Eating is not a moral act

I have done three juice cleanses in my lifetime. I have also chosen to not share that fact with most of the people in my life. Why? Because so often my choices are immediately judged. People seem to have an immediate reaction. My mom, who also loves to juice but hasn’t done a juice cleanse, casually told some people at work that she makes one green juice a day. A coworker quickly responded, “oh so you’re one of those people.”

Juicing is no doubt a new fad. Anywhere you look, you can find an article about how it is 1. really good for you or 2. really bad for you. And most people seem to fall in one of the two camps. But whether you think that juicing is the dumbest thing you can do, or if you’re like me and have seen the benefits of it, the fact remains: what I choose to put in my body is none of your business. And it’s not a moral choice.(I’m not going to get into the morals of certain foods- meat, subsidized farming etc. I know that these can be moral issues, but it’s beyond the scope of this article and my point).

I think that this is an important point: my food choices are not a moral choice. They do not mean that I am a good person, or that I’m better than anyone else. What I mean is: when I choose to juice, choose to eat lots of vegetables, or eat gluten free, I am not trying to threaten you, imply something about you or the way you eat, or make you feel bad about yourself. I am simply trying to take care of myself in the way that I know how. But so often, when I’m eating healthy, I find that people have really strong reactions. When I choose a salad over a burger, I’ve gotten comments like “oh, come on, you could use more food than that.” I usually politely smile and force out a small laugh. But really what I’m thinking is “why is it any of your business what I’m eating?”

It’s not just about healthy eating, either. My cousin, a runner who at the time of this story was training for a marathon, was sitting at work downing a bag of candy. She was constantly, insatiably hungry because well, she was training for a marathon. A coworker of hers decided to stop by and tell her how unhealthy it was and added “someday all of that is going to catch up to you,” implying that she was going to gain weight. My cousin, bless her heart, continued to shove candy in her mouth, smiled, and told this woman that it was none of her goddamned business.

Let’s be honest, most of these comments are not made out of a genuine concern for health, they are made out of concerns for body image. Thin women get skinny shamed, women who aren’t thin get fat shamed. No matter what women do, they are subjected to commentary about their bodies and what is wrong with them. Which causes people like me to hide the things I choose. And when women are forced into hiding the things they choose to put or not put into their bodies, or forced to lie about the amount of exercise they do or don’t do, it is reinforcing the idea that all of this is a moral thing, and that our bodies are shameful things that need to be hidden, which further reinforces unhealthy habits, body shaming, and self-hate. It is a damaging, awful thing to do.

So next time you are about to comment on someone’s food choices, please ask yourself this question, “Why do I think it is my business, concern, or right to make a judgment or comment about what she is doing or not doing?” or ideally, reflect on why you’re having that reaction. More often than not I’ve found it’s because I feel bad about myself in some way. And please, stop the cycle. Stop hiding, stop shaming, stop assuming that this is all a moral issue. Eating is not a moral act. We are not “good” or “bad” people for eating the way we do. We are people making choices about our health and our food.

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