Sit Next to a Vegan, PCRM? Okay!

Weight loss on a plant-based diet is a topic that I’ve tended to stay away from on this blog — mainly because (and as a disclaimer) I’m not a dietician. I don’t play one on TV, or on this blog.

But it’s become popular fiction that a plant-based diet will make you thin. I know too many people who decide to “go vegan” to lose weight, but end up disappointed because it didn’t give them that result.

The truth is, nothing you eat will make you thin. The other truth is that vegans come in all shapes and sizes. Without a doubt, a plant based diet can help you consume fewer calories and avoid unhealthy fats. It accomplishes this by simply taking a lot of high-calorie, processed foods right off the menu. Done well, it replaces those foods with more nutrient-dense, lower calorie fare in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, and whole grains. That’s the secret: it isn’t a secret. If you eat veggie sticks in place of cheese sticks, you will be eating fewer calories, which in turn can – assuming regular exercise and no other health issues – help you manage your weight.

Why do people think veganism is the skinny diet? At least in part, it’s because certain groups have made it a habit to cash in on that stereotype, often using it to shame or ridicule overweight people, including other vegans. PETA has been the main offender in the past, but the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has more recently jumped on that bandwagon.

First there was this:

Of course, since I know plenty of thin people who eat cheese, and plenty of overweight people who don’t, I guess the point of these ads is… eh… I’m not sure what the point is. I’ll agree that cheese is one of those problematic high-fat, high-sodium, low-fiber foods that humans don’t need (are better off without) in their diets at all. But obviously the logic here is horribly flawed and only serves to make the ads look mean-spirited — and their claims fallacious.

And here is the PCRM’s latest brain fart:

Plenty of awesome points have been made about these campaigns, here and here. But something I haven’t seen mentioned that really bothers me, is the idea of commodifying a vegan. Our value as a seatmate is based entirely on our size. Or at least, someone’s ideal of what our size should be.

Because we're all so thin? Really?

As you know, we are all perky, thin, friendly folks like the lady in the video – and it’s our pleasure to be bought as place holders so that people can avoid sitting next to someone who might be… DUN-DUN-DUN… overweight.

“Oh I’m sorry. I paid for the vegan option.”

Excuse me? I’m an option? You paid for me?

Alright then, let’s talk about terms, since it’s my body someone is paying a full $10 extra to sit next to. First off, that $10 is mine, payable in cash only. No wait, they can pay the cost of my ticket. And buy me drinks.

And while they’re at it, they can pay $50 to prevent me from using the phrase mammary pus to refer to the dairy products in their meal when it arrives.

Not that I’ve ever used that phrase while dining with someone, but then, no one has ever paid extra to have me, as a vegan, sit next to them before. They might as well get the whole experience if they’re paying.

“More elbow room”

Sorry, no. As part of my terms for sitting next to this jerk who hates overweight people, I will insist on the arm rest. And the window seat, but my large carry-on will be in the overhead bin – but I’m sure he or she won’t mind grabbing that down for me (and putting it back) a few times during the flight.

“All the room you want.”

Hmmm, no… how about this: You get your own seat, I get mine. As you can see, my own butt will require the whole thing. I’m rather introverted and a little idiosyncratic about personal space. Not to mention that after all those drinks and having to look at the mammary pus in my seatmate’s food, I could get airsick. It’s all just part of the option.

In short, and all kidding aside, PCRM, PETA, and anyone else who is propagating the skinny vegan stereotype and using fat-shaming as a technique to convince people to adopt a plant based diet… please. Just stop it.

And as a follow-up to this post, I will be reviewing local vegan pub food.

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7 Responses to Sit Next to a Vegan, PCRM? Okay!

  1. Victoria says:

    Well………I just had to get in on this conversation as you hit me right where I live !!!
    After coping with a 30 year bout of a particularly tenacious eating disorder ( which was why my former attempts at veganism failed ), I finally was able to get the help I needed to get well.

    I went vegan on the 1st of April, was in the high 180s with an elevated blood sugar as well. I dropped 5 pounds in the first week, then nothing for the next 15, despite eating about 15 servings of fruit/veg, no sugar, no junk, nothing fried, etc. It has now begun to creep down in the last 5 days, but now I have to seriously count ounces lost. So today is my 25th day, and I am only down a pound more than I was in the first 5 days.

    So………..does veganism automatically equal weight loss ? Read the above and you will know what I think !

  2. Bob Becker says:

    Ah, I do enjoy a good two- fisted (reality-based) rant of a weekend morning and this was a good one. TY. (Reality-based as opposed to the wing-nut “Obama was born in Kenya!” or “Vince Fostered murdered by Hillary’s Martian lover!” variety.)

    Now if the airlines offered a “not be seated next to a Republican” option for ten bucks, I’d pony it up. Every time.

    • Catherine Burt says:

      Thanks Bob :) I just find this campaign mind-boggling. Veganism isn’t actually a diet, it’s a shift in thinking… which widens the circle of compassion to all sentient beings, and chooses not to use or commodify them. I’m fairly disgusted when vegans don’t apply those principles when dealing with other people.

      • Bob Becker says:

        Well, actually, the shift in thinking you describe leads, inevitably, to a new diet [that word used not in the sense of "an eating plan designed to lose weight" but in the broader sense of "the total range of foods someone eats."]

        As for dieting [weight loss version], you’re right on the money. If you take in more calories than you burn up, you will gain weight, and it matters not a tinker’s damn how those calories are delivered: via Meat Lovers Special from a pizza joint, or a six pack of veggieburgers, heavy on the cheese and onions, or a vegan mega meal. More calories than you burn, you gain weight. It really is that simple.

        Nicely composed original post, by the way. You should post more often.

        • Catherine Burt says:

          That means a lot coming from you Bob, thank you – I’m working on more frequent posts :)

          It’s also a ridiculous (and fascist) notion that all vegans will have a similar body type no matter how well they eat. Let’s hear it for diversity. We’ve had to work hard enough to overcome the “skinny vegan” (i.e., malnourished) stereotype… now it seems some people want to bring it back. In my top form I look as if I could be handy wielding an axe, “skinny” doesn’t even factor into it. LOL!

  3. Vicki says:

    Awesome post — thank you for writing it! :-)

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