My Food Is My Business
FlaglerLive | May 16, 2016
By Catherine Durkin Robinson
I don’t feel comfortable walking into friends’ or families’ homes and berating them for their unhealthy, albeit traditional and quite common, lifestyle choices. Why then do friends and family members feel comfortable walking into my home and berating me for my healthy lifestyle choices, sometimes primarily because they aren’t the norm?
I can remember in the late 1990s believing it best to avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Now it’s a whole thing. Back then, I was routinely called names like “weird,” “control freak” and “food Nazi.” I never once suggested my diet work for everyone else, but everyone else felt free to roll their eyes and make fun of me.
Whatever. Twenty years later, now I’m looking like a genius.
Before I got pregnant, I abstained from alcohol and my husband abstained from caffeine. When our healthy boys were born, we decided to raise them as vegetarians.
The snarky comments sometimes grow to a crescendo.
I don’t walk around with a snooty attitude or constantly talk about animal rights or healthy eating habits. I don’t have to. Most of my family and friends are overweight. They don’t need to hear my shit.
But I often wonder why they think I need to hear theirs.
They feel very comfortable telling me I’m wrong and bacon is perfectly healthy. It doesn’t matter if I have science on my side. The argument usually comes down to, “That’s how we were raised and we turned out just fine.” From my parents’ generation? “That’s how we raised our kids and you all turned out just fine.”
I usually respond with a moment or two of dumbfounded silence.
Do we really want to emulate how we did things in the 1960s and 1970s?
When I was a child, men could legally rape their wives. Women often smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol when they were pregnant. I don’t remember ever wearing a seat belt.
Sure, some of us turned out just fine. But many did not. Isn’t it better that we’re growing and evolving and learning from past mistakes? I think so. In fact, I’m learning as I go along, too.
I used to give my kids a glass of orange juice with breakfast every morning. When my kids were 10 years old, a nutritionist told us that everything good from a fruit is lost in the juicing process. She recommended we eat an orange and drink water with our breakfast meal. More filling, more nutritious, and consuming less sugar.
I didn’t yell about how I’ve been doing it this way for years and suggest the woman was trying to turn me into a communist. I wish I could say the same about my dad when I first laid vegetarian chili on him.
I’m not always proud of my reactions to others. One weekend, relatives visited and I had to listen to them tell me how I don’t know what I’m missing when it came to sausage sandwiches. I was letting them cook dead animals in my kitchen without judgment, for Pete’s sake. I guess I let the sight of overweight diabetics get to me. The 10th time, I barked,
“Oh but I do…I’m missing heart disease, stretch marks and insulin shots. That’s what I’m missing.”
Once or twice, I have said to my mother, “No one here needs a coconut cake with 3 sticks of butter in the recipe!” One time in the last 20 years, I told my best friend “Have another cigarette!” when she coughed. That’s it.
Most of the time, I live and let live. I guess I’d like the same in return.
When pressured to defend my reasoning, or if someone tries to convince my children that their mother is nuts for serving almond milk, I take a deep breath and smile. I usually tell them food is medicine we put in our bodies every day. If something were to happen to me, or worse – to my children, I would blame myself if we weren’t fit or healthy.
I know that healthy people get sick and unhealthy people sometimes live to 105.
I’d still blame myself. It’d be hard enough to leave my children motherless. It’d be torture to watch my children suffer through childhood diabetes or something much worse. Thinking I could have helped them by advocating a healthy diet and lifestyle, but chose not to, is something I am glad to say I will never experience.
Catherine Durkin Robinson’s award-winning columns have appeared in The Tampa Times, The Tampa Tribune, and Creative Loafing as well as several national magazines and newspapers. She is a mom, writer, advocate, political organizer, and runner. Reach her by email here.