You are NOT your Diet
I’m sure you’ve heard people say,
“I am Vegan.”
“I am Vegetarian.”
“I am Paleo.”
But…are you really? Or is it just your dietary lifestyle? Because I am Andrea.
The purpose of a specific diet is to guide you to make healthier choices, and achieve or maintain specific health goals. Diets are not meant to dictate your being, and they are certainly not meant to become or take over your identity.
I eat a mostly plant-based style diet. For me, this means that I mainly consume fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and eggs. I also eat chicken, meat and/or fish a few times a week. If there is a week where I want to eat more animal products, or a week where I want to eat no animal products at all – I do it! No questions asked.
I will feed my body what I want to, when I want to, based on what I feel I need at that given time. I have learned to listen to my body and tune into the signs and signals it gives me regarding my eating habits. When I start to feel sluggish, it is often a sign that I’ve been consuming too many carbohydrates and not enough protein. Once I recognize the imbalance, I make a shift in my diet. My energy levels eventually follow suit. Of course, it is not always this black and white when it comes to finding the source of the imbalance. If you take note of how your body reacts after you eat different food, you will learn how to find the foods that work best for you. I recommend keeping a food journal with notes on how you feel daily. It is quite empowering to have that control over yourself! I believe that getting in touch with your body and eating intuitively is much more important than staying inside of the rigid walls that diets create.
I commend you if you wish to follow a Ketogenic, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Fruitarian etc., diet – all the power to you! Each diet has pros and cons and I want you to know that what I’m saying isn’t about favouring one specific diet over another. I’m also not saying that diets in general are bad for you. This is about people’s relationships with diets.
Eating is not a one-size fits all approach, because every human is different. It worries me how people attach their identity so strongly to the food they choose to eat or not eat, by saying things like, “I am ____.” I think it can make people feel really trapped and scared when they want to step outside of said diet – causing a sense of shame and implications of unnecessary limitations when it comes to nourishing their body. They become worried about what others will think if they do, and they feel like they are betraying themselves.
Do not give the label of the diet that much power! It’s important to remember that every person’s body operates a little bit differently and a uniform approach isn’t realistic. You can still follow a Paleo style diet, and decide to eat legumes sometimes. If the people you know who follow a Paleo diet exile you from their community because you broke a rule, then I don’t think that was your tribe or safe place to begin with! Try to focus on what is best for you and your body, and not the social status that comes from following a specific, popular diet.
Going against the principles of a diet you follow will not make you weak or immoral. It makes you strong, intelligent and adaptable for recognizing that you are a human who is constantly evolving inside of a body that has ever-changing needs. It is admirable when a person can recognize that a specific diet is not allowing their body to thrive and makes adjustments in order to see positive changes.
“You are what you eat” has a lot of truth to it. The way your body operates absolutely reflects what kind of food you consume and the lifestyle you lead. But, your own personal identity as a human being, and the physiological response your body has to food are two very different things.
I’ve heard vegetarians say things like, “I haven’t eaten meat in years and now all of a sudden I’m craving it, but I can’t eat it!” Why? Why can’t you eat it? You are the only person in control of what you eat and when you eat it. No one else.
If your body is intuitively telling you that it wants chicken or fruit – listen to it! (Unless, of course, you have a serious allergy or medical condition preventing you from doing so). Maybe you’re heading towards a nutrient deficiency and your body is sending you some bold, red flags to help you out of it. That being said, eating intuitively has its boundaries too. If you feel like your body is having intense cravings for unhealthy food like candy, chips or chocolate, I would examine the situation further and figure out which imbalance in your body is causing these cravings. Perhaps your mind or body is craving sugar because of a candida overgrowth in your digestive tract. Maybe you’re craving chocolate because your magnesium levels are low. Craving salty chips could be due to a sodium/potassium imbalance. A diet is meant to guide you, not restrict you from what your body needs.
I’ve been eating meat my whole life and when I got pregnant with my first child, I could not touch chicken or fish for the first trimester. Instead of forcing myself to eat it because my typical routine was to eat chicken or fish a few times a week, I just didn’t do it. My body was saying “no,” so I listened. I didn’t call myself a vegetarian for those few months. I also didn’t worry about what someone would think if they knew I wasn’t eating meat at that time. I just did my own thing, without any labels, and began eating meat again in the second trimester.
So, what are you willing to give up in the name of your diet?