The vitamin aisle at the pharmacy is overwhelming. Rows and rows of small bottles displayed by brand, not by content. I have to walk up and down multiple times to find what I want. I try to catch the eye of a staff member but no one comes. I see one helping a father and teenage daughter but she runs away too quickly for me to ask for assistance.
The shop radio plays an ad for kids’ vitamins. On repeat.
I feel ashamed. A woman in her 30s with long hair, wearing a summer dress, hanging out in the vitamin aisle. I know what I look like.
Because vitamins are for skinny women in flowing dresses posing at a beach on the NSW North Coast on Instagram, right? They’re for wellness bloggers and conspiracy theorists who don’t vaccinate their kids and who think COVID-19 is caused by 5G.
All the rest of us need is a balanced diet, because vitamin tablets are just the wellness industry fleecing you for the millions they line their pockets with, right? You get expensive pee and their CEO gets another luxury yacht.
But a doctor told me to take vitamin supplements. A doctor of the GP variety. After I’d taken two blood tests.
I have a balanced diet. I’m not vegan or vegetarian; I eat meat, dairy and eggs. And vegetables. I eat a combination of those things every day. But despite that, I’m B12 deficient. D as well.
Look, I’m not happy about it.
My diet’s pretty good. It’s not perfect, but I eat (almost) all the things and I cook (mostly) from scratch. I also work full time and don’t have the capacity to put a perfect meal on the table every night. Doing so is unrealistic. Obsessively trying to do that is a ticket to orthorexia and with my history of being on the eating disorder spectrum that’s a bad idea.
That an educated person with the means to buy and cook good food still struggles to obtain the necessary vitamins says enough about the vitamin in takes of those who don’t. (But that’s another issue.)
We keep being told that a balanced diet is all we need and the vitamin companies are lying to us.
Well, I need more than a balanced diet. The balanced diet isn’t working and I’m not in a position create a perfect diet. I need supplements. And I have the blood tests to prove it.
Yes, there’s a lot of quackery surrounding vitamins. Yes, these companies are making a fortune from misinformation. But there are also people who legitimately need to take them.
I should look at taking doctor-recommended vitamin supplements the same way I look at taking doctor-prescribed medication. Instead, I feel like I’ve failed to look after my body correctly and ashamed as I join the ranks of vitamin-takers.
Can we be less judgmental of people who take vitamins? I’m guilty of it myself. I didn’t fall for the wellness bloggers, I fell for the smug, self-righteous attitude that I was smarter than them.
Let’s stop assuming vitamins are only taken by those who don’t know any better.
Let’s normalise talking about taking vitamins for medical reasons the same way we legitimise the taking of other medications our bodies need. That way, when it needs to happen, there’s no shame in it.