I’ve loved animals all my life.
I’ve also been overweight for the same amount of time.
I remember very clearly sitting in the movie theatre watching Babe thinking I could never eat another pig again. I didn’t go fully vegetarian at that point, but I did cut out a lot of meat and stayed that way for a while. I told everyone the classic line when it came to veganism: “I could never go vegan, I love cheese too much!” But it was a lie. I did want to go vegan, but I was scared. It had been something I kept secret for a very long time. I wasn’t scared that I was going to fail, or that it was going to be hard. I was scared about what people would think of me, an overweight girl, trying to be vegan.
There is a stigma that is attached with being vegan: vegans are skinny. I wasn’t. I was bombarded with the information that was geared toward one of the best things about being vegan: you won’t be fat! It even fell down on advertisements for vegan-related organizations or well-known vegans degrading those who were overweight to make veganism seem like this magical skinny pill. Or reversely, those making statements that being overweight and a vegan is hurtful to the vegan image making everyone else look bad. Ostracizing someone to make them feel that they already lost before they even start is not only hurtful to the individual, but also the very thing that we all want: to end animal suffering. It doesn’t promote a good view of your values, and in turn damages the movement. For years I toyed with the idea of going vegan, and could never commit to it. I saw the billboards, I read the posts and started to let myself believe those few. I wasn’t good enough to be vegan for the animals at my weight.
I think most don’t fully realize how hard it is to live in this world and be constantly told that your weight makes you a horrible person. It’s especially hard when it’s seen in a community that is so closely in line with your true values. It can be frustrating and hard, and make you want to quit in favor of things being easier. It’s harder to trust yourself into believing what you are doing is right, and makes you feel alone.
In the end I realized what I knew all along: I was being selfish. There was a a part of this community just like me, I just needed to find it. What few vegans said about weight wasn’t the norm, and shouldn’t stop me from doing what I was truly passionate about. It was what ultimately pushed me to finally become vegan. Knowing that I am actively playing a part in minimizing suffering and spreading love and joy for those who don’t have a voice is so much more important than a number on a scale. Being an overweight vegan is just as important, kind, and beautiful as being a “skinny” vegan.
Being vegan shouldn’t be about what our pants size is or how we look. It should be about ending the mistreatment of animals through our daily food and lifestyle choices. No matter what, lifting up those who want to be vegan—whoever they may be—is important. It’s what helps more people feel welcomed into the vegan community, and continues to keep it growing.
If you know someone struggling going vegan, help them. Be there for them so that they feel like they have a place in this community. Including everyone is the only way to thrive.