This article originally appeared on Ravishly and has been reprinted with permission of the author, Carrie Saum.
Dear Special Eaters of The World,
I can’t afford to eat like you.
Yes, CaveGirl, I mean you. You too, VeganFriend. SuperJuicer, I can’t get enough of your fresh turmeric and ginger with organic kale and apple juice. Organic Yogis, I wish to Ganesha that I could afford to eat all organic produce, all the time, because I think your food just tastes better, and I think realistically that has something to do with spraying your organic produce with 50 chemicals instead of 100, like conventional produce.
Truly, I love you all. I respect the way you care for your bodies and fuel it with food that makes you feel good. I’m assuming that’s why you make those choices: because they feel right for you.
But my thin bank account cannot accommodate your spendy eating ways, and I know I’m not alone.
For many years, I ate a paleo-style diet that was based completely on unproven scientific theories but still made me feel AMAZING. As it turns out, I don’t need many carbs in regular life. In fact, with my history of PCOS, refined sugar and carbohydrates are kind of like kryptonite for my hormones. Ditching certain things like sugar and most grains brought my body into balance and I felt strong and happy.
For a while.
Then I got pregnant and all bets were off. I ate whatever my body and my baby wanted and I gave zero fucks about what my fire-inventing, baby seal-clubbing cave people ancestors ate because croissants are LIFE. Once I pushed my baby out of my vagina, I made milk for him. I tried to get by without grains and sugar. It didn’t work. I was hungry all the time. I needed carbs. I needed glorious, grainy sustenance to keep my boobs and baby full.
When I lost my job exactly three months after returning from maternity leave, we were just absolutely screwed. Eating any sort of modified paleo diet was completely out. We could barely afford it without a baby with special needs with two incomes. But without my income, we were scrambling to figure out a way to keep all of us nourished without sacrificing quality.
It didn’t work.
Can we acknowledge that the way we WANT to eat is not always the way we are ABLE to eat?
My husband and I got creative BECAUSE NECESSITY. We started looking for really cheap deals on produce and ethically-raised meat. We researched salvage grocery stores where good food goes to die. OK, some of it is already dead when it gets there, but there’s still plenty to choose from if you’re not incredibly picky.
And guess what? We lost our ability to be picky because we were so completely broke.
And here’s what I learned: I am a food classist. Paleo eating? Yeah, that’s a privilege. My favorite vegan friends claim their way of eating is affordable, but guess what? It’s not. Fresh produce is expensive. And if you’re allergic to soy or wheat, or can’t tolerate grains or legumes, you will almost never eat for less than $20 a day.
I believe eating consciously and according to your own convictions is important. But also, eating “clean” is a unique privilege only a few specific groups of people can subscribe to.
So, can we acknowledge that the way we want to eat is not always the way we are able to eat? And before we start spouting the science behind it or quoting from the latest Netflix documentary/TED Talk, can we just acknowledge that eating according to your convictions is a privilege?
I know. It probably sticks in your throat like a three-day-old perfectly preserved Chicken McNugget, but try real hard to swallow that anyway, because we NEED a food revolution.
The truthiest truth, though, is that food is expensive. It costs a pretty penny to feed yourself well, with conviction, ethical sourcing, and quality ingredients. It’s OK if you are privileged enough to be able to eat a certain way — there is no shame in that. But please, be careful not to shame those who are unable to eat according to your convictions.
We are all doing our very best to feed and nourish our bodies, our communities, and our families. You can’t do this wrong. I will toast you, my favorite Super Juicer Vegan Goddess Friend, because I absolutely love what you are doing. I also super love Happy Meal Mom and Single Lady Who Can’t Get Her Shit Together And Lives On Cheap Wine And Wendy’s Chili. We can pause and acknowledge that eating, in general, is a privilege — even though it should be a human right.
So, can we put down our vegan forks and paleo knives and compostable plates and just acknowledge we are all doing the best we can with what we have? And that’s OK.
If you are hungry, look here for assistance feeding yourself or your family. Food is a human right. Food is your right.
Featured image via Ravishly