In the last edition of the real talk series, I talked about the concept of blame in diet culture. You can read that post here. In this edition of the real talk series, I want to talk about eating ethically with disordered eating and how that can challenge your morals and values.
Using lent as a time to restrict
For the longest time, I did lent every year. I didn’t do it for religious reasons. I did it because I saw it as a specific length of time that I could diet for. My will power is pretty good. Every year, I would give up chocolate, sweets and biscuits in an attempt to lose weight.
Three years ago, I decided I wanted a different challenge. All my life, I have been an avid meat-eater. In February 2016, I chose to give up eating meat for 40 days and 40 nights. It began, as always, as an attempt to lose weight. Most of the vegetarians I knew were slim and I believed by not eating meat, the pounds would just fall off. I didn’t want to throw myself in at the deep end so I still ate fish. To really embrace my new challenge, I purchased a couple of vegetarian cookbooks.
A change in ethics and values
During that time, I spoke often with my veggie friends. We discussed the effects that eating meat has on the environment and the conditions that animals live in during their short lives. I had never really cared too much about farm animal welfare before then. I had the classic ‘they’re bred to be eaten’ attitude. By the end of lent, I considered myself a fully fledged pescetarian and embarked on my newest life mission to promote food choices that were based on more vegetables and less meat.
Fast forward three years and those values still hold a strong place in my heart. Recently, however, I have found making my own food choices more difficult. I find myself becoming bored with my meal plans very quickly and my weekly food shop is more stressful than therapeutic. I have started to miss eating meat.
The difficulty in fitting my values into my relationship with food
In the recent months, I have been building a new relationship with food. One which does not involve shame, guilt or restrictions. One which allows sweet food and white carbohydrates to exist within my diet. I never thought that meat would become a problem. I was convinced that, by labeling myself a pescetarian, I would embrace a new moral high ground on which I could base my food choices. It appears that is not the case. On the evening prior to writing this post, I cried for at least half an hour over a chicken fajita that had not yet been eaten. I knew I was going to eat it and the guilt and shame overcame me in a way that has not affected me since my teenage years.
I felt I had betrayed my community. My pescetarian label was stripped and I banished myself from my own identity. And actually, once the label was gone, I felt much lighter. I felt more in control to make my food choices as I see fit. Which, most of the time, will not include meat. But if I have learned anything from crying over a chicken fajita, it’s that allowing myself to eat a little bit of meat (if and when I decide to) isn’t the end of the world… Except for the chicken.
Take a Paws and Tell me:
Have you experienced anything similar? Do you struggle to make food choices that fit with your values? Please leave me a comment, I’d love to know that I’m not the only one feeling this way.
(Behind the scenes: I can tell I was uncomfortable writing this post. I’ve chewed my nail as far down as it will go…)
I haven’t struggled with food but labels are so troublesome. It’s so heavy to bear the weight of a community when making choices about your very own individual daily life.
I know that as humanities, since the scientific revolution particularly, we have thirsged for nomenclature but in so many ways its best if we just be.
I’m glad just being made it a little better and congratulations on writing a tough and honest post.
Thank you so much, it means a lot that you took the time to read and respond.
I 100% feel this. I eat very little meat and very little dairy. I don’t ever want to be a vegan though haha, I feel like the title would make me feel way to restricted and I enjoy being able to eat what I want at my friend’s and family’s homes and a cheesy appetizer here and there is just too good to give up forever. ?
I can relate. I try to avoid cows milk as much as I can (but some recipes just can’t work without it) and I am a SUCKER for cheese! I think every small change is a step in the right direction that are more sustainable for us.
I’m glad to hear from someone else in a similar boat! I decided I wanted to severely cut my meat intake at the start of 2019 and am more or less fully vegetarian. I let myself eat meat once a month if I’m craving it, but no more than that (unless it’s out of my control like I’m at my Grandma’s place and she forgot I don’t eat meat anymore). I struggle with the labels because saying I’m vegetarian is the easiest way to summarize it but it feels like a bit of a lie given I still eat meat every now and again. My [extremely idealistic] hope is eventually everyone will minimize their meat consumption and the labels won’t matter as much anymore. Good luck with your journey!
I feel exactly the same! My grandma’s house is the most difficult too! A lot of people talk about the need to completely cut everything otherwise it won’t make a difference but I disagree. Thank you so much.