The Worst Lil’ MoFo Ever

Ah, here it is November, also known as Vegan Month of Food (Vegan MoFo), a time for veg bloggers the world over to wax culinary over their favorite cruelty-free eats, cooking techniques, restaurants, and ingredients.

You can see the entire list of intrepid folk who’ve signed up on the official Vegan MoFo Headquarters site, where there will also be roundups of some of the best posts every day.  I believe they’re going to have an RSS file, as well, since there are over 550 people signed up as of November 1.

I’m not participating this year, for reasons that shall be obvious in a moment, but I did want to plug what I think is a great event in the blogosphere, and link you to a few of my favorite vegan blogs that are taking part in the monthlong challenge.

Hungry Hungry Hippie

Kickin N’ Screamin’ to Vegan

A Dash of Compassion

Get Sconed!

Lazy Smurf’s Guide to Life (from Austin!)

The Post-Punk Kitchen

Sugar Skull (also from Austin!)

The Urban Housewife

Vegan Awakening

Vegan Junk Food

Now, then, let’s talk about me again.

You might have noticed, if you have been with me for a long time, that the posts about veganism and animal rights as well as recipes and such have dwindled to basically nothing here in 2010.  Well, there’s a reason for that.  I’m rather embarrassed to admit it, given how strongly I’ve always felt about the subject, but I tumbled unceremoniously off the vegan wagon (and into a vat of queso).

This development has a lot to do with my efforts this year to untangle a veritable Gordian knot of body disparagement and food issues that, over the past couple of years, has tightened around me until I couldn’t breathe without choking on self-hatred.  I realized that any kind of limitations on my diet were only making things worse for my self-esteem, as “failing” to measure up to a food standard, whether it was Weight Watchers or veganism, caused me to spiral into fat-girl shame and loathing.  Before I could make healthy choices for my body and make a commitment to veganism that would last longer than a month, I had to make peace with my body, or at the very least unravel some of what was holding me back from living by my principles.

So, without any real fanfare, I declared myself off the vegan market for a little while; I’ve been avoiding meat, and I still bake vegan, but restricting my food choices was turning into another form of pathology for me, and it was either take a step back and figure out what the hell was going on inside me, or hate myself for being a “bad vegan” and turning into a complete and total…for lack of a less inflammatory phrase…food Nazi.

What I realized was that I wasn’t acting from a place of integrity, I was trying to punish myself for being an out-of-control fat girl.  And that, my dear ones, is not what veganism is about.  Veganism is a joyful lifestyle, one made to negate the guilt and pain that comes from knowing the truth about where food comes from, one intended to bring us into alignment with the highest good.

As you might expect, I’ve gained a lot of weight, and it hasn’t all been fun.  I’m nowhere near through it yet.  I’m still trying to reconcile my desire to be physically healthy with the understanding that the diet mentality is poisonous, even if it’s coated in a thin veneer of either “healthy living” or political zealotry.  Shame and self-hatred are not healthy motivators, and in the end, they always fail.  The heart rebels, the body slams on the brakes, and the ass expands in proportion with our shame.

My goal in life is to be a happy, healthy vegan fat girl.  If you think all these terms are mutually exclusive, well, you haven’t been listening to me at all, because I believe very strongly that it is possible to be fat and healthy, fat and vegan, and vegan and happy.

(Seriously, if you think you can’t be a fat vegan you obviously have never had my cupcakes.)

It’s unfortunate that fat hatred is as rampant among vegans as it is everywhere else, but the obsession with thinness is even worse among people who are trying to convince others that their way of eating is better for the body and the planet.  Apparently a fat body is not a good advertising icon, which is interesting given that once upon a time, a large body was the very epitome of abundance and health, and deities were depicted that way to link them with a bountiful harvest.  Nowadays it’s better to look like a skeleton, because that shows you have the luxury not to eat, or better yet, to spend your money on cocaine instead of food.

We live in interesting times…in that Chinese curse sort of way.

There are a lot of uncomfortable things going on in my head right now, as there often are this time of year, and although I would like to say I’m jumping back into veganism right this second, I have to be honest and say I’m not…yet.  Now that I’ve worked through some of my fat and food phobias, the next thing is to get my body used to healthier foods again, now that I have taught myself that I am a grown woman and nobody is ever going to stop me if I want to eat cake.  The world is full of cake, and I can have cake any time I want it.  There are no “forbidden” foods, just foods that make me feel better or worse in my body, foods that either do or don’t harm animals, and foods that I like and don’t like.  There are foods that support my health, and others that I’m better off limiting…but even if I’m vegan, nobody is forcing me not to eat cheese.  It’s all a matter of choice–nobody’s but mine.

Somewhere in all of that is the way I want to eat for the rest of my life.

I think issues of food and body sovereignty have been some of the hardest I’ve had to deal with, because there’s no way to simply not eat and thrive.  Learning that my body belongs only to me cuts to the core of what eats cancerously at our culture, the notion that everyone but me knows what’s best for me.  We are taught that men know better than women do if we want to have sex; that “experts” know better than we do what we should and shouldn’t eat; that fashion magazines know better than we do what we should look like and what we should find attractive.  Our power to make our own choices is chipped away for a profit, leaving us slaves to whatever fast food company – or weight loss program – has the biggest advertising budget.  What should be a fairly simple question: What’s for dinner? Becomes fraught with consequences and conflicting desires, and no matter how hard we try, it’s never good enough…we’re never good enough.

But the master’s Lap-Band cannot destroy the master’s thunder thighs.  We have to look at food and the body in a new way, or we’re doomed to repeat the same insane behavior over and over again expecting different results and, each time, killing a little more of ourselves.

At any rate, I wanted to take the opportunity here at the beginning of Vegan MoFo to be up front about my own circumstances and intentions.  Believe me, I plan to begin my vegan practice again soon, in conjunction with other efforts to broker peace between my body and spirit.  But I’m not off in some faux-ivory tower dispensing my Valuable Veggie Wisdom to the world.  I’m as big a fuckup work-in-progress as anybody…but I’m working on it.

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7 thoughts on “The Worst Lil’ MoFo Ever

  1. Thank you for this post. I agree wholeheartedly that veganism, or any food choices, should be about joy rather than guilt and restriction.

    I’ve been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for fourteen years. My decision to gradually stop eating meat was partly concern over the environmental impact of the meat industry, and partly a teen’s brand of philosophical: I had learned that many people (myself included) were grossed out by the process that made a living animal into their hamburger or pepperoni, yet they ate meat anyway. I didn’t like the hypocrisy of that.

    I still felt an internal conflict over eggs and dairy: I did not want to exploit animals, but I did not want to “give up” dairy or navigate all the restrictions of strict veganism. I also felt that, in a place where the growing season is only 140 days, an all-plant diet was stretching nature too far.

    With the help of some wise people in an environmental studies course, I discovered that, for me, being a vegetarian wasn’t so much about what I shouldn’t eat as about becoming closer to the sources of my food and the farmers who cultivated them. So, I sought out egg and dairy farms that treated their animals with respect (and allowed me to see for myself).

    Being able to thank the sources of every ingredient makes cooking a joy for me. I have no desire to eat meat, but I love food. It nourishes more than the body alone.

  2. “There are no “forbidden” foods, just foods that make me feel better or worse in my body, foods that either do or don’t harm animals, and foods that I like and don’t like.”

    Yes! Very yes. There is no “good” or “bad” food because food isn’t innately moral. (When we’re talking about animals, that’s a different set of qualifications, but I think you get what I mean.)

    Your body journey and insight on how we perceive ourselves has been immensely inspiring to me, ever since Body Sacred came out. I wanted to say “thank you” for sharing all of this with us. I know how hard it can be to get the thoughts in order, much less find the courage to hit “publish” on something like this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. Its ok that you hopped off the wagon, we all need to follow our own path and screw everyone who says your path is wrong. I stopped being vegan when I realized I got crazy angry when I was hungry and there was no food about that I could eat.I would then would proceed to rip the arm off the closest person and beat them to death with it so I could have something to eat. Needless to say veganism was not a good life choice for me. However I LOVE the recipes you have posted. Is there any chance you would consider posting recipes that don’t have to be vegan?

  4. Great post. You touch on a lot of issues that many vegans won’t talk about. Whatever you are eating, make sure it makes you happy. Food should be joyful.

  5. What I want to know is when you took a ride in the Tardis…and posted this, as it says, at 4:06 tomorrow morning…? Wow.

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