For some reason, I had this grandiose idea that it would be easy this time.
February of this year, I made a pledge to myself (and to whoever was listening on the internet) that I would FINALLY go vegan. It is something I have wanted to do since the year I went vegetarian, but cheese was at the foundation of my food pyramid and ice cream the love of my life.
Over the years I began to research how to be vegan for ethical reasons and later finding that veganism often brings tremendous health benefits and weight loss. Though my reasons for veganism had undebatable ties to my own moral compass, what finally got me to make the change was a focus on myself and my own health.
Before I get into this, I need to clarify that my idea on body positivity is this: Love yourself always. It doesn’t matter if you’re 120lbs or half a ton, you and your body deserve and require love in their current state. However, I know that the adipose in my body is way above what is considered healthy. The strangest thing is, when I tell people I want to lose weight, I get a backlash from people saying things like “But you’re not even fat!” or “Some people just have slower metabolisms. You’re fine!” or, my personal favorite “What about body positivity? I thought you loved your body.”
But, yo. Believe me. I know that these extra fat cells I carry are not making me ugly. In fact, there are times when I look at the squishy parts of me and think they’re downright cute (omg, my hips are the best). This does not mean that I don’t get self-conscious sometimes, but fat does not an ugly person make.
Additionally, no person is fat. People have fat. That’s where I am right now. I have fat I want to get rid of. And that’s okay!
The conversation around fat is so wonky because it is slathered in shame and misunderstanding. If I say I don’t want to change, I get raised eyebrows and muffled snickers. If I do say I want to change, I rarely get support because people are afraid that if they say “good for you!” I will be offended because they just admitted that I do have fat to lose.
The toughest thing to accept is that weight loss does more than just change your aesthetics. It lowers risk for disease, increases energy and drive, lowers risk of depression, lowers strain off joints, improves breathing, lowers strain on the heart, etc. Once I, personally, accepted these ideas, however, losing weight is not about hating myself. It’s about wanting to do what is best for myself because *gasp* I love myself.
The problem arises when the primary voices I hear from people who want to “help” me lose weight have their noses up in the air. It’s people telling me how easy it was for them to lose 10-20lbs. It’s people who just cut soda out of their diet and everything fell into place. It’s the people in advertisements and all over the internet that tell you how losing weight was easy.
Easy? *cough* hahaha hahaha haha. no.
If I have learned anything in my 24 years of living, it’s that almost nothing goes according to plans. If you’re lucky, there are bumps in the road.
But, if the road is long (which I knew this one has been and will continue to be), you’re going to run into worse things… Detours. Rain. Snow. Ice. Broken stoplights. Flat tires. Giant potholes. Traffic jams. People who drive by and give you the bird when you were politely following the laws. Cops who hide on the side of the highway when you are going 5mph over the speed limit and pull you over because they need to meet their quota. A janky GPS that leads you to the middle of a country road and then says “lost satellite reception.” Deer that run right into your path when you’re driving in the night fog…you get the idea. Even if you know how to drive, things pop up. It’s amazing we can come out unscathed.
To the people who claim their journey was easy, good for you, I guess? Sometimes journeys are easy, and I understand that. But, honestly, my trip is not a walk in the park. It’s a hike through the mountains.
The millions of success stories that emphasize their ease make me believe that there is just one thing I am doing wrong and when I figure it out the clouds will part, an infinite/higher power will bestow their eternal grace on me, and all of my dreams will come true. Deus ex machina, right? But, news flash, most journeys are long, hard, and laced with failure, frustration, and transformation you didn’t necessarily ask for.
To be honest, being vegan is difficult. Being healthy is even MORE difficult. As healthy as cutting meat and dairy out of your diet is, there is still sugar and processed foods that are 100% vegan. When you cut out sugar and processed foods, there’s still the fact that you have to learn how to eat a variety of foods to keep healthy. For crying out loud, there are still vegan cheeses, chicken nuggets, ice creams, that will tempt the dickens out of you. It’s freaking difficult.
Not to mention the other frustrations that happen with veganism. Some of it I had semi-expected–people becoming offended by me messing challenging their ethics, not knowing what really is healthy and what is not, missing the dairy products I omitted…but I did not know how frustrating those frustrations would be.
I literally began documenting all of this for myself because I know that I learn best through writing. But, man, have I really ticked some people off. I receive private messages or see angry Facebook posts about veganism nearly every time I post a blog. That’s not even an exaggeration. Luckily I don’t get as many questions from friends and family because of the progressive area I live in. But I know as soon as I go home, someone will intentionally try to sneak some cheese or egg in something–that sounds outrageous, but it happened all the time with meat when I went vegetarian. And, honestly, I do miss cheese sometimes. My life is more difficult as a vegan. And, my life is crazy challenging trying to be a healthy vegan. Does that mean I want to stop?
Is being a healthy vegan easy? No. Is it practical? YES.
When you say, “Is it practical?” are you actually saying, “Is it easy?” Sometimes we say that eating healthy isn’t practical, or that it’s time-consuming and ridiculous. Honestly, it can be time-consuming. And I cannot lie, it does take time out of your day. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
Sometimes we feel like we are entitled to ease. But if you want something badly, whether it be fitness, a certain career, a 4.0 on your report card, a mastery of a skill, you have to work for it. When we are told that losing weight is easy, and our promised fix is broken, we all give up. Progress is a lost dream, so we throw our fists to the sky, curse the earth, and go on with our lives more complacent and jaded than ever.
When people make false claims that something is easy, there is no way to move forward. They are not with you through the struggle. They’re up on that mountaintop promising false hopes. As soon as things don’t go as planned, we’ll become paralyzed and don’t know what to do.
What I’m trying to say is, we need to reevaluate how we talk about health. It is not all about aesthetics and it does not come easy. It’s about living a long, happy life–a happiness which you worked for. A happiness you fought for.
I am tired. I am sick of starting a fitness journey over and over and over again and getting frustrated that things didn’t go the way people told me they would. I am sick of people telling me that my problem is genetic and not just a result of a societal rut I am caught in–believing that when things get too tough, I should give up until someone comes up with a teleportation device that gets me from point A to point B without the work or research.
Veganism isn’t going to cure all the complications that have built up since my youth. It has, and hopefully will continue to help me learn more about what is making it so difficult to move forward. But, I will not give up on driving forward. Not this time.
This time, I will fight.