How I Eat is None of Your Business
It took me a long time to be able to say this out loud. Every time I would sit down to a lunch, a dinner or go to a happy hour I would get the same questions. How come you are not drinking? Why do you always have to make your order so confusing? Well, aren’t you a picky eater?! Why won’t you just eat what we are all eating? Maybe this all sounds familiar…
At first, the people pleaser in me always wanted to provide an answer. To make them feel more comfortable about my food choices. I would get asked a lot by my old work colleagues if I was pregnant when I didn’t drink at events. (Totally inappropriate to be asked of a woman by her male colleagues, by the way.) Sometimes I would secretly ask the bartender to put my seltzer water in a cocktail glass with a lime so I could appear to fit in and to steer clear of the inevitable questions or side comments.
Food was a whole different issue. My ex-husband would always apologize on my behalf to the waiter or waitress at restaurants when I would ask for dishes to be prepared a certain way (yup, really. Emphasis on the EX). For catered lunches at work I would bring my own food to large meetings, which would lead to comments like “are you too good for the food we ordered?” On most occasions, I felt like I had to just eat the dang sandwiches that were full of processed ingredients, and maybe feeling shitty for the rest of the day was worth it to dodge bullets from colleagues.
With friends, it was even more difficult. I switched to eating whole foods free of processed ingredients and cut back on my drinking big time at the age of 24 after suffering major health trauma. I was living a lifestyle of binge drinking, late night Frito Pies and microwave burritos. At one point, I was even convinced that I wanted to be a party promoter. So, imagine telling your party and booze loving friends that you aren’t drinking as much anymore and prefer to now make your burritos from scratch with brown rice and veggies on a sprouted wheat wrap. I got a lot of blank stares and went through a period of total isolation.
What I wish I would have said to many people from my past, and what I practice now, is that how I choose to eat is really none of your business.
And I don’t mean that literally. I am obviously making everything that I eat your business because I post about it almost daily on Instagram. What I do mean, is why I make the decision to eat the way I do is not your business. I don’t need to provide an explanation for why I choose to base my diet on whole and real food. I don’t need to justify why I don’t eat certain ingredients or why I ask so many questions about what’s on the menu when I go out to eat.
Let’s face it. FOOD IS PERSONAL. There is no getting around it.
Vegan. Vegetarian. Gluten-Free. Soy-Free. Dairy-Free. Paleo. Low-Carb. Keto. Clean Eating. Plant-based. We have spent decades placing labels on certain diets. And as more and more people develop food allergies, intolerances and digestive disorders we have to continually adjust the way we eat, cook and order at restaurants. Recent studies point to the rise of C-section birth, use of antibiotics and overly sterile environments – all of which negatively affect our microbiome and our body’s defenses.
Then there are those like me who also eat for good health. Eating whole foods and real ingredients makes me feel alive, gives me more energy, balances my hormones and, more for purposes of vanity, has provided clear skin and a weight that has never fluctuated over a few pounds in the past 10 years.
Putting a label on the way that you eat inevitably leads to stress, anxiety, guilt and shame from being put in a box and feeling like you cannot step outside of it. It can also make you less accepting of others who choose to eat differently than you. We forget that just as we made a choice to eat a certain way, so have others, and we should mutually respect that. Vegans attacking those that choose to eat animal products. People who label themselves “clean” eaters, therefore creating a certain stigma that eating any other way is “dirty.” We have all been guilty at one point of being judgmental of others food choices, while also feeling judged by others.
As young females, you are considered “cool” if you can eat a whole box of donuts, take down an entire pizza or drink a six pack of beer while still maintaining a thin waistline. It has become celebrated how shitty we can eat while still fitting the mold of magazine cover models. I call bullshit on this.
As a child of the 80s I had access to packaged and processed food out of convenience for my parents who both worked full-time jobs. They did their very best to provide me with healthy lunches, but as a young kid it pained me to see my friends eating pizza at school while I ate my homemade sandwich and carrot sticks. Growing up, food was even a way of fitting in. It was everyone’s business at lunch hour to know exactly what was in your lunch box.
I have clients of mine who struggle every single day with making healthy choices that work for them. Or even wanting to eat a pizza or cookies without fear of judgement. Not because they are unsure of a healthy lifestyle, but because they are unsure of reactions from others. How to balance eating what is right for them versus a fear of what other people may think of them.
So how do we move away from food and diet stigmas? Away from labels and judgements? To be able to eat what we want that works for our body, and for that to be celebrated and supported by others. In my opinion, the further we move away from and stop using food labels, the sooner we can all accept each other’s choices. Because really, how we eat and why we choose to eat the way we do is no one’s business but our own.