Veganism, Dieting and Why I Felt Like I Had to Change

My sophomore year of high school, thinking I’d be healthier, skinnier, and for humane reasons, my parents coerced me into becoming vegan. I hardly ate - because of my dislike of beans and other vegan staple foods, I had basically the same food for every meal - and despite constantly exercising, my metabolism slowed and I gained twenty pounds over a five month period. Both of my parents’ cholesterol dropped by one hundred points and they were losing weight, so why wasn’t I? My doctor told me I was still growing, not getting necessary nutrients, and eating too little, therefore I had to return to eating meat and oil (which we were also avoiding).

In a way, I felt like a failure, but I decided to focus my energy on smaller goals, like writing down every meal I ate and exercising at least four times per week to accomplish my greater objective: to become healthier. I exercised harder and longer and I met with a nutritionist. The weight came off exceedingly slowly and my mom convinced me to try Weight Watchers with her. My cheeks burned at every weigh-in—I was the only person there under the age of thirty, but it was my goal to lose weight and to live a healthy lifestyle. I felt pathetic and embarrassed that I couldn’t lose weight on my own. It was too difficult to go to weigh-ins when school started; I stopped Weight Watchers but continued working out. Eventually, my weight and lifestyle improved.

In the end, what I realized is that food is an intrinsic part of our culture. It’s both a bonding experience when spending time with friends, family, or strangers and can either bring out love and desire or hatred and frustration. It’s not the meal that one eats that makes the food, its how one feels and interprets the food. Due to my own experience I interpreted veganism as a lifetime full of food I hated rather than a lifestyle that promotes humane eating habits and the consumption of nutritious vegetables.

The bigger question here, though, is why do we constantly feel the need to change ourselves? Sure I was intent on fulfilling my goals, but what exactly does it mean that my insecurities determine my life and actions more than my accomplishments? Our beliefs and our interactions with the outside world often define who we are, but if they consistently change, what exactly does it say about our society and identities?

My own answer is surprisingly obvious; we’re always changing because the world is changing. The idea of the survival of the fittest comes into play. In order to survive we must regularly adapt to what nature, or society, throws our way. I adapted because I’d live longer if I were healthier, I thought I’d feel better if I lost weight, and my family and friends would be proud and notice my new and improved body. I suppose I thought more of the benefits rather than the consequences and disadvantages because I consistently thought of my looks rather than the mental toll this “lifestyle change” would take. I was depressed and I was ashamed of my failure, so I attempted to hide it. I can’t change the past and, besides, one can’t learn without mistakes in their life.

To me, it appears that women in particular are expected to change more than men. As women gained more rights throughout history, our roles in society have changed. Women’s appearances have always been of great importance (whether that's right or not), but now women have more and more physical standards that they’re expected to live up to.

I’d like to hear your answers. Why do you think we feel the need to change and do you think there’s even more emphasis on women to change?

More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Body image and body standards, Environment, Feminism, Health, Media
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Jessie W
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