The scale

I have a complicated relationship with my body image.

As a woman, I guess that comes with the territory. I’m not unique in that. But now I’m navigating how my veganism figures into my self-image.

I feel fantastic. Most food I eat now makes me feel good. I know I’m ethically doing a good thing for animals and the environment. I’m voting with my wallet. The food I eat now is more nutritionally nourishing.

I’m totally sold on the benefits of the plant-based diet that so many who inspired me have preached before.

But I can’t help being reminded that I don’t see a lot of benefits that are … visible.Every Thursday I look forward to Happy Herbivore’s Herbie of the Week. Plant-based converts tell tales of how vegetables helped them bounce back from cancer, get off their heart and cholesterol medications, lose a billion pounds, gain more energy, inspired them to run marathons, and on and on. It’s kind of a weekly affirmation that I’m doing something good for myself and that other people are learning the same and changing their lives for the better.

I mean, it’s remarkable. Some people report losing five or 10 pounds in a week and other drastic results.

During my phase-in stages on the way to veganism, I knew the benefits of a plant-based wouldn’t fully manifest themselves until I committed myself to the lifestyle full time.

Having been a full-time vegan (mostly whole foods/plant-based) for several months now, I also know that I haven’t lost five pounds in a week. My weight has hardly budged. I still get frustrated with my skin’s appearance. I still struggle with the same ailments I did before.

My teeth are whiter. That’s about it.

Like I said, I do feel totally wonderful on the inside and I don’t regret my decisions for a second. I know that if I were somehow able to compare blood work or other medical measurements of health now to before I went vegan, I’d see some cool changes. (I don’t go to a doctor unless it’s urgent. I need to get better at that.)

But I still wish people could look at me and say, “Wow, you look fantastic since you’ve gone vegan.”

OK, time for real talk.

For years, maybe since late high school or college, I refused to step on a scale. I’m pretty self-critical as it is and I knew that whatever the scale showed me would make me feel inferior to others who weighed less or I would get too worked up about arbitrary numbers when I should focus more on how I feel, how clothes fit and general body acceptance.

My senior year in college I was packing a few more pounds than I would have liked, but I decided to embrace my figure as “curvy” and rock it. Buy clothes that fit, not clothes bearing the size I’d like to see myself wearing.

After college, I succumbed to chronic depression. It had been lurking in me for years, but went untreated and finally sunk me.

When I’m depressed, I cry a lot, vomit a lot and eat little. My love of cooking is overwhelmed with lethargy and my passion for food is overtaken with self-loathing. The more severe depression lasted for maybe a year-and-a-half before I finally sought proper treatment. By that time, I had probably lost at least 20 pounds. Maybe 30. I don’t know, because I hadn’t weighed myself for years until a doctor visit indicated I was at my middle school weight. I was shocked. And I was never really overweight in the first place.

Thing is, I liked being skinny. My “skinny jeans” sagged as I shed more pounds. I thought it was easier to fit into clothes, at least the ones that were small enough to complement my new frame. It was the one byproduct of depression I rather liked, in a sick way. I thought I had a rockin’ bod. Others called it “skeletal” and my mom repeatedly questioned whether I developed an eating disorder.

With therapy and extremely helpful drugs, I’ve gotten so very much better and my depression is now mostly under control. It took me awhile to get back into the habit of cooking on a regular basis and eating well again, but my appetite was back and I got back into indulging my love affair with food again.

Basically I reclaimed my life and even enhanced it. I joined a roller derby league. I developed an interest in regular exercise, which I pledged to stick to this time. I joined a gym and that came with a couple free training sessions.

Then weight and body fat measurements.

The trainer asked me what I thought I weighed. I highballed it.

I was 10 or 15 pounds heavier than my high guess. The trainer categorized me as “obese.”

I knew I probably had a fat-to-muscle ratio I needed to correct, but I knew I was not remotely obese. Nonetheless, I came away feeling defeated and low.

I was mentally healthy and had a normal appetite again. How could I go from “skeletal” to “obese” in a year? (Given their measuring techniques, I probably would have been obese as a malnourished skeleton, too.)

Since then, I’ve gone plant-based and I’m more physically fit than ever. Not perfect, but I’m more active than I ever have been. I know logically that I’m living a healthy lifestyle.

But I still step on the scale at the gym locker room now and again. And I see how my weight never budges. Maybe one pound in a week’s time. I usually gain that pound back.

I refrain from vegan “junk food” about 95 percent of the time. I eat whole grains. My use of oil is minimal to nonexistent. I’m better about portion control. I have gained so many healthy habits being plant-based! Whyyyyy am I not the skinny girl who inflated my ego a couple years ago?

I wish I could just feel great being stronger and more fit and skating on the derby track and accomplishing ever-more-difficult workouts and eating wonderful vegetables.

But I probably haven’t experienced the drastic results Herbies of the Week have because I didn’t have 100 pounds to lose in the first place. I didn’t have heart problems or diabetes. I ate healthier than the average American in the first place. How awesome that I can head off health problems before they even exist. And it’s so much more important to be healthy on the inside than svelte on the outside.

But I still pick at myself. I’m my harshest critic.

I remember a couple months ago how one of my best friends told me I’ve developed a “glow” since going vegan. She’s a smart lady and I care what she thinks, so maybe she sees what I don’t.

What’s your relationship with the scale?

Related reading:

Stop Chasing Skinny

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mrsnikkiv
    Feb 06, 2014 @ 19:06:35

    It’s brave of you to share such personal issues. I’ll contribute. It constantly bothers me that I’m the only overweight vegan I’ve ever met. I know that itwill come in time. As I get used to this lifestyle and make better choices (smaller portion sizes and more whole foods is what I’m working on now), I know that I will lose some weight naturally, but it still bothers me. It doesn’t help that my younger sister went vegan shortly after I did and has lost about 100 pounds since. She tells everyone that it was simply from going vegan, but she did a 3 month juice fast a la Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I shouldn’t compare myself, but we have a lot of the same friends and it makes me feel like the impression is that she’s a “better” vegan than I am.

    Reply

    • Lynsi
      Feb 07, 2014 @ 18:54:08

      Thanks for sharing your own worries. I do believe that everyone’s bodies respond differently to the change and that we all have our own paths to follow. It sounds like your sister has made some great strides, but I know that I personally would not last a day on a juice cleanse! There is no one way to be vegan, so I don’t think there’s a “right way” or that anyone is a “better vegan” than another. However, it’s one thing to know something and another to feel it.

      Something I also take delight in seeing is that vegans come in all shapes, just like anyone else! We’re not all wispy sticks! The way my hips and butt are built, I’ll never be a stick, and that’s OK!

      Keep striving for your whole foods goals (I find that whole foods make smaller portion sizes easier – you’re getting more nutritional bang for your buck there) and you’ll be fine! Be proud of what you’ve already accomplished!

      Reply

  2. Sara K
    Feb 07, 2014 @ 15:52:26

    I just discovered your blog and OMG we are like sisters and it scares me. I hit the freakishly skinny bar a number of years ago, and yo-yo-ed to the other end of the spectrum. Even vegetarian for 10 years, I was somewhere around 10-20 lbs overweight. Since moving to Seattle and going vegan….exactly the same. I monitor calories. I use a little oil but not much. I like to run and do classes at the gym. I am truly whole foods and happy about it, not a cake eater type and yet stuck on 10-20 lbs overweight.

    But things have finally started to move a bit. Why? I got a fitbit about two weeks ago and connected it to my fitness pal app and it was like UMM you’re eating too little. So I’ve upped the calorie intake from 1400 to 1900 and actually losing 1-2 lb a week. And now I get the dressing and the wontons on the Veggie Grill Thai salad because CALORIES. (Also, delicious). Shocking isn’t it? Your body uses like 1200 calories just to run your organs, so if you’re active and whatnot your body may think you’re starving. For you, it may be you just need an extra 100 calories a day, or it could be more like what I discovered for me (though you have no idea how hard 500 calories are when you are eating healthy plant-based…).

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no nutritionist, but I have another friend who has always been about 40 lb overweight and is finding the same thing (she needs to eat more). So maybe my recommendation is go to a nutritionist and do one of those tests thingies to find out how much you eat a week?

    (Also, if you ever want to get a Quickies Too milkshake and chat about this more, feel free to reach out since I believe you are from the T-town).

    Reply

    • Lynsi
      Feb 07, 2014 @ 19:01:43

      Wow, you might be right about the calorie counting thing! I don’t count my calories, but I’m sure there are days I simply don’t eat enough. (I fell off the breakfast wagon again, I need to hop back on! Choo choo!)

      I never know what to believe because I hear that to lose weight, you should keep your intake at 1200 calories, so it’s interesting you had a different experience.

      Thank you for sharing! We should totally meet up sometime! I need more friends who will go to vegan restaurants with me!

      Reply

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