Don't let Labels Define you
etc. etc. etc.
The list goes on and on. With the ever evolving health and wellness trends on the rise and the light being shined on the reality of our food supply an increasing number of people are turning to alternative lifestyles focused around health.
My Personal Food Journey
I grew up eating meat like most Americans and I loved it. For a special occasion I would always request that my Mom make me BBQ baby back ribs. It feels so weird to reflect on that since I definitely don't eat them any more, but it's true! Weird or not it was what served me and my body at the time and there is nothing wrong with that.
The first time I went "vegetarian" was in college. I ended up going back to eating meat one drunken night in Philadelphia with, you guessed it, a Philly cheesesteak. Honestly I only went vegetarian at that time because I wanted to try and lose weight and it seemed like a cool thing to do at the time, which is why I originally gave it up so easily.
A lot of my friends were vegetarian in college and I had no idea how they were doing it. I loved meat so much I could never imagine giving it up (now I can never see myself eating it again). The funny thing is a lot of them eat meat again now because that's what called to them and labels aren't for life!
The next time I gave up meat it was for good. The vegetarian club on campus was holding a movie viewing and giving $5 to anyone who stayed through the entire movie. My friends and I went and I only made it barely 30 minutes and had to run out of there. The movie was Joaquin Phoenix's Earthlings. Which I DO NOT recommend to anyone. It's what pushed me to where I am today and I'm thankful for that, but it is DISTURBING. If you do watch it only torture yourself through the meat part which I think starts at 00:21:00 mins in. SPOILER ALERT: The "kosher" way of killing a cow will forever haunt me. I honestly felt like if anyone watched it they wouldn't want to eat meat either, which is probably why they made this movie lol.
SO I was vegan throughout college for a year and it was working, but being a nutritionist I was seeing myself replace cheeses and meats with processed meat and dairy replacements that didn't contain animal products, but had a hefty list of ingredients, many of which I didn't recognize. I realized that I was wanting to help the planet and be more aware of what I was putting into my body, but I was also loading up on crap that wasn't healthy. I was definitely breaking out and retaining water from high sodium. I wanted to be more conscious of animal byproducts and the planet, but I also wanted to feel good with what I was putting into my body.
I stopped being strictly vegan and allowed myself wild caught fish, organic grass fed local dairy products. Having goat's milk cheese that was just cheese and vegetarian rennet was better to me than a huge list of processed ingredients derived from vegetables.
People immediately assume I'm vegan when I tell them I don't eat meat. I let them know I don't fit into the labels. What I do is what nourishes me and there's no name for it.
I could say I'm vege/pescatarian I could say I'm "Highly Vegan" But really I just eat whole complete foods and that feels good for me. The Balanced blonde is an amazing example of breaking outside of the labels. She built her entire brand when she was The Blonde Vegan and had a huge following from it. But she stopped being vegan because she was suffering from an eating disorder and is now exploring what works best for her health and thriving in her body. She got A LOT of backlash from it, death threats even, but it's those harsh lines drawn and societal pressure to fit in perfectly into those labels.
My message to you is don't get caught up or defined by labels. Eat what serves you and your body. Don't let others shame you or guilt you into taking on their way of eating or lifestyle. If you want to consider it and learn more about it then do it. Experiment with different healthy eating habits if you aren't thriving in your body. Your body knows what it needs and will tell you by your energy levels, mood and digestion.
If people are curious about the way you eat tell them why it serves you, but also don't put pressure on them, everyone should follow their path to ultimate health. It will unfold as it needs to.
For anyone interested in my personal way of eating now and why:
I cook all dairy free because there are amazing vegan alternatives to dairy that I love, my favorite cheeses are Miyokos mozzarella and their butter, Chao cheese in original. I also love making my own completely vegetable based cheese sauce alternatives from eggplants, cashews, squash, etc. I like the challenge of making my favorite meals into a vegan version and share any recipes I come up with. Since my vegan rise and fall in 2009 I discovered blogs like Oh She Glows and The Minimalist Baker which completely align with my way of eating and cooking.
I usually cook gluten free to also experiment with recipes and so that my gluten free girlfriends can enjoy my leftovers any day of the week.
I am cutting way back on sweets after Gigi and I's sugar cleanse. I do enjoy a bite of dark chocolate or a blended frozen banana with njoy life dairy free chocolate chips melted with a dash of coconut oil, OMG YUM.
Eating Out or at Someone's house
Depending where I am in the world or what the occasion I indulge for the experiences. I don't let the labels define me and don't feel bad if I want to try something that I usually wouldnt' make at home. I still don't eat meat, but if my body craves it someday I will allow myself to have it, I really don't see that happening, but I'm not ruling it out. If my body doesn't agree with something I eat I try to take note of it so I have the reminder for the next time I am tempted with something that might not agree with me. I never feel bad about what I've eaten unless I physically feel bad and even then I don't beat myself up for it I just try and take the lesson for the next time.
Going to a friend or family member's house I ask what I can bring and then always show up with something I know I can eat and will be enjoyed by others. And if they don't enjoy it there will be more for me after the event.
Get to know your body, take care of it, nourish it and love yourself.