I was at my neighborhood health food store today, reaching for some almond milk, when a woman approached me and asked, “Are you vegan?”
I was a bit surprised (do I look vegan? Do vegans look like something specific?) But, I answered in the affirmative, and the woman proceeded to enthusiastically rapid-fire question after question: “What do you eat? I want to go vegan, but I am on weight watchers and I keep gaining. Where do you get your protein? Where do you get your calcium? You probably eat all those green foods, right? I feel better when I eat vegan, but I keep gaining. I think I am eating too much soy, but how else can I get protein? Beans? I keep gaining.” I honestly didn’t understand what she meant by “gaining” (I didn’t know if it was some weight watchers thing), so I asked for clarification, and she was referring to weight. She kept talking about weight watchers, and asking me questions (which I was super-happy to answer to the best of my ability), and I looked down at her basket and it was full of two things: vegan cupcakes and a bag of “zero calorie” noodles.
NO – I am not judging this woman for having a basket full of vegan cupcakes- I am not judging her at all! I try to make a practice of not judging anyone. Also, let’s be real: I am the last person to condemn a sweet tooth. I am the first to admit that have the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know, but I try to indulge it in moderation! Everything in moderation. Just because something is labeled vegan, does not make it healthy. There is plenty of deep fried vegan.
I apologized to this woman for not knowing anything about weight watchers (I am not knocking weight watchers – if that works for you, awesome), I told her that I am not a nutritionist, but as she wanted advice, I told her I find that it’s good to eat what makes you feel good and what makes sense for you. We talked about leafy greens, smoothies, vegan sources of protein, etc. and then we parted ways.
The image of those “zero calorie” noodles kept nagging me. What is it with “zero calorie” foods? Food is meant to fuel our bodies. Your body needs the right fuel. Filling it with junk and chemicals because “the calories are lower” (or it is labeled “vegan”) really isn’t going to get you anywhere. Notice how you feel after you eat. Do you get bloated? Are you energized? Eat the things that make you feel good whenever it’s possible. I will never forget how amazing I felt after my first raw, vegan meal!
You have all of the knowledge and know-how to be the healthiest you possible, right there inside of you! Ask yourself: what is healthy? Having the numbers add up (or not, with zero calorie foods), or is healthy actually feeling great and having the ability to live a great life?
Do you really need “rules” to follow? Why not simply follow your own good sense? Why do you need someone to tell you how to make YOUR body operate at its highest potential? One of my favorite Tara Stiles quotes is: “Who made these rules?” There is no one size fits all prescription for eating and optimizing your body and your health.
Eat what is right for you. Eat what you want (in moderation). If you firmly believe you need rules, make your own, and make them make sense for you, in your lifestyle, right now (not when you were 8, unless you are 8.) And, change your rules when they need changing (maybe try making them guidelines instead of hard and fast rules)! Be flexible, and try to adjust to circumstances: don’t be so rigid that if you “break your rules” you will be upset. Play around with your foods: notice how each different food makes you feel. Your body knows what is right; you just have to listen- no calculator required!