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Vegan Food, Family & Travel

The Extremely Long and Overdue Update: Can we stop fat-shaming babies please?

MeetTheShannonsChickFam

This post is long and only tangentially related to food but instead talks about a cultural issue a lot of people in the vegan community can relate to. Once – sometimes twice a year – I post a personal piece about our lives and issues we’ve been dealing with. If you were visiting this blog strictly for the food – well you can easily skip over this post and enjoy the food and eating vegan in a happy drama-free environment. But if you’re new to this blog and need more context for some of the statements in this post. You can read past Overdue Updates by clicking here. We have two great recipes and a travel piece lined up for this week… So check back tomorrow for the food! 

Something both wonderful and quite monstrous happens when you decide to put yourself out into the world. On one had you can find other like minded people who share your passions, politics and ideologies. You can contribute something that makes a positive impact on the world… and unless you’re one of those Wants-To-See-The-World-Burn types… I think that’s one of the best things anyone can do with their lives. It’s almost downright magical.

But then there is that mudder-rucking other hand. The hand that comes with judgmental statements, self-promotion agenda driven comments and unsolicited advice*.  Now you do have to have a thick skin to be a blogger. Thicker if you’re a cooking blogger and skin of frakking titanium if you’re a vegan cooking blogger. Thousands of people read this blog every week, there is bound to be someone who didn’t understand the instructions in a recipe or doesn’t like gluten, carbs, sugar, soy, salt, oil or whatever. There is always going to be someone who thinks their idea of what makes a nice pasta sauce is better is than yours and there is always someone who is dying to point out you gained more weight during your pregnancy than they did. These people probably had nice parents who taught them that saying these things to someone’s face is pretty effing rude… but the generations of people walking around on the world today have a brand new opportunity to throw all those social mores out the window: The Internet.

Now we can say all the things that we would never say to anyone’s face for fear of getting clocked to strangers via the safety of neat little emails and comment boxes. I’m hardly the first vegan blogger to mention how the constant river of criticism leads to depression and well a desire to shutter up our blogs and go back to hosting potlucks in peace – far away from the pressure to always be positive and perfect. See that’s the dark side of being a vegan blogger… you’re not only being judged by the rest of the world who is looking for flaws that they can tout as their excuse to enjoy cheese in peace but you’re being judged by the vegan community on whether you’re good enough to represent their idea of what a “perfect vegan” is.

Which leads to the point of this post. See some of you send me completely unsolicited advice emails about my weight gain from the fertility drugs and my pregnancy from time to time as a kinda misguided way to make friends. At least I’d like to believe that these emails come from a good place of wanting to connect and help someone who you are sincerely concerned about**. Although I think it would be pretty much impossible to actually find a friendship that began with random criticisms, I want to let you all know that while I appreciate the concern – I really do have it under control. No I am not the 120 pound person I was in 2009 but during the past 5 years I have have had so many doctor appointments to monitor my health and pregnancies that I know for a fact I have the medical stats of a 19 year old and my health is only getting better as I slowly and naturally lose any post-baby weight.

My excuse? None of your bee's wax weirdo.
My excuse? None of your bee’s wax weirdo.

In fact one of the best things about being vegan is the health benefits – which you get whether you’re just vegan because you love animals or care about the environment. So this is me officially and in writing letting you all know… I’m good. Great actually. And every time I get an email inquiring about my weight… well I make a mental note not to post about how awesome my health or weight is because I don’t want to encourage that kind of behavior. There are plenty of other healthy and not-so-healthy vegans out there whose weight is no one’s business but their own and I really don’t want to contribute to attitude that it is.

Maybe when/if I do ever get back to the 120s I’ll post about how I got there or maybe I won’t… because to be honest my veganism and lifestyle has never really been about how good my butt looks it’s been about saving animals and presenting veganism as a sustainable and enjoyable way of life… like I said the added health benefits are really just a bonus.

But here’s the thing… the real reason for this post if you will. Since our daughter has come into our lives, there have been a few of you who are worried that she isn’t as perfect as we think she is. Recently there have a few emails that my almost 7 month old daughter is in fact “fat” and we should learn how to prevent “childhood obesity.” Yes – I’m quoting here.

Now right it would be easy for me to lose my freaking mind like I did on Facebook*** over the weekend but I’ve had time to think about it and really imagine the motives of someone who would send an email fat-shaming a baby. And since I do buy into the belief that most people have good intentions that can get lost in the translations of their actions… I really wanted to post this today to make it clear That is NOT OK.

I know this is hyper-sensitive attitude about weight isn’t isolated to us, vegans or even the internet. There have been stories about this “baby fat-shaming” on Good Morning America as well as numerous parenting websites. It would seem that moms and dads all over the world have been commenting on and concerned about the weight of their own and other people’s children without any factual medical data or anything like that to back up their superficial opinions for awhile now. According to my friend Leslie in Los Angeles, there are even billboards featuring “normal” babies to remind people that little pot bellies and crescent roll arms are the sign of a healthy baby. How freaking sad is that?

Right now I could rattle off Sadie’s infant percentile rankings, studies that link weight gain in babies to better neurocognitive development or talk about any number of other things to “prove” our baby is perfect but I think that would be reenforcing the idea that our baby daughter’s weight was anyone’s business. Don’t get me wrong, childhood obesity is a very real problem that I think is very serious and hope Sadie won’t have to deal with in her future because like every mother I want her to be as healthy and happy as possible. But there’s another reason that makes me so disappointed and sad I’m finding it hard to put it into words. See by being advocates for veganism and writing this blog and our books, Dan and I have presented ourselves as targets for these over-reaching “criticisms in the form of advice” emails and comments as well as some not-so-nice comments, emails and posts by people who see an opportunity to promote themselves and play the “I’m a better vegan than you” game. We’ve come to terms with that a long time ago because we know that we are helping animals with our blog and books BUT Sadie was born into this situation. Ironically, by advocating for a cruelty-free lifestyle, we’ve unintentionally invited some pretty cruel behavior into her life. She doesn’t have the thick skin we’ve developed over the years and honestly it really bothers me that she might have to “toughen up” by the time she’s old enough to read or understand what adult strangers say about her so that these comments and “observations” don’t impact her self-esteem or body image.

I know every parent has to deal with the pressures of society to be thin and perfect that are inflicted on their babies but wouldn’t it great if we didn’t? Wouldn’t it be great if we could focus on raising kind kids as much as cute kids? We could let everyone prioritize their weight and looks themselves and focus instead on how sweet, smart, creative and funny these little humans are.

Just throwing this out there into the internet abyss in an attempt to add a little more positivity into the world today and also to make it clear… if you send me an email fat-shaming my baby… I’m just going to delete it. So don’t waste your time.

 

*Yeah. I’m going there today.

**Because the alternative that these emails are sent as passive aggressive digs intended to make me feel bad while simultaneously promoting a fitness blog… well that’s too “mean girl” to imagine adult women doing to each other… Right?!

*** Again sorry about that. It’s never cool to lose it on social networking pages. I would blame it on my Italian heritage or something funny like that but I think honestly it was the first time that maternal instinct went bananas.



18 thoughts on “The Extremely Long and Overdue Update: Can we stop fat-shaming babies please?”

  • Annie, I am so sorry that people think they have the right to such crappy behavior. I know as a vegan who has extra weight the “look”. I can’t possibly be vegan and be fat. It makes me crazy, but my attitude is F%$@ ’em. I went vegan for my health and for the animals. Yes, I am still a big girl, but it’s my life and my journey.

    I admire you and Dan and have followed your site since I went vegan 5 years ago. I believe ya’ll are doing a great job and you shouldn’t have to have a thick skin. It amazes me how mean some people, vegans included, can be.

    You keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let the nay-Sayers get you down. Because ya’ll ROCK!!!!

  • As a fellow mom, I’m absolutely filled with rage that this has happened to you. Positively NOT okay. I’m so sorry. I got a lot of those kinds of comments (including from someone in my family who told me how “fabulous” and “brave” I was for allowing myself to “get that way” (i.e. FAT) while I was pregnant. I’m so glad you spoke out, and I hope it works. Not that my opinion matters, but you are beautiful and perfect and a wonderful, kick-ass role model, and I, for one, am super grateful to you. Rock on!

  • Wow! Makes you wonder what kind of world we live in. I don’t usually comment but, felt really compelled too. Why do people feel the need to spew their stupidity? I too went vegan for ethical reasons and felt that people must be judging me because I wasn’t a thin vegan. Being the daughter of a 16 year old vegan who is obsessed with her weight and how she is perceived it simply breaks my heart. She is awesome and amazing and by me constantly telling her that I hope eventually, she will be less and less concerned about what society and the media view as “healthy”. You and your baby are beautiful, I only wish you strength as you navigate this crazy, judgmental world together.

  • So you put on some weight having a baby. Big deal—-so did all the rest of us. All babies go through pudgy chunky stages (if they are fed). She is not even walking and running yet. As soon as she starts that constant running they do at anout 2 years any excess weight will fall off her. And besides that, if her pediatrician says she is OK, other people need to mind their own business.

  • What is WRONG with people? You’re way more diplomatic about than I’d be. Feed your kids healthy food and play with them so they know how fun it is to be active. If they’re eating good food and moving enough, they’ll be a healthy size, unless you obsess about their weight. Sorry you have to hear that stuff and thanks for the great recipes.

  • As much as I hated to read about how bad those hurtful comments made you feel, I feel better because I’m not the only one who loves vegan food, is healthy, and isn’t thin (not fat, either. I exercise and I I can be described as “athletic”, “stocky”, or just fat if you’re really uncharitable). I’ve always loved food and never so much as now, with all of these great vegan cookbooks coming left and right. It’s an awesome time to be vegan – it’s incredible how much good stuff is out there.

    As for the kids: off limits. Have always thought so. Whatever you may think about the parents, all children are beautiful. No exceptions.

  • WTH!! What is wrong with some people! I am so sorry you’ve had to go through this. You are fabulous and you have a wonderful, beautiful family!

  • I’m another “round” vegan. I haven’t been skinny since I was 6. However, I have totally unhealthy “thin” friends. My daughter ( who was breast fed for 13 months exclusively) had 4 rolls on each thigh. Then she started to drop the excess as she grew taller & more active. People should mind their own business & look at what is so wrong in their own life that they feel the need to judge yours.
    You are a great couple giving your child the best start in life along with morals & values. Shouldn’t that be enough?

  • Ahhh, Annie! I am so sorry! I remember my own friends saying things like, “Elyse is so big….” During her chubby, baby time. It made me cringe and for some I even asked them to not comment on her size. This of course led to a million, “oh, I didn’t mean….” “She is perfect….”” And so on. I can only imagine how I would feel if some heartless person reached out via email and called her FAT!

    Sadie is a perfect baby! There is no such thing as too fat if a baby (quoting our pediatrician). Oh, this enrages me. But, i will send my love to you instead. My love to Sadie and even love to those hopefully well meaning critics. She’s beautiful, Annie! Continue to love her with that fierceness Mama love. Love to you!!! XXOO Courtney

  • Your daughter is perfect. Don’t listen to other people. I have three sons who were all very big babies and now are all well over 6 foot. Please continue doing exactly what you are doing. PS thanks for all the great recipes!

  • Ah man, the internet is such a mean place! Anonymity really does bring out the worst in people, which I just I don’t get. Do people not feel the same guilt for saying something mean (or saying something they believe to be true, even it’s really just hurtful and overly critical … like horrible vegan police bullshit) behind an anonymous internet ID? I know I would. So many people are just horrible people.

  • Such a powerful post. Totally shitty that you guys are being confronted with other people’s insecurities in this way, and I’m grateful you wrote about it. I have to admit, I find myself having those same terrible thoughts mirrored by some of the people you wrote about. You know, wondering if my little’s getting too chunky, being secretly thrilled that breastfeeding helped me drop some pounds, only posting the “cutest” pics. Intellectually I know this is all bull, but it’s hard to escape those messages, even in our own heads. Hard enough to see fat-shaming around you, but scariest when you realize it’s coming from you. Helps to hear from other strong, brave parents like you and two.

  • I can’t even believe that baby fat shaming is a thing. I full on cannot wrap my brain around it. I just can’t. Weirdos! Babies are perfect as is – they just are. Thank you for sharing, and I’m so sorry some people are idiots.

  • You have a beautiful family. I love your baby, she’s so adorable. We have 2 adorable vegan children also and I’m writing to let you know that fluffy babies are nothing but life-affirming joy. Anyone who says different is confused and likely miserable. Next time you get an email like that, quickly press delete and breath a sigh of relief that you aren’t them.

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