Our society loves rigid labels. I’m a millennial. You’re a retiree. She’s old-fashioned. He’s a hipster. We barely get to know each other as people before these labels provide an unbending definition of each of us.
There is a case to be made, therefore, for moderation. Maybe sometimes I’m a hipster and sometimes I’m decidedly unhip. Maybe sometimes you can be a conservative, sometimes a liberal.
And maybe sometimes I’m a carnivore and sometimes I’m an herbivore, so go ahead call me an omnivore. Now there is one label with enough flexibility to embrace.
Why am I happy to proclaim my omnivore status? I find that it encourages me to take a balanced, reasonable approach to the food I consume, instead of a rigid or fixated one. But it has taken me a while to arrive at this happy medium.
There are benefits for approaching life with the “in everything, moderation” mantra. This mindset allows you to exercise, but not become more familiar with the trainers at the gym than your own family. Advancing a moderation mentality allows you to eat sweets occasionally in addition to fruits, veggies and lean meats, but without getting a headache-inducing sugar high.
In all honesty, it took me a while to arrive at this moderation mindset. If enjoying a kale salad sprinkled with a little smokey bacon isn’t enough of a reason for you, let me save you some time, energy and calories by sharing my case for being a flexible omnivore.
Deprivation Backfires With a Bang
When it comes to healthy eating, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Fad diets, like only eating grapefruit for a week, that promise drastic weight loss in a short amount of time are, quite simply, bogus.
Yes, grapefruits have tons of health benefits, including Vitamin A and C. But they can’t be the only thing you eat for a week. Seriously. Can you tell I’m speaking from experience? Maybe your fad diet of choice restricts a different food, like gluten, carbs, or dairy.
Medical experts agree that we need to eat from variety of food groups to receive the necessary nutrients to survive and thrive. Overly restrictive diets often lead to unhealthy binge eating to make up for the deprivation, which in turn leads to weight gain.
Finding Balance, or So I Thought
So once I realized restrictive diets weren’t for me, I dabbled in vegetarianism and veganism. Ethically, I’m always torn between whether or not I want to eat mean or not. And as for health benefits?It seemed as though being a vegan or vegetarian were the ticket to clear skin, shiny hair, and weight loss, at least according to what appeared in my Facebook newsfeed. However, I found I was focused on what I couldn’t have, and ended up eating poorly.
Want a real life example? Technically, Oreos don’t violate these meatless approaches to food, so I enjoyed them without paying attention to the quantity I consumed. The extra calories came with no health benefit to my body whatsoever. And why did I need to buy a new package every week? Who was stealing these Oreos from my pantry? Turns out being a vegetarian or vegan wasn’t the panacea I’d been led to believe it would be.
Oreo binges aside, vegan and vegetarian diets are ways of life for many people, and I totally respect that. But they just didn’t cut it for me.
Omnivore and Occasional Vegetarian
I added lean proteins, mostly fish and chicken, back into my regular diet and now I’ve settled into my role as a moderate omnivore. It’s my Goldilocks state of mind: not too strict, not too loose — it’s just right.
I look for lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and veggies to fill most of my meals. I’ll eat dessert occasionally and exercise a couple of times a week. And I also look closely at portion size, especially when eating at restaurants, since this is a huge contributor to consuming too many calories.
Sometimes I’m surprised when I look back at my day or even a couple of days to realize I’ve slipped back into vegetarianism: granola and a fruit smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and one of my go-tos for dinner like this vegetable minestrone soup or Mexican quinoa bowls. I think it’s a testament to a healthy lifestyle that I don’t miss the meat on those days, and feel just as full and satisfied.
Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation,” so of course there are days or weekends when I indulge a little more. Pepperoni pizza is delicious, after all, and I make a killer bacon mac & cheese that I save for when I have some particularly carnivorous guests over. But I balance that out with additional exercise or by watching my meal planning more closely. In the end, the case for being an omnivore is simple: it allows enough variety and nutrients to keep my family and I satisfied and healthy, without outlawing anything specifically.