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August 26, 2015

Is Our Desire to Be Healthy Making us Sick?

"The cooks," Γιώργης Χωραφάς, Flickr

I did not realize that an authentic meal on a Greek island would be 90 percent fish.

It was mid-June and my family had just arrived in Mykonos.

Two local women were going cooking us a traditional Greek meal. I was thrilled.

My stomach grumbled and my family shared eager glances as we waited to see what the women would serve.

First came the shrimp and anchovy appetizers, then the grilled bass for the main course and finally a serving of ekmek kataifi (a custard and whipped cream based dessert).

At this point I was a strict vegan.

My family feasted on the meal while I picked at the bed of lettuce the fish came on and the side dish of roasted potatoes.

By then I was used to scrounging for vegetables. Before Greece we had spent a week staying in small coastal villages in Turkey where the only thing on the menu other than fish was a small side salad (usually doused in rich dressing and cheese) or whatever vegetable they chose to cook that day. Sure, I was used to it, but I was getting hungry.

As an avid traveler, I often find maintaining my strict health regimen does more harm than good.

When I am home and I go out to a restaurant that doesn’t have vegan options, I can wait and eat at home. But what if there is no place to go home to and nothing else on the menu? I obviously can’t give up eating. Am I supposed to give up traveling?

There are countless blogs, articles and health experts telling us what it means to live a healthy life. While one tells us to cut carbs, another warns us that carbs are necessary to a healthy diet. Some health experts argue for an alcohol free diet while others promote red wine as a way to burn fat and lower blood pressure. Is a mug of tea each day going to over-caffeinate me or is it going to give me valuable antioxidants?

All this contradictory health advice makes my head spin, but I am not sure it’s making me any healthier.

We all have different bodies with different needs, so why are we often arguing for one solution to the world’s health problems?

What works for me probably won’t work for you and that’s okay. I reflected on all of this as I flew home and I had a radical idea; what if instead of killing myself trying to get healthy I started living in a way that made me feel good?

Last week I went out to dinner with a new friend and I could not find one meat-and-dairy-free option on the menu. I discussed my predicament with the server and we found something that worked for me.

When waiter left my friend whispered, “Are you a… a vegan?”

For the first time in three years I responded, “No.”

Because I am no longer a vegan.

In fact, I had a slice of chocolate cake last night that had way too much butter in it. The craziest part? I don’t regret one second of it.

I realized that if I wanted to be healthy, I needed to stop setting rules for what I could or could not consume and start listening to my body.

Usually that looks pretty similar to a lot of the health trends out there (green smoothies, plant based diet, whole grains, etc.), but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it looks like a health-nut’s nightmare.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe it’s okay to make it up as you go along.

Heck, maybe it’s even healthy.

 

Relephant read:

A Meat-Eating Yogi: Is a Veggie Diet the Only Option for a Spiritual Person?

 

Author: Sarah Dittmore

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: Γιώργης Χωραφάς/ Flickr

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Sarah Dittmore