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Is There Anything I Can Eat Without a Side of Guilt?

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A few weeks ago I found myself rushing between calls/appointments, it was 1:30 p.m. and I hadn't yet eaten lunch, so I was seriously HANGRY (hungry + angry). I go through the McDonald's drive thru and immediately feel like I should be wearing a bag on my head in case anyone sees me.

I order 2 hamburgers and then see the large sign for their Teriyaki Chicken salad. I ask the girl what's in the salad and she needs to say no more than "edamame beans", and I add to my order. Edamame beans are in everything right now so this salad has to be good for me, right?

As I am driving to my destination I find myself ravenously scarfing down the first burger so fast that I don't even notice I've eaten paper with the first three bites. This might classify as an all time low. But in all honesty I could care less because this little burger that looks like someone sat on it, is utterly delicious. I get to my destination having now downed both of my burgers and stare at the bag on my passenger seat that contains "the salad". I scoff at it and get out of the car leaving said salad behind. The salad represents the part of me that felt guilty about ordering something that contained gluten, white flour, meat, grease, etc etc etc.

Why does it seem that everything we consume these days is surrounded with guilt or stigma. Everything I go to eat lately makes me think a bit harder about what I am putting into my body. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just has me thinking.

We seem to be getting inundated with what to eat and not eat as the days go by, and now there are full sections in the grocery stores dedicated to diet restrictions. There are also upscale grocery stores popping up everywhere and just being in them somehow makes us feel like we are eating healthier because even the cardboard boxes are somehow "organic".

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Over the course of the last 18-24 months, I have attempted the following, and not all at once of course: I've gone gluten free: I've stopped "doing" dairy because I heard it is hard to digest; I've stopped eating meat because I feel bad for the animals; I've contemplated and genuinely tried not eating soy because it's the most genetically modified bean out there and there is too much estrogen in it; I've tried not to consume as much fish because of the amount of mercury in it (save for Japan, I live in likely the best sushi city); I've tried to eat only organic veggies, but then worried that the food was coming from across the Continent and the environmental impact of that; and lastly, half heartedly, tried to do the Paleo diet (the not so distant cousin from a boulevard of broken dreams of a diet, called Atkins).

So there it is. I am a total trend and fad follower. But, I truly think there is merit behind some of the dietary concerns that we are being faced with. I am just finding myself full of anxiety and guilt about what I am choosing.

My husband recently became a vegetarian after reading two books and watching one movie. This has all happened much to my annoyance because he does most of the cooking in the house, and one can only consume so much quinoa and kale without longing for a meal riddled with bacon and chicken. Having not given something up for Lent since I was 8 and in Catholic school, I decided I would give up meat and appease my husband to at least try it.

After almost passing out on my spinning bike 2 weeks into my "challenge", I caved and ate half a flank steak. I didn't bother going back to a non-meat diet, because I had crossed over; I was going to Hell anyway because I didn't have the will power to last the 40 days until Easter. I will, however, continue eating some meals without meat.

I do think we need to start thinking more and more about where our food comes from because there has to be a reason that there are so many options that are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, meat free, organic, grain fed or wild. But have we gone too far? Is it necessary that we pay $4 more for a box of crackers because they are organic? Is buying organic more of a status symbol to some? What is the impact to our environment if we are buying out of season, organic produce that has to travel from another country or continent to get to us? What is the better choice, looking after our environment or looking after our body?

I live on the west coast and if I was reading the above I might automatically think that the person writing it is a hippy who wears hemp clothing that they made themselves. But that's not me, not even close. I have just been trying to be more aware of what I am consuming as of late, because I think it's important. But, what is the right mix? Who should we be listening to? I think if we are all just a hair more conscious of where our food is coming from, it's a start.

Unfortunately I don't have all the answers; I just have anxiety, which I tend to curtail with red wine and Old Dutch Ketchup chips.

Sue Cleall

The Purple Fig is a community where women share personal and relatable stories; no ego, no shame. We're about life, love and all of the stuff that makes us yearn, squirm, and giggle. These stories make up the authentic and intriguing journey of a woman.

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