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My relationship with food is not something that I openly publicize about myself. You won’t find my social media posts showing the latest concoction I whipped up in my kitchen. You won’t find me “dishing” on the newest restaurant, take-out service, or recipe. I’ve remained mostly private about my relationship with food is because I didn’t want my choices to be a burden, and honestly, I’m tired of receiving belittling comments about my decisions.
For as long as I can remember, my food choices have been different from my peers. Growing up, I was a tall, slender girl and often heard, “You need to put some meat on your bones.” Once, I chose not to eat the main entree my grandmother made for dinner, resulting in being passed over for dessert. My eating habits have always been fairly predictable, but when it doesn’t match the norm of others, I have been met with hurtful comments.
- “That’s right, you only eat what my food eats.”
- “What do you mean, you don’t butter this or add salt to that? That’s just weird.”
- “You just do whatever you want, but I’ll never eat something where real ingredients are substituted for other things.”
These comments led me to believe that my eating habits were an inconvenience or a burden to others. Like they couldn’t go to the restaurant they wanted to go to because there weren’t many options for me. Or the reverse, if I choose the place to eat, they would walk away unsatisfied. So I learned to simply stay silent on my relationship with food and would politely decline lunch invitations.
My food choices don’t fit into a well-defined food label like vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, keto, or any other category that sets rules on what you can and cannot eat. My relationship with food starts with self-awareness. Understanding what my body needs to perform at the level I desire is what drives my food choices for the day. Read that again, it’s a daily choice. Some days, I know I’ll be more active, so I might increase foods with higher protein or carbohydrates to help sustain energy levels. Other days I might be more sedentary and need to be conscientious of not falling into mindless eating or justifying the need for high sugar products to help give me a boost during the afternoon slump. I believe there are many factors (genetics, age, activity level, hormone changes, growth, or stress) that determine how our body uses food as an energy source.
It’s been four years since I made the decision to eliminate certain foods from my eating patterns. It’s been four years since I made the decision to focus on adding certain foods to my diet. Whenever we remove something from our lives, diet or otherwise, we need to practice replacing what did not serve you for something that will serve you better. It’s never just an elimination, but rather a “if not this, then that.”
In the practice of becoming more open and vulnerable with you, I will admit this blog post was much more difficult to write than I expected due to the unresolved pain caused by others in the past over my food choices and habits. I believe people’s food choices should never be the subject of ridicule, judgement or backhanded comments. As a mother, I have no reservations about defending my child against ill-advised or food-shaming comments, even if it comes from someone within the family. As a mother, I commit to teach my son about the balance of food, how to make healthy choices, and trust that he knows what his body needs.
I hope that no young girl or boy is ridiculed or judged for their relationship with food to the point where they stay silent and remove themselves from enjoying one of humanity’s most cultured traditions — sharing a meal together. I hope to, personally, advocate and encourage the practice of continuously learning how food affects the body’s performance, the healing it can provide, and how we can best serve our body’s needs.
Life is about balance. Life is about relationships. In sickness and in health, I vow to love and serve this one body the best way I know how, through my food choices and lifestyle habits.