These days, it’s not uncommon for waiting staff to come across a group of patrons asking for vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, gluten free, plastic free, FODMAP, Keto, raw, and paleo food options. Sound like the recipe for a spit muffin?
The rise of awareness around where our food comes from and the impact our food consumption has on our planet and wildlife, has impacted what we want to put in our bodies. Because we’re human, we love putting ourselves in boxes and using labels to separate our dietary decisions. Unfortunately, it’s back fired. Vegans are boxed as extremists, flexitarians are lazy, and gluten free eaters are fussy rich people. Should we be able to choose what we put in our body, without spit muffins from the waitress?
Let’s start with definitions of the most popular diets:
The list goes on, and the constant awkward social situations and condemnation for those with dietary labels does too.
Labelling your diet gives your friends and family permission to input into your food consumption decisions.
“Doesn’t that have egg in it?” “I thought you were Paleo though?”
Did someone create an unspoken rule which meant as soon as someone labels their diet, the rest of the world have consent to jump into their food decisions? Yes, it’s lovely of friends and family to keep the individual on the right track, but stabbing comments and constant questions at meal times is enough to make anyone anxious and frustrated. There’s a balance between helpful prompts to keep a personal goal, and nagging comments that become personal attacks.
We should be able to change and adapt as information and knowledge change and adapt.
Information around our impact on the world is added to every day. Studies, tests, and decades of research are being unearthed regularly. With new information, comes new codes of ethics and beliefs. Therefore, our choices around consumption should be changing too. Yet, when someone says they are vegan, it’s as though they must stick to that label for the rest of their life, or they are considered weak and defeated.
Labels have segregated our meal times and society.
If you’re out with friends, and choose a meal which is slightly different to those around you; no one would know. But if you sit down to eat and you’ve already labelled yourself publicly, there’s immediately a divider between you and your companions. Labels are social dividers that we’re struggling to get used to.
The social stigmas that groups have created for themselves, now underpin diets whether those labelled like it or not. For example, it’s commonly thought that vegans are activists, outrageous, and radical. A vegan without these extra characteristics, is still judged this way by peers regardless. There’s no way we can escape judgement when it comes to being human, but labelling accentuates judgement drastically.
Labels are helpful, we need them.
With everything else taken into consideration, there’s still no doubt we need labels. Knowing someone is in a group helps us to quickly understand their needs without asking. Labels clarify medical dietary requirements, which can sometimes be the difference between life and death, and labels help to organise a chaotic society. We need labels for a more organised chaos, and to save time explaining ourselves.
Whether you’re a low fibre, Mediterranean, lectin free, low carb eating human being, you have the choice to put into your body what you want.
Be careful when you’re going down the labelling track. Don’t let a label constrict you from learning, growing, and changing your food consumption; let your meals forever evolve and always represent the type of world you want to live in.