The obsession with labeling our diets

The obsession with labeling our diets

Are you vegan? Paleo? Primal? Plant-based? Vegetarian? Pescetarian?

Do you follow the Atkins, Bulletproof, Mediterranean, South Beach, or Whole30 diet? Are you gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, lectin-free, or soy-free?

You’ve probably heard of some, if not all, of these terms before. It seems as if everyday a new “fad diet” or “elimination diet” emerges that claims to solve all of our health problems and more – almost magically allowing us lose weight, reverse disease, gain energy, and even improve our IQs. With each diet comes substantial research to back up its claims, and soon, thousands of loyal followers, too, boast its benefits.

There is an aura around labeling our diets that I don’t really understand. Something in our society drives the ever-present need for an identity, to be “something” – and labeling our diets is no exception.


It’s proven that some diseases require – and thrive from – a complete elimination of food groups. And it’s also true, by eliminating specific foods, we tend to feel really good. I see no problem with this… however, most of the time, people following these fad “diets” swear off certain foods/food groups forever solely on the premise they are “bad,” when in reality, they are only bad for some, or bad in excess.

Sarah Ash PhD pointed out the contradictions in a century of fad-diet advice.  She she spoke of the attitude this has engendered within the population, saying it “contributes to the good food/bad food dichotomy that generates uncertainty and fear.”

Personally, I don’t believe in labeling myself as anything except an overall healthy eater. Keep reading to find out why.


Why I dislike diet “labels”:

By looking  looking for the “right” way to eat, many times, we view other diets as “wrong.”

  • People are passionate about the way that they eat. Many times, this can cause unnecessary tension and controversy.
    • Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who was a HARDCORE believer of their diet? I can summarize my experiences by saying that within a few minutes, he/she will have you convinced that the bagel or the Greek yogurt in front of you can actually kill. Woah, calm down.

Diet isn’t one size fits all

  • What works for some doesn’t work well for others. Respect others’ food choices and try not to pass judgement, even if it doesn’t align with your beliefs.

Repeat after me: “Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy.”

  • Processed food is still processed food, whether it’s gluten-free, non-GMO, or organic. Don’t fall for trendy words on the front of a package.
  • A diet full of whole-foods and vegetables is unequivocally the healthiest.

The creation of unhealthy attitudes around food.

  • When we get too caught up on eating foods that are labeled as “good” and avoiding those labeled as “bad,” it can be easy to lose your mind… literally. There is a fine line between mental health and food restriction. Thus, it’s important not to be too tough on ourselves when following strict diets. Maintaining mental sanity is MUCH more important than missing out on the fun of sharing a meal or dessert with friends. I like to choose making memories over diet.

What I believe:

  • Our diets are personal – so don’t strike up a conversation with someone about theirs unless you’re both very willing to discuss all angles.
    • I tend to follow the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule here.
    • Research surrounding nutrition is constantly changing and can be frustrating. It’s hard to say whether we really know what is right or wrong.
    • If you looked at the United States in the eighties, we would have been following a “low-fat” mantra, and if you looked at us in the nineties, we would have been “calorie counting.” Try to remain skeptical about food science and “hype.”


  • Balance is the key in everything we do. Adhering to strict diet rules is no way to spend your life.
    • If you want a change, try making a lifestyle change… it’s always better, and more sustainable in the long run. When you fall off the wagon for a day or two, just return to your healthy daily habits.

What do you guys think? Do you disagree and enjoy following a specific diet? Comment down below and let me know your thoughts!

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