Mind Your Own Plate

It seems to me that a very sensitive issue for many people these days is diet. Now, I’m not talking about diet in the sense of restricting the amount of food you eat to lose weight. I simply mean diet as a summary of all the food you eat. If you’re the type of person who has never given a second thought to your diet and you simply eat what you want and what tastes good to you, that is totally valid. If you’ve never experienced being made fun of or criticized for what you choose to eat, that’s also great. However, if you have found your food choices being over analyzed by those around you, then maybe you can relate to some of the frustrations that I, and so many of my family and friends, have been feeling recently. These are my own personal experiences, but I know that many others can relate.

I am someone who probably thinks about my food choices more than most. You will never catch me saying that I forgot to eat lunch or just grabbed something from the Coop quickly. I think my meals through in advance and I like to enjoy each one. I have also been through various phases with my eating, in search of the one way of eating that would make me feel my best. For a while, that meant following a vegan, or plant-based, diet.

While I was eating this way, I would get comments from my friends about it constantly, and the ridicule was endless. I promise you that I was not a “preachy” vegan; I really just tried to enjoy eating my plants in peace and I consciously made my best effort not to be annoying about this. And every single meal, without fail, I would get some kind of snarky comment about how annoying I was being or how it was impossible to understand why someone would go vegan. I would get asked where I got my protein from, or how much I missed cheese. Friends would laugh about how much they loved meat and dairy, and how they would never give it up because they didn’t hate themselves.

Finally, I reached the point where I had had enough. I was tired of being that one friend who had to order something different every time we went out to eat, and I was tired of the endless commentary. So I started incorporating some dairy products here and there, just so that my food choices would finally blend in.

You can imagine my surprise when I witnessed the uproar that my new non-vegan-ness caused. You would have thought I had killed a puppy. Suddenly my friends were shocked and outraged that I was eating a slice of pizza with cheese on it. Now, the same people who had judged me for not eating certain things were judging me for eating them. They wanted to take pictures of me eating animal products and send them to everyone else as evidence that I had failed, or to document my “fall from grace.”

I still do not understand why other people are so concerned with the food that others put into their mouths. I think it has something to do with success and failure. It made people happy that I had seemingly failed at the vegan diet, because that made them feel better for the fact that they had never even attempted it. On the other hand, I think some vegans feel morally superior to people who eat animal products, because it makes them feel as though they are making better choices in life. 

We can see this defensiveness in the endless memes and jokes targeting and making fun of vegans today. Maybe this is how the majority of the population that consumes animal products makes themselves feel better about their choices. On the other hand, it is also not acceptable for vegans to shame meat-eaters in order to feel morally superior. 

If you make the choice to eat animal products and you don’t want to be hounded by vegans, then you can probably understand how vegans feel when they are criticized for their food choices or their slip ups. At the end of the day, food is simply fuel for the body, and it shouldn’t be an outlet for humans to express judgment toward each other. I think the best and most obvious solution is that we all just mind what we put into our own mouths and stop all the fuss and obsession over what other people are eating. This is an area where we could all stand to improve, including myself. 

Contact Karrie Spychalski at [email protected].