Why I Don’t Like Labels
This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for ages, so I’m really excited to finally share it with you today. I think and talk about this subject a lot and I hope reading this post makes you guys feel happier and more comfortable with the concept of healthy eating and living. It’s a very personal and honest post, but I feel it’s an important topic for us to talk about because healthy eating is not a diet and sometimes labels can make it seem like it is.
The first, and most important, thing that I want to stress is that we are all different. We have different bodies, different medical histories, different genes, different lifestyles and different tastes and this is an incredibly important thing to remember. I do fundamentally believe that everyone is better off, both physically and mentally, with a diet full of fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and healthy grains and less refined sugar and processed/refined food but after that you have to make your own decisions. You can’t take anyone else’s way of eating too literally, because you’re not identical to them and only you really know what your body wants and needs.
There are a million and one different labels, beliefs and diets out there but that’s not what healthy eating is about. Healthy eating is about finding a way of eating that makes YOU happy. It’s about eating meals that make you feel your best – that might mean a bowl of almond milk porridge for breakfast, a kale and sweet potato salad for lunch and a burger with wine for dinner with friends, and that’s totally ok. It’s your body and your life, yes I want to encourage everyone to show their bodies some love and take good care of them but I never ever want anyone to feel guilty because they’re not eating ‘perfectly’ all the time. Plus, there is no such thing as perfect – perfect is simply finding the balance that is right for you, whatever that is.
And that’s where my issue with labels comes in. Putting yourself in a certain box with a certain label can be quite restrictive, that’s not to say you should never do it, but you just shouldn’t feel that you’re not healthy if your not specially raw, vegan, paleo, grain free, gluten free, wheat free or any of the rest of it. You can absolutely be a bit of everything, you just have to be honest to yourself and work out what makes you feel best – and that might be a happy mix of everything. Of course it can also mean following a certain concept, which is awesome, but just please don’t feel like it’s wrong if you don’t. It’s also important to remember that following a certain diet doesn’t automatically make you healthy. Veganism, for example, can be unbelievably nourishing and rewarding if you interpret it to mean a diet full of veggies, fruit, quinoa, chickpeas, almonds, green juice etc but refined sugar, white pasta and lots of processed food can also be vegan and that’s not super healthy! The same goes for all the rubbish gluten free products that are sold for extortionate prices in supermarkets – they’re no better for you than the original product as the gluten is replaced with a whole list of bizarre ingredients, so unless you’re celiac you’re better off either just buying the original product or going with a homemade version without all the rubbish. For bread, for example, I buy rye bread (which is wheat free) rather then gluten free bread – it tastes better and doesn’t have any of the weird additives!
We also all want to commit to healthy eating to different extents and that’s great – as with everything there’s no one size fits all rule here. I eat the way I do because I love it, but also because it’s also the only way that I’m able to manage my illness. I want to, and have to, eat nourishing food all the time. I rarely drink, because my body can’t handle it that well and I have to be careful when eating out that I don’t eat things that contain dairy, for example, as it makes me sick. Being veggie makes my body happiest, so that’s what I stick to almost all the time, but every now and again I’ll have some fish or an egg in a restaurant. This way of eating that makes me, physically and mentally, happiest. I don’t like classifying myself as any particular thing as I find it’s restrictive, yes almost all of what I eat is technically vegan and gluten free, but I don’t like being defined as a certain thing because I don’t want to feel like I’m ‘failing’ because I add honey to my rye bread or eat a barley salad because it’s the healthiest thing on the menu! I’m also open to the fact that in the future I may eat slightly differently to now, I’ll always be focused on natural, plant based goodness, as I adore that way of eating but my body may get stronger, in which case I may be able to start eating things like spelt and barley more often, which I’d love.
This absolutely is not a criticism of people who want to be raw, vegan, paleo or anything else – I only have respect for you and what you do, anyone who truly believes in something and follows through on it is awesome – but I just want everyone else to know that it’s ok to be a flexible healthy eater! Everyone has to start somewhere at some time and it’s much better to introduce healthy living to your life in a sustainable way over time than it is to do it all at once and quit three days later because you hate living off kale. Find a balance that works for you, incorporate whole ingredients and nourishing foods whenever you can and most important please don’t beat yourself up for eating something that isn’t super duper healthy because life is too short for this!