I was recently asked what my diet is called. My response isn’t tidy, there isn’t a concise label for how I eat. I’m gluten-free by medical necessity, avoid most dairy but tolerate some goat and sheep cheese in small quantities, eat eggs from hens I know, consume 20% or less of my sustenance from packaged foods, buy local and/or organic when possible and don’t eat meat because I don’t like it. Plus I have a list of other foods that just don’t jive well with my body so I avoid them. I’m not vegan, I’m vegetarian but don’t eat dairy. I eat grains, but love raw vegan foods that don’t include much grain, but again, not vegan. I enjoy and create dishes that some would label Paleo, even though one might quickly conclude I’m not Paleo. I like carbs, I eat white potatoes (gasp!). I avoid refined sugar but love cupcakes once a week or so. From the outside, it looks a little complicated. There’s not an easy label for how I eat. So far, no one has written a New York Times best-selling book about this way that I eat.
And that’s PERFECT! I’ve spent the last four years searching for the style of eating that will make my body feel best. It’s also ever-changing. What worked a year ago isn’t necessarily what’s working best for me today. It’s not a diet for you, it’s for me. There’s no one size fits all solution, we’re all different. I don’t need a label for how I eat. Even if there were a label for how I eat, that wouldn’t mean it would be the way for you to eat. We probably wouldn’t be in the same diet box.
I’m not talking about labels like “dairy-free” or “gluten-free” to describe a recipe. Those are essential to folks who are specifically avoiding those ingredients, either by medical necessity or choice. I’m talking about labels that describe very specific diets, some of them trendy and most of them polarizing. But it seems labels are important to some folks. I get that, to an extent, it helps us to identify with others who may be like us and that’s all fine and dandy. But it also helps to separate us from others who aren’t exactly like us. That just strikes me as boring. I don’t want to be only with people who eat exactly the same way I do, vote the same way I do, dress like I do. (What a weird world that would be anyway!)
Recently, I saw a Paleo blogger raked over the coals for acknowledging her family had dined out and had something that wasn’t Paleo. A friend who writes mostly about vegan food shared her concern about not being a “real vegan” and being less-than-accepted at a gathering because of it. There seems to be a push to make sure people fit into a perfect mold of whatever style of eating they have chosen or most closely identify with. The judgments are quick and harsh. It seems like some folks forget to look at how someone has chosen to eat and ask why they are eating that way. Could it possibly be that it is because it is what makes them feel best? Or that someone else’s diet rules don’t work for you? That’s okay. Really, it is.
I want you to know it’s okay to not fit into a mold. It’s okay to make your own mold, a mold that reflects how you eat. That is, the style of eating that moves you, the food that makes you feel awesome! If you need to put a name on it, do that. Or if you just need to say, “I make healthy eating choices that work for me. Those choices are probably different than what works for you.”
I’m so grateful to have a community of friends who get this. We all pull a chair up at the same table and eat what works for us with no judgment. I don’t care if you eat meat, I hope you don’t care that I prefer not to. We can both eat bacon, mine will look a little different than yours. You don’t like cooked food? Cool, we’ll have chilled soup. There’s no judgment here, no need to put a name on how you eat. So join us over here at this table where labels don’t matter. Pull up a chair, sit down. You’re welcome here, even if you don’t have a label for how you eat. I don’t have a label for how I eat, beyond Healthy-for-Johnna. No labels necessary.
About Soften Saturdays: Soften Saturdays features posts from me and others I admire on the topics of healthy body image, healthy living, being kind to ourselves and more. I hope you’ll join us and be kind to yourself. Saturday is an especially great day to think about being soft with ourselves!