“the V word” and other selective eating issues

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Life
  • Post comments:0 Comments


For the past month or so, Mr. Lively and I have chosen not to eat meat. Though many would call us “vegetarian,” we have had a hard time actually coming out and saying that word.

At first, it was because we weren’t sure if we were going to stick with the decision for a specific amount of time. It just kind of started one day. Then, we did it again the next day, and so on. Over time, we realized that it wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. And for the time being, we want to continue the trend.

For myself, I am choosing meals without meat because all animals, including lobsters, are starting to look like Franklin to me. And Mr. Lively, who started this path first, has no specific reason for his decision. He just feels like it.

Over the past several weeks we have been wary to mention it to many people – especially in the beginning. In fact, we went to dinner at a friend’s house and didn’t mention that we weren’t eating meat until it was time to make our tacos. We simply skipped the meat and put the beans in our tortillas, to which our exasperated host said she wished she had known ahead of time so she could have prepared more veggie options.

So even by trying not to make it a big deal, we ended up making it a big deal.

Meanwhile, we also have friends with other selective diets. Two friends are severely allergic to gluten, one is die-hard Paleo, and another is on a completely plant-based diet. Oh, and my parents? They eat rather low-carb meals, which might be similar to the South Beach plan.

And I know it is not just our circle of friends and family who are getting more selective with their eating choices. The With Intention workshop foodies have had an interesting time accommodating so many different eating choices that only appear to have one thing in common: veggies.

It seems that the more research, information, books, and documentaries that come out, the more varied and convicted people become about their eating choices. On the one hand, this is amazing. I’m happy to live in a time where we can all have access to more education and knowledge about what we put into our bodies and how we affect the food chain at large.

On the other hand, now – perhaps more than ever – it is more difficult to share a selective eating choice with others.

By saying we are eating vegetarian, we have been told:

  • That we won’t get enough protein.
  • That we really should be eating meat, not dairy, for better skin and nutrition.
  • That Mr. Lively better avoid eating soy, or else his estrogen is going to go up.
  • That if I eat a vegetarian diet I might get sick from not eating meat.

Rather than get positive support and encouragement for making a choice we feel good about, we face nutritional judgements and unsolicited advice. I know our friends and family mean well, but we really aren’t asking for an opinion about our decision.

Which is why it is tempting not to tell people at all, and end up at the taco bar quietly skipping the ground beef. 

What’s more, by telling people that we are eating a vegetarian diet now, I’m also starting to feel like there may be judgement if we ever decide to eat meat again in the future. By saying that we are not eating meat today, it seems like we are promising that we won’t eat meat forever. If we do eat meat in the future, we “failed to stick with it,” or we are wrong for not eating meat in the present.

The personification of these selective diets also seems to divide us from one another.

I’m a vegetarian.

I’m vegan.

I’m Paleo. 

I’m on South Beach.

As Mr. Lively said in the first few weeks, “Today, I feel like eating veggies.”

Can we allow ourselves to make our dietary choices based on our intuition at this point in time, without the hard and impenetrable boundaries? Can we support people with selective and non-selective eating choices?

Can we support our friends and families, regardless of what goes on their plate?

Can the forks live with the knives?


This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. Katie

    I can SO relate! My husband and I are vegetarians and have caught so much flack for it since the beginning. It’s almost as if some people want us to “fail” at it. This past weekend someone ordered scallops at a restaurant and I really wanted to have one. I didn’t because I knew it would cause such a huge reaction. I wish it could just be a daily thing. I also wish that my eating preferences didn’t matter to other people. I think many people feel threatened by it because it challenges their eating habits.

    On the other hand I know that my beliefs keep me eating vegetarian. So I’m worried that if I have one scallop it will be a slippery slope. I’d rather not risk it.

    I guess my overall point is that food choices can be isolating and become a barrier between people. I hope one day that isn’t the case.

    1. Jess Lively

      I can imagine that is tough! Especially for scallops (also the thing I feel like might be the hardest for me to give up). I think I’m scared by the title of vegetarian for that exact reason – that it might make me feel guilty or cause a huge reaction if I feel like eating one sometime. In the grand scheme of things, I will be eating way less meat overall than I used to, but that doesn’t mean I need to go 100% or 0% either way.

      I agree. I hope one day this is not the case, too.

  2. Jess

    I so relate to this, Jess! My husband and I have been changing our diet slowly over the last 6-8 months. My husband doesn’t do well with drastic, sudden change (like getting rid of all snacks in the house one night), but over several months… we don’t have junk food in the house anymore! We eat semi-Paleo, mostly low-carb. We’re not on a diet, we’re making a lifestyle change. But, both of our families just laugh at us, and ask why. They don’t encourage, they don’t try to understand, and when we don’t order something or take the bun off of our hamburger, we get judgmental stares.

    1. Jess Lively

      Yeah, that can be hard. When people aren’t used to seeing a hamburger eaten off the bun it can make people feel weird. Not that it should… I just think it might be a self reflective thing that makes people uncomfortable, as people have mentioned in other comments above.

      Bravo for sticking with it and doing what is right for you – regardless of how others feel about it. Be the light!

  3. Lauren Corso

    It’s tough because we all think we know what’s best for everyone else – and the reality is that no one thing is perfect for every person. I follow the paleo way of eating and avoid telling people about it because when I have explained it, I get weird looks when I explain why I don’t partake in the stack of bagels or donuts in the coffee room at work… so I have instead learned to keep it to myself and hope no one notices. It’s a tough thing – but that’s the easiest way to deal with it now. I think a lot of the judgements and unsolicited advice can come from honest concern – for instance, I have spent a LOT of time educating myself on how the body reacts to different things, so I do feel like I can tell my family and friends things that they may not know to help them become healthier. However, I also know that my personality type leads me to believe that I need to teach everyone everything – and that’s just not necessary. Because sometimes people need to figure things out for themselves. So, I think as long as these dietary decisions are being made intentionally and with great care, we can be respectful of each others’ dietary decisions rather than needing to impart our own “wisdom” on one another.

    1. Jess Lively

      Exactly! And I think you might also like and agree with Ash, in her comment above. She talks about “being the light” so that people ask you about what you are doing, rather than sharing without the request for information.

  4. Such an incredibly interesting topic, Jess! I can completely relate to you and Mr. Lively. As a health coach, I’ve dug into all different types of eating patterns, what works for me, and what doesn’t. I went strictly vegetarian for a month earlier this year, and it caused quite the uproar in the family. I just wanted to see what it was like, what kind of cravings I had, and how I felt from it. Like you said, people were quite confused at the whole thing. I believe everyone is entitled to their own way of healthy eating. What works for you today, might not be what you want and what works for you a few months from now. It’s about listening to your body, and not putting any labels on how you eat. I don’t think anyone should be defined by what they eat. It’s just part of our story! 🙂 I also have had close friends who’ve felt ashamed and embarrassed by their food sensitivities at gatherings and events, having to ask for special foods. It’s so important to understand and be gentle with everyone. We’re all trying to do our best to be healthy and happy! 🙂

  5. Chicspace/Marguerite

    Any comments people make about others’ eating habits (unless, perhaps, someone is eating candy only or junk food only…and even then) are much more about the commenter and much less about the commentee. The commenter is validating their own choices, especially if they are uncertain about them. I mean, unless the commentee is someone the commenter is living with 24/7 (a spouse or child, and there’s a valid concern), what one puts in their mouth is their business.

    That said, if someone goes around espousing their own diet and that others should do the same (which is SO NOT what you are doing), they invite comments.

    I was vegetarian for a while in college (and I don’t eat that much meat at home now). My stepmom used to sneak meat into my meals. Her issue, not mine.

  6. Rose Mayo

    I love this post!! I have never been a bit meat eater myself, and would pick around it in dishes most of my life. In 2011, I made a conscious decision to stop eating it, simply because I didn’t like it and didn’t feel like eating it. I do still eat fish from time to time-which makes me a pescetarian, mostly to accommodate friends and restaurants. I’ve found that I eat less and less of it as time goes by, though. There are a lot of people who are judgmental of my eating habits. despite the fact that I likely eat healthier than they do! I noticed an immediate change in how my body felt, and I also realized I’d been lacking in a lot of areas (even protein) and I now know how to watch what I’m eating and get the right nutrients. What really sealed the deal for me was reading the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran-Foer. It’s an incredibly well written book that doesn’t push any eating style on you but rather makes the case for knowing what you’re eating, and now that I know, I’ll never UN-know.

    It’s also important to remember that what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. It’s about eating in a way that is moderate, healthy and makes your body feel its best!

    Blonde in this City

    1. Jess Lively

      Rose, thanks for sharing! You sound exactly like how I feel, presently. Thank you for sharing from a bit “further down the line.” : )

  7. oh goodness, people love to make a big deal about vegetarian (and vegan) lifestyles. If one more person tells me that I don’t get enough protein I am going to flip out 🙂 That being said, I like @rosemayo:disqus eat fish time to time, so it is a bit easier to go out with friends. While my family doesn’t quite understand my decision, they do respect it.

    1. Jess Lively

      That’s great to hear! I might also eat fish here and there when I feel like it.

      Thanks for sharing!

  8. EmSewCrazy

    OH my, what a controversial topic! 🙂 I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for 11 years now and about 2 years ago I also got Celiac disease (the no gluten thing) so I hear ya loud and clear about all the unsolicited advice.
    One way I’ve found to live at peace is to just keep my mouth shut when people decide to share their ignorance with me. Occasionally the opportunity arises for me to share the facts which I do politely.
    If you want to try something new with your diet, go ahead. If it works for you that’s great. Don’t tell me its the best thing in the world and EVERYONE NEEDS TO DO IT.
    Ok, I’ll climb off my soapbox now… why is this such a big topic? Because eating is one of man’s essential needs, therefore everyone has to do it? Because eating differently DOES separate, even when, as in my case, it is medically necessary? Because we are all so insecure that we can’t stand to see someone else making different choices from us? I don’t know…

    1. Jess Lively

      Love your thoughts! (You say it so well!)

      These are all valid questions and I think Bridget Wall, in a comment above, helps add to these questions and poses some possible answers, too.

  9. Sage Grayson

    Wow, I’m really proud of you for talking about the intention behind our food choices. I’m a vegan (18 years and counting!). Being vegan for me is a very spiritual choice. I would not feel like a kind person if I ate animals. It’s not a trendy fad for me but rather a reflection of my soul. Living a vegan life was a natural progression for me once I became clear on my life’s purpose (to live from a place of love and compassion).

    That said, I’m married to a meat eater. If I show kindness to animals, then I must show kindness to human animals too. 🙂 My food choices are spiritual for me, but I try to show respect to people who are on a different path.

    1. Jess Lively

      I love your perspective on this, Sage. Thanks for sharing! We can be kind to animals and humans in this area. : )

  10. Natalie | Natalie Dressed

    Jess, I love this so much! Seth wasn’t eating meat for awhile and he had a very similar experience to you guys. People made it a big deal or didn’t understand why or would label him as a vegan/vegetarian and his response was that he simply wasn’t eating meat. He was trying it out for no predetermined amount of time. The more I learn about diet and food and all the different ways you can eat, the more I think that we really just need to listen to our bodies. I listened to this book called Clean Gut that my dad recommended and it’s basically a 21 day program where you follow a specific diet (no gluten, dairy, etc.). The goal is to repair your gut health and in the 7 days following, you begin to reincorporate food back in. I just really liked that the premise was to first see how your body truly responds to certain foods and then you can decide whether or not that should be in your diet. And it doesn’t have to be hard and fast, it can change and evolve. Hoping more people adopt your perspective! 🙂

    1. Ffion

      I just read that too, and I feel it’s one of the first books on nutrition I’ve read that doesn’t just say “eat this, and don’t eat that”. I love that it takes into account that everyone is different and reacts differently to different foods. I have loads of allergies, and would love to try this programme out at some stage… at the moment though I have other priorities, that project/life-change is going to have to wait a bit.

      Have you tried the programme yet? Did it work for you?

      1. Natalie | Natalie Dressed

        I haven’t tried it yet for the same reasons. I definitely want to though when I have the time to fully commit to it!

      1. Natalie | Natalie Dressed

        I haven’t done it yet because of things we’ve had scheduled (like wine tasting) that will make it hard to stay consistent with. I definitely want to try it eventually though.

  11. Bridget Wall

    I don’t think the issue here is really food, it’s fanaticism and proselytism. Sometimes, when you find something that works for you, whether it’s an eating plan, a workout routine, a religion, or a sleeping regimen, you can’t stop yourself for judging everyone that is NOT doing this best thing ever, and informing everyone that they should do this best thing ever. It’s in some ways a very natural response to being excited about something, but it can turn into the most annoying behavior ever because it’s usually unsolicited, and about a fairly emotional or personal topic.

    Having gone through a rather difficult eating transition to try and troubleshoot a complex health issue, I can say without a doubt, that dealing with how people respond to my fumbled explanations was far harder than not eating my favorite foods, being able to go out to eat, all that. And that is saying something, because for the first couple months, I could hardly stand to be around people eating. But what it came down to was that their questions made me feel alone. And these sorts of things contribute to the way people that are a certain lifestyle (for lack of a better term?) can sometimes get very into something very quickly, because “these people understand them.”

    So yes. I do think that the world would be a lot better off if people were less judgmental. But we are a nosy, busybody race. 🙂

    1. Ffion

      My boyfriend likes the term “vegeterrorists” to describe vegetarians who try to push their views on others 😉

      So many people are so opinionated nowadays, I usually just don’t bother to discuss this kind of topic with them.

      Nutrition is a difficult topic… 🙁 And no one has all the answers. I’ve experimented with different diets too, to try and improve my multiple allergies, so far nothing has really worked, so I’m back to “everything in moderation”…

    2. Jess Lively

      Well said! I think you totally hit the nail on the head with the first issue you bring up. Interestingly enough for me, I found more feedback from those against a selective eating lifestyle, than those who were for one.

      But, that said, I think those who are excited about what they are doing do want to share it to those who do not know or do it themselves. It seems it comes from both directions.

  12. There will be so many people that could relate to this post Jess. I became pescatarian (still eat fish, eggs and dairy) 5 years ago when I could no longer balance my immense love for animals and eating meat. I remember I intentionally didn’t announce it in case it didn’t stick, and because I didn’t want people to question my beliefs.

    I remember going to a BBQ and eating tomato, lettuce and bread rolls so no one would notice!

    At this stage I’m currently moving towards being a complete vegetarian and am also trying to limit dairy products. My husband, however, still eats meat. People always ask ‘But what do you eat?’ Seriously it’s not that hard – just don’t add the meat to the stir fry/pasta/whatever.

    I never ask anyone to cater to me specifically as it can get too hard (how do you even host a gluten free, vegan, seafood allergic, paleo dinner party??) but I do expect people to respect my decision, just as I respect theirs.

    I think the biggest thing we can all do is make an effort to know and understand where our food comes from and live a life true to ourselves.

    1. Jess Lively

      Agreed! And yes, it can be hard to have a dinner party with all of the different eating choices now. That was what we realized during the workshops. (However, I can say, there are some really inventive foodies out there who do a great job making it all work. : ) )

  13. Jess Lively

    I love that. I think letting the benefits of any lifestyle choice speak for themselves when out in public or hanging out with friends or family. Totally true.

    We can all “be the light!”

  14. Jess Lively

    Oh man, that must have been tough, Julia! How is the baby doing?!

    I’m happy you’ve been able to stick to what works for you despite what others may think.

  15. Jess Lively

    Thanks for the insights and advice! I am sorry to hear that you became allergic to nuts and avocados! That would be a terrible thing for me, too. I love those two things so much and have been eating them more regularly lately. : )

    “Being healthy is the key and you can do that on any diet you’d like!” Exactly.

  16. I say, do what works for you! A vegetarian diet will also make you feel great, but do make sure you’re getting enough protein!! I eat vegetarian several times a week, but don’t know if I could give up meat all together just yet 😉

Leave a Reply