Earlier in the year, I decided to become “Vegetarian.” I’m not here to debate the pros in cons of that. The truth is, this habit came the way most health-related things come to me. I heard about it, did some research and decided it was worth a try. Sometimes, my experiments putter out, like that month I tried Insanity. Other times they stick. That’s where I am with vegetarianism.
I rarely tell people I’m a vegetarian unless it comes up. Even then, it depends on who they are. I’m not 100% vegetarian, but it’s easier to tell people I am than it is to explain everything. To actual vegetarians, I’d label myself “mostly vegetarian” or “kind of vegetarian.”
It reminds me of the documentary Vegucated. It’s on Netflix and I highly recommend it. Like anything, it has its bias, but it’s interesting to see the common practices behind our meat processing industry. The core story follows three avid meat eaters as they go vegan for a few weeks. By the end, all three choose to keep most of the change, calling themselves “mostly vegan” or “mostly vegetarian.” That’s where I am and that’s okay. I’m not in it for the label.
I’ve felt awesome these past months and am happy that my weight has largely stabilized without the headache of calorie counting. I’ve discovered new favorite foods I would have never tried before (here’s looking at you artichokes). To those few people who I have fully explain my eating habits to, I’m an anomaly. I’m not a real vegetarian because I don’t follow all the rules.
We are all a bit obsessed with our labels. People don’t understand making a radical change without attaching something to it. If your eating habits are what you change, people don’t accept that a person is mostly anything. They are either paleo or not, vegetarian or not, pescatarian or not. If you fall in the “not” category, people don’t understand why someone might still eat like they are most of the time.
It’s all or nothing in this country. If you tell people you are sort of, kind of or mostly anything, they treat you like your preference doesn’t exist at all. I see people do it with diets all the time. A person changes their eating habits, loses weight, then drops the label and gains it all back. What would happen if they kept their label, the only sign their diet was over being the increased portion sizes and the addition of a few extra treats here and there. The struggle with maintaining weight after a diet is how much sugary, salty, fried food is put in front of us the moment a diet ends. That’s why diets don’t work. You have to make a lifestyle change.
I’m using eating habits for all my examples, but it relates to anything. Take all my nerdy habits, for example. When I am around non-nerdy people, I’m as nerdy as they come. Nerdiness seems to ooze from me. Then, when I talk to fellow nerds, I suddenly feel unworthy of the title. There are people who have played more games than I have or watched more anime than I have. I will feel less than nerdy until I encounter a non-nerdy person again. Only then does it again become clear that the label of nerd fits me well.
People like to try on labels. They try different fitness routines, eating habits, hobbies or music. Often, we feel compelled to go all the way or do nothing at all. Insanity is a fitness routine with daily workouts. Even thought the DVDs tell you to go at your own pace and take breaks between workouts if you need to, people are likely to feel discouraged if they can’t do the workouts every day.
Our labels do have an up side. They make it easier for us to categorize ourselves and others. That’s why, when I asked my pagan friend more in-depth questions about her beliefs she said it would take to long to explain. It was easier for her to say simply say she was pagan. People knew how to categorize that and that category was close enough to the truth for her to take on that label.
I guess that’s why I’ve adopted the labels of vegetarian and nerd. While I don’t follow all the rules of those labels, or most other labels I associate with, it’s easier to explain to people. The boxes they put me in with those labels are close enough to the truth. Besides, I’m not in it for the label.
Do you label yourself as anything that doesn’t fit you 100%? Do you do so because it’s easier or to motivate yourself? Do you think people would accept a lifestyle change over a diet? Why are we so obsessed with labeling everyone?