It's Time to Stop Fat-Shaming Sustainable Diets

If we want people to eat for the planet, we have to stop judging.

vegetarian picnic on a white clothe

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It’s true. People keep telling me I am just too fat to be a vegetarian. And here I have been eating plant-based for over 35 years. But, apparently, that doesn’t count, because, well...I am fat. 

I’m sorry, I didn’t know I had to be skinny to help save the planet. 

People used to just tell me to my face, well, the ones that had the coconuts to do so. For most, it would just be a look. It made stepping out of the eggplant-shaped closet kind of annoying. The worst was probably my family: For years–I am talking decades—every holiday meal was an opportunity for discussion. Now people tell me online too. 

I’m a vegetarian and vegan food blogger and have been since 2012. I have been on my own since then. I used to contribute to Treehugger: I joined the team in 2008 and in 2010, I launched the Green Wine Guide under the Treehugger umbrella. It was about sustainable wines and vegan eats. That’s where this all started for me. Since then, I have gone on to make about 700 cooking videos, a few cookbooks, and even a vegan comic book for kids

That’s a good thing. I am helping people explore and eat more plant-based foods. Considering the average American consumes 2,147 chickens, 71 turkeys, 31 pigs, 10.8 cows, 1,700 fish, and 17,000 shellfish in their lifetime. Plus, there is all the energy, water, and emissions that go along with that. 

Yet, I still get fat-shamed for it. I assume others do too. The truth is, people choose to restrict their diet for many different reasons. It’s not always about weight loss. For me, it wasn’t. 

When I went vegetarian in high school, it was about animals. I was the weird kid that loved veggies. I was never a huge meat eater even at a young age but I stopped eating meat because I didn’t want to hurt animals. Over the years, that reason has matured. It went from saving animals (like 4,000 I would consume in a lifetime) to including sustainability. After all, plant-based diets are better for the planet. And finally, as a Californian, water is largely wasted growing animals for food when a lot less is needed for plants, and we are always in a drought. 

I was a fat kid. (Look, you try growing up in an Armenian household and not coming out thick.) But weight loss, for me, has never ever been the reason I don’t eat meat. 

I eat this way to save the planet. Period. 

All the same, I get shamed in progressive circles as much as any other, sometimes even more. And quite frankly, it has to stop. People alter their diet for health but also for their skin, energy, cost, and many many other reasons. It’s an individual and personal decision.

And if we want to better the world, and ourselves, we need to STFU about it. As I said, you never know someone’s struggle. At my lowest weight of 195 pounds, at 6 feet, 1 inch tall, I was still considered overweight, according to the Body Mass Index. I had a body fat of 5% and ran 10 miles a day—still fat! 

Over the years, I did not hold on to that weight. Some for reasons I could control and some for reasons I could not. I was in a car accident and had doctor’s orders not to walk more than a quarter-mile a day. For a couple of years that was my life. I was still a vegetarian but fatter. At one point I reached 275 pounds. It’s hard to watch those videos, I admit. 

I still have back issues. Every single day, I spend hours cooking, photographing, and videoing vegetarian and vegan food, and I do it in pain. I am much better and I can walk a lot further these days. But there have been moments where I have been in so much back pain it has made me nauseous and throw up. The struggle is real.

But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter! We all have our challenges and we all should be kinder to each other about them. And if we want people to eat for the planet, we must not judge. Any of us. Even me. 

So...yes, I’m fat. The good kind. I’m like an avocado.

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