active day-to-day by riding my bike and walking a lot. My career in hospitality and restaurant management means I’m on my feet a majority of the time.
I find that my definition of “healthy” changes. Sometimes I feel perfectly healthy–I have all my limbs, I eat and drink a lot, but I also move a lot; other times I know I could eat a more balanced diet and exercise more. Healthy to me means eating food that is good for you, enjoying the food you do eat, and staying at whatever activity level makes you personally thrive. Healthy comes in every shape and size.
Being vegan and finding a vegan community has led me to discover new types of food, and I find vegans in general appreciate food an extraordinary amount. It’s so much fun to go out to eat with a group of vegans! In the past, I’ve felt like I’ve needed to look my best to really showcase what a vegan diet can do, but honestly, the amount of energy I have and the way I enjoy my life showcases how happy I am living a vegan lifestyle.
Thank you, jpk!