By Molly Patrick
May 10, 2016,
What we choose to eat is as personal as the type of underwear that we put on in the morning (or not).
I’ve been vegetarian my entire life, vegan since 2008 and Whole Food Plant Based since 2014. This has been how my journey with food has gone down. This doesn’t mean that my way is the right way; it means that this is what has worked for me.
Everyone has a different food story and is on a different path at different points in their life regarding how they eat. And this is exactly how it should be. We all learn and grow and tweak as we go.
Other people’s food choices have never bothered me, even if they differ from my own. I think this stems from being vegetarian my whole life and having people judge me and be shitty to me about my food choices from a young age.
Not eating meat circa 2016 is perfectly acceptable and encouraged.
Not eating meat circa 1988 meant you were an alien, especially if you were 8.
So I don’t know how school works now, but when I was a kid, we had a full hour for lunch and as soon as the lunch bell would ring, we marched our little asses into the lunchroom and gobbled down our food as quickly as it would go down. As soon as our food was devoured, we’d book it outside and play for the rest of the hour until the dreaded bell rang, telling us that the fun was over.
There were two options in the lunch department. You could either brown bag it and bring your own or you could buy a hot lunch from the school kitchen. If you bought a hot lunch, there were no options – you got whatever they were serving and it was the same school lunch bullshit as today; cheap, processed and full of government subsidies.
My parents were hippies and they didn’t want me eating crap, and so my sweet dad made me a lunch every single morning. He made it with love and without meat, and then he would write my name and draw colorful pictures and shapes on the brown paper bag with bright colored crayons. “Molly” was written out and surrounded with Shocking Pink hearts, Outrageous Orange spirals, Wild Watermelon flowers, and the occasional stick person with a Screamin’ Green arrow through its head.
As a side note, my ability for being optimistic and cynical in the same exact moment makes perfect sense. Trust me.
One morning my dad was running late and he didn’t have time to make my lunch, so he gave me money to sort it out at school. This was fine with me because all of the cool kids ate hot lunch and I thought it would give a boost to my status, but my excitement was demolished as soon as I saw that hot dogs were on the menu.
My hopes of being cool went right out the window, along with lunch. When it was time to eat, I told the lunch monitor that I was vegetarian and didn’t eat hot dogs. She told me too bad and waved me off to the lunch line. It was hot dog city and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
My friends and I sat down at our usual table and I nonchalantly picked at the white bun that enveloped the hot dog while avoiding the meat. I was pretty sure cool points weren’t handed out unless you actually ate the hot lunch. This was clearly not my day. Lunch may have been a bust, but at least I had the playground to look forward to. I waited eagerly for my friends to finish eating.
As soon as my friends were done eating, we shot up from the table and made our way to where the fun was about to begin. I was seconds away from tossing my uneaten hot dog into the trash and bounce outside, when the lunch monitor grabbed me by the arm, yanked me away from my friends and told me I couldn’t leave until I finished my lunch.
I reminded her that I didn’t eat meat, but her expression told me that she hadn’t forgotten, she just didn’t like what she’d heard. She forcefully sat me back down at the table, slammed the hot dog in front of me and waited.
When she didn’t get a response, she threatened to send me to the principal. I could feel my face and neck start to get hot – the kind of hot that leaves a trail of red behind. Tears welled up in my eyes and all I could do was stare down at the hot dog.
I knew that I wasn’t going to eat it. It’s hard to explain, but I’ve never had it in me to eat meat. From my earliest memories, it seemed totally foreign and like it wasn’t even an option.
When the lunch monitor continued to get no response from me aside from red splotches and tears, she told me that I was way too skinny and that I needed to eat meat to put some fat on my bones.
She asked me with a stern look on her face what 8 year old doesn’t eat meat? She told me about starving kids in Africa and ended her story with how much of a spoiled brat I was. She opened the door to the playground and gave me a glimpse of all the fun I was missing out on outside.
I felt bad for the starving kids and I really wanted to go outside, but none of her tactics came close to working. I kept staring down at the hot dog and she kept staring at me. This went on until the bell finally rang and I got up, left the hot dog on the table and walked to class. That was the last time I went to school without my decorated brown paper lunch bag in hand.
The judgments, the weird looks and the teasing didn’t stop there. This continued for years, until I was confident enough to tell people to mind their own business and to stop making such a fuckery about the food that I chose to put in my body.
So maybe this is why I’ve never felt it was my place to police what people eat. Maybe this is why judging people’s food choices is the last thing on my mind. Maybe this is why you’ll never hear shitty remarks from me about someone’s diet if it happens to be different from mine. And maybe this is why being able to laugh with my girlfriend until our sides hurt is more important to me than what she eats for breakfast.
I’ve never made dating decisions based on what someone eats or doesn’t eat. My top requirement is that we can make each other laugh. If they find my burly man burps impressive, that’s a bonus.
My girlfriend Luanne and I have been together for almost 8 years. If you’re part of our private Facebook group, then you know who she is. She’s the cute geeky chick in charge of all the technical and design aspects of Clean Food Dirty Girl. Luanne is from Malaysia, the food capital of South East Asia, and she eats everything and anything. Seriously. I’ve seen her eat fried crickets as a snack when we went to Thailand.
When I first met her, she had half of a rotten watermelon in her fridge, some mayo, a loaf of old white bread and a package of deli ham. Green smoothies were out of the question, 99% of her meals were from restaurants, and the words nutrient dense meant nothing to her.
After 8 years with me, she drinks green smoothies every morning, she eats 99% of her meals at home, and she knows more about nutrient density than she cares to admit. It’s like osmosis, the knowledge has been absorbed simply by living with me. The woman whose favorite breakfast consists of fish head curry HAPPILY ate today’s recipe for breakfast twice last week. I’m still a little bit in shock.
It might take a while, but people are capable of changing how and what they eat. They just have to do it on their terms and in their time. You can offer encouragement and a helping hand, but you can’t force them, no matter how badly you want them to change.
I’d be thrilled if Luanne decided to go plant based, but she’s never expressed interest and I’ve never tried to persuade her. It’s not my place. And besides that, nagging would only lead to more ham and white bread sandwiches, because pushing and forcing someone to change will only inspire them to do the exact opposite.
If someone you love doesn’t eat as well as you’d like them to, the best thing that you can do is be encouraging, give them time, don’t judge them, and then get out of their way. When they’re ready to change (even slightly), they’ll know exactly who to turn to. And they’ll feel safe in doing so.
Your healthy eating journey is all about you anyway. How anyone else in your life eats has nothing to do with you, just like how you eat has nothing to do with them. Once your eating is solid and healthy, your loved ones won’t be able to ignore your glow, your spark, your increased energy and the radiance that beams from every pore of your body. The positive changes that they witness in you will inspire them to follow suit. Even if it does take 8 years.
Our Plant Fueled Weekly Meal Plans can help you on this journey of whole plant foods.
Here’s what one of our meal plan subscribers has to say about them:
“Molly’s meal plans take the guessing out of my food each week. PLUS, it saves me $ on groceries because I only have to buy what I need, instead of aimlessly wandering around the store and buying everything. The variety in Molly’s plans are awesome, but here’s what really seals the deal for me: the food tastes good to meat eaters and WFPB peeps alike, the recipes are easy and the ingredients aren’t rare or hard to find.”
So there you have it, maybe your meat and dairy eating loved ones need to experience my plant based recipes before they concede that this way of eating is damn yummy and doable.
This is the breakfast that my fish head curry loving girlfriend gobbled down two different times last week. If she loved it, trust me, your people will love it too.
Do you have a food related story to share? Talk to me about it in the comments below!
- Cooked quinoa
- Banana sliced
- Walnuts chopped
- Unsweetened non-dairy milk
- Place the quinoa in a bowl and top with plenty of raisins, berries, banana and walnuts and then add as much non-dairy milk as you like,
- Cooking quinoa is really fast. I like to cook a batch on the weekend and eat it throughout the week. 1 cup of uncooked quinoa (175g) makes about 2 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa (515g).
- The ratio to cook quinoa is 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. So if you were making 1 cup of uncooked quinoa you would cook it in 2 cups of water. It takes about 10-15 minutes to cook. Add the quinoa and the water to a pot, turn the heat to low after it comes to a boil and then place a lid on the pan at an angle.
- Cook until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is cooked and fluffy.
I hope that you have a happy week. May it be filled with zero judgment and lots of encouragement.