Being a vegan "rolemodel", the issue of "representing" veganism - VeggieBoards

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#1 Old 06-20-2015, 04:29 AM
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Being a vegan "rolemodel", the issue of "representing" veganism

For the majority of my friends and family, I am the only vegan they know - and possibly the only vegan they've ever met. In lieu of this I feel a certain pressure to be the best possible "rolemodel" for veganism.

I feel that I should look a certain way: healthy, slim and with nice hair and skin. The healthier I look, the better are the chances that people will view veganism in a positive light, and possibly even consider it for themselves.

Part of me therefore wish I had an amazing body and radiant, beautiful skin - not just because that would be awesome, but because it might draw people towards veganism. Or simply help stop the myth of vegans as deeply unehalthy, and help destroy the stereotype of the "railthin, weak and sickly-looking"-vegan.

For example, I don't have the clearest skin. This has always been an issue for me, and nothing changed when I went vegetarian and later vegan. A collegue of me who is slightly against my veganism du to concerns over my health (you know, how do I get enough proteins? ), once hinted at that maybe if I ate differently (i.e. a more SAD-inclined diet) maybe my skin would be better. In a way, I feel that if my skin was better, I would better "sell" vegansim to the people around me, eventhough by bad skin has nothing to do with my vegan diet.

Rationally I KNOW this is stupid, as it is not my job or duty to represent veganism. However, to a certain degree, one will always partially function as a representation of the lifestyle one has chosen, and people obviously do judge you based on things like how you look.

Do any of you feel the pressure to be a "vegan rolemodel"? And how do you deal with it?
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#2 Old 06-20-2015, 06:39 AM
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Being a rolemodel does not mean conforming to fit other people's standards. It means doing what's right. If you adapt yourself to fit others' expectations, you have, in essence, made them your rolemodel. The best way to impress people is to be sincere with them. It isn't always easy, but honesty really is the best policy.

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#3 Old 06-20-2015, 07:11 AM
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Dude,I feel you so hard on this. I wear blush every day (I am naturally quite pale) and make sure to get some sun each day, because I dont want to fit that "vegan/vegetarian vampire" cliche! I also take a multivitamin, do yoga, and get a full night's rest.

Honestly, I live in rural Iowa, and I am the only veg*n many people have ever met.

Quite a few women have become intrigued with my diet based on my looks. It is not common in my area for a woman with 2 kids to be slim or fit. (I posted a picture of myself in the user picture thread, I'm the one with super long red hair)

A few of my close friends, my parents, my mother in law, and my husband have all taken up eating vegetarian meals, after seeing the way my food looks/tastes, and the way I look/feel while eating this way.

I think if I was very heavy, or unkempt, or tired all the time, people would blame my diet first! Which is totally unfair, but true.
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#4 Old 06-20-2015, 07:42 AM
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I understand; I used to worry about the exact same thing. I am also the only vegan most of my acquaintances know.

My problem is that I had numerous health issues before a veggie diet. Now people like to assume I'm sick BECAUSE of my diet.

I slowly got over it, kind of like becoming immune to others' opinions on what I wear. If they don't know me well enough to know my story, their opinions (about me) mean nothing.

No one single person represents any group. A person who judges the whole based on one tiny part is silly and probably not worth the time and worry.

You could have a perfect body and radiant face and someone would still find something negative to say.

It's really all about becoming comfortable in your own skin. You do what makes you happy.
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#5 Old 06-20-2015, 08:44 AM
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Yep, I think about this too.


I am slender (5'11", 165 pounds), and I probably fit the stereotype of the "skinny vegan". The thing is, I've always been skinny, even when I was an omnivore. After I became vegan, I simply continued to be skinny. I actually gained some healthy weight after becoming vegan, but of course people don't know that. When I first became vegan, I was the same height, but only 134 pounds.


I do have a youthful and healthy appearance, which hopefully helps support a positive image for veganism. However, I also have a nerdy personality, which probably doesn't help.
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#6 Old 06-20-2015, 10:40 AM
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I feel some pressure because I'm very thin. Always have been, but it doesn't help when people tell me "That's why you have no muscle. You're so unhealthy and need meat". But eating this way helped my heart and kidneys. Plus my legs are strong enough to pedal me to and from work everyday. Funny when people also thing I don't eat, but then get freaked out when I eat twice as much volume as them.
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#7 Old 06-20-2015, 02:12 PM
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Point out some symptom or blemish they have and ask if it's because they're vegan. If they say they're not ask why are they're being a hypocrite. They can blame your imperfections on your diet when the diet they recommend can't solve they own problems?
Then you list people like Emily Deschanel, Joaquon Phoenix, or whatever vegan personality you like to show how well a vegan diet does a body good. Truthfully it's more genetics ...

Of course suggesting something health related like Forks over Knives is more meaningful. I've seen a plant based diet bring a man back to life who had one foot in the grave
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#8 Old 06-21-2015, 08:41 AM
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Some people will judge you no matter what you do or how healthy you are or you look. I am 5' and 110lbs soaking wet. I am perfectly within a healthy weight range for my height (according to my doctor, and BMI calculators), I could lose about a pound and still be considered in a healthy range or I could gain a few pounds. Some of my in-laws believe I am too skinny and when I had a miscarriage earlier this year I was told I might have more success the next time if I would gain 10 pounds. Before the miscarriage I was told I needed to start eating eggs and dairy (at least) to have a healthy baby so I'm sure these same in-laws are blaming my veganism for the miscarriage. My doctor is not concerned about my weight or my veganism so I've decided to ignore the comments. It's rude for them to be commenting on my weight anyway. I know I'm healthy and that's what really matters.
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#9 Old 06-21-2015, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shellie View Post
Some people will judge you no matter what you do or how healthy you are or you look. I am 5' and 110lbs soaking wet. I am perfectly within a healthy weight range for my height (according to my doctor, and BMI calculators), I could lose about a pound and still be considered in a healthy range or I could gain a few pounds. Some of my in-laws believe I am too skinny and when I had a miscarriage earlier this year I was told I might have more success the next time if I would gain 10 pounds. Before the miscarriage I was told I needed to start eating eggs and dairy (at least) to have a healthy baby so I'm sure these same in-laws are blaming my veganism for the miscarriage. My doctor is not concerned about my weight or my veganism so I've decided to ignore the comments. It's rude for them to be commenting on my weight anyway. I know I'm healthy and that's what really matters.
It makes me so angry that your in-laws are blaming your miscarriage on your diet-- I can only imagine how upsetting that must have been for you.
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#10 Old 06-22-2015, 07:44 PM
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I am probably the only vegan that many people that I interact with know.

I do my best to represent veganism in a positive light. I take plenty of exercise and generally try to come across as normal/ reasonable. Hopefully that gives people a good impression of vegans and veganism
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#11 Old 06-22-2015, 08:36 PM
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The very best way you can be a role model for veganism is to have an open and generous heart. Be the one with solutions, not problems. Be mature, be kind and be flexible. Make being vegan reasonable and liberating. Don't worry about your skin or your weight, worry about your message - it must be honest, nonjudgemental, and always compassionate.
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#12 Old 06-22-2015, 09:38 PM
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Thank goodness! I honestly thought I was the only one without "vegan/vegetarian glow". You know the glow I'm talking about, it comes with no blocked pores and your hair is always perfect!

It's already been said, but the best role model you can be, is you. That's the only way to deal with being a good 'vegan' role model. Or any kind of role model.

And honestly, ALL the best vegans and vegetarians I've met, have caught me by surprise. None of them have been those well tanned, beach body ready, clear skinned types (I mean, some of have been very attractive....that's why I dated one). But they've looked like everyone else, there hasn't been a giant neon sign saying "THIS ONE DOESN'T EAT MEAT". That's been a good thing, it normalised not eating meat for me to see a normal person not eating meat.

I guess what I'm saying is, you're already being the best role model by looking the way you do. Continue to be happy about your choice, continue to be energised by it and that's the thing that people will be drawn to and may (MAY) encourage them to look into a vegan lifestyle. You don't have to look a certain way. Being mindful of others will help with that, but just be you and you'll be fine.
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#13 Old 06-23-2015, 03:12 AM
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I've seen even other vegans, especially in the fitness industry, preach about how we are representatives of veganism so it is our responsibility to be as fit and healthy and look as good as we can bla bla because portraying a sickly/negative image will discourage people from veganism. I actually find it irritating, and it sort of paints omnivores as shallow people who would only take an interest in going vegan if it meant they would be healthier and have more energy etc. Truth is, vegans have run ultramarathons, won fighting championships, lived to be 100, raised vegan children, you name it successfully and it hasn't increased the number of people flocking to veganism. If they do try it for those reasons, many go back because they are disappointed that they don't suddenly have massive amounts of energy and strength and stamina, they haven't instantly lost tons of weight, and it still actually takes HARD work to be an athlete or to eat the "perfect" diet or have the perfect body. And vegans still have health problems like everyone else.

I do feel like every flaw/problem I have is blamed on being vegan. I have osteoporosis diagnosed in 2006, five years before I went vegan. But the minute people find out I have it they automatically assume it's from lack of calcium in my diet because I don't consume dairy. When I was very underweight, being vegan was blamed (even though my lowest weight was as an omnivore in prior years and no one blamed my style of eating then). Being thin now is often something people think must be because I am vegan, when really it has little to do with it. And then when I got through school with a 4.0 GPA and was at the top of my anatomy and physiology class, it was in SPITE of my veganism. Sighs...

Sometimes I am guilty of falling into the trap of trying to impress others by stating what health advantages being vegan has had for me...and there are some. I work a little harder and show off a little more when I wear my vegan t shirts at the gym or out biking. But I also want people to know that anyone can be vegan, that it is not that hard, that it is the right thing to do as Capstan so beautifully put it. Average people are vegan. Sick people can be vegan. Poor people, rich people, athletes, sedentary, we come in all walks of life.

I'm not going to hide who I am and try to be something I am not to impress people. I don't run marathons. I don't wear makeup. I'm not a lawyer or a well known activist and in fact I am not a huge people person (nor am I some eccentric animal lover with twenty cats lol). I am just someone who strives to live my values and who cares about the lives of ALL species, who is concerned for the hungry and for our environment etc. I try to be as healthy as I can but not to impress others. I did the same in the years just prior to becoming vegan as well.
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#14 Old 06-23-2015, 04:45 AM
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I definitely feel this way sometimes. My skin has never been great either, not since I was about 10. I'm pale except for my 'farmers tan' (I work outside all year round) as well as a bit spotty. I'm pretty healthy and stable weightwise, but not skinny - I have thighs and a tummy but plenty of muscle and I can use my chainsaw all day and run 10 miles without any problems. I don't think I live up to any Freelee type vegan ads but my friends admire my strength and stamina.

As I get older I find it easier to accept me as me and not strive to meet other ideals but there are some days where I really feel like I'm letting the side down. I eat my veggies as well as my cake, walk my beautiful dog for as many miles as I can each day and smile at people - hopefully that's good role model behaviour!

That awkward moment when your partner walks into the kitchen to find you huddled in the corner with an open container of nooch and a spoon and your mouth encrusted with little flakes...  
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