So, here’s a question I get asked more frequently than you can imagine. “You were vegan, now you’re not, so… What do you eat now?”
Or, actually people tend to ask, “What category does your diet fall into now?” Since I called myself “vegan” for so long, people in my life – both blog life and personal life – have been very used to associating me with a very certain type of diet.
Even I was very used to it! It certainly makes things easy at restaurants. “I’m vegan, so I can’t have any animal products or any animal byproducts.” That was always one of my favorite parts about being vegan. I liked the fact that the label made everything easy. Instead of my previous, “Oh, oil bothers my stomach…. And so does dairy, wheat, caffeine, and refined sugar… and I also don’t eat red meat, but occasionally I will eat some poultry,” etc. I was finally able to drop one word and people suddenly respected my eating choices more than ever before.
They may not have understood them, but they did respect them. People tend to associate vegans with having legit reasons behind their veganism, so they don’t mess with their food or try to get them to try things that don’t fall under the vegan label.
Disassociating from that vegan label was hardest for that reason… immediately I felt like, “What am I if I’m not vegan?” I was tempted to say I was “vegan plus fish and eggs” for a while, and then “vegan plus fish, eggs and chicken,” and thennn I tried to drop the V-word as a whole but adopted dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, oil-free, etc. in its place.
Then I read a really frickin’ amazing article by Kelsey Miller of the Anti-Diet Project. Kelsey wrote about eating disorder language and how prevalent labels are in eating disorders and in recovery. She mentioned me in her story, and the fact that I had to adopt one label (orthorexic) to get rid of the other (veganism), and how at the beginning stages of my recovery that orthorexic label was (and still is) extremely important.
(Photo Credit: Reinfery29.)
Well, Kelsey’s article got me thinking. We sure like to hold onto labels. They make us feel nice. They wrap our feelings up into a cozy little box and allow them to sit there untainted from the world. The nicest thing about labels? You don’t really have to do any work when you’re in a box, and you certainly never have to even thiiiink about change.
At that point I tried to drop any and all labels and restrictions that I had around eating. And let me tell you, that process certainly didn’t happen overnight. It’s something I had a very strong grip on for quite some time, so naturally I am still struggling with it every day and am trying to ease that grip little by little.
So now when people ask me: “What category does your diet fall into?” I say (longwindedly, but still): “NONE!”
Then I go on to explain how putting myself into a box by labeling my diet has not been good for my psyche, and how I don’t believe labels are good for anyone’s psyche. Especially those who are susceptible to eating disorders.
If you let yourself live your life, eat the foods you crave and the foods that you know make you feel good, you are doing something very, veryyyy special that I wasn’t allowing myself to do for a long time. You know what that is? TRUSTING YOURSELF. You are allowing yourself to have the freedom and power to make your own decisions, and you’re not letting some silly rulebook do the thinking for you.
There are no off-limits foods to me anymore. That is a huge, huge deal, because for many moons I had a MUCH higher percentage of off-limit foods than foods that were “okay.” It is still a trip to wrap my head around it… looking a menu and being like, “Holy cow! I can eat just about anything I frickin’ want on here,” feels so out of my comfort zone it’s insane.
I still eat a very healthy diet. I’m not saying I’ve gone hog wild eating pizza, chips, ice cream, and cookies every day, but if I wanted to, I WOULD. Because I know if I was truly, truly trusting myself, I would probably only do that for a day or so and then even it out with healthy eating the next day. Our bodies don’t crave crap, it’s not real food, they crave good food from the earth that fuels us and makes us feel GOOD.
What I’m doing now is refusing to deprive myself. It’s liberating, it’s fun, and it feels amazing. I feel like a brand new person. This weekend I had frozen yogurt (!!!) for the first time in two years, and I tried my hardest not to stress while eating out all weekend because my mom was in town. Like I said, it’s not an overnight transformation, but I am getting there.
I ate this super delicious quinoa salad with chicken from Wood Ranch at The Grove on Saturday… a restaurant I would have gotten serious anxiety about going to a few months ago.
And… this is me sipping on an iced almond milk mocha with dinner on Saturday night. ALMOND MILK MOCHA?!?! Who, me? Yes! Another thing I never, everrrr thought I would have again. And it was so satisfying and totally hit the spot.
So now I eat whatever the heck I want, but in moderation. I don’t go near processed foods because I don’t even like them and I never want them. I don’t eat red meat or pork because I don’t enjoy it and it doesn’t make me feel good. Everything else is fair game, and I am trusting my body to continue allowing myself to play around with this fun new lifestyle.
Thoughts on a label-free lifestyle?! How you DO eat that makes you feel best?