I’ve done it, I’ve tried. I’ve had a go at them all – I’ve been vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, pescatarian, ketogenic/no carbs/no sugar. I have explored each one. I have always been fascinated by the latest research and the plethora of information on how to live our healthiest life.
However, more recently I have butted up against the problem of having to think about the label, the association and the division, separation and inflexibility that it that brings. I’ve begun to realise that I fundamentally hate the rigidity and crudeness of applying a generic label to define myself.
I was having a chat this weekend with a friend who is committed to doing as much as she can to help our planet out and live in a conscious, sustainable manner. She is the Environmental Officer for her Student Union for pity’s sake – she is on it! She had tried going Vegan for a few months, after years of being vegetarian and told me that despite her best intentions, it just wasn’t for her. Her body had hated it. She ended up ill, energetically depleted, anaemic and then preceded to get glandular fever. Needless to say, she was forced to drop the virtuous ‘vegan’ label. But that doesn’t make her less committed to making the best and most responsible choices – avoiding buying meat, eating everything to avoid food waste and not putting people out by eating anything that was cooked for her. I was inspired!
Now I’ve been ‘vegan’ for the past two months and – whilst I haven’t been ill, I know my body pretty damn well It just hasn’t been happy. I’m constantly hungry, eating far more carbs/natural sugars than feels like the right balance for my constitution and have been steadily gaining weight despite increased exercise and training. On top of this I’ve beat myself up over it, determined to stick with it because it seemed the like the ‘right’ thing to do. Conforming to and abiding by the restrictive strictness as if it was the only means by which to live and embody my values to make conscious choices for the planet and its people.
But here is one thing they don’t tell you about ‘sustainability’ – it has to be sustainable for you and that means the whole you – a happy and healthy you – because those two things are connected. If everyone could bring a bit of awareness, responsibility and last, but certainly not least, a bit of enjoyment into the choices they make, we would be far better off. I love the old adage my grandma taught me “a little bit of what you fancy does you good” and the simple instruction “do what you can with what you have.”
Every single human being is a miraculously unique, infinitely complex, naturally evolving, totally dynamic, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being. What works wonders for one person, can be tragic for another. The body knows better than the mind what works - if we only took the time to check-in and listen to it.
Because what I realised with the label ‘vegan’, as with every other label, is that I was allowing something outside of me to dictate my choice pattern, which ironically I had been trying to avoid in the first place (by not eating processed, palm oil, toxin full, cruelty allowing products we are sold in supermarkets without being second guessed).
So you know what, despite my good intentions and desperation to make a difference, I’ve decided: “fuck the label”. I’m done with identifying and putting myself in a restrictive, prescriptive, heavily loaded box or group which increases judgement and separation.
I have replaced it with a commitment to bring awareness to each of my choices – to do the best I can at all times, by embodying my values.
I WILL try and pay attention to and recognize when I am eating based on what my body demands, and when I’ve fallen into the trap of mindless eating for satisfaction of the mind, soothing my emotions. I WILL add eggs or locally sourced oily fish to a meal at times, when my body craves it and I WILL eat whatever people cook me. I WILL eat a croissant, a piece of pizza or a large slice of vegan cake when I fancy it. I WILL still eat a plant-based diet and pulses for 90% of the time, because it is the best choice environmentally with a far smaller carbon and water footprint than meat, but also because I LOVE a big bowl of veggies and a banging salad. I WILL continue to include nuts, seeds, adaptogens and other nutritionally punchy additions to my meals, because I am lucky enough to have access to them and I honour my body. I WILL avoid sugar as much as I can. Because that it what is right for ME. No label. Just my personal responsible, thoughtful, conscious and considered choices. Unique and aligned. Doing the best I can and not beating myself up on the hard days.
What difference can you make with what you have – in terms of your eating habits and buying patterns. What empowers you to feel like you are living in a way that honours both your body and your home – this beautiful and diverse planet?