Saturday, November 20, 2010

Do Your Food Values Make You an Elitist or an Oddball?

 I can't help but feel a little odd!
 Sometimes I can't help feeling odd, a little eccentric and different from most people. I'm consumed with passion for being a dietitian and spreading the message of how much better life can be when we eat healthy foods responsibly, exercise regularly and get adequate sleep each night. I think about food all the time. It's not odd to think about what you do in your profession, even when you're not working. I feel odd because of the blank stares I get when I tell people I'm vegetarian. I feel odd when there is nothing for me to order in a restaurant except a salad or processed veggie burgers. I feel odd when I won't let the server in a restaurant refill my children's beverages, except with water. I feel odd because I suggest that people cook more meals at home using fresh ingredients rather than serving Tyson chicken tenders. I feel odd because I won't eat the foods that many other Americans will eat. Does that make me an elitist? Am I perceived as thinking that I'm better than others because I won't eat fast food? The truth is I'm not an elitist and I've been known on occasion to buy fast food for my children, albeit the smallest meal and beverage that I can buy. But feeling odd because of my food values is a feeling that I can't seem shake.

This feeling of being odd became overwhelming when my thirteen year old daughter asked me to buy a birthday present for a friend. As we drove to Wegmans, my daughter told me that she wanted to buy her friend's favorite chocolate which happened to be Hershey's. I recently wrote a blog post on my views about Hershey's and have banned Hershey products from my house in lieu of fair trade and organic chocolate (elitist?). I apologized to my daughter that we would not be buying her friend's favorite chocolate. As a thirteen year old will do, she pushed back exclaiming that four bars of chocolate wouldn't make a difference to the world. An argument ensued and ended with my retort that she was asking me to be a hypocrite. We entered the store and proceeded to buy several bars of fair trade and organic chocolate. I went home feeling the burden of my values. I disappointed my daughter and felt like I didn't "fit in" in a world where trading commodities and making money was more important than human life, protecting the environment, or any other value that is different from popular opinions.

Even though the pendulum of popular belief with respect to food is swinging in my direction, I still feel the burden of my beliefs heavy on my shoulders. In a world where the majority of adults are overweight and greater numbers of children are becoming overweight and obese, I'm hopeful that the choices I make in small measure will influence others, who in turn will influence even more people. But then I I a food fascist (sic)?

I asked my daughter if she told her friend that I wouldn't allow her to buy Hershey's chocolate. She did and her friend enjoyed the fair trade chocolate that she gave him. I felt a little vindicated when she told me that another friend replied, "Oh yeah, I know about Hershey's. They stink!" Perhaps I'm not that odd after all.

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