Let them eat lettuce: the stigma surrounding healthy eating

Let them eat lettuce: the stigma surrounding healthy eating

By Stephanie Youssef

With the general lack of stress and education, summer means we typically have more time to dedicate to caring for our well-being. Living away from dining hall food and often having more of a variety of healthy food options at home affords us the opportunity to eat more nutritiously. With the whole year having consisted of me grabbing random snacks in the small amount of time I had between classes, I decided to take advantage of the time I have this summer to cook my own meals and eat healthier. With my new dedication to a cleaner diet, my commitment to a healthier lifestyle has surprisingly been met with some criticism.

It seems that many people have this misconception that you either have to be obese, old or in bad health to want to watch what you eat. There also seems to be this double standard where commenting about someone being overweight is uncalled for, but telling someone they are skinny and should eat a burger is acceptable for some reason.

For example, I was at a fast food restaurant hanging out with some friends and ordered a salad when everybody else ordered burgers. I received ridiculous comments about missing out on good food, being on a cardboard diet and being shallow because I am watching what I eat when I am not overweight. The comments were then followed by attempts to feed me a vanilla shake after I repeatedly refused.

It should go without saying that healthy eating is clearly a personal choice, but these negative reactions bring light to some common misconceptions about healthy eating that need to be addressed.

Many stereotypes that surround dieting elicit images of unhappy individuals restricting their food options in order to lose weight. Healthy eating isn’t necessarily about losing weight; there are good merits that have nothing to do with physical appearance that come with doing so—like being more energetic and enjoying long-term positive health consequences.

In fact, healthy eating makes me very happy, which is why it isn’t difficult for me to eat clean when I am on my own and have the capability to make my own food choices. In my experience, 99 percent of what is difficult about being on a clean diet is having to deal with the idiots who insist that I should eat junk without caring just because I am young and already look decently healthy.

I am free to choose what food I eat and I should be able to do so without receiving unnecessary sarcastic comments about what my diet consists of, or back-handed compliments about how I look fine so I shouldn’t care about what I eat. It’s not like I sat there and told everyone they would develop atherosclerosis because of what they ordered. I am well aware of the fact that what one eats for lunch is a personal choice, and that one should be free to do so without being criticized.

People also tend to think that they can throw around the word skinny without caring because they equate being skinny with being healthy. Regardless of one’s physical appearance, nobody should be seen as too skinny to make a lifestyle change to eat healthier.

At the same time, no one should ever be considered too young to start cleaning up their eating habits either. Waiting until one develops health problems to begin watching what they eat is like shutting the stable doors after the horse has already run out.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully recognize the fact that you are free to exercise your first amendment rights to say whatever you want – but telling me that I am somehow “missing out” because I don’t indulge in fast food and sweets is almost as ridiculous as a smoker telling someone they are missing out because they don’t smoke cigarettes. These negative stigmas surrounding healthy eating derive from what people think defines health and other common misconceptions about dieting.

In reality, being truly healthy is more than skin deep.

Stephanie is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @syoussef22.