So you may have heard Beyoncé became vegan. She was last seen liberating chickens for ALF after an entire week of vegan food truck advocacy in the poorest food deserts in New York City. She plans on visiting the Catskill Animal Sanctuary this summer where she will perform a free benefit for the animals. The concert promises to be the event of the season.
Just kidding – Beyoncé isn’t actually vegan. That’s a bit punk rock for her. She recently announced she is a dietary vegan, or in simpler terms, a plant-based eater. Beyoncé is vegan because it helps her keep the weight off.
Like Beyoncé, I am not naturally willowy. I am short and I am curvy. Since I do not have Beyoncé’s height, I am always a couple bags of potato chips away from being chunky. Some men think of this as ideal, and idolize the flare of my big hips and my tendency to sequester bodily fat around my butt and thighs.
Maybe it’s because I am almost 42 and I have always felt like an old woman in a young person’s body, but I don’t give a fiddler’s fart what men think. Unlike Beyoncé’s music career, mine doesn’t make me much in the way of money, but at least I don’t face diminishing returns because I look less hot year after year.
Nevertheless, I like staying slim. My weight through high school stayed between 108 – 112 pounds. I would have liked to be thinner at my tiny height of 4’11” but it wasn’t in the cards. When I was about thirty and still ova-lacto vegetarian, I went back and forth with eating fish. I though my diet was okay, but when I look back, it was very fatty with an overreliance on dairy products as is common with most semi-vegetarian, addictive diets.
When I went vegan for the animals at age 37, it wasn’t about my weight. I didn’t know any slim vegans personally except for one kid when I was in my teens who nearly killed himself with noble but disordered vegan eating. I went vegan for much the same reason I decided against having biological children: because of the animals. So you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I dropped five pounds like it was nothing within six months of being vegan. My energy shot through the roof even though I had suffered almost constant fatigue since about the age of nine. I even had more of a sex drive, which was nice.
Then in a year, I went down to 103 pounds, so a ten pound loss altogether. I was like “Hallelujah, it’s my willowy college weight, except I’m not starving or sick!”
Then I turned forty and gained it all back and then some. Why? Age. Stress – my husband had been unemployed almost two years at that time. And vegan food, as it turns out, is delicious. It’s easy to eat way too much of it and there is no lack of processed, sugary, fatty food.
I don’t feel good when I’m at my heaviest, which is somewhere around 115 – 117. I have dyspepsia and I start feeling sluggish, like I did when I ate cheese, eggs, and fish. So I decided it was time to lose weight. I am not, however, on a diet.
I do not count calories. Such things are a waste of my mind. I don’t even avoid fat, nor do I exercise more than three to four times a week, mainly in the form of riding my bike a couple of miles to various places. To lose weight and keep it off, I eat way more green, purple, red, and orange and way less beige and brown. I don’t eat until I’m overfull, nor do I binge. I eat enough to make me full. I don’t eat after nine and I go to bed at midnight. Other than that, there aren’t any rules. I still eat ice cream. I eat nuts. I eat Gardein stuff. I eat white rice. I skip breakfast because I don’t like it.
I’m down from 115 to 111 after about three weeks of this exact “routine.” Once I get down to about 107, I’ll stop. I’ll eat however much keeps me at 107. I estimate it will take me about twelve more weeks to get there. I don’t need to be 103, even though I might want to. I am never going to be willowy, nor should I aspire to be.
In order to empower ourselves as women and as people in general, we need to see food functionally instead of addictively. I like food a great deal, but it’s not about what I like. It’s about saving as many animal lives as I can in this lifetime. I’ll happily waste away to death if it is suddenly found out I must eat animal protein to survive even though science seems to be going into the exact opposite direction, i.e. animal products are addictive, fattening, toxic, and barely fit for human consumption.
A plant-based diet is the only diet with which it is possible to permanently keep weight off. Think of the legions of poor people in South America, Asia, and Africa who subsist on a vegan diet not out of choice but because beans and rice are the cheapest foods on the Earth. Now think of the poor people in America, who are obese with McDonalds yet far more malnourished than their counterparts in say, Chile. Humans were not meant to eat flesh or drink the milk of bovines and goats. We can handle it on occasion, but when we make a regular habit of it, it’s like a drunk making a daily habit of drinking a fifth of whiskey. All that fun, addictive poison is going to take its toll one way or the other, whether it is excess weight, heart disease, cirrhosis, or even Alzheimer’s disease.
I don’t feel deprived or constrained by my vegan diet, which is after all my only diet. I feel free. I am free of the body image that patriarchy tries to sell me as “right”. Patriarchy can shove it right where the sun doesn’t shine.
I’d rather die than go off my “diet”, because I’d rather douse myself in gasoline and strike a match than be complicit in the murder of a gentle, docile pig or the captivity of an intelligent, friendly dolphin. If I never lose another pound, I’m one hundred percent fine with that. And that, dear friends, is the difference between a vegan diet and actually being vegan.
Kimberly and Laurie (goat) at Wedrose Acres Animal Sanctuary, Illinois.