What I Didn’t Anticipate When I Stuck The Vegan Label On My Diet
*This is the final post regarding my recent nutritional changes. After this, there will be no more labels.
It’s a strange thing really. Growing up, I wanted to break free of labels. To be my own person. I think every teenager and young adult agrees. Of course we want to be accepted, but we didn’t want to be labeled as any one thing.
Somewhere along the way that changed.
As an adult, fitting in seems to be a lot more important than ever before. We want to be accepted by our peers and feel like part of the in-crowd.
That desire creates a longing for a label.
Labels join us, bind us, and makes us feel like a part of a collected group. We long for a label that suites our character and passions.
Two years ago (next month actually), I took on a 90-day challenge: to test a vegan diet. As you know if you’ve been reading Lifting Revolution for any amount of time, that 90-day challenge officially ended just weeks ago.
I feel as if something changed during my vegan journey.
I originally adopted the plant based lifestyle because I felt good about myself. I liked the way I felt eating meat-free. I developed a healthy relationship with food (finally), and simply felt we went together like peas and carrots.
I didn’t think about labels at first. But then I did.
I found myself telling people that I was vegan. Some how it would just pop up in conversation. Weird looking back now, because it’s not like you introduce yourself to someone new and promptly announce:
“Oh hi, my name is _________ and I eat an omnivore diet.”
So why was it happening to me?
I began writing articles (not many) for vegan publications. And I began to enjoy not just the food, but the pride I got simply by being in the “vegan club”.
I was part of a group, I felt accepted. Similar to my sorority days I guess. Finding other vegans created instant bonds and conversations that lacked awkward silences… we just “got” one another.
Talking about chia seed eggs and how to use tempeh were fun chats that flowed effortlessly.
What I Didn’t Anticipate
There were a few things that happened that I didn’t anticipate. All equally important in making my decision to toss away the label and move forward with my nutrition.
1. What I didn’t anticipate was what I was actually doing to my body.
I felt so weak and tired during this workout… Oct 2013
After the first year, I was still loving the “diet”. But I was suddenly tired, cranky, unable to concentration. Heck, there were times when I couldn’t even read a sentence correctly. Dan would get so annoyed, as would I. Why the hell couldn’t I spit out the words that were right in front of my eyes in typed letters?
I also realized my physical performance was declining. As an athlete, I started to feel winded, fatigued and out of shape. But why? My training regiment didn’t warrant a reason for it!
My strength began to decline, I am not proud of it, but I will say these past 8 months have been some of my weakest.
What used to be easy, seemed to be impossible. Remember how I wanted to do 20 pull-ups last year?
Ha! That didn’t come close to happening. All of my strength seemed to melt away.
I was Superman…
But kryptonite was always in my pocket. That baby didn’t budge.
I also wasn’t recovering properly from workouts. I was suddenly sore for multiple days from a workout that previously wouldn’t have left an impression on me.
Turns out my body was low in iron and B vitamins. Not that that was a shock, however I truly believe that just supplementing with a pill is not the fix. A balanced diet is.
2. What I didn’t anticipate was what I was doing to friends and family.
I went in to this vegan life with the idea that the only people it would affect were Dan and myself. As long as Dan was supportive and willing to go mostly meatless (I made him chicken a few times a week but other than that he ate vegan dinners) then we were good.
I didn’t realize that friends and family were intimidated to have us over. Unsure what they would make for the “health nut”.
My parents actually preferred for us not to come over for Sunday dinners (family tradition) because they didn’t want to watch me eat just broccoli or complain about cheese being tossed into salads/veggies (I still don’t eat cheese). It caused them stress and anxiety.
People didn’t like inviting us over and then asking me if I would be okay bringing my own “main course”.
It didn’t bother me at all, but it bothered them. They wanted me to enjoy the food they spent time preparing.
Of course that makes sense.
3. What I didn’t anticipate was having a bad relationship with food all over again.
I went in to this because I loved the new relationship I developed. I ate when I wanted, stopped when I wanted, and enjoyed my meals guilt-free.
Over time, that all changed.
Because I was a labeled vegan, I felt shameful anytime I even thought about eating animal products. I ate fish on occasion but felt guilty as if I was letting all vegans down.
I was almost worried that if someone saw me I would get a ticket thrown my way. Or I would get slapped in the face by a die hard vegan.
If I ever ate Fro Yo (which I did maybe 5 times in the 2 years) I refused to snap a picture like my other blogger friends on Instagram. I was ashamed. But oh it tasted so good!
The thing that made me love food, turned against me.
4. What I didn’t anticipate was discovering that it’s okay to not have a label.
When I first thought about giving up the vegan label I asked you, my lovely readers, for your opinions. While several strong opinions were stated…
I think one said: “if you’re lacking nutrients than you suck as a vegan.”
Most everyone else was very supportive and said to do what was best not for the label but for me. For MY body.
You mean, I wouldn’t get tossed out of the healthy living world for eating fish? Chicken? Eggs?
That’s when I decided that enough was enough. Labels aren’t necessary, and they certainly didn’t help me.
What has helped me?
Listening to my body. Fueling it with the food it needs and wants. And staying true to myself.
Sure, a diet label may help some, but what works for one isn’t guaranteed to work for another. We live in a world where it is okay to be different.
My body didn’t work the way I envisioned. I’ve met several people who have excelled with one diet or another. And I know several others who like me, realized that their bodies didn’t.
What Will My Diet Be?
Expect to still see a lot of vegan recipes. I am not walking away from a plant based diet. I still think that a diet composed mostly of veggies and fruits is the way to go.
But also expect to see some gluten-free recipes as well. And some paleo.
And pretty much every type of diet as I believe all have benefits that are worth drawing from. I no longer believe that one form of nutrition is better than another (well, perhaps processed is never going to make it on here).
But, I also think my body is loving the eggs and salmon that I can’t seem to get enough of lately.
No more labels… from here on out, it’s the “undiet diet”. Giving my body what it wants, and what it needs.
Out with the labels and in with purposeful nutrition. A nutritional plan designed around cravings, performance, and overall health… balance.
And oh my, smoked salmon and egg sandwiches (on a rice wrap) have never been so good!
I am really like a kid in a candy store right now, I feel as if I am learning to cook all over again!
–> Do you have a go to egg or fish recipe? I would love to know it! <–