The Healthy Hierarchy

I’ve written about it in a different light, but I exercise regularly. I’m trying to gain a few pounds, so my exercises focus on strength and muscle building. Trying to gain weight means eating more, so my diet has become, for the most part, protein and carb heavy. Nonetheless, with exercising and eating more, I’ve become conscious about what is and what isn’t good for me. I strive to eat as healthy as I can. For me, it’s a conversation about moderation as opposed to cutting something out of my diet completely.

We all find ourselves in an age of information. Some information that recently came out was a statement by the scientists who created the report for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In essence, humanity has 12 years to change our current habits or else face the earth’s temperature increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius. It’s insane to think that we’ve done enough damage to the earth that in 12 years it will be irreversible.

This is an important piece of information, that I’m not debating. On social media, however, I saw a post about why we should stop consuming meat and it seriously turned me off. It came off as super elitist and I have no room for that on my plate.

How we treat our animals and food is quite disturbing, I will admit that. I’m glad that we live in a society in which we can hold our produce companies accountable for their actions because cruelty won’t line their pockets. That being said, free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, and organic fruits and vegetables–one tends to be of a certain income in order to regularly afford these natural, healthier options. A permanent change in diet also falls in that category. Fish is expensive; natural meats are expensive; veganism is expensive.

There’s such an anger from those who are vegan or environmentally driven towards those who continue to eat meat. I can understand why, but to call one lazy and wrong overlooks a lot of barriers that prevent many from eating a cleaner, healthier, environmentally conscious diet. Sure, capitalism may be the easy way out…but that’s because it’s true.

Allow me to put it in perspective. I work downtown and a few blocks from my job is Whole Foods. A few blocks from my house in the Bronx is a Foodtown. One sells a variety of food options for a variety of diets and generally speaking those making a higher income walk into it without thought. People from my neighborhood, however, turn to Foodtown for their nutrition because it’s what within budget. It also sells the ingredients for more culturally specific foods; my neighborhood is primarily West Indian. They’re also building another fast food chain in the area.

I’m all for a healthier diet, but let’s not pretend that to eat and live cleanly isn’t correlated with a higher income. Let’s also not pretend that the grocery chains in which one can readily buy healthier options isn’t in primarily working class and minority communities. There’s no Whole Foods in the Bronx. Instead, my borough gets pumped with more fast food chains and overpriced grocery stores that have very limited options.

I’m not dissuading anyone from pursuing a healthier diet or a permanent diet change. More in response to the tweet, I want everyone to understand that affordability is a major deciding factor for many families across the country. If it were affordable and promoted as much as McDonald’s was, then perhaps we would all be eating healthier. I won’t stand for shaming those who continue to eat meat; that kind of elitism is not welcome here.

This argument reminds me of the one often heard in the beauty community: Black people don’t buy certain brands of makeup. Better yet, Black people don’t buy makeup at all. It’s easy for certain brands to make that claim, especially when they don’t make products for darker skin (I’m looking at you, Tarte). If no products exist for a certain group, then a certain group does not buy. Same thing for healthy eating. If there are no healthy options in poorer communities, then healthy food doesn’t get eaten.

All of this to say one simple thing: stop blaming working class people for the persistence of the environmental crisis. It’s an old and tired argument.

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