Does anyone know a fat vegan?
You’re sniggering now and waiting for the punchline but really, I want to know. Do you know an un-skinny (long term) vegan?
I thought I did once, but she was forced to correct me with a wry smile when I found her demolishing a burger at a food festival that she absolutely was not a vegan but perhaps I had in the past misheard the term lesbian. With the benefit of hindsight that made the initial conversation during which I had wrongly concluded that she was an animal-free entity seem a lot less weird. It was also mildly disappointing, as she had always been my go to example of how in the real world veganism was not an immediate road to healthy-thin-bikini-happy-ism.
We talk a lot about going plant based these days. For our health. For the environment. For the shame and misery of factory farming. For #meatfreemonday instagram posts. Everyone seems to be at it and I am not an exception to this, although my increasing conversion has been accidental and on a strictly part time basis. I will make my hipocrisy disclaimer here and now and happily admit that I will eat and enjoy a plate of live oysters and feel no shame but in recent months the Mr and I have made a conscious effort to bring down our overall animal produce consumption. I’m trying to lose weight, and we’ve been on a financial diet for the last few months too. Meat isn’t cheap. Bona fide free range meat is out and out expensive when compared to say chickpeas or a pack of spaghetti. I am also a bit squeamish when it comes to rights of small and helpless creatures and many mass farming methods leave me with the kind of guilt that will tarnish the delicate bouquet of a fine fois gras. Dairy bothers my guts in large amounts, we don’t have a local fishmonger and fruit and veg is generally low in weight watcher points so yes, I am well behind increasing my intake of food that never had a face.
See that bit? Weight watchers points. Because that’s the big seller here, for me. A vegan lifestyle is endlessly touted as being ‘healthy’ and when we say ‘healthy’ don’t we actually mostly mean ‘skinny’? We certainly don’t mean ‘eight to twelve kilos overweight’, which once again leads me to the question: is there such a thing as a fat vegan?
Plenty of high calorie, naughty-list food is vegan. Nuts. Bread. Avocados. Fanta. Chips. Oreos. That shit will make you fat if you let it. Won’t it? We talk good fats and bad fats in weight loss, most allegedly ‘bad’ ones are animal based, but does dropping the butter from your Sunday morning avocado-toast really mean the difference between your sexy jeans or another summer sweating away in a kaftan? Going vegan also rules out plenty of high protein, satiating and slimmer-friendly foods like turkey, egg whites, whey and white fish, further putting obstacles in the conventional weight loss menu regimes. Dairy bloats you out but so can baked beans so we won’t go there for now.
So why does it work? Is it simple maths? As I (and endlessly more credible individuals before me) have previously said, losing fat is just maths. Eat less calories and you will get thinner and I think we’ve just seen that being vegan isn’t immediately conducive to eating fewer calories. I have accidentally managed a vegan day today as it happens but still gone 4 points over my daily weight watchers allowance. Perhaps there is a baseline metabolic boost from all that self-righteous preaching about the number of souls destroyed in assembling a prawn cocktail that makes your hard-line vegan that little bit more toned than those of us that are queuing up for some iceberg lettuce and seafood sauce.
There are hundreds of theories and examples and complex sums to explain and discredit all of these claims without a definitive answer so let’s get straight to the anecdotal evidence:
Does anyone know a fat vegan?
I know a 90%-of-the-time-vegan who has been known to sneak in a cheese sarnie once in a blue moon and has admitted herself that we should all hate her a bit because she is that friend who eats pretty much from sun up to sleepytime and does not put weight on. Yeah she likes mung beans and alfalfa sprouts but she also likes sweets and chips and wine much more, she doesn’t work out and yet you would struggle to pinch a decent amount of flab anywhere on her frame. The cow! Just good genes? She might argue with my statement that she has never been a chubber but she’s certainly in better shape now than she was in our teens, with the added body-fat handicaps of being over 30 and an ex-smoker, so it stands as a reasonable assumption that her vegan activity certainly hasn’t hurt her waistline.
In more immediate evidence, I’ve recently dropped my usual yoghurt and cereal breakfast for peanut butter on toast and subsequently removed my need for a mid morning calorie influx. My go-to lunchbox in the week is a chickpea salad because I don’t want to use the health hazard fridge at my new workplace to keep anything meaty cold, and since switching from a tuna/ham/cheese salad I am also surviving the dread zone of the 3pm sugar slump with just an apple or some kind of generic reduced fat crisps substitute. These two changes have made my weight watchers efforts a bit less of an, er, effort to say the least. I’m no saint, I still eat out about once a week and don’t give a shit about the points on the menu and I rarely bother to count my booze-consumption (for shame) but in the last three weeks I’ve scored a weigh in loss and shuffled down into my Next jeans and I am honestly starting to wonder if it is due to the reduction of animal related grub.
So am I going vegan and investing in spandex?
Don’t be so silly of course not. Why? Because the capitalist pig farming industry has brainwashed me into believing that it’s OK to eat a chicken even though I wouldn’t eat a dog or a guinea pig because they are cute? *
Because I accept that milk is for babies and grown up women with big bums do not need cheesey snacks to survive a Tom Hardy film?
Because going vegan is hard, even if it is cheap and environmentally friendly. I can’t eat a home grown freshly chopped quinoa salad for all meals BUT I can try to choose plants most of the time when they are available and this seems to be paying off. Because the trick is balance, the trick is treats and piety in moderation and I will take a school day salad with a Sunday chicken and parmesan binge over a daily glass of milk and a chicken breast every time, thanks very much, and it is going to take a fat vegan to persuade me otherwise.
Does anyone know of one?
*this is actual bollocks I would totally eat a guinea pig.