Today we present a guest post from Chelsea Lincoln, the culinary wonder and passionate blogger behind FlavorVegan. She’s joining our Activist Panel at Vida Vegan Con, and wanted to share the following with you all. Thank you, Chelsea!
I have been vegan 15 years and fat all my life. Both have influenced my life considerably. As a child, I spent almost all my free time trying to make myself thin, since all the messages I was receiving were that my healthy body was “wrong.” Regardless of how active I was, how much I dieted, or how much I hated myself, my body did not change. Even doctors kept testing my thyroid, trying to find something to blame for my size. Although animal issues has always been a huge concern for me, my fight against my body took precedent, so my activism was limited to buying products that didn’t test on animals, being considered “crazy” by fellow classmates for talking about animal rights, trying to be vegetarian, and going to a Fur Free Friday protest once a year.
In college, my self-hatred continued. I took aerobics every term, biked everywhere, was finally completely vegetarian (and then vegan)—but nothing changed. I was so confused. I was doing everything “right,” yet I was still fat. I was also considerably fit. Then I started getting involved in animal rights activism. I poured myself into it, and thrived. Finally, I was allowed a break from my mind that was so brainwashed with thoughts of thinness, to concentrate on fighting the animal research on campus, educate people about veganism, and support the broader community. Yet often while vigorously engaging in activism, I was reminded of my size.
A passing car once threw a hamburger at me while yelling a fat insult at a McDonald’s protest. A man in line for the circus shouted out that I couldn’t be vegetarian because I was fat. An elephant trainer read my hoodie patch, “Make Peace Not Pork,” and told me my parents should have thought about that before having me. My body became a target to those threatened by my message.
At a protest against a restaurant serving veal, a patron exiting told me how ugly and fat I was for at least 10 minutes, while fellow activists simply scolded him for being mean. No one told him that he was wrong. No one offered me support after the verbal assault. No one asked if I was okay. I felt so alone. I was brought back to my childhood where I had to deal constantly with bullies and judgment. I had hit a bottom where I had two choices; continue being miserable and consumed with the natural size of my body, or accept my body as it was. I felt empowered by the knowledge that I was way healthier than most people. I explored and questioned where body issues came from and started to write about it. I started to proclaim, “I am fat,” without shame.
It was a long and hard battle, which continues to this day, because reminders that I am “wrong” are still everywhere I look. People I consider friends argue with the fact that you can be fit and fat. My motto has become, “Health at every size and respect for every person.” It seems so simple! Yet I am constantly battling stereotypes and fat hatred. I have found these attitudes of judgment are especially prominent in the animal rights community- where health is such an important tool in veganism education. That is why this issue is so important to talk about, because people come in all shapes and sizes, regardless of their lifestyle or health.
I have personally experienced being treated differently from some activists due to my size, and it was really discouraging. In a community where we ask for compassion for all living creatures, it’s ironic we still choose to treat other humans so awful. This does hurt the animals, as many people don’t want to fight against the personal oppression they are experiencing within a community they are trying to be a part of, while also trying to fight for the freedom of animals. We need all the energy we can get, from every individual who cares for animals, in order to make a difference. This will not happen while we allow stereotypes and judgment to get in the way.
Thinking back to when I was younger, a lot of time was wasted on hating myself. Imagine what I could have been doing to change the world for the better and fight for animals! I am just one person, so imagine all those other people, of all sizes, who waste their lives trying to reach an outdated and misguided “ideal,” rather than making the world a more accepting and peaceful place. By creating a mindset where there is a collective movement toward ending all oppression, we will not only free ourselves, but the animals as well.
Visit Chelsea’s blog, FlavorVegan.