Have you noticed that every possible way of eating has a name now? More and more people are labelling the way they eat and judging others that have a different idea of health and wellness, from their own. On the one hand it’s fantastic to see more people taking an active interest in their wellbeing, however, these labels often come with strict rules. A set of criteria around what’s acceptable and what’s not – and while it may work for some, for others it just simply isn’t sustainable.
I came up with the term ‘flexitarian’ as I thought it was kind of humorous and secondly because I was often asked how I eat. It’s the term that best suited my philosophy, I tend to listen to what my body wants and while I’m certainly not saying that’s right for everyone, it does work for me. It is about listening to what will best serve your body, health, energy (note: this does not mean tastebuds rule the choice!), and even your spiritual practice. Sometimes if we run our food choices by a label someone else has told us to follow, we can miss the messages of our body’s needs.
The concept of being a ‘flexitarian’ can be used by anyone and it simply means you don’t have stringent rules. You might instead prefer to approach how you nourish yourself with the idea the you have high standards. In other words, you don’t choose that highly processed, sugar and preservative laden snack because someone told you not to. You don’t eat it because it doesn’t serve your health, quality of life or your longevity. You don’t eat it because you care about yourself. In saying that, please always remember that it is what you do every day that impacts your health, not what you do occasionally. Feeling guilty about odd poor quality food choice does nothing for your health, either.
If you are someone who is energised and uplifted by strict rules or perhaps you have an illness that requires you to eat exceptionally all the time, then please continue to do that. You know if this is you. If you are someone, however who fears food, weight gain or uses food as a mechanism of control in your life, then you might want to consider relaxing a little. Rigidity when it stems from fear does not serve our health in any way.
A gentler approach can embrace a degree of flexibility or what some like to call “zig and zag.”
A “zig” meal is made up of nutrient-dense foods, real foods and no alcohol. While for a “zag” meal, the focus is more about the company you are in, being playful and relaxing. Zags are part of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. If this approach is going to serve someone’s health, I would guide someone to zag once a week, or for three out of their 35 eating occasions in a week. For others, five zag occasions better suits them. That’s still 30 meals that are high quality nutritionally.
If you know you are going to your office party, or friend’s birthday – that doesn’t mean the whole day is a right off, yet so many people approach their life or health in this way! Having the office party in the evening is even more reason to eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch, following up with nutrient-dense food choices the next day. You enjoy the zag but when you live mostly as a zig, the zag takes very little toll on your overall level of well-being.
The ‘flexitarian’ concept can also apply to your choice of movement. It simply means that you make a conscious effort to move regularly but if you don’t your whole world won’t collapse and you won’t suddenly gain four kilograms.
When we are kinder to ourselves and put less pressure on fulfilling set criteria we are more likely to make choices in our lives that we can sustain. After all, the way you take care of yourself needs to be sustainable.