For most of my life, I never thought much about diets or what I ate. I simply ate things that were delicious and (most) of the time nutritious. As I got older I started to pay more attention to what I was putting in my body.
The real turning point for me though was my new found interest in environmentalism and trying to lessen my impact on the environment. And thats what led me to a pollotarian diet (no red meat, chicken is ok) and then on to a pescetarian diet (fish only, no animal meat) and now I am trying out a vegetarian diet (at least for a couple months, I love my sushi)
The one thing I have noticed a long this journey of foods is how strongly others feel about them. I remember the surprising amount of angry comments from meat eaters(omnivores) I received when I simply decided to only eat chicken, and same situation with pescetarianism and finally vegetarianism.
It wasn’t until I recently posted about enjoying a veggie burger with cheese that really opened my eyes to how sensitive of a topic diets are. The situation in mention resulted in myself being blocked by a vegan friend who thought it was absurd that I would choose to go meat free but still support the dairy industry. It was sad a friendship I actually valued a lot, ended so easily, and from such a minuscule difference at that. I tried my best to present my reasoning in a way that was respectful and thought out, I laid out my research, I made my points clear and tried to keep an open mind to their opinion and evidence. Unfortunately it only escalated from there.
So all this really got me thinking “why on earth is everyone so easily angered by diet choices?” well, because…
Tribal thinking is Addictive
What this means is people who think similar and revolve around the same social circles tend to stick together. This is something that stretches far beyond food, into politics, religion, etc. As humans we naturally flock to others and easily get this mindset of “us vs them” and them is anyone who disagrees with whatever the tribe has agreed upon. According to PsychologyToday , holding on to an irrational idea that is the basis for membership in a group functions much in the same way as an addictive drug. Agreeing with the group stimulates the reward pathway; trying to defy the group stimulates many of the same brain regions that fire during drug withdrawal. We humans should think of ourselves as one tribe. it is not a “us vs them” it is a “us vs us” and we need to learn to embrace other ideas, ways of thinking and differences or we will never grow as a species.
It is more than food, it is an ethical/philosophical debate
Ask any vegan the reason why they gave up animal products and they will very likely mention something about animal cruelty, environmental destruction and health benefits of a meat free life. If you ask a meat eater why they eat meat they’ll likely mention something about the food chain, the circle of life and health benefits. but the biggest thing in common both of these groups have is that its obviously about more than just the food, its about the reasoning, its about the ethics of both options, why or why is it not harmful? They both feel emboldened and righteuos, they believe they are making the world a better place, and like religion it’s their job to convert as many others as possible. In the end, any debate that circles around differing philosophies is going to be met with intensity and at times anger.
We are programmed to protect our ways of thinking
“Confirmation bias” – humans have this amazing ability to completely shut out any evidence or opinions that threaten our own evidence or opinions, take religion for example, or flat earth or antivaxxer’s. And why is this? Because humans have evolved to naturally defend against any threat to our rationale or way of thinking, a fantastic piece by The NewYorker states “Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves.” Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of view prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective. So basically a trait that held evolutionary advantage and that promoted cooperation within a group is now backfiring on our current society, and only creating bigger polarization and anger towards others.
So to summarize, diets are more than just food, its a way of thinking, its a philosophy and it comes very close to acting like a religion, and no matter what your diet is, whether it be vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian or omnivore, we need to have respect for each other, keep an open mind and remember that these are very touchy subjects and should be approached as such, or we’ll all end up tearing ourselves apart fighting about it.