When I first cut meat out of my diet, I was still eating fish now and then (mostly tuna), and I was really new to the whole “eating healthy” thing. I can’t say I was terrible at it. I started eating a lot of rice and grains like quinoa for protein. At the time, I would travel to visit family friends, who were my parents’ age. Skipping those details, I had to bring my own food as this family wasn’t really vegetarian-friendly with their meals. I also felt really awkward about using their stove and oven. Thus, I brought some microwavable rice pouches. They were (and continue to be) so delicious, and I thought I could make just a small quick meal and not bother with using the kitchen much.
Before I get to the actual event, I want to note that this family was heavy on snacks and fast foods (think Twinkies). Some of the meals were just plain bizarre, and I’ll never understand why anyone put up with it (white rice covered in strawberry syrup as the main course for breakfast). I wanted to be respectful, so I tried not to say much about my new diet, although I can’t say I was silent as I was asked plenty of questions. I was even told that I “need more meat.” Whether or not that was a joke, I’ll never know.
One of the family members became really worried about my weight loss, which I personally saw as a sign that I was simply eating better. I was happy with my weight and was in a completely normal weight range for my height. I didn’t look bony or unusual in any way. In addition, I was eating plenty of food, so I’m not sure why my weight was such a big deal. No one else in the family was getting similar comments, even though I can’t say they were healthier than I was at the time. Considering this, and also the fact that the family ate relatively poorly, I felt singled out.
One evening, the dinner wasn’t exactly filling or “enough” for a vegetarian. After others had left, I brought out a microwave rice pouch, threw the empty pouch into the trash and ate my meal. Upon returning to the kitchen later, the same family member sat me down for a “big talk.” In their hands, was the empty pouch. The family member proceeded to express extreme concern because of the sodium content of the rice mix. They literally dug the pouch out of the trash to analyze what I am eating. This was completely bizarre, as I can’t understand whether they were worried about me being overweight or being too skinny. Out of all the people in our close circle, why would my sodium intake be a concern? I was one of the few people in our circle in a normal weight range, and I was clearly making an effort to eat better. Meanwhile, the others in our circle were drinking endless amounts of soda, eating junk food, and fast food.
This is a perfect example of how some people will treat you if they know you eat differently. I would get a terrible amount of questions at my last job because I didn’t eat cake, sweets, and soda during lunch. “Where do you get your protein?”…I’m not commenting on your food choices, so leave me alone! I’m not sure if this is the case, but it seems that there is a defensiveness towards me when people ASK if I’m vegetarian and learn that I am indeed. If you didn’t want to know, then why ask! I’m not pressuring you to eat a certain way. If you feel guilty about your eating habits, then deal with it yourself.
I don’t owe anyone an explanation. No one else in that circle had to explain. Eating two double-cheeseburgers at 4 A.M. was okay, but how dare I eat a pouch of rice…