Food, Mental Health, And How To Save The World

I would like to begin this potentially controversial article by stating some personal opinions:

  • I love animals. I believe that animal well being should be a priority, and we have a LOT of work to do concerning animal rights and prevention of animal cruelty.

  • I love humans. I believe that human well being should be a priority, and we have a LOT of work to do concerning human mental and physical health.

Following these disclaimers, I would like to talk about an article I recently read surrounding veganism and vegetarianism, in which non-vegans were called "monsters, murderers". I have decided not to link this article as I wish to keep this piece focused on an important message and I don’t wish to defer the conversation back to the negative narrative this article created surrounding food.

I would like to say, I truly respect these choices (those being vegan and vegetarian) in diet. Though they are not the choices I make in my personal diet, I think that people in the world committing themselves to the betterment of the lives of animals should be recognized for their actions. I recognize the health benefits that have been researched about veganism and vegetarianism, and I find the research truly thought provoking. My heart regarding these choices, however, lies with the animals. I think that we still have work to do, as afore mentioned, but I really think vegans and vegetarians are onto something. It's beautiful to see so many people doing something that can be seen as a minor sacrifice to make a large difference (or a major sacrifice, depending on what one’s diet had previously consisted of). In conclusion, I commemorate those who have made the choice to benefit the lives of others by making beneficial dietary choices. Power to you!

That being said, I want to emphasize another point altogether. Food is a relationship. You have food in your life that makes you happy, food in your life that doesn't make you happy (or your body happy). You have food you love, food you hate, and food that maybe your body needs a little more of than others. Your relationship with food could be fostered through culture, family tradition, financial situations, etc. We have attachments to foods (comfort foods) and memories triggered by foods. The concept of food expands across many fields.

Beyond that, sometimes the relationship with food intricately ties to your body image. Sometimes people wrestle with food and how it makes them feel about themselves. For some, food can trigger negative thoughts about weight, appearance or sense of achievement. Food can take over- it can change how one may perceive themselves, it can influence thoughts of guilt, and eating or not eating can also trigger thoughts of negative reward.

I want to say something that I feel is important. If you woke up today and you didn't eat meat, you didn't participate in animal cruelty, and you went the extra mile to make great choices for the environment: good job—you have done something that a lot of people negate to do and that should be recognized.

If you woke up today and you made choices that better suit your body, your mental state, and your life—I want you to know that you are also doing something that sometimes we negate to do, and THAT should be recognized. If the difference you are able to make today is eating what you need to eat to feel happy, healthy and mentally stable—you did good today. You aren't a monster, you are a human doing your best. And if doing your best means you are going to be safe, healthy and happy—that is a wonderful best to be at.

I don't think that the answer to the debate of what is morally right to eat should result in the punishment or berating of those who aren't able to make the choice to cut out a large amount of selection in diet. Should it be discussed? ABSOLUTELY. We always need to continue the conversation about what is right, what is realistic, and what is beneficial to the world we live in. However, we also need to continue to raise awareness and continue the conversation regarding eating disorders and mental health issues regarding body image. The narrative surrounding discussions about vegetarianism, veganism and other dietary choices seems to be plagued with negative language and what could be considered shaming of sorts. We need to keep in mind the differences we all may face regarding our relationships with food. The spectrum is large and spans a variety of positions of comfortability with dietary changes, choices and restrictions. Our comfortability with food should never be challenged in an offensive or derogatory way. You never know why someone has chosen to eat the way they do, and you never know how your comments about somebodies relationship with food may affect their wellbeing.

I want to emphasize that if you have a healthy relationship with food, and you are able to do more and make a big difference in a big way—I think you are onto something, and I respect you.

If your difference today is eating what you can to be okay, to feel good and to feel healthy, I'm happy. We have so much work to do in this world when it comes to progression; there is no short of ways to make a difference. When it comes to making a difference, I encourage this: do what you can within the scope of your own ability—physically, financially and mentally. And be proud of what you do.

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