It’s amazing how human it is to put people in categories or to make quick assumptions, rather than wonder about their story. I do this-you do this-it’s human. A simple way I regularly experience labels sounds like this: “the girl on the Paleo diet,” “the healthy girl,” or “the girl who eats a salad for lunch.”
Sometimes I laugh. For so long, I was “the girl who ate whatever she wanted because she was a runner.” Frosting and graham crackers was the favored snack I would eat after my track meet was over. I have a ravenous sweet tooth, that I’ve had to work on in the course of changing my diet. In the past, I would not have been called “healthy” because of my eating habits, but instead because I ran.
And now, it’s quite the opposite. This picture displays what I bought in the check out line at Aldi a few weeks ago. The grocery list was: 3 bags of whole almonds, 3 avocados, celery, green peppers, carrots, Roma tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli and olive oil. The remark from the lady behind me was “Well, aren’t you healthy? I wish I had discipline for that.” In another previous Aldi shopping experience, a lady was actively recruiting me to be her nutritionist and quickly inform her about “healthy versions” of foods.
My current diet consists of: meats (minus some), veggies (minus potatoes-insert sad face), nuts (minus some), chicken broth, fermented vegetables, and grapefruit. A not as restrictive diet with lots of meat and veggies and very few carbs and sugars is called the Paleo diet. So sometimes I’m the “Paleo girl.”
Yet underneath all the small-talk and banter at the grocery store, I am forced to lament. I am not healthy, but sick. I buy groceries like I do, because I have to depend on the food I eat to help me get better. But people think I look fine and assumptions are made. I daily navigate letting people assume but also looking for proper situations to be honest and inform.
In those interactions, though I am forced to see myself.
Do I go about my daily life, observing and wondering without critiquing, or making assumptions so I feel better about myself?
Do I wonder about “why” with compassion, admitting that I don’t know what it’s like to live with another person’s particular hardship or setback?
Culturally, dieting is trendy. And the assumptions made about me sting because I actually don’t want to be put up on a platform for my disciplined eating habits. And I often don’t want to hear that “I’m fine just the way I am” or “Honey, you don’t need to lose any weight.” My self-esteem is rolled along the conveyor belt with my avocados.
And in the grocery store, my mind jumps back to a scene four years prior. I was at a routine doctor’s appointment in Chicago checking my thyroid levels. I explained that my fatigue level was high, and that I got more fatigued by exercising. My doctor then launched into a monologue, expressing that I was more fatigued because I gained two pounds and I should be exercising 6 times a week instead of 5. It was my fault.
I wasn’t the magical formula girl. I couldn’t just make my fatigue go away by random gluten-free diets, being really structured, or working out. Yet because I have to make tenacious (or random trial and error) decisions about my health, incorrect assumptions will always be made at some level.
But I hope, that along with me, you want to be known. In spite of the incorrect assumptions made about you . Simply because you think that knowing and being known is worth the risk.