Packed lunches at school were the perfect social event. It led to that great ice-breaking question; “what do you have in your lunchbox today”?
In fact, any gathering where food is involved, you can be sure a bonding experience will occur. That is, if you are all aiming to eat the same cuisine. Try to eat healthily in a group that is indulging, you will be greeted with stares that are as icy as snow.
My diet used to consist of wheat, refined sugar and probably more wheat. Pizza’s, cookies, chocolate and bread (apologies if that list made your mouth water). It was really a concoction of gaining weight after high-school and being told by my dermatologist that I had food intolerances, that I then began my trip into the world of health.
In the beginning, waves of support surrounded me; it felt as if I were a member of team GB. People never challenged my salads or array of vegetables, if anything they were encouraging. But then my food swaps became a lifestyle change.
Months go by and I am still eating salads. Only now I have learnt how to make actual healthy meals, I am tucking into variety. My fitness went up and I made it through the threshold. This wellness kick was not momentary; it was not washed away with guilt or a tub of Ben and Jerry’s.
I became an outsider. Comments started brewing, the great packed lunch became:
“Is that all you are going to eat”?
“Do you ever want to eat normal food”?
“Your food looks disgusting”.
Quite happily I could have eaten my lunch in the toilets like Lindsay Lohan , when she starred in Mean Girls-provided the toilets had just been cleaned. It would also help if they were brand new and had never been used!
I went from applause to defending myself. Apparently I ate like a rabbit, which is not the kind of reference you want when being linked to rabbits.
Bean burgers with spinach and sweet potato, rice and tuna with broccoli and sweet potato cakes with black beans and salad. A small selection of some of the meals I cooked for lunch. In addition, I usually had a small ‘healthy’ dessert to eat afterwards. I love baking flapjacks and brownies and the internet accommodates me in finding cleaner versions.
All in all, I would not say I was on a diet. I merely made better choices. Workouts were far less than what an athlete would undergo, I never overworked or ran myself tired. So why the shift in attitude?
In the present, my way of living is even more healthy. I consider myself a fitness motivator on Instagram. Everyday I find words of wisdom as I document my well-being and life on the side. Insignificant to some, however that is the genius of social media. You simply unfollow or unfriend or even secretly hide that person from your screen. Try unfollowing your friends or family when you are about to eat.
For all the negativity you can draw up from social media; the insecurities and feelings that you are never good enough, I praise the online world for bringing forth my determination to be fit. As much as my sister works out and puts me to shame, I now have a community there 24/7 who understand my need to progress. It does not matter what your goal is or how you go about it, if you are doing it, you are supported.
I somewhat envy people whose friends have similar desires. With mine, it feels like I am playing football and they are playing chess. Some are off married and expecting babies, others want to travel and some are a few months away from moving abroad. The closest friend I have to food compatibility, is heading off to Australia.
Despite mine and my sister’s love of being in shape, we are soon outnumbered. Now I do not mind a treat. I diligently devour my cravings on a weekly basis. I do nevertheless, embrace myself when I go out to see family.
A treat becomes what could be described as a bingeing session. Cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sausage rolls; my christmas guilt on a regular basis. It never ceases to surprise me when I am the one interrogated. The assumptions commences; when will they ask if I take steroids?
Judgement or stereotypes happen around the dinner table. I can eat more because I am skinny, I should relax and stop being picky.
See its assumed I must be or want to be in shape just to literally be in shape. As a matter of fact, I suffered from depression, deep insecurity, low energy, severe acne and a wish to be flexible. After my scoliosis surgeries, to me I lost much of my ability in strength. I quit dancing and battled to exercise.
Taking care of myself gives me immense happiness. It’s one of my favourite challenges and I wish the roles could adjust. Could the people around me have an evening of good food? Can I have the same choice that they have, can I decide when I want to spoil my palette and when I would rather be strict?
And instead of waiting for me to open my lunch box and dissect my meals, can I read them a list of all the effects their food will have on them?
We all know a gym junkie or an in your face health expert, in the same way we know a person who brings sugary donuts into the office. I would like to think that I simply get on with my life and if I stay quiet about the choices others make, they should also give me the same respect.
Food is what brings people together; as long as you don’t differ in your preferences.