Vegan ergonomics: Why being vegan ain’t so comfortable
Today I had an ergonomic assessment at work, done by a contractor who specialises in making you feel comfortable while on the job. Having an office job, I tend to sit for many hours at my computer, only turning on occasion to pull a file from the shelf (which has become more and more rare since the electronic era). Therefore, I am in the same position for a long time, and if that position is not ergonomically-sound, I could end up with aches and pains. So she comes and observes and fiddles and recommends. That’s the boring part. The interesting part was that when she found out I was also from Toronto, she thought we were a priori pals, which apparently gave her the green light to mock my being vegan. That’s right. When she asked what I missed about Toronto, I responded, “Well, I miss the restaurants, because being vegan, there seem to be many more options in Toronto.”
Ergo Lady: Oh so you’re vegan? I see. That must explain why you are so thin.
Me: (mildly offended)
EL: Gosh, it’s depressing, isn’t it?
Me: What is?
EL: You being so thin.
Me: Um. (?)
The only way I could interpret this response to my coming out as vegan was that she was implying that it was difficult for others to lose weight, and there I am, thin, vegan, and silently reminding you that you’re a fatty. Granted, she personally wasn’t a heifer, but she wasn’t thin. And clearly, she wasn’t vegan either:
EL: Your body is hard to accommodate when choosing an appropriate desk chair. You’re tall* and narrow and you like to use the armrests. That’s problematic, what with budget cuts and everything. We’ll have to compromise when selecting a desk chair.
*For the record, I don’t think I tower over others at 5’8″.
Me: (mildly offended)
EL: It’s because you’re so thin! You need to eat meat! I like meat! You need protein!
Me: (irritated) My protein level is fine. I just don’t eat animal protein.
EL: (points to my only pair of dress shoes bought almost 8 years ago and rolls eyes) And look. Leather shoes!
Me: (entirely offended) What?
EL: Nah, I’m just kidding.
Why do people all think that vegans lack in protein? Ok, so maybe we could potentially lack in iron, or B vitamins, or Omega fats if we’re not careful, but protein? That’s generally not a problem, unless you’re a vegan who doesn’t like beans, legumes, and vegetables. But then you’re pretty much a breathairian. Or dead. And it’s clear that North Americans eat too much protein anyway. Why don’t people question that? We are brought up believing that protein (namely, animal protein) must be consumed in great amounts to remain healthy. Who has fed us these false claims? Possible answer: the media, promoted by the government, propped up by the food and agriculture agencies and industries. The China Study will show you that in fact, maybe we are eating ourselves to death with too much animal protein, proven to be a factor in contributing to the growing rate of many diseases and health problems such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, macular eye degeneration, obesity, diabetes, …
And why do some people consider it ok to try to trip vegans up as if to say, “Hey look! You’re not a true vegan after all. At least not a good one. You’re like one of those vegetarians who eat fish. Disgraceful! You might as well just start eating factory farm meat and skinning animals alive.”
I think people get upset and defensive when they hear that someone is vegan/vegetarian, because they feel silently judged. Consequently, they either resort to talking about how great meat tastes or as in the above case, trying to make you seem somewhat less pious in your perceived superiority by commenting on a slight hypocrisy. For them, this is a way of reaffirming to themselves their decision not to care. Calling myself “vegan” doesn’t shove anything down your throat or preach from above. I’m not handing out animal cruelty flyers or making any sort of disparaging remark about your diet choices. But just saying “I’m vegan” is enough for people to feel that you are overly judgemental, condescending, and arrogantly disdainful.
This all-too-common cycle of guilt, apparent judging, and lashing out is entirely unfair. When I say I’m a feminist or against racism, and you happen to be a bigot or a racist, yes, you can feel silently judged, but it’s implied. I shouldn’t have to hide my beliefs in order to protect your feelings or make you think about your diet choices more than what your tastebuds and stomach tell you.
Perhaps I should keep my opinions to myself and just be a happy that I can be vegan in a meat-eating world. Perhaps I shouldn’t rock the boat and instead try to make more friends. Unfortunately, my disposition does not allow me to do so. I’m vegan and I’m proud of it, just like I’m proud to be gay, an atheist, feminist, environmentalist, and country-music enthusiast. I would like to be accepted for who I am and ironically, not judged outright by those who are so fearful that I’m judging them. Is that too much to ask?
So I ponder these questions as I sit in my uncomfortable office, in my uncomfortable chair, at my uncomfortable desk, under uncomfortable lighting and look forward to the day when I will be in ergonomic bliss thanks to my dear fellow Torontonian pal: the Ergo Lady.