Stop Food Shaming

stop food shaming

“What you eat doesn’t make you special.”
– Me

Here is a slight (yet balanced) rant about food shaming. I heard a woman awhile ago proudly announce to a waiter at a nearby table that she was a vegan. She said it rather rudely as she scanned the menu and looked up at him as if he should fall to his knees and praise her for her moral conviction. I hear these special requests in restaurants all the time and I have to say: no one gives a flying fig if you’re a vegan. No one cares if you’re a pescatarian or a lacto-ovo vegetarian or only eat foods that start with B on Tuesdays. No one cares if you only eat wild game or ruminants. You’ve simply chosen to eat a certain way. But let’s not pretend you’re morally superior. What you eat doesn’t make you special.

A Note on Saving the World

Sound harsh? I know, I’ve been there. In my late teens-early twenties I was a vegetarian for six years, thinking I was healthier and better informed than the rest of the world. I looked at meat with disdain, thinking (knowing) somehow I was a better, more evolved person that my barbarian cohorts. I joined Greenpeace (as a sponsor – not as an employee), adopted an orca in the Puget Sound, and lived off Taco Bell bean and cheese burritos and beer. As you can see, I clearly had it all figured out.

After six years of this, one night I dreamt about an incredible turkey sandwich. The turkey was so moist and flavorful, with crisp lettuce and tangy mayo. I had to have it. I woke up, informed my husband at the time I was done being a vegetarian and went to the store to get all the fixings. It was heaven and I never looked back.

This little anecdote is not to say I finally ‘woke up’… it’s simply to say, I’ve been down the ‘special diet’ rabbit hole. I know the draw, especially to vegetarianism, and all the arguments that make it feel like a better choice. What I’ve come to understand (and what science supports) is we aren’t going to save the world by removing an entire food group or system. Eating lab-raised meat or living off foraged roots and seeds won’t save us. Our health depends on a whole food, omnivore diet.

If you don’t want to eat meat, fine. But don’t preach or food shame those who do. And for f*** sakes don’t start crying in your grocery store’s meat department (yes, I’ve seen it). And the same goes for you raging carnivores. Don’t flaunt it. Don’t post pictures online with dead deer or squirrels… that’s just crass. Don’t make fun of vegans or harass them online and vice versa. Everyone stop it. We all have the right to make choices. Just eat the way you want to eat and call it a damn day.

Labels Ruin Everything

If I could take away one thing from our existence it would labels. Labels seem to ruin everything. Labels make people feel inadequate, underrepresented, and unsafe. Labels confuse and divide. Labels bully and cause wars. If we could stop labeling everything from how we eat, to who we love, to what we wear, the world would be pretty amazing.

Please think about that. Does it personally affect you if someone eats only plants? Does it affect you if your neighbor hunts respectfully? If you’re harassing someone for the way they eat, you could use some therapy. If you’re harassing anyone, you need therapy. And if you’re looking for an award for your dietary choices, you aren’t gonna get it.

A Note on Restaurant Decorum

If your diet dictates a certain way of eating, choose restaurants that cater to your specific needs. There are plenty of venues now that are tailored to highly-specific diets. Do your research. Cooks don’t have time to be bothered with a check-list of needs. They have 30 other customers wanting the food they developed for the menu and it’s down-right rude to expect them to make concessions for you during a busy service.

This topic has been in my craw for a long time. What are your thoughts? Have you been food shamed? Have you witnessed it or participated in it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Image source: In A Roman Osteria by Carl Bloch

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