About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Vegan at the Greystone Mansion

So, I went to the Wine Tasting yesterday, and I didn't do so horribly. First of all, I made sure to be pretty full when I got there so that I wouldn't be tempted to eat something right away. (Had lots of lentils and rice on the way there.) By the time I did need to eat, I circled the entire place for vegan food. As you can imagine, there was quite a lot of cheese at this wine tasting. Normally I really love cheese, so it was sort of painful to pass by all the aged Goudas and exotic goat cheeses.

I was able to make a decent dinner out of pita, hummus, and grapes. For dessert I went over to the back section and ate two plates of cantaloupe and strawberries. This was actually pretty nice, since I have not been able to afford either of those fruits for this entire month.

Yes, there was a chocolate fountain, but I didn't cave for that. My co-worker enjoyed her fruit with chocolate on it, but I resisted.

For the most part I did not "cheat."

I said "No thank you" to an offer of food exactly 12 times, and I said "No, you can't" to myself at least 26 times before I quit counting. (Pretty much every time I looked over at a table with amazing cheese on it.)

One of the biggest motivators for me to stick to my dietary restrictions was that pretty much every single one of my co-workers knew that I would be at this event, and that it was the last full day of my On Food Stamps as a Vegan challenge. We had already spoken about it at the office. The fact that I was going to be at the Wine Tasting and would resist pretty much everything there was getting a lot of hype. This built up a lot of social pressure in my favor. Sure, people were kidding around with me and trying to tempt me, or they would offer me something and then slap their hands over their mouth in embarrassed apology, but the overall vibe was supportive.

That is why when I finally cheated I did so when no one was looking.

Normal chocolate I could totally resist. I have had good chocolate before. I know what it tastes like. But chocolate goat cheese was another story. Honestly, I have never seen anything like that in my life, and I decided it was worth breaking the rules for. I had one small bite of the cheese pictured below.

I felt fine about that breech of the rules while I was doing it. I consumed only a very little bit, and it was a food worth cheating for. I found, however, that I while I'm writing away about this cheating on my blog, I was very embarrassed to tell my co-workers about it. No one out right asked me if I'd cheated yet, but when they asked me how it was going I did not mention the chocolate goat cheese.

Overall I would say that the social pressure was in favor of me adhering to my dietary restrictions this time, and not the other way around. Why? Because I told everyone about it beforehand. My will power was built up very big, and the challenge of resisting the food at this event became very public. A few people tried to cajole me into breaking it, but even they let me be after one "No, no I can't, really."

To me this outcome illustrates that it can be very powerful to tell others around you about your diet rules. People love drama, and the mini saga of weather or not you will cheat on your diet becomes pretty interesting if you build it up ahead of time, believe it or not. Of course, such a saga is only fun for other people when your diet doesn't impact them. If the event was not a Wine Tasting but a family dinner, and my decision to eat cheese or not impacted weather or not I would cook with it for the rest of my family, there would likely be much less support. It is also very important to note that my dietary restrictions came from a sensationalized challenge - Julie will live on $31 for 4 weeks as a vegan! - not a normal diet. (Which would be more like Julie has 20 pounds to loose and is trying to eat healthier. Woo. Hoo.)

I have seen social pressure in favor of positive diet change work before. For example, in my house my mom has to eat in a pretty controlled way to manage her blood sugar without any mediation, and when anyone sees her eating dessert they ask her, "Mom, can you really have that?" She always has to tell everyone that it is ok, that she hasn't had any sugar that day, that she has it under control, etc. But, I am sure that our watchdog social pressure affects her food choices when she is eating in front of us. It is easy for us all to be supportive, though, because everyone in my family is an adult and is perfectly capable to preparing food for themselves. My mother's dietary restrictions do not really affect everyone in the family, and this is a pretty rare case.

I am curious, also, about how much more or less supportive people are of other's dietary rules when the rules are due to an illness versus weight loss alone. From my dietician readers - any comments on that?

What have I learned? It seems that social pressure around food can work in one's favor if family, friends, or co-workers know about the diet before everyone eats together. Letting everyone know about your eating rule ahead of time makes it much more embarrassing to break them. However, I really think that people are less likely to support the dietary restrictions of a friend or family member when those restrictions affect them as well.

1 comment:

  1. I had Gastric Bypass Surgery in 12/2005. Because of this, my sugar intake is extremely limited because 1)why lose all the weight I have worked hard to get off just to turn around and gain it back? 2) If I eat past my limit (a couple of bites), it will make me so sick that death is welcomed. Having said that, when I am at family functions around certain family members, I won't even have that bite or 2 because I simply don't wanna hear their mouths! :)