Learning to Appreciate my Inner Health Nut

Maya - Austin, Texas
Entered on July 25, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I was a freakishly healthy child. So I thought anyway. For parts of my youth, especially my days in elementary school, it was rather difficult for me to admit that I believed in eating healthy foods.

I was the kid in elementary school that not only brought strange-looking lunches but was also aware that they were strange-looking and therefore proceeded to try to hide the food. Some of the things I brought that looked alien to my other classmates included, nori seaweed (the kind you use for sushi that I would eat by itself), salad, and juice boxes that had foreign words such as “organic” or “all natural” in large letters on the top. I would try to cover up the foods in my small hands or put them under the table, but this is a very hard task when you are squashed between six other kids on a tiny table bench.

One day, I brought a hefty sandwich on sourdough bread with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and alfalfa sprouts. My hunger overwhelmed me so that I forgot to conceal the sandwich. I took a massive bite that resulted in alfalfa sprouts hanging from my lips and me scrambling to chew so that I could get them into my mouth as quick as possible. It was at that moment that one of those clueless, elementary school boys, with no filter distinguishing between what is appropriate and inappropriate to say, asked me, “are you eating grass?” I did not eat the rest of my sandwich and did not bring sandwiches with sprouts in them for several years to come.

Everyday I would glance over enviously at normal-looking, sodium-filled potato chips that left oily residue on the tips of my classmates’ fingers and white bread sandwiches, sans nutrition. At a time in my life when it was frightening to stand out as an individual, I so badly wanted my lunch to be packed with such conventional snacks. I felt weird for never bringing the processed foods my friends brought, but I felt even weirder for actually liking the healthy foods in my lunchbox.

I would go home and try to convince my mom to allow sugary cereals and cream filled cookies with hydrogenated oils to infiltrate the cabinets, but she wouldn’t budge. Today, I am grateful she didn’t.

I grew out of my embarrassment for my belief in eating healthy foods, luckily without growing out of the belief itself. Growth and time have helped me own it. I know now that the belief that guides me each day, every four or five hours when I eat, is part of taking care of my body and not something to be ashamed of. I no longer care if what I eat looks like “grass” to other people. Instead, I thank my mother for encouraging me to still be the health nut at the lunch table today, munching on tofu and spinach.