Last year I interviewed Leila Burrows from the Pad Studios and she said something around dieting that really stuck with me:
“People spend so much time talking about what they are eating and they are not really paying attention to how they are acting in the world. It’s really not that interesting if you are gluten-free, or dairy-free, or alcohol-free…etc. It matters what you are saying what you are speaking, starting with the message that you say to yourself.”
I nodded fervently as she said this but also wondered why I hadn’t heard much of this before? It makes so much sense, but why don’t we acknowledge this more? We care so much about what we put IN our mouths but not so much on what comes OUT.
A vegan animal lover isn’t necessarily better than a person who loves chicken & waffles. And people who drink green juice over soda aren’t automatically good people. Gwyneth Paltrow once said that she’d rather “smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.” A statement like that helps no one. In fact, I think a judgmental statement like hers adds more harm than good. As much as I promote a healthy diet, I am not going to judge people’s character based on what they eat. It just doesn’t work that way.
First off, why are we so fixated on the way we eat? I think this phenomenon can be best explained with a story: Let’s say there is a woman named Anna; Anna has been dealing with major bloating, weight gain, and inflammation. She’s consulted a few diet books and a nutritionist and decided she needs to go gluten-free in order to look and feel her best. She starts to surround herself with influencers who promote this diet, she begins to skip dinners with friends because the spots they choose aren’t healthy, and she finds herself making curt comments on her family’s food choices. She silently distances herself from family & friends because they don’t follow her so-called healthy lifestyle. Why does she do this?
Well here’s the thing: change is hard, especially a lifestyle change. It can become all-consuming because it shapes most of your daily decisions – what can I eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner? How do I adjust my weekly grocery list change? Can my husband and I still go to our favorite places to eat? It’s really easy to get caught up in the “me me me” mindset when going through a major lifestyle change. In the end it’s uncomfortable, it leaves you vulnerable and possibly a little insecure. And those feelings are channeled in ways that may end up hurting others.
Your loved ones always want what is best for you but in reality, they don’t care if you are 10 pounds heavier or lighter, if you are vegan or paleo, or if you lift weights or run marathons. Those around you care about how kind you are, how much time you make for them, and how much respect you show.
We’ve all made mistakes before when we are trying to find the best versions of ourselves but it’s helpful to remember that there is no perfect diet or no perfect human being so it’s pointless trying to achieve that. My piece of advice: think more about what you do to positively contribute to society and less about how you eat. It’s very likely the two may go hand-in-hand but I think the first step towards positivity is much simpler.