15

votes

Body Shaming, Vegans, and Where is paleo at?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created April 11, 2012 at 9:30 PM

I read this article today: http://www.theveganrd.com/2012/04/body-shaming-fails-vegans-and-vegan-advocacy.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheVeganDietitian+%28The+Vegan+Dietitian%29 It covers the issue of using body-shaming tactics in advertising. It got me thinking of the tactics used by organizations like PCRM and PETA, and their vilification of obese/overweight individuals. A lot of vegans and vegetarians have been expressing complaints that they are rejected from the vegan/vegetarian community if they are the slightest bit overweight, outright or subtly. The stories range from refusing to provide larger shirt sizes at conferences, to insisting that they must secretly be eating animal products behind closed doors as a gluttonous slob in order to carry around excess weight.

The letter in the article from Dr. Barnard is particularly enlightening- you get the impression that if you are overweight and vegan, you should step out of the way so as not to set a bad example.

I know paleo has had it's missteps with sexism when being represented by the media (summarized here: http://huntgatherlove.com/content/rant-alert-sexism-and-paleo ). I don't always have my ear to the ground on all the paleo blogs and websites out there (ya'll write so much), but I was wondering if paleo is at danger of having the same trend happen to it. As we gain popularity and critical mass, will we be represented only if we are good looking (or at least a little "wild eyed")? The recent burst of pro-real-female-bodies in response to a statement that female paleo-ers just don't look as fit is heartening to see, but I worry that it might be a dark sign of judgement that is soon to come.

Have you ever gotten the "step aside" impression that sidelines individuals that don't have the "perfect paleo body"? Do you worry that you cannot "represent" paleo if you aren't at peak physical conditon? Is the risk of being judged by the media as an unsafe or fad diet tended towards representing paleos only with fit individuals (or, at the very least, a good set of before and after photos)?

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on April 14, 2012
at 12:01 PM

oooo, nice! you got it. i like to leave little "easter eggs" now and then :)

1296f5fecd084f101d7c5fbe013f07eb

(1213)

on April 13, 2012
at 05:00 PM

I have noticed this, and it bothers me, though I'm not sure it's the bigger problem. Goodness knows I enjoy my sweet-and-not-potatoes. I feel much better having a starchy food everyday than not.

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on April 12, 2012
at 10:37 PM

Jenny, totally agree. But I'm not sure the message of HAES gets across that way. I see it used as a defense mechanism or a justification. I disagree that the prejudice is the bigger problem because I think the prejudice, though ugly and disgusting, may have an evolutionary basis. The bigger issue are the forces conspiring against all of us who are all too happy to blame us for our ills. I agree with Lindsay that there is no room for the blame/shame game, and it's really sad that the problem is so large, so complex, and so insidious that it's impossible to know where to start.

2f83028f9830b25f7c21109197176d9e

(328)

on April 12, 2012
at 09:43 PM

I think a lot of the problem lies in the way obesity is discussed - in a blaming/shaming manner. The issue of obesity is much larger than the "just eat less and move more" popular mantra. I picked a nice one, but there are more that are quite cruel. The reality is a lot of places don't have the cultural and political systems in place that might help. What we have are a lot of overworked people in suburbs without sidewalks and parks, areas with zero grocery stores, and food that is actively made addictive. Personal responsibility can only go so far when the entire environment is set for failure

2fdb7a6236b04bdfc3dacaf2bc236515

(528)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:59 PM

I would love to wear a size 6-8. Or 10 :) Next time someone calls you fat, challenge 'em to a deadlifting competition.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:54 PM

I agree though, that the paleo community does seem to have this compassion still that the vegan/vegetarian community seems to have dropped off of as soon as the obesity scare and enormous criticism collided.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:52 PM

Also, more where my education is now with body perception and eating disorders, children are still 229 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than type 2 diabetes. So that is where my real concern is in portraying overweight people as the dehumanized "bad people". I mean, if 5 year old girls are saying in surveys that they'd rather be hit by a car than be fat, the message is clearly out there that you are not worthy if you are overweight. I think the prejudice is a much larger issue than "fat acceptance" which people act like is some free-for-all crazy group.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:49 PM

The way I interpret that it's possible to be healthy at every size is not that every weight is okay, no matter what- I think it means that you can begin to have healthy behavior and take care of yourself no matter what size you are. That's one of the basics of HAES, as far as I know: that you don't have to wait until you are 40, 80, or 200 lbs lighter to participate in healthy activities and take care of your body. I'm troubled by the "look at the fatty who is unintelligent/doesn't know how to take care of themselves/doesn't try/is useless" etc.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:28 PM

hee hee 'fruitful'

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:27 PM

right on. :)...

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 12, 2012
at 06:34 AM

My bad not differentiating between ethical vegan/weight loss vegan up in that first comment. I guess I just don't like lying from either camp, ours or theirs. It seems like backing away from meat consumption is the go-to move according CW these days, and I'm just peeved that some of the vegan propaganda has some of my friends who would like to lose weight terrified of meat.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on April 12, 2012
at 06:16 AM

+1....................

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:40 AM

That's a good link @Wowza! What this is about though, is not about whether or not vegans/vegetarians are healthy. Some are overweight, and probably will be/were for a large portion of their life, JUST like some paleo eaters. The fact is, no matter what, there will always be overweight/obese members of both communities- this is questioning how they get treated as "less than ideal" representatives of a nutritional view point that's outside of mainstream.

80890193d74240cab6dda920665bfb6c

(1528)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:10 AM

Obesity is a metabolic state - you can appear "thin" but be metabolically all effed up. Any decent bariatrician can tell you about this. So even "thin"-looking vegans could be obese from a health perspective: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2007/05/14/25076.aspx

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:02 AM

Yeah, that was the incident I was referring to the pro-real-female-bodies response that happened as a result. It was the first red flag that got me pondering...

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on April 12, 2012
at 01:34 AM

Did you miss the number of posts after PaleoFX where some folks were (understandably) put off by comments re the women not being as "fit" as the men? Seems we may already be down that path.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 01:03 AM

The point of this not whether or not vegans/vegetarians are overweight, more the image of what they are pushing: they push "THIN" and paleo pushes "STRONG-THIN", so I was just wondering if they are down a path we will be pushed down if paleo continues to gain followers and popularity.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 12, 2012
at 12:42 AM

@HappyNow - I was a 450lb Vegetarian so....

7e1433afbb06c318c4d90860d493c49d

(5959)

on April 12, 2012
at 12:32 AM

The obese vegans I know are ethical vegans, and they eat nothing but junk food that happens to be vegan.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on April 11, 2012
at 11:33 PM

What? You don't have all the answers? Oh, crap!

E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

(4347)

on April 11, 2012
at 10:12 PM

I think some of the issue is that there are loads of vegans "for health" and still more vegans "for ethical reasons." Many of the heavier vegans I know are awesome people and are vegan for reasons of ethics. I don't agree with their stance anymore, but I respect it. And they often were looking for vegan subs of non-vegan foods. (They also tended to bake like fiends.) I always felt bad that some of them were marginalized because they didn't look like supermodels. Many did in fact eat plenty of whole foods, but dealt with various health issues.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 11, 2012
at 10:08 PM

I've always been confused about the vegan = thin thing. I know more seriously obese vegans than omnivores. It isn't a case that most of them started big, all but one I know ballooned after adopting it. I think paleo is a "diet of last resort", if other things worked for us chances are we wouldn't be here. Sure there is a wave of judgement coming down the pike as it gains in popularity, but I'm trying my best to keep it realistic and make it known the tent is open to all. Not everyone is going to look like Mark Sisson, but if it just helps reduce heart disease and dementia that's great.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 11, 2012
at 10:05 PM

That doesn't answer my question: I'm not talking about forcing beliefs, but questioning whether or not we feel the need to defend ourselves (to the media, doctors, family members, etc) by putting our "best faces forward" and as a result sidelining important members of the community.

78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

(5519)

on April 11, 2012
at 10:00 PM

What do I think? I think you should stop spamming us with that link with every answer you give.

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11 Answers

16
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on April 11, 2012
at 09:46 PM

I think because we are outside the mainstream, we tend to be more careful of what we say. I have a friend who is great, but his girlfriend is a dietician. ALL THE TIME she makes quips about how dangerous things like cheese/bacon/butter are and how they make you fat. At a potluck a girl made some crumble thing and she was talking about how much butter she used. Dietician!girl is like "OMG thanks for telling me! You have to be really careful with these things."

Last night I met a random woman who was smugly telling me all about how Americans are all going to die because meat is making us fat. I hadn't even told her I was into paleo or anything. She had just met me. Can you imagine the reaction I'd get if I said things like like that about wheat or cereal? I mean it's humbling to be outside the norm. But I see smugness creeping in.

Me? Since I don't go around telling other people what to do or pretending I have all the answers, I don't have to worry about representing anything.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on April 11, 2012
at 11:33 PM

What? You don't have all the answers? Oh, crap!

14
E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

on April 11, 2012
at 10:09 PM

I think that because paleo and veg*nism both are associated with "health" trends there's a lot of focus on how externally healthy followers of those lifestyles look. Personally, I believe there's a lot more to health than the perfect body. Lord knows I don't have the perfect physique after having two kids and recovering from a long-standing eating disorder. It is very dangerous to both movements, really, to shame people for body size/shape--especially since both groups claim to look past that and be welcoming to new people.

Re: the dichotomy of having pro-real-woman and also anti-fat conversations within the vegan community and possibility of such in the paleo community. I see it now, and I don't like it. Maybe, again, it's because we've got the goal of "health". Maybe not. But when I was vegan I saw a boatload of judgment against some prominent vegans because they weren't skinny and classically pretty from the same people who claimed that they were healthier than all meat eaters because they were vegan. I have noticed some of that within the paleo community as well. A false acceptance of "people of all sizes and shapes" while in the background there's some serious judgment happening. I hope it doesn't go that way.

For me? I don't look as skinny or "pretty" as I did when I ran 50+ miles/week and ate nothing. But I also don't suffer from debilitating anxiety or suicidal tendencies anymore, either. However, it sucks pretty hard to be called fat when I wear a size 6-8 and can deadlift well over 200 lbs. (It's happened.) If that starts happening, I'll officially not be part of any "community" any longer. Just like I left the vegan community long before I ceased eating a vegan diet.

8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on April 12, 2012
at 06:16 AM

+1....................

2fdb7a6236b04bdfc3dacaf2bc236515

(528)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:59 PM

I would love to wear a size 6-8. Or 10 :) Next time someone calls you fat, challenge 'em to a deadlifting competition.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:27 PM

right on. :)...

7
C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on April 11, 2012
at 10:26 PM

Weird, I was just thinking about this yesterday and saw that link. That ad makes me shiver!

Veganism and paleo are reactionary movements, right? We've looked out onto the way people currently live their lives propped up by medications, suffering from various chronic illnesses, unable to run up a flight of stairs, or are weak from dieting attempts. Because we don't exist in a cultural vacuum, the way the media conflates obesity with all these modern ailments seems to be central to many food movements, including paleo/ancestral health. However, we're pretty good considering the world we live in. There are lots of people on here who have spoken up about body shaming/assuming what body type is ideal (the 'Women's bodies' post), and many users have come to paleo last, disillusioned with past experiences and just looking for improved quality of life.

I was scouring the fat acceptance tumblr movement, and there seems to be a significant outcry against this sort of body shaming within veganism. Like others have said, veganism's popularity is not helping- you get the PETA-types who use thin models in lettuce leaves and support the snarky paradigm of thinsexyVegan!/fatSADmeateatingslob. This idea is everywhere and no one is immune. Comparing my experience as a vegan to now, I see that folks used to treat me as if I was a healthy eater, and explain my body type as a result of my diet. Now they look at my food and assure me it'll 'catch up with me' one of these days...

It makes me mad that vegans who feel strongly about the cause are alienated because they don't fit the mould. I think paleo might have more trouble with this as it gets more popular. We're all so afraid of being sick and unfit that we idealise the fit crossfitter with glowing skin. But we all have different goals and it's not about becoming a dashing muscular Adonis all the time. For example, I just want to fix my digestive issues, be more energetic and feel better mentally. I know that in the vegan world, especially the raw vegan world, being obese is a starting point and it is assumed you don't want to stay there. But I think people go on diets for all kinds of reasons and if a fat vegan is trying to do something good for the planet or heal their digestive issues, it's not cool that they get that "Why aren't you skinny? I thought vegans were skinny" attitude.

7
Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on April 11, 2012
at 10:10 PM

I think many lifestyles get smacked around every once in a while - growing pains, media, et al. I'm Ninja about my lifestyle but if directly asked for some reason I'll talk about it - but instead of using Paleo I prefer saying "I eat whole foods" as it makes the conversation, I've found, to be more fruitful. I've had too many arguments about tubers to count - boring.

I'm not a doctor but have self diagnosed myself with: Feel Good/Look Good/Healthy syndrome which I think supersedes everything else. I have other things to worry about than what the media says unless it's an article slamming a movie I really wanted to see.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on April 14, 2012
at 12:01 PM

oooo, nice! you got it. i like to leave little "easter eggs" now and then :)

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:28 PM

hee hee 'fruitful'

5
F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:32 PM

I totally respect the body image stuff that came out of Paleo FX, but I just can't identify where the perceived criticism is coming from. I can't help but feel that it's coming from an internal source of insecurity that is then being externalized or projected. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I just haven't seen any direct salvos against Paleo women being unfit or unworthy of Paleo representation.

Because, honestly, I was at Paleo FX and I thought it was great to see folks of all types, shapes, and ages there. We all have different issues and different starting points, and it broke my heart to know that so many women felt anxiety about it.

I find Paleo to be, on the whole, pretty woman-friendly. The Crossfit community in particular because they shift the attention from image to capability, strength, and accomplishment. That's pretty awesome.

But I'm also troubled by a reactionary response to the "criticism." Forgive the rant to come, but it drives me nuts that everyone is so freaked out about miraculously causing someone to contract anorexia that they don't want to talk about what is SO MUCH MORE of a problem, that of obesity. Obesity is by far the biggest health threat we face as a society and even if you don't want to get involved for health reasons, we're already all being hit in the pocketbook. I just find it unproductive to refuse to discuss obesity rationally. The idea that you can be healthy at any weight really troubles me, not least because it's not about weight at all, is it?

Paleo folks are all here for their reasons. And by-and-large, I think it fuels a sense of compassion amongst everyone here. I hope so, at least.

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on April 12, 2012
at 10:37 PM

Jenny, totally agree. But I'm not sure the message of HAES gets across that way. I see it used as a defense mechanism or a justification. I disagree that the prejudice is the bigger problem because I think the prejudice, though ugly and disgusting, may have an evolutionary basis. The bigger issue are the forces conspiring against all of us who are all too happy to blame us for our ills. I agree with Lindsay that there is no room for the blame/shame game, and it's really sad that the problem is so large, so complex, and so insidious that it's impossible to know where to start.

2f83028f9830b25f7c21109197176d9e

(328)

on April 12, 2012
at 09:43 PM

I think a lot of the problem lies in the way obesity is discussed - in a blaming/shaming manner. The issue of obesity is much larger than the "just eat less and move more" popular mantra. I picked a nice one, but there are more that are quite cruel. The reality is a lot of places don't have the cultural and political systems in place that might help. What we have are a lot of overworked people in suburbs without sidewalks and parks, areas with zero grocery stores, and food that is actively made addictive. Personal responsibility can only go so far when the entire environment is set for failure

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:54 PM

I agree though, that the paleo community does seem to have this compassion still that the vegan/vegetarian community seems to have dropped off of as soon as the obesity scare and enormous criticism collided.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:52 PM

Also, more where my education is now with body perception and eating disorders, children are still 229 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than type 2 diabetes. So that is where my real concern is in portraying overweight people as the dehumanized "bad people". I mean, if 5 year old girls are saying in surveys that they'd rather be hit by a car than be fat, the message is clearly out there that you are not worthy if you are overweight. I think the prejudice is a much larger issue than "fat acceptance" which people act like is some free-for-all crazy group.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 12, 2012
at 08:49 PM

The way I interpret that it's possible to be healthy at every size is not that every weight is okay, no matter what- I think it means that you can begin to have healthy behavior and take care of yourself no matter what size you are. That's one of the basics of HAES, as far as I know: that you don't have to wait until you are 40, 80, or 200 lbs lighter to participate in healthy activities and take care of your body. I'm troubled by the "look at the fatty who is unintelligent/doesn't know how to take care of themselves/doesn't try/is useless" etc.

3
D7cc4049bef85d1979efbd853dc07c8e

(4029)

on April 12, 2012
at 02:04 AM

Communities that turn on themselves (not just turn on its leaders and celebrities) are at a stage of unhealthiness. Paleo hasn't been around that long to suffer that yet to have self-appointed guardians of community image enforcing community norms of shaming and shunning.

Maybe give it time . . . but I hope to heck it never happens, seeing there is so much less of a political/ideological angle to it, I don't see how it could. But we'll see.

3
396a7bc28b014f56183019cd04436024

on April 12, 2012
at 12:53 AM

I switched from being vegetarian of ten years to paleo precisely because of weight - I found myself struggling to eat enough and filling up on starches, grains, tubers, bread, pasta, and found that was pretty antithetical to my post-baby weight loss goals.

I imagine whatever diet you choose, there's a healthy way to go about it and an unhealthy way, and I support any diet that a person finds that helps them maintain a healthy life.

1
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on April 13, 2012
at 04:30 PM

I think Paleo's bigger problem is the shaming of low-carbers, and of women in general. It will never get out of the "fad" cul-de-sac until it fixes this problem.

1296f5fecd084f101d7c5fbe013f07eb

(1213)

on April 13, 2012
at 05:00 PM

I have noticed this, and it bothers me, though I'm not sure it's the bigger problem. Goodness knows I enjoy my sweet-and-not-potatoes. I feel much better having a starchy food everyday than not.

1
2f83028f9830b25f7c21109197176d9e

on April 12, 2012
at 06:17 PM

It seems as though it's started to surface in the Paleo community...with the comments comparing the men and women at PaleoFX. I think any diet/lifestyle that bills itself as healthy eventually gets this criticism because the obesity epidemic paranoia has associated health with thinness...and that is in no way a clean association. It's kind of a crazy place we live in now, idolizing thinness and fitness, shaming those who don't fit those ideals, while also criticizing those who we deem too thin or too muscular regardless of the person's actual health.

How to address it? Next time anyone hints that my thighs are too fat and my arms are too muscular, I'm going to say, "Forget the package, check out how healthy my contents are!"

0
1270763ee16a47ce7c23d6370f50ac97

on April 11, 2012
at 10:28 PM

lol just a thought a woman on a group I am in, told me "have fun cooking the tapeworms out of rawmeat." I just had to laugh, that was all i could do. Some people are entertainment in such away they have no clue what they are talkign about. I love this one vegan page where they put a cancer patient up some famous dude and he is vegan. I feel bad for the guy, but antinutrients and not being careful of toxins from the environment will do that to a person. Which is healthier Vegans or Paleo? I think Paleo.

-4
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 11, 2012
at 09:54 PM

I agree with Melisa. We cant force our beliefs ob everyone even though we know that Paleo diet and good exercise has such a huge positive benefit on our lives. I hope that one day everyone can see just how beneficial the paleo diet can truly be. BTW i stumbled upon this site the other day and was wondering what you guys think of a cookbook called the Paleo Recipe Book. Seems like its very informative. What do you think?

Paleo Recipe Review

78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

(5519)

on April 11, 2012
at 10:00 PM

What do I think? I think you should stop spamming us with that link with every answer you give.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 11, 2012
at 10:05 PM

That doesn't answer my question: I'm not talking about forcing beliefs, but questioning whether or not we feel the need to defend ourselves (to the media, doctors, family members, etc) by putting our "best faces forward" and as a result sidelining important members of the community.

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