I was going to write part two of Adding to Your Health this week, but I am going to a workshop this weekend, and I think I’ll get some great insight there that I’ll want to share. So sticking to a similar theme, I’m going to talk about why I recently decided to no longer be vegetarian and why trusting yourself is imperative to good health (yes, the two are connected!).
I became vegetarian six years ago, when I was in my third year of University. My younger brother had been vegetarian since I was in high school, but I had no interest in it for myself. Then, in the summer before third year, I met a vegetarian, and I guess the timing was right because something clicked, and I decided to give it a try. At first, I didn’t think it would stick because steak was my favourite food, but as soon as I started, it felt really natural, and I didn’t look back.
I began because of animal rights issues, and as I continued to look into it, I found many environmental and health reasons as well. What I really loved though was how it connected me to my food on a deeper level. Eating became much more mindful. Externally, it allowed me to vote with my plate- I was (and am) very much against the harmful effects of the meat industry, and I was able to take a stance on that three times a day. Internally, it spurred me to educate myself a lot more on nutrition, which led to a huge leap in my attention to health.
Socially, I found it really interesting as well- it is amazing how much other people want to comment, and often challenge you, on what you choose to eat! Even though vegetarianism is so main stream, I still got a ton of questions about it, which I was happy to answer. I also got a lot of eye rolls, mocks, and sketchy comments (“If we didn’t eat meat, the cow population would get out of hand.” Um….).
Basically, becoming vegetarian is what first showed me that what we eat is about so much more than what we put into our bodies- it’s a reflection of who we are and makes up a part of our identity.
I became more and more interested in nutrition, and have since spent a ton of time reading articles, books, and blogs, taking workshops, and seeing different practitioners.
You know how the say ignorance is bliss? I really get that now. As I’ve mentioned before, I get really overwhelmed by too much information, and there is an absurd amount of nutritional info out there, and so much of it is conflicting. I honestly think you could google any food and find people who say it is God’s gift to your health and others who will say it is toxic.
So I was going around trying to figure out how to be as healthy as possible, and I was becoming more and more overwhelmed, confused, and discouraged. This blog post is so funny and perfectly sums up the dilemma I was having.
Then about two months ago, confused and knee deep in blogs debating the pros and cons of fermented cod liver oil (I’m serious), I decided I needed to take a step back. I wrote out a list of all of the foods that I had considered “bad” or harmful at one point or another, and it was ridiculous! Coffee, bananas, gluten, tomatoes, sugar, dairy, mushrooms, tea, cooked food, oh it went on and on. No wonder I was getting stressed about eating- I’d over researched and completely lost sight of what it means to be healthy.
So I made a decision to put everything back on the table, and I committed to make eating an art, not a science. That is my main reason for leaving vegetarianism: I was tired of restricting myself. It wasn’t vegetarianism that was restrictive, it was the way I was eating and thinking about all food. As I mentioned in my fresh-take-on-resolutions post, my main core-desired feeling is to have more freedom in my life, and this includes what I eat.
That’s my personal story, but I think many people are in the same position. We’ve gotten so confused with all of the nutritional fear-mongering out there that we forget food is meant to nourish our bodies and enhance our lives.
Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to about why many of us search for and cling to a meal plan whether it’s Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free or whatever else is out there: we don’t trust ourselves and we don’t trust our food. We feel that left to our own devices, we will just eat “bad” foods, so we need control or structure in the form of a diet. And we are afraid of what’s out there; with all the info about GMOs, pesticides, preservatives, inflammatories, etc., it’s no wonder that food seems scary.
Did you know that the feelings and emotions you have towards things actually changes their structure? Dr. Emoto, a Japanese scientist has done amazing studies with water. To majorly simplify, he took photographs of water crystals and compared the effects that different words and sounds had on their structure. Look how beautiful water is when it receives loving thoughts.
So it makes sense that we have this effect on our food. I think that’s one reason we say grace before a meal- we bless the food, sending it loving energy, and this loving energy then goes into our bodies when we eat.
In a way, I think that eating a cheeseburger with complete happiness and appreciation is better for you than forcing yourself to eat a salad, when what you really want something else. Stress, worry, and guilt are far worse for you than any food out there.
What I’m really committing to now is trusting that my body will tell me what it needs, and if this resonates with you I encourage you to spend less time reading articles and more time reading your body. And when you trust yourself, you can learn about nutrition and then check in and see if it feels right for your body before accepting it as fact.
Nutritionist Heather Flemming puts it perfectly: “You cannot find nutrition outside of yourself; it’s within yourself…It’s not following a plan outside of you, it’s listening to your body and following that plan.”
It can feel so much safer to have someone else tell us how to eat, but honestly you know best . Sometimes you might crave junk food, so instead of resisting it, go ahead and enjoy it! (that means sitting down and really tasting it, not guiltily stuffing it in your mouth while you’re on the run). But when you really listen to yourself, I think you’ll find that what your body wants more often than not is delicious healthy food. That’s been my experience so far.
Love yourself, trust yourself, and let your eating habits be a reflection of this.
I’m so glad I was vegetarian, and I know many people will happily take that path for their whole lives. Just as becoming vegetarian led to a major improvement in my health, I think letting it go has done the same. It’s shown me that I know myself better than any article out there, and it’s actually so cool to learn to listen and ask your body what it wants! Maybe in the future I’ll go back to no-meat, but for now I love exploring all of my culinary options.