OK In Health - Wandering Herbalist

Foodism: The belief that your diet is better than everyone else’s - October 2019

Exploring the need to put labels on diets and make them far more complicated than they need to be.

By Alexis Costello, Kelowna, BC

I encourage people to eat more beans and lentils and they ask if I’m a vegetarian.  I tell people that we don’t drink milk and they ask if I’m vegan.  My office hosts RAW food workshops and they ask if I’m a raw-foodist.

We like to put labels on things don’t we?  When somebody has the label on them that says “vegan” for example, we understand what that means; it makes us feel more comfortable.  What if we were each to simply listen to our own body and give it what it needs for each day? 

I was a vegetarian for about five years.  At the time, I really felt like it was the best health choice for me, but even knowing what I know about supplementation and the importance of iron and B12 I found myself struggling to keep my hemoglobin levels up.  And, once a month or so, I would crave steak; a great big slab of rare meat.  This is slightly traumatic for a vegetarian.  I felt like a traitor to my people for even wanting such a thing.  Then, one day while I was working, it hit me: I spend all day with clients telling them that their body knows exactly what they need for health and that all we need to do is listen to it and here I was denying what my body was telling me month after month, year after year.  So I gave up the label and yes, it was scary. 

The point of this is that we should be treating food as food; not as an ideology, comfort or punishment.  Food is an essential and fun way of taking care of your body; but that idea seems to be getting confusing for many people and the plethora of books on the subject are not making it any easier!  Neither is the condescension of people who choose a certain dietary path and insist on looking down at those who don’t wish to follow.  And let’s not even start on actors who suddenly decide that they should put out a book on diet (Alicia Silverstone?  Really?).  Many people have to consume a limited diet due to allergies or conditions such as celiac or Crohns but when we impose an extremely limited diet on ourselves without medical reasons for it, it can actually be detrimental to health.  In my years as a vegetarian, I met people who thrived on their diet, looked and felt fantastic and were joyful to be around, but I also met a lot of overweight, bleary-eyed and unable to concentrate vegetarians – it simply doesn’t work for everyone. 

I think we all know what the basic rules of good nutrition are: plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains, accompanied (if you choose) by limited processed foods, dairy, sugar and meat.  This information doesn’t change.  It’s not new or trendy and you won’t lose 10 pounds a week eating like this, so it doesn’t sell books.  But it means that you can eat well at home and still have guilt-free cheesecake with the girls on the weekend and not have to hide the fact that you’re salivating at the aroma of your neighbour’s barbeque. 

So let’s dispense with the labels!  Unless you can think of a catchy way to write that I’m a salt loving, salad eating, sashimi devouring, once-a-month-rare-bison-steak craving, whole-grain adoring, vegan baking, anti-white sugar militant…



Alexis CostelloAlexis's Bio: Alexis Costello is a natural health practitioner specializing in applied kinesiology, Bach Flower Remedies, massage and herbology. Her 'passion for plants' brought her and her family to Costa Rica for six months of adventure studying herbs in the rainforest; learning everything she could from 'curanderos', medicine men, shaman and the local folk medicine. Alexis also runs a fun integrated learning/healing centre called Happily Holistic in Kelowna, Okanagan, BC. Alexis Costello is a proud mommy to ten-year-old twins and a brand new baby. She wants to help other holistic mamas and kids to be their best in this wild world. In the ‘Parenting Tips’ column she write about children's health. Alexis formerly wrote a column on ‘Nutrition’ and "Wandering Herbalist" for OK in Health. - Alexis Costello Website - Email

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