I recently had to stop following a popular female blogger (I’ll call her The Blogger here) who was a big inspiration to me since the beginning of my vegan journey. Here’s what happened.
The Blogger (who will remain unnamed because I still have respect for her and her privacy) was one of the very first plant-based writers and cookbook authors who showed me through her work that cooking tasty, oil-free plant-based meals was easy and fun. I own almost all of her cookbooks, and have recommended those on multiple occasions to people reaching out to me for advice on transitioning to veganism. I stood by this girl when she was fighting off bullies accusing her of focusing too much on the food and not nearly enough on the plight of animals, and respected her decision when she announced that she was no longer calling herself ‘vegan’, going entirely with ‘plant-based’ instead.
I was happy for her when she came up with a new part of her business – a subscription-based meal planning service that helped people cook their plant-based meals on the weekend and eat them throughout the week, thus reducing the headache of shopping for and cooking separate meals every night. In the cutthroat world of health entrepreneurship, it was exciting to see this person create their own niche and thrive in it.
And that’s when things went south, at least in my perception of this Blogger. The thing is, her meal plans focused entirely on the notion of consuming 1200 calories a day. That’s the minimum number of calories women on a diet are advised not to drop below without suffering negative health consequences. Essentially, anything less than the magic number of 1200, and we enter starvation mode.
Trouble is, people come in all shapes, sizes and metabolic requirements for their activity level. The 1200 calorie number can be very misleading, and in many cases even harmful. Whenever I tried to count calories in the past (never again!), I passed 1200 calories by lunchtime. Plus, I work out lifting heavy weights after work, and the best way to have a terrible workout that would leave me doubting my worth as an athlete is to show up hungry.
Needless to say, I never gave this meal planning service a try. I followed the Blogger on social media, kind of from a distance, and that’s when things got strange.
The bikini selfies started. The Blogger praised the effectiveness of her meal plans, making a point that she had struggled with unwanted weight even as an oil-free plant-based eater, and was only successful with dropping weight after she stuck to the magical 1200 calorie-a-day number her plans afforded. Okay, if being skinny makes her happy, let it be, I said. Something was rubbing me the wrong way, but I brushed it off. Every entrepreneur needs to promote their product, so I believed that the Blogger was using her bikini selfies as a promotion tool (quite successfully, judging by the comments on each photo from weight loss-seeking clients).
Around the same time I embarked on my own journey to find the reason why I was so dissatisfied with my own body. Even at ‘normal’ weight, I obsessed over food, exercised with abandon, and was willing to endure grueling dietary manipulations in search of “perfection’ (more about that experience here). It was time for me to learn how to love and accept myself the way I was.
On the road to my emotional and physical healing, I met a few inspiring people in the vegan weightlifting community (hats off to Lacy Davis from Portland!). I realized that getting stronger through lifting heavy was making a world of difference in how I perceived myself and my body, even though it caused me to gain some weight. I discovered the power of the body positivity movement*, which essentially comes down to the notion that regardless of our size, weight, or overall appearance, we are deserving the love and respect of ourselves and others. We are perfectly FINE the way we are RIGHT NOW. And if we are seeking ways for self-improvement, then weighing less doesn’t have to be the main direction. Healthy (both mentally and physically) is a much nobler goal than skinny.
If you decided to step on the path to self-improvement, hats off to you! If working towards better health resonates with you, great! If some weight loss happens as a side effect of this process, that’s fine too! Whichever way you go, focus on the big picture rather than side effects that may or may not happen.
Which brings me back to the Blogger. I do not know her personally, nor do I have the right to claim to know her motivation for weight loss. But if she feels that being skinny makes her feel better about herself, so be it. However, when she posts side-by-side pictures of herself and her husband in the ‘before and after’ context (before showing them with some ‘fluff’ on their frame, and after with skinny, model-like appearance), I just want to scream, ‘Please, please, PLEASE stop the fat-shaming!’ This business promotion tool comes with some dark consequences, the least of which being the message that something was wrong with the ‘before’ plumpness.
So today I’d like to send out a message to the Blogger. I have no idea if it would ever reach her, but here it is anyway:
Congratulations on the success of your meal planning business! It’s great that you help people on their plant-based journey. However, there is one thing that I’d like you to know. Whenever you post your ‘washboard abs’ bikini pictures, or the ‘before and after’ photos of you and husband with the goal of emphasizing your weight loss, it sends out a message that there is something wrong with being fat. The truth is, while weighing less may or may not be better for our health, it doesn’t mean that people who are bigger don’t deserve being respected because of their weight.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with you in your ‘before’ pictures. You were just as worthy of respect and admiration then as you are now. You’re doing an amazing job promoting plant-based diets and how they benefit our health, and if you decided to switch your focus from weight loss to health gain, I would applaud you even more.
*If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that I used to talk about weight loss on a vegan diet, body transformation from fat to skinny as something to aspire to, etc. I acknowledge that some of my opinions have changed, but I won’t be taking down my previous posts on the subject. My belief is that everyone is allowed to change their opinions when presented with relevant information, and there is zero shame in that.
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