Why I Won’t Put A Label On My Diet (And Why You Shouldn’t Either)

by Erin Honor

Labels seem to be very in vogue these days, especially when it comes to one’s dietary preferences. Vegan, gluten-free, low-fat, high-fat, low-carb, high-carb, primal, paleo, vegetarian, pescatarian, grain-free, fully raw, low-fat-raw, rawtill4,801010, plant-based, clean eating, if it fits your macros…

I could go on.

Now, let me be the first to say that I have not one thing against any one of these diets (okay I have an issue with a couple). For the most part, each diet (when executed properly and intelligently) is actual pretty darn healthy. What I have an issue with is the unhealthy mindset that comes along with the obsession with labeling oneself.

Back in the day, there were essentially three labels that people used in regards to their diets: omnivore, vegan, and vegetarian (you could throw pescatarian into this as well). That was it, clear and simple. Did gluten-free exist? Yes, but being gluten-free was left to those with Celiac. Did paleo exist? Probably, though I don’t know that it was labeled as such.

What I’m trying to get at here is that is seems to me that people just ate food. Every single person on the planet has always and will always eat differently. No two people (should) have the exact same amount of calories or ratios of macro-nutrients each and every day. That just doesn’t make sense. Some people have a natural gravitation towards higher fat foods as they feel better when they eat them, some people avoid dairy because it makes them feel sick, some people feel more satisfied eating lower fat. When a person is in touch with their bodies, they know what to eat and how much of it to eat. If a person really desires some nuts, they should probably eat some nuts. If a person really wants a huge bowl of fruit, they should go get themselves a watermelon. Our bodies do not define themselves as high-carb or paleo, so why do we? Why don’t we just eat what feels good? Maybe what feels good to you just so happens to fall within the criteria of being paleo. Cool. Awesome. But why do you need to put a label on it?

People do not belong in boxes. If I had a penny for every time I have said this in my life, I would probably have enough pennies to afford a bag of organic lettuce at Whole Foods (that stuff is expensive as heck). I try to live my life with this mantra existing as a florescent sign that is constantly flashing in my subconscious mind. As someone with the tendency to collapse into a puddle of self-loathing on the daily, I have a whole lot of trouble with trying to accept myself as I am. I have spent the majority of my life trying to hide the most vital pieces of myself that make me who I am in an attempt to not be judged by the world. I feel that a lot of us do this, I mean, it is human nature to want to belong. So what do with do with this burning desire to fit in?

We attempt to shove ourselves into boxes that we do not quite fit in.

We go to school and try to figure out which “crowd” is ours. Are we one of the preppy kids? An athlete? An artsy-type? A drama kid? An academic? An outsider?

Why the heck can’t we be all of the above?

I feel like putting a label on your diet is basically just the grown-up version of what we go through in middle school. Each diet camp is just another clique and I am so freaking sick and tired of trying to belong.

I find labels damaging, especially to those who are in recovery from an eating disorder or a broken relationship with food. When you are coming from a place where so much of your life was spent trying so hard to be “perfect” when it came to diet, why are trying to recover by finding another way to put pressure on yourself.

Multiple times a day, I hate myself for not being vegan. I eat “vegan” probably 85% of the time and vegetarian almost 100% of the time. Why? This is just the way that I tend to gravitate. I feel a little bit better about myself knowing that most of what I eat did no harm to a life.. But I am not vegan. I can’t be vegan right now, and even if I went 100% vegan some day… I still would never call myself a vegan. Deep down, I know that the second that I slap a label on the way I eat is the second that is the beginning of another downward spiral. Coming from anorexia (though this applies to all who have ever struggled with food whether it an eating disorder or chronic dieting), I put so much pressure on myself to constantly be perfect. This is something that, though I am getting better at practicing self-compassion, I still struggle with daily. The second that a label is slapped onto my diet, I know that it will be all I focus on. Living up to my label will become an obsession in the same way that starving myself was. That is so damaging.

What I am saying here is that I truly believe that we need to reject the labeling of ourselves in all parts of our lives. This could be the diet that we ascribe to, the personality-type we believe we are (creative, analytical, etc.)… All things! Say it with me… PEOPLE DO NOT BELONG IN BOXES. There is no perfect label that you can put on yourself because you are the only you that you are. Your label is unique to you and that is what is so amazing about being a human being. When you realize how incredible it is that you are the only one of you that ever has been and ever will be… God, it is just the most liberating feeling imaginable.

All in all, be who you are, eat the way you want, live the way you want, and don’t fear not belonging to a specific group or label.. You are so much more than just your dietary preferences.