Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eco-Atkins And The Reality Of Not Being A Skinny Bitch

I've been seeing this around lately a little more (apparently I missed the original flurry of Eco-Atkins interest in 2009 somehow?) and I find it to be a very interesting topic. As I sit writing this at a coffee shop, the woman sitting next to me told her friend over the phone, "By the way, I am no longer vegetarian as of today." She proceeded to tell her friend that she had a wellness evaluation and that she hadn't lost any weight in 3 months despite the fact that she was working out like a maniac, doing cardio and lifting weights. So the "vegetarian diet" had to go, according to her trainer. If had a dollar for every time that I thought that same thing or heard that same thing from a trainer or a doctor, I'd be a multi-millionaire. Many vegetarians and vegans do not have a problem with insulin insensitivity or carbohydrate metabolism; hence, the stereotype of skinny vegans. For many of us, the "standard" vegan diet can actually cause weight gain. This is something that we need to address, especially with all of the "obesity crisis" fat bashing that's going on in the media across the board.

In the past, I've gained monster amounts of weight eating a SVG (Standard Vegan Diet). I was able to lose weight as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, but only if I watched every calorie I ate and worked out for about 3 hours a day. And then I would feel guilt and disgust every time I ate almond cheese, whey protein, yogurt, cottage cheese or an egg white omelet because of the suffering of all of the animals who produced this food for me. And my foray back into actual meat eating was truly an exercise in self-loathing. I don't give a shit what my doctor, nutritionist, trainer or acupuncture physician has to say, I refuse to eat animal products anymore.

Is this level of metabolic fucked-up-ness normal? Well, it is for me, unfortunately. I have a sneaking suspicion that many people pick up Skinny Bitch or Skinny Bastard or any permutation of a vegan diet that promises weight loss if you "just go vegan" and then become pretty pissed off when they don't lose the promised weight. There's nothing that makes me feel like more of a total fucking loser than being a fat vegan. And I'm not talking thick, curvy, plus sized model fat. I'm just talking garden variety obese, squeezing out of my plus sized clothes, two steps away from driving a rascal cart down the grocery aisle fat. It's gotten to the point that I don't even want to tell people I'm vegan or do any sort of face-to-face activism because I feel like I give veganism a bad name. One of my friends recently got lap band surgery and I actually felt jealous!

Excessive weight gain is another version of "Vegan Failure To Thrive", and it needs to be addressed within the vegan and animal rights communities. It's hard enough for your average citizen to find adequate nutritional guidance, never mind vegan guidance. I am determined to find a way to address my own personal weight struggles within the parameters of a vegan diet. My conscience will not allow me to do otherwise.

I also think this issue is important within minority communities. It was OK to be overweight as a woman (as long as it didn't get "too out of control") in the neighborhood I grew up in (all African-American) and the family I grew up in (Cuban/Italian). Diabetes, heart disease and obesity are huge problems for minorities, and there's a lot of stigma about eating vegetarian or vegan because it's perceived as a "white person's" diet. I'll never forget the time my Pop called me and told me that he had picked me up something for dinner. I was all excited and when I got to his house, he had a bag full of lawn shavings waiting for me.

Luckily, there seems to be some momentum and energy around these issues lately. Isa Chandra Moskowitz is coming out with "Appetite For Reduction", the website is going to pilot a weight loss community type website for vegans, and of course, there's Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard (although I call myself a fat ass and a disgusting slob enough on my own, thank you very much.). Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has two excellent podcasts available about vegan weight loss. Even Tosca Reno has a vegan menu in her Eat Clean Diet revised edition. I personally am going to try some sort of version of Eco-Atkins---vegan proteins and lots of veggies with some healthy fats. The idea of cutting fruit out makes me want to scream, but I eat it as a dessert after my workouts. In any case, veganism is a non-negotiable issue for me. I will continue to find a way to make it work for me so that I can be the healthy, happy, vegan ambassador I've always wanted to be. People need to want what you have, and if they feel like you look sickly, tired, miserable or excessively skinny or overweight, they are not going to want that for themselves.

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