Why your diet doesn’t define you

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Someone recently asked me what kind of ‘diet’ I follow

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to answer this question.

Even as a naturopath, kinesiologist and nutritionist, I was confused, thinking ‘How am I supposed to answer that?’

I also felt slightly… annoyed.

I spend a big part of my day working with amazing women in 1:1 sessions, undoing years of dieting damage – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

So you can see how I not only wanted to avoid pigeonholing myself, but I also wanted to somehow explain to this person that their question – while honest and innocent – was a bit… outdated.

I wanted to say ‘It doesn’t matter what kind of ‘diet’ I’m on.

And while we’re on the topic, it doesn’t matter what kind of diet you’re on either.

It doesn’t matter, as long you’re healthy, and eating food that makes you feel full and whole, and eating in a way that makes your soul feel full and whole, and eating in a way that allows you to feel confident and comfortable in our own skin.’

But this was a quick-small-talk kinda conversation, and I’m not a preacher. I don’t like to give health-related advice unless asked for it – it’s totally not my place.

So I answered as honestly as I could.

‘I don’t follow a diet’, I said.

Now it was the other person’s chance to stare at me blankly.

‘Aren’t you like, gluten free or something? Or Paleo? Or dairy free? Or vegetarian?’

‘Nope’, I answered simply.

I could see they wanted more information, so I gave a little more.

‘I’m gluten free and Paleo until I decide to eat a piece of buttery spelt sourdough toast under my eggs. I’m dairy free and vegetarian until I eat some grilled haloumi or slow-cooked lamb. I mostly eat what I feel like eating, as I mostly feel like eating healthy, whole foods.’

A confused smile spread on their face, but I didn’t mind. Like I said, it’s not my place to preach. Or pigeonhole myself, or let a ‘diet’ define me.

It reminded me of another situation I found myself in a little while ago, where again I tried to un-do the ‘diet’ conversation

I was speaking at an event on the importance of food as medicine. I mentioned to the crowd that I don’t feel we have to label ourselves as ‘Paleo’ or any-such way of eating. We get to choose – on a daily basis – how we eat, what we eat, and how we feel about it.

I say this because I’ve had vegetarian clients almost cry to me in our sessions because they are starting to crave meat but they feel guilty for it. They don’t want to look like a failure or a fraud in front of their family and friends. They don’t want to go back on their word… even though that word was only to themselves, and even though they can feel it’s an outdated promise.

So I stood up in front over 100 people and said ‘Don’t pigeon hole yourself, you don’t need to label yourself. You can choose how you eat, and when you eat it, even if it’s not something you would have eaten the day before or the week before or the year before.’

As I sat back down at my table, I overhead a guest at the event who sat a little way away say, ‘I’m Paleo, I’m Paleo, I’m Paleo, I’m happy to label myself that!’ She hadn’t seen me sit down, and when she did glance up and see me, I just smiled at her. She looked back down at her deliciously Paleo meal, and me at mine.

You see, I’m happy for you to label yourself. I just don’t need to label myself. I was just giving the guests permission to not label themselves.

You can label yourself if you want

But if you don’t label yourself, you can still eat freely and fully and healthily.

Either way, please promise me one thing.

If today you choose to be Paleo, or pescetarian, or vegan, or vegetarian, but tomorrow you choose not to be (even if it’s for one bite of sourdough/meat/dairy/eggs) please be okay with it.

I can back you on this one

“You get to choose how you eat. And you can choose how you feel about it.”

I know what the switch feels like

Several years ago, after a trip to India where I was served raw chicken (accidentally) and ate a ton of deliciously vegetarian food, I returned to Sydney a fully-fledged vegetarian. I stayed this way for about 18 months, even though after a while it stopped feeling good. I ate well as a vego, but I never felt fully satisfied.

I would get bloated and full on beans, but still feel hungry (yep, that’s possible) and I constantly craved sugar.

One day, I decided I wanted to eat meat again… but I was almost embarrassed to talk about it. I would go to my parents’ house and smell my dad’s famous slow-cooked lamb and my mouth would water. But I was too nervous to tell anyone. I didn’t want to be judged.

After a few weeks of this, I ended up going to a well-known steak house with my boyfriend and ordering a steak. I ate a steak everyday for the next four days after this. I finally felt full – in a good way. I stopped craving sugar, my bloating went down, and I felt more satisfied in every way.

Being vegetarian doesn’t work for me. Vegetarian meals are great. A vegetarian life? Not for me. And I’m okay with this because I know what works for my body.

And if or when this changes, I’ll know then too.

You don’t need to define your diet, or yourself

That old saying ‘You are what you eat’?

I veto that.

You are so much more.

You don’t need to defend your diet, or yourself.

You just need to make conscious, healthy choices.

Everyday.

And if everyday feels hard?

Go moment-to-moment.

And if that feels hard?

Grab your free Body Harmony Guidebook.

Want some healthy meal ideas?

Try my healing 7-day meal plans.

This post has been republished with permission. The original post can be found here.