There have become so many of them recently – vegan, vegetarian, rawtarian, fruitarian, nutritarian, flexitarian… Labels in nutrition are just like those in fashion – all so pretty, so fancy, but you don’t need them to be happy.
Life is a complex thing, so are our bodies. I do not know of a system more complex than a human body. The way it functions, the way every little thing eaten or inhaled interacts with another, affecting our health and well being one or the other way – it is just impossible to tell what’s absolutely good for the body and what is absolutely bad. Many bad things have at least one positive side, although it’s not enough to balance out the bad, while most of the good things have at least one bad side effect, especially when used in excess.
Even though it is well proven that we don’t need animal products in order to survive and can live perfectly healthy lives without them, there are still many people, doctors and scientists, who try to tell us the other. Listening to them speak their mind, all of us sooner or later pick a side and label ourselves according to our choice. We live by the rules set for us by the founders and believer of a particular nutrition style and we are happy to do so. Most of us.
When I was a typical meat-eater, I used to look at vegetarians as if they were a head taller than us, the meat-eaters. I admired them for their courage to stand against the world proud and tall, I admired them for their determination. I thought I could have never done what they were doing. Then one day, I decided to give it a try. I decided to leave behind all the animal-derived products and become a vegan. Honestly, it was the best decision of my life. I feel so much better without meat in my diet, not only health-wise, but I also feel much better mentally. I feel that I am doing the right thing for myself and for the planet, not to mention the animals.
When I just started out, it felt so amazing to tell people that I am a vegan. It sounded fancy, it made people surprise, it overwhelmed them with thoughts and emotions. Even though most of them did not understand it and expressed their concerns about my nutrition, but I didn’t care. I knew that I was right and they were not, even though they were entitled to their own opinion. Vegan was the label that I was proud to wear, just like I would be proud to wear Dior or Michael Kors. Only with time I understood that being a vegan isn’t exactly convenient. To all the vegan community out there: I am sorry for telling my truth, but it is my truth. I still admire what you do. And I still eat vegan food majority of the time. But just think of it – in Ireland, if you live outside Dublin, there is literally no place where a vegan can go out and eat an animal-free food. Especially if your partner is a meat-lover. It’s fine by me, I love eating at home, because I enjoy cooking and cooking my own food is much healthier and less expensive anyway. But what if you’re on holiday? What if you’re going out on a special occasion? If you’re lucky, you can get some vegetarian food in a restaurant, but all of those are still laden with dairy, butters, unhealthy fats, etc, etc. Most of the dishes are also out of question with mu nut & seed allergy, because vegetarians love to use nuts and seeds everywhere. And that is understandable – nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats. But what should I do? Drink water and pretend to be happy and satiated?
So as much as I hate to admit it, I do eat meat from time to time – when I don’t have a choice. I never intentionally use animal products when cooking for myself, but when I am a guest or out in a restaurant, I can have some fish or cheese, or more seldom meat. The thing is if you eat mostly vegan diet, one or two animal-based meals a month or less won’t hurt. It is not a big enough amount to really damage your health.
At first I hated the idea of consuming some meat, because I couldn’t qualify as a vegan or vegetarian anymore, but then I let it go. I still like to call myself a vegan, even if only 80 to 90%, but really, it isn’t the label that makes me happy. Knowing that we do the right things makes us happy, being who we are makes us happy and being comfortable around our family and friends. In that case I have it all. I am not giving up on vegan food – I love it too much, and I love the way I feel. I am just being flexible, because our life is about flexibility. We have to be flexible to survive, while still living by the rules we believe in.
Even in the very beginning of becoming a vegan it was clear to me that I was doing it for the health benefits. I do feel for the poor animals, but it was not the deal-closer to me. What matters to me the most is my health and nutrition, and I am sure about those, meat or no meat. Vegan is just another pretty label, like Gucci or Prada, which would be so good to have, but having one doesn’t instantly make you happy. And if I was to ever choose a label for myself, flexitarian would be the closest to me, because I am constantly trying to balance everything out in my life. But maybe that is just my Libra nature.
A few more notes…
Another factor against labelling is that once you’ve labelled yourself with a new fancy name, you’re actually depriving yourself of something. Even if you didn’t feel the urge to have it before, once your mind is set that you’re not allowed to have any, you will probably start craving. A better approach would be, instead of labelling and depriving, to remind yourself that you just make healthier choices, but you do not forbid yourself to have it, whatever it is. You simply do not eat it because you do not want it, but when you will feel that irresistible urge to have something, you will have it. Just remember to enjoy every bit of it. This system of being flexible and listen to your body is so much healthier, physical and mental-wise.
All in all, it is a good idea to choose a particular style in nutrition, it is good to strive for eating clean and as close to the chosen style, but do not strive to be unshakeably exclusive, as it provokes a failure. Discipline comes with time, experience and a lot of previous failures, which are a natural process of learning to be disciplined. And remember that you don’t need a label to achieve success.