I was reading one of the bazillion articles about how fat kids are these days, when I read this sentence: “Zeitler says when children slim down, it’s because ‘their families get religion about this and figure out what needs to happen.'” Immediately this made me giggle because the phrase “get religion” elicited imagery of a congregation baptizing members in a tub of fat-free yogurt. Yet that phrase perfectly evokes how I feel about how I’ve changed my life. Which is funny, because I haven’t gone to church in years, yet when it comes to snack foods I have become a slight zucchini zealot.
I once watched a “Where Are They Now?” special on VH1 which was a much more polite title than the equally appropriate “Washed-Up Pop Stars.” One of the people they interviewed was a protégé of Prince who used to slink around in lingerie and do drugs, but had now become a complete Jesus freak. They interviewed her in a church and every other word out of her mouth was about the Lord and God. While I have nothing against Godly devotion or God himself (anyone claming responsibility for creating the duck-billed platypus obviously has a great sense of humor), it did seem a bit extreme. I was happy that she seemed happy, but she also seemed a bit off her head. Sometimes I wonder if people think I am equally wacky when it comes to health and fitness.
For instance, when I made baked goods for my friend back in February, I made whole-wheat muffins instead of a more-likely popular item, like chocolate frosted cupcakes. I did this because I wanted to cook her something but I knew I could not be trusted around frosting and cupcake batter. I could see how that would go clearly. Not only would I lick the beaters, I’d lick the spoon, then I’d dip the spoon in again and lick that, then I’d stick my finger in and lick my knuckle to my fingernail, and then I’d run my finger around the edge of the bowl to get all that stray sugar and flour sprayed at the top edges. I’d probably eat half the batter and frosting before I could seal a finished batch away from my mouth in a Tupperware container. So whole-wheat muffins it was.
When I presented my muffins, everyone was complimentary and polite and I think they genuinely like them. But I’m sure cupcakes would have been more popular. And I think if I started bringing “healthy” foods to potlucks and pitch-ins it’s just as likely my foodstuffs would be pitched in the trash afterwards than eaten. The sugar-filled, fat-stuffed, calorie-dense foods are usually more popular. It’s weird to think I could get a reputation for bringing the granola-crunching, hippie who brings unusual, health foods to get-togethers that people eyeball strangely before dipping into the potato salad. I think people just like to stick to what’s familiar, and the goat-cheese salad, while tasty, is definitely not familiar in a state that has almost no goatherds.
Similarly, I feel a bit weird whenever I go out to eat with people. Over the years I’ve gotten much better about resisting peer pressure. I don’t dive into the bread bowl as much. I can ID the most healthy items on the menu. I stick to water. While this leaves me feeling much less guilty than the days when I stuffed three rolls in my face and sucked down four refills of cola, I also hope no one feels like I am judging them or acting morally superior with my food choices. I’m just ordering what I feel comfortable ordering and if everyone else wants to fill up on bread and drench their fettuccini in cream sauce, more power to them. Yet I do feel like I might be making people feel uncomfortable, like they’re discussing birth control options next to their hard-core Catholic aunt who only endorses the rhythm method. I used to feel very insecure about this and would purposely order “normal” foods that did not have the word “salad” in them just to show that I could eat regular food like them. Now I’ve reached a point where I don’t care that much what other people think of my food choices and just order what I want even if it’s 50% lettuce. It’s not a political statement, it’s just lunch.
Some of my friends who know about my healthy lifestyle will sometimes apologize to me if we go to a place with lots of fried food or will double-check to make sure there is appropriate food for my in their fridges. This is very considerate and thoughtful of them, but again it makes me feel odd. It’s undeniable that my healthy eating and fitness lifestyle sets me apart in unexpected ways from many of my friends and acquaintances. I just try to keep it myself and not get preachy about it. When I was walking on the trail with my mom a month ago a family handed us pamphlets asking us, “Have you been saved?” which we promptly threw out because it’s really no one else’s business whether we have been saved or whether we care to be saved. It’s not my business what other people choose to eat and I’m not going to start lecturing people on the proper amount of vegetable servings they should have in a day. But I have to admit when it comes to healthy living, just like the article said I have “got religion” and strangely enough I like it.