I don’t typically mention much about the food I eat on this blog, mainly because I am a firm believer in the philosophy that what I do meal-plan-wise works for me and what other people do works for them- basically, we all have different bodies, different lifestyles, and different nutritional needs. We all have different preferences, even when eating from a healthy mindset. My meal plan has been working really well for me since I began my recovery, changing as it needed to in the switch from weight-gain to maintenence, and I’ve really found, with the help of my dietician, a plan that works with me. So, given my stance on meal plans and food working for particular individuals and not the general population, it’s a bit weird that I’m choosing to comment on food in this post. However, I recieved a phone call yesterday that really irked me.
“Would you have a few minutes to answers some questions to do with your shopping habits?” the telemarketer asked me
“Sure, why not.” (this was my first mistake…)
After a few basic questions, the falsely joyous woman on the other end of the telephone wire asked me another simple question: “How many meat products would you say you purchase in a month?”
“None, I’m a vegetarian.”
“*Intake of breath* Oooooo you must look SO GOOD!” She gushed.
Honestly, I had no idea to respond to that. I mumbled something about that not being the reason behind my choice, and tried to push her off the phone as quickly as possible. Now, I’m sure the woman merely meant to be complimentary in her comment- and most people probably would have taken it that way. However, it really got under my skin. I chose to be a vegetarian for a variety of different reasons, and none of those had to do with my eating disorder. None of those reasons even had a thing to do with “looking good”. Over the course of my recovery, I’ve often had to defend my position as a vegetarian, pointing out that I was avoiding meat, not protein. I gained my weight on a vegetarian diet. I maintain my weight on a vegetarian diet. If I honestly craved meat, I would consider indulging that craving. I am not a vegetarian for health reasons- I eat ice cream and potato chips sometimes. At this point in my recovery I lead a very, very balanced lifestyle with regard to food. I live by the food philosophy that if I want to eat something, I can. I eat “healthy” things, and occasionally I’ll have something less “healthy” items. I dislike even putting those labels on food, because, in general, all food is good for you in moderation.
So, understandably, the woman on the phone talking about my appearance without either knowing me or seeing me was irksome. I really shouldn’t blame her, however, but the greater society in which we live. In this society, there is obesity. In this society, there are eating disorders. In this society, there are people who lurk sub-clinically below the line of either. In this society, we are obsessed with how we look. Every little choice when it comes to nutrition is judged- not only by what it is being consumed but by whom it is being consumed. Some people hear tell of a vegetarian and think “oh, that’s why they look that way”. Despite highly other highly publicized reasons behind vegetarianism, the automatic response from the general population is that vegetarianism is a health choice, period.
There are healthy vegetarians, there are unhealthy vegetarians; there are healthy omnivores and unhealthy omnivores. I had an eating disorder when I ate meat, I had an eating disorder when I did not. The choice to eat (or not eat) meat does not define me any more than the colour of my hair defines me. The assumption that I would want to hear that I “must look great” is only part of the problem here- that assumption would indicate that it really matters to me what the telemarketer thought of my appearance or my health. Even if I do “look great”, I’ve learned that what someone looks like has very little to do with how healthy they are. But that’s an entirely different post…
I could wax on for a long time about my ire regarding societal conventions of health and beauty, but I’ll leave it for now- and maybe go have a tofu burger.