Please Don't Tell Me How to Eat

I know, I know. The diet you’ve embraced works really well for you.

That’s great! Awesome! I’m so happy for you!

That doesn’t mean it works for everyone.

Trust me, I get it. I love food. I love learning about health and nutrition. I particularly love taking charge of my own health and using food as medicine.

I even had a blog for years that was centered around my own journey toward health and sharing all the things that worked for me around nutrition, exercise, and spiritual growth. However, I always included a disclaimer to always consult with one’s doctor when trying a new health regimen, and I always said something to the effect of, “Just because this works for me doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you.”

I love looking at my friends’ food photos on social media. Y’all are great cooks and so creative and you go to some cool restaurants! What I don’t appreciate is the #crueltyfree #govegan #everyoneshouldeatlikeido direct or indirect hashtags and references.

I’ve gone both vegetarian and vegan. It didn’t work for me.

Stop. Don’t tell me I wasn’t doing it right. I was, under the direction and supervision of a nutritionist, no less, and I gave each about a month and both times the outcome was: I felt horrible. Horrible. The health issues I was trying to address ended up being way worse than when I started.

Over the last several years as I have done a ton of research and come to know my health even better than I did before, it’s making sense as to why I thrive on a diet rich in animal protein (as clean and ethical as I am able to obtain). I’m not going to go into my private health details here for everyone to nitpick, but read The Wahls Protocol and Dr. Wahl’s precautions around vegan and vegetarian diets for those with autoimmune diseases if you’re interested in learning more.

There are a multitude of things to consider when it comes to food: culture, genetics, one’s livelihood and nutrient needs, access to food, access to education around food and health, socioeconomic status, illness, allergies, sensitivities, etc. and so on. Food is not just nourishment, but is a justice issue the world over, and that means that considering our privilege comes into play. Not everyone has a grocery store, let alone a Whole Foods, where they live.

Would I like to see less dependence in America on processed foods full of chemicals and industrialized meat, egg, and dairy operations? Absolutely. However, I also recognize that those foods are cheaper and more accessible for many, many people.

I happen to be allergic to an entire plant family, I’m anaphylactic to cucumber of all things, can’t tolerate gluten or soy, and don’t eat peanuts and keep them out of our home due to my teen’s anaphylactic allergy. Said teen has been diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis, in addition to having multiple food allergies. I’ve also been a recipient of SNAP benefits (when working full time as a single mom, thank you very much) and know what it is to struggle to put food on the table.

When you already have a laundry list of foods you can’t eat, and you’re poor, and multiple people in your life are directly or indirectly shaming you for eating meat, eggs, or dairy, it’s incredibly disheartening, discouraging, and occasionally infuriating.

Food is complex. Food is medicine, and that actually includes animal protein and byproducts for many, many people. Some are able to subsist and even thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet, and no I’m not a doctor or scientist, but I would venture to say that there are likely genetic reasons for that. I have mixed ancestry but tend to do best with (and not react poorly to) north American indigenous foods.

We’re all beautifully diverse and we all have different resources, beliefs, and cultural practices. Please remember that when it comes to food. The most important thing is that people get to eat.

If you truly want to influence how people eat, get involved with organizations in your community who are providing education and access around food, and if you are economically able to, support your local farmers and ranchers who are working hard to bring us back to strong, ethical local food systems.

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.