Before you may question me, yes. Yes I did post that I was returning to a vegetarian diet, and yes I did eat this whole pictured plate of food. How do these two things coincide? The answer is that they don’t, and that’s okay. Recently, my life has been a massive ebb and flow of figuring out what lifestyle habits work best for me. At first I was scared to have my first bite of meat after that post because I thought I was going to destroy my “image” and betray my word. However, I eventually realized that I am free to discover, to change, and to grow.
For now, let’s get back to one of life’s greatest pleasures. Food. Noah and I were thoroughly enjoying all of the vegetarian food that we were eating, but we found that the majority of our protein was coming from highly-processed sources: meatless “sausage”, chickenless patties, and veggie burgers. While I don’t believe these foods are terrible for you, I think they need to be eaten in greater moderation than we were eating them. So there we were. We were working out harder than ever before, and that meant we were hungrier than ever before. Unfortunate for us, these products were weighing heavy on our grocery bill. On our next trip to the store, we decided to start incorporating more whole foods and try to “shop the perimeter”. We bought loads of vegetables, fruits, grains (rice and quinoa in particular) and, dare I say, chicken and salmon. Going to the grocery store usually puts us in a good mood, but after this trip we were pumped to start something new.
That night Noah made homemade sushi with some of the salmon, and I meal-prepped for the rest of the week. I decided to make sesame chicken and broccoli, sweet potato crackers, roasted garbanzo beans, and Asian coleslaw.
I felt incredibly accomplished and ready to watch my week of eating unfold. Honestly, we felt great. Our workouts were intense, and we were loving our meals. Therefore, our next grocery trip looked almost the same as the first. There was only one thing that seemed to be slowing brewing beneath the surface, my stomach. At the end of the second week, there was no denying my stomach was unhappy about something. I could literally hear it loud and clear. I began to cut back on some of the meat and prep for Noah’s lunches rather than my own. The storm that was my stomach began to subside over the next few days, and that’s when it hit me.
I was trying so hard to be all or nothing with vegetarianism, that I never stopped to think about enjoying being somewhere in between. I asked myself, “what is the best thing for me and my body regardless of what anyone thinks of me?”. When I thought about it that way, the answer became very clear. For now, my plan is to eat mostly vegetarian at home and reserve meat for special occasions. If the healthiest and best sounding option to me at a restaurant has meat in it, I want to be able to order it without feeling guilt. Hence, the mussel and shrimp linguine from our Olive Garden date. On the other hand, I want to respect my digestive system and stick to eating whole plant-based foods at home such as roasted edamame, beans, and egg whites.
Vegetarian is just a word, and I don’t need to be confined by the construct of language and societal labels. Instead of trying to figure out what I want to be, I should be focusing on who I want to be. Who I want to be is a happy, healthy, and hardworking person that hopefully makes a positive impact on the world. If descriptions like vegetarian, fit, or student happen to apply at various times in my life, that’s fine, but I get to decide how I let them appear and affect me. I urge you to ask this question to yourself too. Are you defining yourself, or are you letting words and labels define you?