Disclaimer: This is my personal experience with food and diet labeling. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, I strongly recommend consulting a professional as I share my experiences only.
Vegan, vegetarian, paleo, pescatarian, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, sugar free, low fat, high fat, raw til 4, raw vegan, clean eating, macro counting, WHATEVER!
I am done.
I am done with labels when it comes to food and diet. I fell into this trap years ago, and it has taken me just as much time to get to a place now where I am label free when it comes to my diet. I have been from one extreme to the next, and now I am finally at peace.
Let me rewind for a little bit. My food labeling began when I was in high school. I was visiting a naturopathic doctor to get to the bottom of my battle with eczema. It was getting to the point where I was so self conscious of letting anyone see my skin, and it was taking a huge toll on my self esteem. During this period (which was about three/four months, give or take) I was put on an elimination diet where my daily food choices basically consisted of green vegetables, some beans, berries (with the exception of strawberries), kamut grains, quinoa, and goat dairy products. My hormones were all over the place, my period was way shorter than normal, and my energy felt low due to my low caloric intake. Since my food choices were so limited, I eventually cut out animal products of all sorts as I found that (at the time) it was working for my skin. It wasn't until I started incorporating foods back into my diet that I realized that the elimination approach was not working for my body. I lost a ton of weight at this point, and was starting my running journey at this time, too, which further exacerbated the weight loss.
Rewinding even further, in my earlier years in high school. I was 40 pounds heavier and had no idea about a healthy lifestyle. You can read more about my journey in this post about body image. Two complete ends of the spectrum, and here I am somewhere in between.
I was vegetarian for about 5 years, and it wasn't until this last year that I started incorporating animal protein back into my diet. For those five years, I always identified myself as a vegetarian. I did my research on how to get my protein and vital nutrients, though after my bikini competition in June of 2015, I made the decision to incorporate meat back into my routine. The thought of roasted vegetables and quinoa didn't fuel my appetite anymore, and I wanted to broaden my horizons when it came to eating out in restaurants and at peoples' homes. On that note, one of the things I truly struggled with when I made the decision to eat meat is that I felt like people would judge me so much for making the switch back. I had spent so much time looking into the benefits of a plant based diet and educating people around me on the importance of fresh foods, but eating meat? Unheard of. That can't be possible! Once I overcame this hurdle, I began to enjoy myself more and feel more freedom when it came to my choices.
It wasn't until I released this thought that, "Oh, everyone is judging me for eating chicken now," that I truly dropped the labels. I wasn't vegetarian, I wasn't pescatarian, I was just me, eating what I wanted. Food labeling is something that has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Food companies are making big money off of marketing these labels, there's blogs dedicated to veganism (and every other way of eating under the sun), and online communities built on these labels. Don't get me wrong. I think it is great to know your body and what it likes, but if you are forcing yourself to be a raw vegan even though you know your body needs a change, then that is when it can become dangerous. For the sake of your own health, eat without labels and enjoy your life.
So, what is my food philosophy? I eat when I am hungry, and if I want dessert, I'll have dessert. If I want a glass of wine and a chunk of chocolate after dinner, I will, but I don't go overboard. Food is meant to be fuel, and it took a while for me to grasp that. Some days I want oatmeal for breakfast, and some days I want salad for lunch. On other days, maybe I'll want eggs for breakfast and chicken for lunch. I try to keep my food choices as healthy and whole as possible - meaning, I don't gorge on processed foods, but if I slip up during one meal, I try my best to make my next meal a healthier option. Life is all about balance, and although that word is seriously overused in the blogging world, I have to say, it's true in this case. It is so FREEING to eat without labels now and actually enjoy food without worry. Life is too short to restrict yourself in a box, so if you are feeling stuck I highly recommend either reaching out for help (if it is serious enough to do so) or at least expand your horizons if you feel you are able to.
Thank you guys for reading today's post! Food is such an interesting topic as everyone has their own relationship with it. Let me know what your food philosophy is in the comments below : ) Would love to hear your thoughts!