Have you ever heard of a pescetarian? If your answer is yes, I congratulate you for being smarter than Microsoft Word. As I write this story, the term is being underlined in red by the word processing program because it doesn’t recognize it. While I’m still reflecting on whether I should feel offended by this fact, I’ll let the Merriam-Webster dictionary clarify that a pescetarian is one whose diet includes fish but no other meat. Pretty simple, isn’t it? But try explaining to Word (and many people) that I am also gluten free and try to avoid dairy products. What does that make me? Only God knows! But what I do know is that these food choices very often result in questions from family, friends, and colleagues ranging from funny to pretty annoying.
Does it really matter whether I dropped meat from my diet because of ethical reasons or a taste preference? Why do you want to know if I am lactose intolerant? Think about it: the motivations for eating and not eating certain foods might be quite personal and involve religion or medical conditions. Why should anyone share this private information with you?
As for myself, I am more than happy to tell you (and my mum, for yet another time) that I made these changes to my diet because I want to be the best and healthiest version of myself. And I realized that the food I put into my body has a huge impact on it. I could instead go on for hours about how I feel more energized, lighter, and less bloated. But the gist is as simple as it is powerful: not eating certain foods makes me feel better and happy!
No, this is not about wanting to be skinny. And for the record, I can still join you at a fast food restaurant. You might be surprised, but I am usually able to find some kind of food that fits my dietary requirements anywhere. Just don’t hate on me – or your family member, friend, or colleague – if you see us with a plate of greens without dressing in front of us. That’s probably because that’s all they’ve got on the menu for us. Trust me, we’d much rather have something like a gluten-free veggie burger if we could.
And that’s actually the point: we could! We had the option and we chose to sit down with you and keep you company at that fast food restaurant. So don’t make fun of us or food-shame us. Don’t question what’s on our plate. In turn, we won’t lecture you about how unhealthy that dish you just shoveled into your mouth just was. Because we respect you and your food choices, and so should you respect us. Because no matter what we eat (or do not eat) because of religious belief, for ethical reasons, because of a taste preference, or for the sake of trying to be healthy: it is supposed to make us happy and feel better. And that’s all that should matter to you.