I belong to a Facebook group where people post the meals that they make so others can garner inspiration and ideas on what to cook. For the most part, I really like this group, because I think that it’s a great mix of gourmet and “keeping it real.” For every person who posts an impressively elaborate three course meal on a run-of-the-mill Tuesday evening, there is someone else who posts that their family’s dinner was cereal and milk.
Some of the dinner posts are so legit that they make me laugh, like when people admit that they had ice cream and wine for dinner or when they admit to feeding their toddler ridiculous food combinations like corn flakes with ketchup because that’s what the kid wanted. My absolute favorite was the woman who posted a photo of an open price club sized box of York Peppermint Patties with the words “dinner” above it, while others were posting photos of chicken, salmon, and pasta. To each his own, right?
While I have gotten some great recipes and cooking tips since I joined this group a few years ago, I have also learned some lessons about annoying human behavior, namely, that people are disturbingly judgey when it comes to what others are eating.
Appropriate comments on a post in a group like this are: “Recipe please”; “OMG invite me for dinner”; or “Looks yum!” with some obligatory emoticons thrown in. For the most part, those are the types of comments posted. However, upon occasion, some people feel the need to make grand proclamations about how “unhealthy” someone else’s food post is. Instead of just adapting the recipe to suit their preferences, they make public, disparaging, snarky remarks about the use of ingredients that they deem unhealthy, in comments like, “OMG you use margarine????”; “Wow, that’s a lot of calories”; or “Why so much sugar???”
Newsflash #1 — You don’t have to say everything you are thinking, even on Facebook.
Newsflash #2 — Unless you are a dietitian and someone is paying you to make their food choices for them, you are not the food police. So for G-d’s sake, keep your opinions to yourself.
Has being the mother of a daughter with an eating disorder made me super sensitive to this topic? Absolutely. I totally admit it. But that doesn’t necessarily make me wrong.
First of all, on a totally non-scientific level, I am not convinced that there is an absolute value to food. Take a thousand calorie milkshake for example. It’s generally not recommended for someone like me who is overweight, but potentially lifesaving to someone with anorexia, at a dangerously low weight, who has an immediate and dire need for a high caloric intake. The opposite can be true as well. Fresh vegetable sticks are a great food choice for me, but they are not a positive food choice for someone with orthorexia (the “healthy food eating disorder”).
I believe that the value of any particular food can be variable based on who is eating it, and that value can transcend physical properties. When someone who has been anorexic for years eats a piece of cake or an ice cream sundae for the first time since the onset of his/her illness, the value of that food is exponentially higher, even though the calorie count is the same no matter who is eating it, and food that is characterized as “unhealthy” can have health benefits. So it irks me when people speak about what is “healthy” and “unhealthy” in absolute terms.
Second of all, and here’s the clincher — it’s none of your business what ingredients other people are using to make dinner. Unless they ask you outright for your input, I think it’s safe to say that other people (especially strangers on a Facebook group) don’t want you telling them what they should and should not be eating. Personally, I’m not going to drink a kale smoothie, but I respect your right to drink one for dinner if that’s what you choose. It’s my opinion that under certain circumstances, with a certain mindset, kale smoothies can be unhealthy; however, I am not going to comment on your post and tell you that, because it’s none of my business. So the next time someone posts that they used puff pastry to make dinner for their family, no need to comment on how unhealthy puff pastry is. Really, no need.
We are living in confusing times when it comes to food and diet. Ask five people what it means to eat healthy and you will get five different answers. Furthermore, with the rampancy of eating disorders, eating healthy is not necessarily an indicator of good health. But I digress.
Be educated about food and decide for yourself what you want to eat and how you want to feed your family. But when it comes to someone else’s choices, feel free to keep your opinions to yourself.