You are not what you eat

Lately, I’ve been doing a bit of pondering over the fact that not only can people be pretty dogmatic about how they eat (“Eat my way or hit the highway.”), but an awful lot of people seem to form their identity around how they choose to eat (“I’m vegan/vegetarian/paleo/macrobiotic/a locavore, therefore I am.”)
While I believe wholeheartedly that we are what we eat in the sense that the foods we eat provide the raw materials our bodies need for things like cellular repair and energy production (and, if you’re pregnant, for growing a whole human being), that’s all physical. I also believe that eating quality food not only provides us with quality raw materials, but it can also contribute to our mental well-being. So there’s a mental aspect, as well.
But is that all we are? Bodies and minds? Those things are important, to be sure, but think about your friends and family, those nearest and dearest to you. When you consider all the qualities that make them the unique individuals they are, it goes way beyond body and mind. Call it soul, call it something else, but you know what I mean.
I am exactly the same person I was seven years and 85 pounds ago. Sure, I’ve learned some new things and had some new experiences since then, and those things help shape my evolving identity, but my core identity hasn’t changed. Which is one reason it truly shocks me sometimes when I come across photos from back then. I look like a different person, but I’m not.
It’s easy to beat ourselves up, at least a little, because we don’t weight what we want to weigh or didn’t eat how we though we should eat today. It can be a struggle sometimes to stick to a healthy path, but life presents lots of struggles…why should food and body weight take on such importance that we sometimes believe that it’s all we are?
  • You are not your diet.
  • You are not your jeans size.
  • You are not a loser if you don’t eat healthfully.
  • You are not a paragon of virtue if you do eat healthfully.
I admit, I sometimes engage in the little mental game of “let’s judge people based on what’s in their shopping cart.” But I always feel bad when I do, because there was a time when I was far from perfect (“Hello? Pot, meet kettle.”) Of course, I’m not perfect now, either, because no one’s perfect. Perfection isn’t attainable, nor should it be, or you’d have nowhere left to grow as a person.
I feel better now than I did 85 pounds ago, but I don’t feel morally better. Physically, I feel better, simply because moving around in the world with less body weight is easier. (Duh!) I enjoy shopping for and sewing clothes more now. I do like how I look in the mirror (and photos) better now. I enjoy the peace of mind of knowing I’m doing everything I reasonably can to protect my current and future health. But other than that, I’m the same ol’ me.
I don’t throw around the word hate lightly, but I might hate someone because they kick puppies or treat their children like utter crap, but hate someone because they are a vegan? Or because they eat meat? Or because they weigh 100 pounds more than what is probably healthy? Absolutely not. Yet there are many who do hate for precisely those reasons. It’s ridiculous. May I offer a nice side of perspective with your meal tonight?
I want to help people eat more healthfully and be more active because I done the “before” and the “after,” and I know “after” feels better. I think a lot of people get caught in a rut where they are eating a lot of junk, and they don’t feel their best, and they don’t realize it’s possible to feel better. Or they do know, but they just don’t know how to start to make a change. Or maybe they’re afraid that if they make the switch to healthier food, they won’t enjoy their food as much anymore. Those are dilemmas, not moral failings. And they can all be remedied, if people choose to take that first step toward change.