fitness · weight loss · weight stigma

Weight watchers is not kid stuff; what about other programs?

Since Weight Watches announced its program targeting teenagers, there’s been a flurry of posts here, chock-full of information and perspective.

One of Sam’s recent posts has (among other things) pointed to research on fat shaming. There are severely harmful physical and psychological effects of identifying children as fat (calling them fat or overweight, treating them as fat, subjecting them to dieting, etc.)   Enrolling a child in Weight Watchers is a guaranteed way to label them as fat.

While we’re talking about studies, the data on the long-term effectiveness of Weight Watchers (or any commercial diet program) is not promising.  A 2015 systematic review  of commercial diet programs suggests that, in the very short term (3-12 months, mostly 3—6 months), Weight Watchers might produce a slightly higher incidence of >5% body weight loss in some populations (all adult) than self-directed dieting, but in the longer term (>12 months), we either have no data, or the data show weight regains (and then some).

Tracy’s post on dieting and magical thinking really gets at the psychological pitfalls of yearning for some way to transform our and our children’s bodies into shapes and sizes that conform to medical guidelines and BMI charts.  It’s an illusion, one that does us and our children much harm.

So, taking Sam’s challenge to heart—if not weight watchers for children, then what?—I decided to look around town to see what programs were on offer.

As some of you know, I live in Boston, which is a very good place to be sick; we have highly-rated hospitals to treat whatever ails you.  I found out from my friend Janet, who’s a health care provider, about the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital.  It’s associated with (and I assume partly funded by) New Balance  (the athletic shoe manufacturer), which has a named Obesity Prevention Center and also sponsors the OWL program at Boston area community health centers.

The OWL program is for families who are worried about their children’s weight and risks for type 2 diabetes, or who have children with type 2 diabetes.  After doing a bunch of medical tests, the treatment services focus on nutritional counseling and individual behavior modification.  Some group therapy is offered, and follow up is required for at least 6 months.  They tend to favor a low-glycemic index diet (one of their directors is David Ludwig, who leads research investigating and has written popular books promoting low-glycemic index diets; look here  for research and here for popular books).

I have to say, I really like the approach they use in the OWL programs at community health centers.  Here’s what they do:

10-week comprehensive program that introduces families to healthful eating and supports them in making changes to benefit their entire family.  The program offers group and individual counseling and is led by a dietitian and psychologist from the OWL clinic.  Group discussions and interactive activities allow for peer support, skill building and knowledge sharing. 

The first six weeks are spent in a group format.  For the groups, parents and youth are separated and both groups discuss the same educational topic.  Following the educational intervention, the groups unite for a healthy meal and a question and answer session.  Each class concludes with a hands-on activity to reinforce the main messages.  Upon completion of the groups participants attend 2-4 weeks of individual counseling with the dietitian and psychologist to develop behavior change strategies to support individual goals. 

Through the program, patients learn:

  • How to shop for and prepare balanced meals and snacks
  • How sleep and screen time impact health
  • How small changes can be implemented to benefit the entire family
  • How to address body image and bullying

All of this sounds reasonable, comprehensive and evidence-based.  By the way, what’s good for the goslings is also good for those of us on the spectrum from geese to ganders—that is, adults can also use support around shopping, screens, sleep, small changes, body images and fat shaming/bullying/harassment.

But I don’t like the name of the program—Optimal Weight for Life.  Yeah, it’s cool to have OWL as your acronym.  You could give away T-shirts with owls on them, or maybe even have an owl-petting room at the hospital.  It’s already been done in Japan at this café, and I hear it’s popular.

Here are my three problems with the name OWL– Optimal Weight for Life:

1.Optimal.  Why do we have to be optimal? That’s a pretty high bar to set.  There are lots of reasons and causes for a child to be of non-optimal weight.  Maybe it’s not an optimal time in a kid’s development to be optimal.  I’m not a parent, but I have observed my niece’s and nephews’ growth patterns over time, and their sizes and shapes and heights don’t increase in perfect synchrony. It’s just not the way human growth works (as Sam pointed out about her own kids). Sometimes they are shorter and wider, and sometimes longer and narrower, and this varies over time and across people.

Also, who says that optimality should be the goal?  We know from epidemiological studies (and by looking around in the world) that there’s a range of body weights, shapes, sizes, influenced by a host of factors, many of which we have no control over.  What makes “optimal” optimal is presumably association of a class of body weights with lowered risk factors for disease; otherwise, this is just a matter of aesthetics/conventions, right?  When we dive deep into that data vortex, I argue that, given both the intractability of long-term weight loss and the small or nonexistent shifts in relative risk profiles that come with some weight changes, setting “optimal” weight as a general patient goal is both unrealistic and unnecessary.

2. Weight. Why do we have to focus on weight? Why not health? There are lots of metrics that track health quite well, and weight is arguably not one of them. Yes, this is a contested position, but it’s held by lots of medical and public health experts.  Physical activity happens to be one of those metrics.  See here for results of a very large European study showing strong association between even small increases in physical activity and lowered all-cause mortality risk.

3. For Life. That sounds scary to me. Why?  Because it seems controlling, demanding, and not understanding about the ups and downs of our experiences through the life trajectory.  There are going to be times in every child’s life when their physical state will be non-optimal.  This is not a cause for panic, and it may not even indicate that anything is wrong. So, setting people up with this humongous and unrealistic (yes, I said that before—it’s still true) goal is not very nice and not, uh, well, realistic.

We’ve got a lot to learn about how to help people identify, move toward and find some stability around health-according-to-them.  Owls are a great symbol, but how about we go with more variation, in keeping with our own glorious variation?  I have something like this in mind, but need help with names/acronyms.  Any thoughts?

Animated brightly colored animals of all types, shapes and sizes.


fit at mid-life · fitness · giveaway

Fit at Mid-Life Book give-away! Three ways to win

Image description:

Hi everyone. We’re having a contest! Want to win a copy of Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey by Sam and Tracy? It’s officially coming out with Greystone Books on April 14 (Canada) and April 17 (US) and we want to give three of our followers a chance to win an early “sneak peek” copy.

There are three ways to enter.

Facebook: Comment on this post on our Facebook page (Fit Is a Feminist Issue) by telling us your favourite fitness /pursuit activity (one word answers are just fine).

Twitter: Retweet our tweet about this contest post (@FitFeminists).

Instagram: Show us some Instagram love by liking the contest post on Instagram.  [we had a photo issue so we posted a second time on Instagram, which is where this link goes. If you liked the first post, don’t worry, it’s still up and we will consider you eligible.]

We’ll randomly select three winners, one from the Facebook comments and one from our Twitter retweets and one from the Instagram likes.

The contest closes at 11:59 Eastern Time on March 31st and is open to North American residents only. We will get in touch with the winners for North American mailing address and our publisher will send them each a book.

If you aren’t one of the lucky three, the books are already showing up on the shelves in bookstores and are available on-line from our publisher Greystone Books. Or you can pre-order them from Amazon, official release April 14 (Canada), 17 (US) and 19 (UK).

Good luck!

Additional Rules:

One entry per account on each platform.

Maximum of one prize per individual.

Prizes will only be shipped to addresses within North America, which in this case refers to the continental US and Canada.

For the Facebook contest, only original comments will be considered entries (feel free to comment on another’s comment but it won’t count as an entry unless it’s a stand-alone comment).

For Twitter, only retweets of the original post will considered entries.

family · gender policing · injury

Would you let this kid jump?: Gender, the play gap, and the protection paradox

This video came across my newsfeed recently. It’s a little girl  kid (I’m not sure if they’re a boy or a girl–see the reader’s comment below) attempting and failing a box jump. The ponytail made me think girl. Watch til the end!


What’s striking about it is that their dad doesn’t stop them. Instead, he encourages the child to keep trying? How about you? What would you have done? I confess I fretted a bit. “Don’t hurt yourself!” Does it make a difference to you if it’s a boy or a girl jumping?

And then I got thinking about it in terms of my work on the “play gap” between boys and girls and between men and women.

Canadian kids don’t move a lot. Very few get enough daily movement.

The grim facts are that Canada’s children just got a D- in physical fitness for the third year in a row. Just 9% of Canada’s children between the ages of 9 and 15 meet the recommended guideline of one hour of activity per day. Experts are blaming the dismal showing on the so-called “protection paradox.” Parents try to keep children safe by not allowing them to move freely between home and school, or engage in active, outdoor play, but as a result our children are leading increasingly sedentary lives. See here.

But of course it’s not just that kids don’t get enough movement. It’s also the case that girls move less than boys. More on that in another post. I promise!

If the protection paradox is indeed part of the story about kids’ increasingly sedentary lives, we might wonder if the protection offered is gendered.

Do we stop girls but not boys from risky physical behavior? I bet we do. I’m still thinking about this and welcome your thoughts and ideas.





“You are soft on your feet”

Two weeks ago, I sweated and panted my way through the last hundred metres of climbing up Gros Piton in St. Lucia.  It’s a strenuous, steep hike, about 2000 ft of swift ascent. It was hot and the sun was out, but the trail was broken, slippery rock, and I scrambled far more than I walked.  I finally broke through from the rainforest to the summit, and the island and the sea sprang forth in front of me.


There was a young male/female couple and their guide at the top, and my local guide Quentin and I offered to take their photo.  We faffed about a bit, then I sat down to eat my cheese and cucumber sandwich, eyeing the darkening clouds.

A few minutes later, my resort guide, Marlon, came bursting up the trail, sweating and out of breath.  “I could not catch you!” he laughed.

IMG_3440Marlon had driven me from the hotel, and connected me with the Piton park guide who was required for the hike.  I was supposed to hike with them both, but Marlon took longer doing the paperwork at the trailhead, and said he’d catch up.  He never did.

They’d told me to expect the climb to be about three hours, and we’d done it in an hour and twenty.  I wasn’t racing — I was just focused.  While walking, Quentin (who was from the small community at the base of the mountain, and was about 18), said “you are fit, and you are not worried.”  He kept telling me we were making great time, but I was just … going.

Later, Marlon told me repeatedly that he hadn’t climbed that quickly with any guest in a while, not since he had the trail-running guest who was trying to race it.  Even when I stumbled a few times going down, he said “you are soft on your feet — most people would fall like that.”

Here’s the thing:  they had no reason to flatter me.  I’d started out the morning quite cranky, as I wrote about last week, because the hotel had mis-booked my trek with Marlon, and I wasn’t about to get up at 6 am twice in a row on my holiday.  (Much like the time the hospital never notified me of a change in date for my colonoscopy and I insisted I have it that day because I wasn’t going to do the awful prep twice).  The drive from the hotel was more than an hour, and Marlon and I had had a good chat, and I knew that he fancied himself as a would-be endurance athlete, and had participated in an 88 mile walk around the island last year.  (He made it something like 40, which was amazing with these hills).

I was preening inwardly in a weird way at the matter of fact way they acknowledged my fitness.  When I reflected on that preening, I found some unexamined baggage about measuring up.

Flashback:  hiking around a national park on the Bruce Peninsula in my 20s with a guided group and my then-partner, when I struggled to get up a particularly large boulder.  (I’m very short and I was heavier than I am now).  A snotty comment from another hiker, calculated so I’d hear the scorn:  “they really should make sure people who do these hikes are capable.”

Flashback:  climbing in the hills of Skye with a different partner in my early 40s.  Those mountains were a lure from the first moments of our connection, when he said “come stand with me on the mountains that scare me.”  We approached the dangerous, hard to find summit on Sgurr nan Gillian, one of the hardest peaks in the Cuillin, and he freaked out suddenly.  “We have to go back! We have to go back!”  Later, he sat across from me at dinner, thin-lipped, refusing to talk about it, his vulnerability our failure.  A year later, he remembered that trip as his having summited hills that I had hung back on, despite a photo on his desk of us both on a peak.

Flashback: riding for a week in Vietnam, alone with a young male guide, who continually told me stories of the exalted fitness of other people (older men, mostly) he’d guided, while continually refusing to let me ride up the passes I wanted to ride because he didn’t want to ride them.  When we finally rode the long hard Spring Pass, he left me behind to manage a dropped chain on my own.  (He was a shitty guide).  A year later, riding in Laos, having to get off my bike and order my guide to stop shadowing me 10 metres behind in the van because he didn’t want me to ride in the fog.

On top of Gros Piton, I still felt that 25 year old sting of the fellow hiker who dismissed me as a chunky irrelevance.  I felt the bruising of those holidays in the hills of Skye, where my then-partner’s self-image continually erased my accomplishments.  The frustration of cycling guides who see my age and bodyshape, not my capability, strength and desire to push myself.

IMG_3446Quentin and Marlon have no idea what they did, just matter of factly accepting my fitness.  No false praise, just factual enjoyment.  On the way back, we talked about Black Panther and the history or St Lucia, and Marlon laughed about how I beat him, said he had to train harder.  He then asked if I wanted to go for coffee at a local place.  “I don’t always offer this,” he said, “but I think you’ll like it.”

I did.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who blogs here the second Friday and third Saturday of every month, as well as other times when the mood strikes.  She lives and works in Toronto, where she works in the space of creating socially accountable strategic change in healthcare and education.


Gender Diversity in Cycling: Time For A Shift? (Guest Post)

I transitioned from triathlon to cycling about 18 months ago. I made the switch after completing an Ironman, wanting a change, and enjoying my time in the saddle more than the time spent running or swimming. Over the past few years, I’ve seen the field of triathlon working to recruit and retain more women in the sport (as evidenced by the hugely popular Facebook group, Women for Tri). I hoped for a similar dynamic with cycling, but had just moved across the country for a new job and was not sure where to find a community of rad cyclists. I started by searching for groups online, found one with similar speed and distance to fit my training, and was launched into what became a new norm for my next year: being one of the only women on a group ride surrounded by several men. I’ve generally been treated really well and I can’t thank many of them enough for making me who I am today. I’m a much stronger cyclist thanks to their challenging group rides and much of their ongoing support. But we’ve got work to do.

Reflecting back on my transition to cycling, I think I expected to find similar dynamics to triathlon—plenty of women at races, large Facebook groups for women to share advice and experiences, and plenty of group rides and teams to train with or race for without the fear of getting dropped. Unfortunately, I think I was naive and mistaken in a few ways. Field sizes for women in many of the events I’ve done are only about 15%—especially gravel, cyclocross, and fat biking. Women and gender diverse athletes are sorely underrepresented in this sport. I’ve scoured the literature to identify potential reasons for the gap. Some say it’s a lack of confidence or skill with mechanical abilities. Others say lack of time to train due to childcare and domestic responsibilities. Some note a lack of navigation skills needed for gravel or discomfort being in the middle of nowhere. Others reflect on a lack of safety, whether due to car traffic, crashing, or sexual harassment.

Many of those factors, however, are specific to one discipline or one community, have small sample sizes, are published by men, and/or completely exclude cyclists who do not identify as cisgender men or women. And while I appreciate the important work on these issues, I think the gender gaps go a lot deeper than what the literature has said thus far. I believe we need a more comprehensive understanding of the experiences of women and gender diverse cyclists in order to decrease disparities in the field. I believe it’s time to share our stories.

My experiences as a white cisgender woman in cycling over the past year have been exciting, nerve wracking, challenging, and empowering. They have also been colored by microaggressions, sexist comments, harassment, and exclusion. I love this sport and so many aspects of this community. I want to stay engaged. But I also know we can do better by stepping up our game and working hard to understand the experiences of that 15%. After identifying what has helped and hurt us over the years, we can work to shift our culture to one with more diversity and representation.

Aside from my identity as a cyclist, I am a feminist, a sport psychologist, a professor, and a researcher. As a feminist, it’s important for me to 1) own my biases that stem from my own experiences; and 2) recognize that the personal is political. I’m doing this project because of my own experiences and because I want our community to do better. The disheartening moments I’ve had over the past year have lit a fire inside of me and have motivated me to take on a piece of this puzzle.

This past week, I launched an international research project for women, trans*, femme, non-binary, genderqueer, and two spirit cyclists who have raced over the past 5 years. The survey asks about factors that have increased and decreased participation in competitive cycling, as well as motivations and experiences in daily living. I ask for stories of exclusion, harassment, and sexism—in addition to times cyclists have felt valued.

As an incentive, I’ve secured money to donate $2/person to charity for the first 250 participants. (It’s not much, but it’s something.) I’ll present the findings in my community, at conferences, and to anyone who wants to listen. I’ll also write up the findings for publication to help us shed some light on gender gaps and increase retention of women and gender diverse cyclists throughout the world.

If you are a woman and/or a gender diverse cyclist who has raced in the last 5 yrs, I’d love to hear your story.  What has pushed you away?  What helps you to keep going strong?  I’ll share mine in a post to come.

Link to survey is as follows:

 Erin, a dark haired woman with her hair pulled back, looks onto another spectator while wearing her cycling kit after one of her first cyclocross races. She is leaning forward on her bike. Her sunglasses are resting on top of her head, her jersey is zipped down, and her hair is wet from sweat. Photo Credit: Carlos Sabillon
Erin, a dark haired woman with her hair pulled back, looks onto another spectator while wearing her cycling kit after one of her first cyclocross races. She is leaning forward on her bike. Her sunglasses are resting on top of her head, her jersey is zipped down, and her hair is wet from sweat. Photo Credit: Carlos Sabillon

Erin is a professor, psychologist, researcher, feminist, spouse, and cyclist. When she is not working, she spends her time training for new cycling adventures, eating, laughing, and spending time with loved ones.



body image · diets · eating · fat · fitness · weight loss · weight stigma

The new health target of the century: kids

The news made the rounds of the health at every size (HAES) contacts I have in my social networks. I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Weight Watchers was offering free six-week memberships to 13 year olds, and yet I was.

Shortly after that, I learned the makers of FitBit were launching a fitness tracker for children. According to TechCrunch, the makers of FitBit are targetting the eight- to 13-year-old market because as the Telegraph noted, we need to do something about getting “couch potato kids” off the couch and into the gym.

Because child obesity y’all. (Insert eye roll here.)

I’ll admit I’ve been on diets, and I also have used a FitBit (see this post for how I use mine). I went on my first diet with WW when I was 14 and I needed my mom to sign for me. I can’t say it was a success because despite an endless variety of diet plans, I have continued to be my own fun-sized self and not the one society said I should be.

I stopped dieting when I reached my 40s. I read the literature, I looked at the research, and I considered the methodology of the studies. These days I try to eat most of my fruits and veggies every day, be moderate about my meat consumption, and add more whole grains, beans, pulses, and fish to my plate.

I still eat chocolate, potato chips and ice cream treats on occasion, but I am more mindful about my daily choices. And when I really, really want the chocolate bar, I go for the good stuff and thoroughly enjoy it.

Diets are all about deprivation, regardless of how they are marketed. And they don’t work. The problem with marketing to teens, especially teen girls, is they already have a decade of misdirection on what a female body is supposed to look like behind them. All those messages have been accumulating and Weight Watchers is stepping up to take advantage of the anxiety-fertilized soil to grow their market.

Ultimately, the only thing the plan will do is teach girls deprivation is the norm, their bodies at 13 are unacceptable, and it is on them to change their bodies rather than society change its expectations for the form expected for women.

At first blush, there shouldn’t really be an issue with creating a tool for kids. However, there are many people who see the number of steps reached as tacit permission to indulge. Weight Watchers for awhile had an exercise component that allowed users to collect food points through exercise and then spend them on either more, or fun type foods.

Many of these exercise tools track not only steps or other types of activities but also calories and weight. If you want off the diet train and onto the gym track, it can be very hard to find a gadget or tool that doesn’t link weight and fitness. In fact, it is one of the reasons I and my trainer make a point to track personal records that are strength based instead of scale based.

Whatever your size, age and body type, we are, at least in North America, a more sedentary society. Television, junk foods and in house gaming systems are factors in the higher weights we are seeing. But the problem with marketing fitness gadgets to kids is that after awhile the appeal is going to fade. While gamification of anything works effectively in the short term for setting goals, once kids and youth get where they want to be, there isn’t a point to doing it anymore and it stops being fun.

A co-blogger on this site shared with me some thoughts she and her sister had about the Fitbit and they echo mine: “My experience with fitbits with grown ups is they don’t understand the correlation between steps and food so it almost gives them more ‘permission’ to eat that piece of cake or whatever. I only know two people who use it in the way it was designed (make sure I get in my steps to stay fit) and they are both people who would be fit anyway. For kids, it’s a good awareness raiser and a ‘game’ but if it becomes the gadget it kind of loses its function.”

My co-blogger’s sister also made an important point that links to unpacking, resisting, or creating a new culture around fitness: “Fitness especially in kids comes from values, habits, home discussions, role modelling, fun activities, and doing things that don’t seem like fitness to the kid.”

Doing things that don’t seem like fitness are often more fun when you don’t have the “must” factor. Even I think it is more useful to say to myself: “It’s a gorgeous day out — let’s go for a walk!” instead of “I need to get 2500 more steps in to meet my time for today’s fitness.”

While I think the offer from WW for 13-year-olds is more problematic than FitBit’s plan to extend its market share by focusing on kids, I do believe we need to think carefully about how we look to change the behaviour of children when it comes to eating and moving.

Because in some respects is not how we change the behaviour, but why we feel it is necessary in the first place.

— Martha enjoys getting her fit on with powerlifting, swimming, and trail walking.

eating · fitness · Guest Post

When Herbivores Attack: Weight Stigma and the Vegan Movement (Guest post)

by Marla Rose

Image description: Marla, a dark-haired woman hand feeds a black goat with a white patch between its horns. Background of grass, a barn, trees in the distance and a blue sky.
Image description: Marla, a dark-haired woman hand feeds a black goat with a white patch between its horns. Background of grass, a barn, trees in the distance and a blue sky.

Vegans can carry a lot of baggage. No, this is not a fitness brag. I am speaking of baggage of the metaphoric nature. In fact, I can already see the comments in the Facebook share of this post, calling vegans holier-than-thou, obsessive, pushy elitists and a bunch of other variations on this theme. I can predict it not because I’m psychic but because I have seen it play out so many times on social media and comment threads when the “v-word” emerges. Vegans are really not liked much by society at large. As a longtime vegan, I will admit that we have a bit of a PR problem.

I will also admit that we have had a hand in some of this bad PR.

Much of it is not our fault; it is the consequence of our mere presence in a world replete with carnism, which often elicits a knee-jerk defensive response, sometimes even before a vegan has said a word. It manifests as people saying “Mmm…bacon” even if it’s a bizarre non sequitur, which it usually is. It manifests as the many bad jokes we’ve heard a million times, like “Vegetarian is an old Native American word for ‘bad hunter.’” [I won’t even address the idea that there is a single Native American language but, yeah, we’re supposed to laugh unless we want to reinforce the stereotype that vegans are angry and humorless. Ha. Ha.] It manifests as people who expect us to defend PeTA even if we are most definitely not supporters. It manifests as people thinking we’re judging them simply by co-existing in the world as vegans.

Despite this, I wouldn’t change a thing about my decision to go vegan. I believe it is the best decision I ever made and I work hard to buck the stereotype while maintaining my commitment to its muscular ethical basis. I will say, though, that since my early days of standing outside of circuses with protest signs and outside of fast food chains with pamphlets, things have changed considerably in the animal advocacy world. Many of those changes have been really positive. With the Internet, people are so much more aware of the unjustifiable reality of what happens to other animals behind closed doors. Concurrent with that, there are also so many more options in grocery stores and restaurants as access and affordability to plant-based foods continues to increase. I remember racing through Oklahoma in 1995 with a car full of nutrition bars and a sincere hope that I didn’t starve to death with my dog-eared vegetarian restaurant guide book on my lap. Those days are behind us and things are just a lot easier.

What we do have today, though, is something I never observed as a young activist. In fact, I never saw it until social media started becoming widespread. In those nascent days of my veganism, my mentors were primarily older women in Keds sneakers – one of the few leather-free shoe brands back in the day – who would be out, rain or shine, doing outreach for the animals; they didn’t care about anyone else’s BMI, they cared about creating a more just and compassionate world. They didn’t inspire me with their impressive abs; they motivated me with their hearts, brains and spirits.

With social media, there is another breed of vegans: the body-shamers. Thankfully, they are not the norm, but they are loud and seem to be growing in number. These body-shame peddlers may be someone’s first exposure to a vegan and they leave a lasting impression. They condemn and attack vegans and non-vegans alike about weight and size. If the focus of their scorn is a vegan who is not slim enough in their estimation, they claim such individuals are doing a disservice to the animals by not providing a “good example” to the public, as if superficiality and self-absorption were inspiring traits. If those in their sights are not vegan, well, they are losers who deserve to suffer and die. You will hear shamers claim that such individuals are a drain on our health care and a plague on our society. The fact that shaming does not work as a motivator and that weight-stigma itself has proven negative health outcomes matters little: getting their digs in is what matters to them.

The body-shamers may be pushing a diet for any number of reasons. Maybe they have a financial interest in people feel bad enough about their bodies to join their program. Maybe they are “influencers”  looking for followers on YouTube or Instagram. Maybe they are ride-or-die acolytes of a particular dietary plan and they “just want to help,” whether or not their help has been solicited. Or maybe they are simply unkind people who get a cheap little thrill out of making other people feel shitty.

Whatever their reasons, let me apologize on behalf of these vegans. The body-shamers do not represent us. Vegans, like omnivores, come in all shapes and sizes but the bottom line is veganism is based on core values of compassion, justice and equality and is not a platform for abusing people with stigmatizing attitudes. Veganism is a social justice movement and there is no room for cruelty or bigotry. If you are someone who has been demeaned by a vegan for your body size, please accept my apology by proxy. There are many deeply compelling reasons to go vegan but being considered an acceptable size by a body-shamer isn’t among them.

I am proud to be vegan, and these individuals do not reflect my beliefs or what I have dedicated my life to promoting. Please remember that diet culture has its tentacles wrapped around many of us and vegans swim in its murky depths as much as anyone else. Don’t be shy about calling out weight-stigmatizing attitudes when you see them but remember that we are all susceptible to its many displays of bigotry, vegans and non-vegans alike.

Marla Rose is an author, journalist, co-founder of and co-founder of Chicago VeganMania. She lives in the Chicago area.