Don’t Be a Dietary Label Whore
Pescatarian, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo, Grain-Free, Low-Fat, Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian…
…have you ever labeled yourself any of these things?
So many times throughout my healthy living journey, I’ve fallen into the trap of using labels. I’ve been a dietary label whore.
Now don’t get me wrong — if you have celiac’s disease or a gluten allergy, then saying you’re “gluten-free” is accurate. If you haven’t eaten animal products in 10 + years and have no plans to ever eat them again, then yes, you’re undisputedly a vegan.
If you’re someone like me though, who is constantly tweaking their diet in an effort to find the best way to fuel your body, then setting labels every time you switch things up is not beneficial and could actually be quite harmful.
A few weeks ago, I decided to incorporate more plant-based protein into my diet. I dubbed it, a “pescatarian” or “loose, plant-based diet.”
There I went, whoring myself out again.
With no set amount of time to participate, I didn’t intend to drastically change my diet or eliminate any food groups for good. It was more of a challenge to myself, to try to eat less animal products and more plants.
That in itself was a good thing.
But as the past month went by, I started to feel restricted in my dietary choices. It was like somehow by announcing that I was trying this, I had put invisible handcuffs on myself.
Labels end up tying you to something that may no longer be serving you. Whether you feel obligated to prove your dedication to others or to yourself, it becomes more of a competition and less of a learning experience.
I found myself making poor meal choices simply to fit into this new diet, which defeated the purpose of eating healthier in the first place.
It reminded me of how The Blonde Vegan said she felt when she was struggling from Orthorexia. Of course, it wasn’t that extreme for me, but I began to see how quickly a seemingly innocent dietary label could turn into a disorder.
It made me realize that every time I decide to throw a label on my dietary choices, it does more harm than good. It’s one thing to try new things, and it’s another to set parameters for yourself where none are necessary.
That’s when I knew this label thing needed to be nipped in the bud.
I currently don’t possess any definitive evidence that eating (organic, grass fed) meat is bad, therefore, I’m not going to cut it out of my diet.
And while I don’t like labels, I feel like this experience was mostly positive. I’ve learned a lot about protein in the past few weeks, and have gained some important take aways.
For one: just because you eat meat, doesn’t mean you have to always eat meat. There are so many other amazing sources of protein out there and I enjoyed discovering them.
For instance, I realized I could actually go a day without my precious eggs.
This basic tofu scramble was easy to make and absolutely delicious — come back tomorrow for the recipe!
True Food’s Brown Rice & Tofu Bowl
Baked Sweet Potato with Quinoa, Lentils, Avocado and Salsa.
Two, we don’t need as much protein as the the fitness freaks of the 80’s led us to believe. I spent a lot of time researching the amount of protein our bodies need on a daily basis to function and to support muscle gains, and for someone who is very active, it’s only .5 to .8 grams per pound, per day.
Three, this means I don’t need to worry so much about incorporating protein into every meal and snack I eat.
I quite enjoyed noshing on fruit, veggies and banana froyo without feeling like I needed to throw protein powder in the mix.
It also helped me get in way more greens that I would have otherwise — always a good thing.
To reiterate, I’m not bashing people who use true labels. I’m discussing my own experience and why labeling doesn’t work for me. I’m also posing the perspective that (if you don’t have a legitimate medical concern), you can choose to eat any way you want without confining yourself to a restrictive title.
You want to do Meatless Monday? Awesome.
You want to eat mostly plant-based at home, but have a juicy, *grass-fed* bison burger on the weekend? Great.
You want to be like me and be Ovo-Vegan at breakfast, a Pescatarian at lunch and a Carnivore on special occasions? Sweet.
Whatever style of eating helps you stay on track with your health goals is the one you should follow, and if that style changes from week to week, so be it. You don’t need a label to allow it.
I hope this rant wasn’t too hard to follow and that it made sense for the most part.
Let’s hear your thoughts…
Weigh In: Do you use labels? Do you think dietary labels can be harmful?
*This post is linked to What I Ate Wednesday.