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.
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.