If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.
Last week, I posted about having been vegetarian. And there is a reason I’m actually covering food habits in three posts. (Third one coming up next week.) Actually, two reasons. The first being that there are different “shames” and motivations and such with each post. The second being that food is really, really important in my world.
Technically, there are four food posts, because there’s that post on anorexia. See, one of the things tangled up with and coming out of my anorexia was this (very wrong) idea that there’s a Perfect Way To Eat, that I had to figure out The One Right Way. And I have spent ridiculous amounts of time reading and researching and thinking and planning and blah blah blah.
And, when I’m not thinking about food that way, I’m thinking about preparing and eating food. I’m considering what would taste good, I’m fondly recalling food I previously ate, I’m trying to think how to not fill up my daily gratitude posts on social media (been doing them a couple years) with just food food food. And don’t even get me started on how susceptible to suggestion I am. I’d consider it a mercy if people on TV and in films weren’t allowed to eat food I like…
When I first left home and started to think about how I would know I was “making it,” my whole measurement scheme for that was food-based. It went like this:
- Eating daily.
- Eating multiple times per day.
- Eating three meals per day and maybe a snack.
- Eating what I want, not just what I can afford, monthly. (At this point, I assume that at least a couple meals a year can be eaten at restaurants, not just home cooked…cos home cooked is cheaper. But not all the monthly meals I want would be eaten out; some would just involve not-cheap ingredients.)
- Eating what I want weekly.
- Eating what I want daily.
- Eating what I want for every meal.
As I lived on my own, there were other markers of “making it,” most of which continued to be food-based (food quality, organic animal products, etc). And, yes, I’m entirely serious. If I had to be honest, I’d say that, in the ever-noisy arena of my brain, at least one part of me is always thinking about food.
So, there’s the second reason that there are three or four of these label-related posts that are about food. Now, the first…
As I said last week, being vegetarian started as an exercise in self-control and very quickly became about living up to what I felt was ethically right for me. There wasn’t any self-righteousness there. Well, very little. But, this week’s lot of food-based labels…They include paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, absolutely no sugar, and a few others.
These were things that I tried because, for varying reasons, I thought they were the healthier option for my body. I thought that they were The One Right Way. I’ll let the “and a few others” stand at that, but the other four fall into two distinct groups.
I was dairy-free and gluten-free because I had some health issues and, at different times, I thought that I was lactose intolerant or that I might have wheat intolerance or celiac. Dairy-free came back into play later when I had a friend who actually was lactose intolerant. That was the least lame of the two to live. Fortunately, there are plenty of dairy substitutes and ways to get things that are almost-right and are, on their own merit, sometimes quite tasty. The gluten-free…That was miserable. Even with the help of a partner who was quite capable in the kitchen, I never got satisfactory substitutes for foods I adored and missed.
For others, both of these made me a pain. Not because I tried to be…Honestly, all it took was a polite, “Excuse me, can you tell me if this has dairy in it?” and I was suddenly just the worst person ever. I wasn’t asking for substitutions or anything like that…And these are things that, for those with actual issues (not just people trying to be trendy, trying to use dietary restrictions as a way to lose weight, using this as an excuse to avoid foods they dislike), are serious health concerns. Sometimes massively serious. I’m lucky; I don’t have celiac. I have friends who do, though, and I feel like both the people who lie about that (for reasons noted in the last parenthetical) and the people who are difficult about those with celiac disease trying not to end up with massive physical pain and mental issues…Yeah, both those types of people are jerks and can get in the sea. And you can bet, given I legitimately thought I had health issues that could be solved by it and that I was super polite about trying to avoid dairy and gluten, I’m not at all ashamed for having been dairy-free or gluten-free. (But I’m really glad that I didn’t need to stick with either of those dietary restrictions.)
The second group of the food restriction labels is the paleo and going absolutely off sugar. These are things that were entirely about what I thought was The One Right Way to eat. And I got caught up in this idea of Eating Clean. And I kind of struggled with judging other people who didn’t see the Obvious Genius of these ways of eating.
I swear I tried to be restrained about it, keep my mouth closed. Especially given that people were sufficiently nasty about me choosing those paths as well. But if you ever felt judged or pressured by me when I was doing any of that, I’m truly sorry for that bit of it. I could, and still can, get pretty caught up in whatever it is I think is the current Proper Food Philosophy for me. With this particular set, I was being cheered on by assorted zealous internet sources and, to some extent—though she certainly deserves no blame, by a concerned nutritional therapist.
At the root of all this, of both groups of food restrictions, was a desire to treat my body The Right Way. And I tried to be polite about it, tried to keep the brunt of the efforts on me. So, again, I’m so sorry if I made you feel judged or went on a bit about it. But I’m definitely not ashamed. We all have to eat, and hopefully we are trying to do that in a way that contributes to our highest quality of life.
But more on that next week…For now, I’m hungry…
Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).