As "raw foodists," the way we define ourselves and talk about our reality is crucial because it defines how we think about ourselves and how others see us.
Growing up as a "normal" person who wasn't interested in health, weight loss, vegetarianism, or veganism, I now find it difficult to articulate what I am when it comes to eating since for the past 3 years I have only eaten rawfood. Am I a raw foodist? A raw vegan? A raw fooder? A vegan? A vegetarian? What should I call myself when it comes to eating? And further, should I mention to others that I subscribe to a certain way of eating - and, if I do tell others, why am I telling them?
In a newspaper article published about me earlier this year, a reader left a comment that really struck home with me:
"How can you tell if someone is a vegetarian? Don't worry; they'll tell you!"
This comment surprised me, although the reader does have a good point. In fact, I can remember shaking my head at "vegans" - whom I thought to be pretentious and over the top - before I became one by accident! Even worse, not only am I a vegan but I am a rawfoodist - an even more "extreme" type of vegan! But while I am a rawfoodist, I am one without wanting to be thought of as pretentious. In fact, if I had it my way I'd prefer not to have to talk about what I'm eating (or not eating) and why.
Those of us who subscribe to a certain way of eating - for reasons of health, weight loss, allergies, religion or other rationale do tend to make it known. However, in our defence it is really only out of respect to others - not a need to wave a flag or denegrate any one else's habits. In fact, although I am a blogger and YouTuber, I am actually a pretty private person when you meet me in person and I would prefer to keep my eating habits private. However, I don't because of two reasons: the curiousity of others and my own need to have my values understood accurately by others.
A main reason why it is necessary to mention one's food habits and restrictions is because the sharing of food is so pervasive in our culture and thus others are curious as to why you may not be eating like the rest. If I am invited to a barbeque or am offered an appetizer and I flat-out refuse to eat something without any explanation I will be considered terribly rude. Humans are naturally curious and won't take "I cannot eat that" as an answer. People want to know why you won't eat something - and rightfully so! Thus, we are put in a position to define ourselves as vegan, healthy eaters, or whatever you choose to define yourself as. It is not so much a need to brag, but to explain why our behaviour isn't conforming to the norm.
Perhaps I am reaching here, but I have an example of this from popular culture. If you recall the TV show "Seinfeld" (one of my favorite shows), there is an episode where one of the main characters has a new girlfriend who refuses to take a bite of his pie. With no explanation, the new girlfriend - when offered a bite - simply shakes her head vehemently and refuses to take a bite - without any explanation whatsover. This drives the main character batty because she won't offer an explanation of why she won't taste his pie. He quizzes her: "Do you not like sweets? Are you watching your weight? Do you have donuts in your purse?" And she doesn't offer an adequate explanation to any of his quizzing. His curiousity eventually gets the better of him, and the new couple breaks up over the issue. This is a perfect explanation of why a simple "No thank you" just won't suffice.
My health (and yours) is very important to me and a passion very close to my heart and it's important to me that I not be thought of as someone who has a negative relationship to food. Although I do eat a restricted diet by my own choice, I do not have an eating disorder nor a disordered approach to food, body image or anything else. I choose to eat this way because I feel fabulous, have clearer skin, a healthier body weight, I physically feel light and energetic and spritely, and I require less sleep when I eat this way. Also, when I stay away from junk food I find it easier to stay on the rawfood track so I choose not to "cheat" (or when I do "cheat" it's with something as ghastly as a nonraw salad dressing or some vegan sushi!).
I worry that when I refuse to eat something in a pressure-filled social situation that - if I don't offer an adequate explanation for my refusal - others will assume that I am anorexic or bulemic and will be dashing off to the washroom to abuse my body - which is very far from the truth. I love my body and I want to treat it as well as I can by feeding it good stuff and lots of it! Providing our bodies with healthful nutrients is a passion of mine, so it hurts me to have others think something negative about me that is very far from the truth. Thus I want to explain my passion to ensure that others understand where I'm coming from because of my own need to be understood.
So for these two reasons - the curiousity of others and my own need to be understood, I do explicitly define myself as a rawfoodie, raw foodist, vegan, raw vegan or whatever else comes to mind. However, I do have one complaint about this way of eating. Can we please get a proper way to define ourselves? None of these methods of describing ourselves make any sense. I suppose back when I was choosing a name for this website I chose the concept of "rawtarian" - because most choices of eating seemed to end in "an" (vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, etc.) so "rawtarian" just made sense to me. However, I am not advocating that we all start calling ourselves "rawtarians" - I am just wondering whether we can't get a better word that fits the bill!
So after all that, what do you call yourself and when do you feel the need to share about your healhy habits? And does it matter? After all, we are all cut from the same cloth and what we eat doesn't necessarily define us. (Or does it?)