Why I Stopped Labeling My Diet

It has taken me almost two weeks to compose this blog post. As I sat here staring at the screen, I kept writing, and re-writing sentences in hopes to present the final product all wrapped up in a bow. But then I caught myself. I was writing what I thought people wanted to hear. I was carefully wording things so that I wouldn’t be judged for my difference of opinion. See, this subject (diet/labeling your diet) is quite a sensitive one. Mainly because I know I may lose followers, and maybe even some friends, by being honest about what I am choosing to eat, or not eat. Sounds silly, right? Trust me, I know! To better explain, I feel a little back story is in order…

After watching a popular documentary about veganism (Vegucated), in late 2013, my husband and I decided we wanted to be “vegan”. We purged the kitchen cabinets, and refrigerator, of all the animal products (dairy, eggs, meat, and even honey!) and I went on Pinterest and pinned every plant-based recipe that sounded appetizing. I also went to social media, mainly Instagram, to search popular vegan hashtags and began following some of the more well-known accounts for inspiration, motivation, and information.  Becoming “vegan” was fun. I was learning new ways to cook, and figuring out how to make some of our old favorites vegan friendly, and honestly, I felt a sense of belonging. That being vegan made me somebody.

Granted, it was more than just about food. It made complete sense to follow a vegan diet after recognizing the obvious about how my favorite barbecue chicken goes from farm, to grill.  I do have a special place in my heart for all animals, which makes it sound so hypocritical when I say I am no longer vegan, or even vegetarian. A lot has happened to me since 2013; deaths in the family, surgeries and hospital stays, and a few other personal issues that have really taken a toll on my mental health. Because of these things, there were times I did not eat a vegan diet. I would order pizza because it was easy and I didn’t have energy to cook. I ate at a family members house, where there weren’t any vegan options, when I didn’t want to be alone and my husband was at work. And it wasn’t until this last Fall that I came to realize that having to give my diet a label, or giving myself a food identity, if you will, added more stress to my life than it should.

My weight management issue aside (because thats a whole other blog post), I really enjoy food. I mean, come on, I went to culinary school. I truly get enjoyment from, not only eating, but cooking and serving delicious food to my friends and family. My paternal grandmother is half Sicilian so I am sure you can imagine the important role food played in that side of the family. Recipes handed down for generations that just can’t be veganized. It was a lie to say that if I went to visit my grandma and she had a pot of her sauce simmering away on the stove, that I wouldn’t at least have a bite. And I know that if and when I did so, I would beat myself up for days! I would feel like I let myself down, that I let the animals down, that I let the people I interacted with on social media down. For everything else I was going through over the last few years, this added pressure was not doing me any favors. It was time to start thinking of myself; not the animals, and not everybody else. I didn’t need to feel like I had to be somebody, I just needed to be myself. And if that was me not being vegan, then that was okay.

There wasn’t any specific defining moment where I thought, “hey, no more labeling your dietary choices”, I just started eating whatever I wanted. If I wanted a grilled cheese, I would have it. If I wanted a real Caesar salad (because the traditional dressing contains anchovies), I would order one. It finally got to the point that even if I was craving a hamburger, I just chose to eat one. Gradually, the guilt, and the pressure, lessened. I can’t lie and say I don’t still have moments where I feel sad for the animal that lived its life, the way it did, just for me to enjoy a pulled pork sandwich. And I am sure to all the vegans and vegetarians out there, it will be no consolation for me to explain that I try to support local farmers who have a higher standard of raising and slaughtering their animals. In my mind, I feel if I can support the small, local guys (and gals) it is taking a jab at the big factory farms. Either way, I am not purchasing their product, right? I also know it wont matter if I say I don’t eat meat every single day, with every single meal.

To sum it up I’ll say this: Do I eat animals now? Yes. Do I still try to incorporate plant-based meals into the rotation? Of course! There are weeks that all we eat are plant-based meals, or we go out and I request something to be vegetarian, or vegan, just because that is what I want. However, I am not going to state anywhere, or to anyone, at that moment that I “do not eat meat.” Because a few days later, I might, and I don’t need to feel like I am “messing up” by choosing to consume animal products or that I have to explain myself to anyone.

I am on a mission to better my health and eat a more balanced and wholesome diet. By realizing that I do not need to proclaim to the world I eat one way, or another, allows me to find what works for me, and that is what is important.

5 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Labeling My Diet

  1. Love this, love you! As long as you are happy. Of course I wish the vegan lifestyle had stuck, but you gotta do you, no guilt! I love your posts and I’ll always read them and stick by you no matter what! 🙂 <3

  2. Jenna Strange

    Good work! It’s not easy being vegan! Some say it is, but I think we live in a day and age where we are working too hard toward EVERYTHING to make us better, acceptable, healthy, beautiful, and simply just put together as an adult. Social media can be encouraging just as much as it can be intimidating. I am right there with you –we walk a path to reach an ultimate goal, but as we walk it at our pace we reach other goals we aren’t always aware of, but you have noticed it and that is pretty freakin’ amazing!

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