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.
I’ve been vegan for over 5 years, with 2 months of pescetarianism before that. I went vegan for the animals and am quite the bleeding heart.
For the most part, veganism is more closely tied to my personal morals and ethical decision making than my body image. As I moved forward into veganism, I did notice changes in my body (less of a roller-coaster regarding my weight and bloaty-ness, for instance), yet the big changes did not occur until I shifted more toward a “clean eating” vegan diet instead of primarily convenience foods. These changes have most recently manifested in the way I feel my body function. (More energy! Less gas! Steady metabolism! Fewer food comas!)
For the past 3-4 months, I have enjoyed my return to participating in CrossFit as a form of exercise. Currently, I attend 3x/week and receive a good deal of support from my coaches when it comes to being vegan. They’re truly fabulous and check in with all of the athletes about their nutritional needs and “supportive eating” routines, and I’m no exception. It’s really wonderful feeling, as if my being vegan is not only tolerated, but encouraged. (One of my coaches even recently switched to being mostly vegan!) My decision to return to exercising and having a regular routine of fitness is mostly rooted in wanting to change my desperately lazy ways. I feel more energized and stronger day to day, and (to be honest) also am liking my journey toward a leaner, slightly more muscular physique.
When I was 19, I struggled with a restrictive eating disorder for the better part of a year before it began manifesting as binge eating and depression. Throughout my twenties I have been able to build on the strength I achieved during my initial recovery period and am able to find empowerment in many different things—not only how I perceive my body. In a way, veganism helped launch this newfound strength, in that my ethical foundations were fortified, as was my confidence in assertively living by my own moral code.
To boil down the most important elements of overall “health,” as I see it: providing my body the nutrition, rest, and movement it needs to function at its best, as well as attending to emotional and social needs.
At times, I feel the need to embody perfect health to fight the stereotype of a pale, meek vegan. Not only are there pressures to be nutritionally healthy, but to also break down the stereotypes that vegans can’t successfully live active lives without passing out or having their protein levels bottom out. Living as an unintended example of the picture of health is a difficult task, as I am often the only vegan that people around me know! I try not to succumb to such pressures and remind myself to live my life for me. Two years ago I was actually diagnosed with hyperlipidemia (total cholesterol = 279!!) and, after attempting to lower my levels naturally, am now taking a prescription drug to counteract my bad genetics. Ain’t nobody perfect!
I like to advocate for people to make the best food decisions they can—FIRSTLY, for the world and living creatures with whom we share this planet, and secondly, for one’s own personal health concerns and goals.