Eating With and Without Rules

June 5, 2014


I’ve mentioned this before, but Instagram has quickly become my favorite form of social media. I share a lot of food photos on Instagram, and some of those photos include meat now and again. And, as you can probably guess, it means quite a few people have questions about if I’m still a vegetarian or not. The short answer? No.

It’s been quite a while since I talked specifically about my food choices, and truth be told I’ve been on a bit of a food journey over the past few months.

Over Christmas and the entire month of December I decided to give paleo-style eating a try. I heard great things about paleo from a number of people and wanted to see what all the hype was about. As you can imagine, it was a huge shift for me having been a vegetarian for the last 3 years. After about a month of eating paleo, I realized that it wasn’t an eating style that suited me at all. I loved the focus on whole foods, but I really missed my grains and their filling nature.

What really sent me fleeing from paleo was the fact that I actually gained weight during that month and I felt sluggish. I’m not saying this to bash paleo in any way, since I have had friends who love it and thrive eating that way, but for me and my body it wasn’t a good fit. This experiment further emphasized what I’ve always believed: A one-size-fits-all style of eating just doesn’t exist.

After my experiment with paleo I was at a loss as to what was next. Go back to vegetarian? Eat completely without rules and restrictions? While I don’t really like food labels, I did crave some type of structure in my diet so going without any guidelines seemed strange, too.

I decided to go back to eating vegetarian 85-90% of the time and allowing myself meat when my body craved it or it was the healthiest choice available. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in an airport or restaurant and been stuck eating a baked potato or something similar in the name of being a vegetarian when, in reality, getting a grilled chicken breast would have been the more nutritionally-sound choice. It didn’t make sense to me to make an inferior food choice in the name of following a set of self-imposed rules.

The past few months of eating with a more relaxed yet mindful approach have been wonderful! I don’t eat much meat during the week, but occasionally I’ll have a hamburger on the grill or a little shaved turkey with my lunch. As always, the meat is more of an afterthought and the veggies are front and center on the plate. It’s freeing to be able to make the choice to include meat now and again without having to eat it all the time. The more I play around with what I eat, I have realized that all-or-nothing rarely works.

How do you approach your eating style? I’m curious if others of you steer clear of hard and fast food rules, too?

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  • Reply Misty June 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I am a first time commenter, but a long time reader (man that sounds weird), but this topic was so relevant to me recently. For a long time, food and I have had a very love/hate relationship, in the direction of food addiction. Only in the last year have I taken some control over that addiction and addressing the issue – it hasn’t been easy looking at it that closely, but it was past time. But in the past year I have flirted with Clean eating, Paleo, the not giving a crap-diet, and finally back to following Weight Watchers. As I look back, I realize that one-size-fits-all works as well as a dress sized that way…in other words, it doesn’t. Coming to that realization also called out the tendency to feel shamed about my food choices because it doesn’t “fit” in one category or another. Clearly, my relationship with food is long and arduous, but it is being repaired meal by meal. Finding a balance is important and eating for me is key. Sorry for the novel, but I have been mulling this over for a while, thanks for bringing this to light. M

    • Reply MadisonMayberry June 5, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting, Misty! Love hearing from readers and their unique perspectives. Having had a semi-tumultuous relationship with food in my past, it’s been one long and difficult road to find my happy weight, my happy food place and learn how to naturally fall into a pattern than works for me. I love hearing that you, too, are on this journey and finding a place that feels right for you. It’s amazing how food can be harmful and healing when used in different ways.

  • Reply Kelly Linn Feller June 5, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    So true! I heard someone say that they were a ‘flexitarian’ and it totally made sense! They were vegan most of the time but not going to deny themselves something they truly were craving.
    XO Kelly

    • Reply MadisonMayberry June 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Love the flexitarian mindset. Veggies and whole grains first, but some meat here and there. Makes total sense to me. 🙂

  • Reply Amanda June 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Love this! I feel like so many people want to put a label on their food choices or fit in a box – paleo, vegetarian, vegan, meat-eater – but at the end of the day you need to do what feels right! When you hit your stride and feel great throughout the day, that’s what really matters. Great post, Madison!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry June 5, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      I agree 100% Amanda! Everyone seems to want to rush into putting a label on everything and anything, and I don’t think the trendy diet books really help in this regard. It’s so simple: Just trust your body and what feels right! 🙂

  • Reply Jin June 5, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Yes yes yes – love your new philosophy! After way too many food rules in the past, I have settled into a very happy and comfortable relationship with food. I eat three meals a day consistently and place a lot of emphasis on a protein heavy breakfast (usually eggs do the trick for me). Another big change I made was switching to whole organic milk and other full-fat products, but reducing my sugar content dramatically. I try to be conscientious about how much sugar I have, but have no other food rules:) Oh, and my scale has been out of my house for at least a year. I find myself feeling happier and not controlled by little fluctuations in weight on a daily basis. And, anytime I do weigh myself, I find I weigh exactly the same as always!

  • Reply Jessie June 6, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Hello, doesn’t most of America fit into this mold? Eat what you like and feel? I guess I have never felt any different? I feel like diet labeled ruin this country. Just eat what you want in moderation simple as that.

  • Reply Urban Wife June 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I’m the same way about food labels! My 87 year old grandma almost always has 1 cookie after lunch every day, but never more than two cookies. Her favorite phrase is ‘everything in moderation’ and I try to live by that same mindset. Like you’ve mentioned here, the most important thing is to be relaxed yet mindful. Well said! 🙂

  • Reply Brindi B June 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Madison, I feel the same way. I am not huge on food-labeling a person, and though I don’t consider my a vegetarian at all, I don’t eat meat very often. I really enjoy chicken, and a maybe a good quality burger every once in a while. But I believe in everything in moderation and I know my body and pay attention to what my body wants. If I want a hamburger, and I try to eat other things in hopes of filling me up or taking my mind off of it, I find that I usually end up eating it any way…plus all the other stuff I ate only to avoid it! If you want something eat it. Your body will be satisfied and you can move on. If I HAD to food label myself as anything it would be FLEXITARIAN. I eat what my body wants….whether it’s a week straight of what seems to be vegan, paleo, or meat galore. I dislike when people label. I just tell them I eat a healthy, balanced diet all the time. Say good bye to food labeling and eat what is right for you…it’s quite liberating 🙂

  • Reply DessertForTwo June 7, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    I eat the same way: 90% vegetarian. When I crave meat, I eat it. The more protein I eat, the better I’ve felt lately. I’m under high stress and trying to accomplish so many things, so I need protein to keep me going!

  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt June 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    What a great post. I totally agree that the same food doesn’t work for everyone. Everyone’s body needs different things. I’m Vegetarian most of the time, but I also eat fish or seafood several times a week. So technically I’m a Pescatarian… but whatever! This plan works for me and give me more flexability when I’m not at home… Plus I don’t have to worry about protein as much!

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