I met a young girl recently who was clearly suffering from malnutrition – sallow, sunken cheeks, bags under the eyes, dangerously underweight and she had no energy to do even the simplest of tasks. I mentioned to her that she might want to evaluate her diet to make sure she was getting everything she needed but she replied “Oh my diet is very healthy. I’m a vegetarian.”
Unfortunately, further investigation on my part revealed that this girl equated vegetarianism with an all-you-can-eat french fry and candy buffet – as long as there was no meat involved, anything edible was green-lighted, as far as she was concerned.
This girl was only 18 or so, mind you, so this particular situation could possibly be chalked up to the folly of youth. But I use this extreme example as a way to point out something that has been bothering me. I think that we humans like to simplify things, perhaps to our detriment. We can see this in the way that we simplify our diet choices down to their philosophies, find loop holes and exploit them.
Instead of looking at a diet that emphasizes things grown of the earth, that values the balance of human and environment, values sentient life to the point of not wishing to harm it, we get a diet that only looks to avoid meat. No thought is being put into one’s health at this point, only the rules of the vegetarian club. This is not the spirit of vegetarianism. We see the same thing in Atkins dieters who are wolfing down processed meat products and artificial sweeteners considering these to be healthy choices simply because they are losing weight.
I guess what I’m getting at here is that we can’t be unconscious eaters no matter what philosophy we subscribe to. Labeling yourself a vegetarian doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly healthy any more than labeling yourself a Buddhist suddenly makes you enlightened. If we reduce what we eat to one sentence, we can be sure that not a lot of thought is going into our food choices. One needs to be conscious of what they eat, regardless of whether they are an omnivore or vegetarian. Both options can be healthy, but neither one is a free ticket to health. Wise food choices mean thinking critically about what we choose to put in our bodies and considering carefully the effects our foods have on us. In this day and age, we can’t afford to sleep through dinner.