It had been an extremely busy day at work. I hadn't had time to eat a proper meal, let alone go to the washroom. My adrenalin was pumping as I checked my "to-do" list and wondered if I was going to get to leave on time. As I rushed by the back desk, I noticed a box of donuts sitting there.
My stomach growled.
I was hungry. Actually, I was beyond hungry. My brain was telling me no, but my stomach was telling me yes. I walked by the donuts a few more times before I said, "Forget it" and reached for a chocolate glazed. My mouth started watering as I brought it closer to my mouth. I was just about to take a delicious bite before a shrill voice stopped me in my tracks...
"Oh my God! YOU are going to eat THAT?"
My stomach dropped. I felt like a deer caught in headlights and stood there completely dumbfounded. Was everybody looking at me? Suddenly, I wasn't so hungry anymore, but I took a bite anyway.
"I'm so hungry!" I laughed nervously.
My colleague laughed too. As she turned away, I threw the rest in the garbage.
This isn't the first time this has happened to me and it certainly won't be the last.
Once someone asked me to leave the room to drink my smoothie because they couldn't stomach looking at that "green sludge". I often feel singled out when someone is passing around a bag of chips and they pass over me saying "No, she won't eat that. She eats super healthy." I feel awkward when I open my lunch and someone jokes, "What is that? Chickpeas and lentils or some vegan shit?"
So what if it is?
My relationship with food has always been a complicated one. That's actually why I'm here, writing on this blog and building this business. I spent way too many years in a constant battle with my own body. Dieting, restricting and binging were all old hat to me. I always thought that once I was thin, I'd be happy. Wasn't I supposed to look like all those airbrushed supermodels in Women's Health? It took me years to realize these completely unrealistic expectations I was placing on myself were ruining every aspect of my life.
Then one day I woke up and vowed to not live like this anymore. I couldn't spend one more day hating my body. I couldn't spend one more ounce of energy avoiding food. So I set out on a journey to clean up my mind, body and soul. I taught myself how to cook with nourishing foods in a way that was absolutely delicious. Day-by-day, I started to really enjoy food again. Over time, I learned to appreciate my body, flaws and all.
It is still a work in progress but today, I'm excited about food. I'm inspired in the kitchen. I can honestly say that I've found a balance that works for me. I know I feel better physically and emotionally when I fuel my body with real food, so most of the time - I do that.
But other days, I just want a donut. And when that happens, I shouldn't be made to feel guilty or ashamed about that. Not from the own voice in my own head and certainly not from somebody else's.
But I do. I do still feel guilty and ashamed from time-to-time. A big part of this guilt and shame is definitely my own problem and insecurities. But a big part of it is a societal problem, which has become known as food-shaming.
Food-shaming is criticizing someone for eating something that doesn't match his or her own definition of what food is "good"
While I don't believe we have the right to pass judgment on what anyone else is eating, I also don't think that food should become a taboo subject where we're all walking on eggshells, afraid of offending one another. Food binds us all in one way or another. Everybody needs to eat and we should be able to talk about it.
I was watching an episode of The Social, where the hosts were debating whether or not it is okay to ask newly married couples when they are having kids. For couples struggling with fertility issues or who have made the conscious choice not to have kids, this seemingly innocent question can stir up some real emotional turmoil.
And I believe that the same goes for food.
What someone chooses to eat (or not eat) can be a deeply personal choice. Especially if they have struggled with body image issues, weight or their relationship with food, which are all increasingly common in a society that constantly dictates how our bodies ought to look.
At the end of the day, we can't control what other people are going to say, but there are two things we can control and that is how we respond, and what comes out of our own mouths.
So think before you speak.
Eat what feels right for you.
Enjoy your food.
Be confident in your choices.
And as hard as it is, don't let anyone tell or make you feel otherwise.