I was recently having lunch with a couple of awe-inspiring women; so it should have come as no surprise to me when I walked away with a plethora of immensely important and stimulating topics to ponder. The avid writer in me couldn’t help but put those thoughts down on Word to share with you.
One of the topics that came up was, of course, food. As yoga teachers we talk about food a lot. Like an embarrassing amount. But maybe what’s more embarrassing than our gravitational pull towards the subject, is our inadvertent attachment to certain types of food or diets and all of the self-righteous debate that comes in tow. With that attachment comes a slew of stigmas, judgments, cycles of suffering, and a self-perceived image to uphold.
So we think.
When I was in middle school I became a vegetarian. Meat began to gross me out, the way it jiggled suspiciously on the plate before being thrown into a pan. A couple years later I went to a birthday party where grilled hamburger aromas permeated the summer air and tantalized my dormant, carnivorous taste buds. Naturally, I ate two whopping cheeseburgers and it was great.
In my early twenties I became grossed out by the way meat is industrialized and its ramifications on the environment, so I became vegan. For the most part, I was quite diligent about it. Occasionally a bite of chicken, fish, or a few chili cheese fries would end up in my belly. I usually didn’t feel guilty until people started to pigeonhole my identity based on their attachment to my personal choices.
What has become clear to me since is the emphasis that we put on diets without consideration for what our food choices truly stand for and whether committing to that choice is ultimately causing us harm.
How about this: be an equal opportunist. That’s how I roll. I don’t see the value in conforming my diet to a certain dogma because I want to impress anyone, even myself. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking that our bodies don’t need something essential because we’re too busy being attached to a silly label. As a yoga teacher I’m often assumed to be a vegan and when I’m revealed otherwise (as an “equal opportunist”) it either delights or deflates people. That is a label that’s being imposed upon me.
Since we’re being honest, 90% of the time, yes, I am vegan. It’s for environmental reasons that I adhere to such a diet. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to eat the stunning gumbo stew or Moroccan tagine that my mother made me just because it has pasture-raised, grass-fed, wholesome, happy meat in it! I don’t want to miss out on all of the incredible food and associated culture that I encounter while traveling! What a shame and waste that would be…
If you’re going to eat anything—meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, coffee, etc. – the most important label you can denote is intention. Where did your food come from? Who made it? What practices and standards does that company uphold? That is the stuff that counts, people.
If you’re a vegan who is eating pesticide-ridden veggies with fries, chips, and sweets all of the time, guess what? Your body and the environment suffer twenty times more degradation than if you’d just eaten the organic, happy chicken breast and called it a day.
So, I repeat: drop the labels. Drop the obsession with which distinctive diet group you conform to. Instead, focus on how you eat: boost the organic fruits and veggies, pay attention to your energy levels and obey when you recognize a need, not a craving.
Be an equal opportunist. Eat with intention.