Advice

Guilt Free Eating: One Bad Yogi’s Answer to the Question of Yoga & Diet

I often find that explaining my dietary choices can be complicated, especially in a world where diets have become fads and if you practice yoga people assume you eat an unhealthy amount of tofu or do some sort of weekly cleanse.

I practice yoga but….I am not a vegan (insert gasps of horror here). Or even a vegetarian. I’m not gluten-free and I’m not monitoring my carb intake in any particular way (unless trying to see how much spinach and pineapple pizza I can eat in one sitting counts). So, I’m a yogi who eats meat. Maybe this, and my obsession with slightly violent and degrading hip-hop music, is what makes me a bad yogi. Anyhow, I found my way here I am grateful for this community and for people who are willing to hear me out:

Eating meat and being a yogi and every combination of those two things are what I’m passionate about writing about. Consequently, I spend just as much time researching yoga sequences as I do looking up wild game meat recipes. Here’s where things start to get fuzzy though. I eat meat, but just any old food truck hotdog won’t do. I make a valiant effort to eat only humanely-raised meat products. This means I spend a lot of time researching, shopping at places like Whole Foods, writing articles about animal welfare, and choosing vegetarian dishes when I can’t be sure. Words like “grass-fed” aren’t enough for me. I want my meat to come from a local ranch where I know exactly how it was raised, I want to be part of the raising and butchering process myself, or I want my meat to be “certified humane” or “humanely certified” by a third party, non-government affiliated entity. So in case you were wondering, I am that jerk who discreetly brings her own humanely certified turkey breast to Thanksgiving dinner.

Having such a specific diet makes it difficult to explain why or how I eat the way I do. Never was this more apparent to me than while on a trip to Boulder with some of my fellow yoga teachers. We stopped to eat at a vegan and “all natural” restaurant. Most of the women I teach yoga alongside (all Bad Yogis themselves) know my dietary specifics and respect my choices. When one of the women in our group asked a couple dining if the food was good, the hippy-looking woman replied that it was fantastic and her less-than-enthusiastic boyfriend said “I don’t really care, as long as there’s a dead animal on my plate”. The reaction was more than I expected. One of the women I travelled with quickly clapped her hands over my ears and exclaimed, “no don’t say that!” The way-too-granola-for-her-own-good girlfriend looked at me and said, “Vegetarian?” nodding her head understandingly. “Well uhh… sort of…,” was my eloquent reply. And in that moment I realized just how hard it is to explain my dietary choices. Because even though the restaurant we were at served “grass fed” beef, that qualification alone was not enough for me and meant I’d be choosing a vegan dish.

Vegetarian is easy to understand. No meat. Vegan is easy to understand. No animal product whatsoever… and you probably make your own homemade granola in your free time. Gluten-free is easy to understand. No wheat or gluten of any kind. Even paleo is easy to understand. No processed anything. So how do you explain a gal who likes Twinkies as much as she likes kale chips and will take the rarest steak she can get as long as she knows where it came from? If you’re my younger brother, you call me weird but I’ve come to refer to myself as on a “guilt free” diet. Not as in “this has ten fewer calories so I won’t feel guilty about eating it,” but as in “no living thing had to suffer heinous animal abuse crimes for this burger to make it to my plate… I’ll take extra fries with that!”

I like thinking about things this way because a “guilt free” diet can mean lots of things to lots of different people. Maybe guilt free to you is vegan, in which case rock on! Or maybe, if you’re like me, guilt free means you like bacon with your eggs; you just want your eggs to be certified humane and your bacon to come from a farmer that meets some animal welfare alliance standards. To each their own. I think what matters most, however, is that we see diet as a means of expressing and living our own beliefs without aggressively projecting them on others.

A guilt free diet is about reducing harm, not achieving perfection. So maybe you eat guilt free but make an exception during the holidays because you don’t want to offend your Italian grandmother by asking her where the meat in her meatballs came from. Maybe it’s just Meatless Monday. Or taking the bacon bits off your salad. Or buying a vegetarian cook book. Or doing your own research about where the meat you’re eating is coming from. The point is, meat isn’t all bad in fact, many would argue (and by many I mean me in practically every article I attempt to get published) that we evolved to eat meat and eating meat is natural. What is not natural, however, is the way animals are raised and processed for our consumption today.

So I hope you will consider taking a small step in the guilt free direction, even if it’s just one meal this week. Sit down and savor every bite of it as you cultivate gratitude for the fact that no animal suffered excessive, unnecessary harm so that you could demolish that burrito.

Namaste and happy guilt free eating my friends!

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11 Comments

  1. Amanda

    Amanda

    May 12, 2016 at 10:01 am

    It’s a bummer to feel like we have to explain our dietary choices! I am very happy as a vegetarian, but I don’t classify myself that way because I do still eat meat occasionally: at a friend’s house for dinner or when my brother makes his own jerky (from the hormone-free, grass-fed beef from my parents’ ranch). So I have a hard time explaining that sometimes, too, because people do ask if I’m a vegetarian, or they assume I am because they don’t see me eat meat. I was a strict vegetarian for a couple of years, and then I realized that my 90%-vegetarian efforts are still better than a 0% effort. Doing less harm (to your body, to the planet) is still a GOOD thing! I’m not failing because I eat sushi now and again. I’m winning because most of the time, I love my vegetables. I’m winning because my body is happy and healthy. I believe feeling guilty about the food we eat does more damage than the food itself, and I’m all for the guilt-free diet: finding what works for you, what feels best in your body, what upholds the values you cherish. 🙂 Thanks for writing this — so very well said.

    1. Alexis Kristan

      Alexis Kristan

      May 16, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to write such an awesome response! I’m so grateful every time I find someone else out there who subscribes to the “guilt-free” diet like I do. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that it’s just about finding what works for you and it’s not about being 100% perfect all the time. Thank you for being a part of this conversation!

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    Lety

    May 14, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I do exactly the same! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Alexis Kristan

      Alexis Kristan

      May 16, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you for reading, Lety!

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    Mer

    May 14, 2016 at 11:55 am

    I really don’t feel I have to explain to anyone what I choose to eat. I’m really tired of being normal and now vegan, on 5:2 diet, low carbs, .. What else???? My goodness! Can we go back to just love what we eat and eat what we love…?
    My grandmother, no proper education, and killed her own chickens and turkeys at home, grab the eggs, even grew the pig and at the end of the year took it to the abattoir. Then she would use every part: chorizo, jamon… Even the fat was used: makes fantastic soap! The blood was clotted and fried on the day that the animal was killed and it was good for all of us! We grew up knowing exactly where food came from and learnt to respect…. Sometimes I see a people that are vegans, but don;t hesitate to throw food in the bin, and then brush on you how cruel you are… I am an Bad yogi… (Wine and brandy are my second loves….) Seriously: can we be normal again????

    1. Alexis Kristan

      Alexis Kristan

      May 16, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      I think it’s awesome that you talk about “eating what you love, and loving what you eat”. I also grew up with my grandparents raising animals and I was always taught that food was to be appreciated and enjoyed. I also love that you talk about knowing and respecting where your food comes from. This is so important. I think that going back to knowing where and how the food we eat got to our plates is far more of a natural and healthy experience than those that waste food simply because they lack the mindfulness of where their food came from. Thank you for your comment. I think there are plenty of Bad Yogis out there just like us!

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    Maria Svantesson

    May 18, 2016 at 3:30 am

    I love this so much I will have to share it on Facebook right after this.
    I have recently started researching so much about food and nutrition and all that goes with that. I now cook every single meal I eat because I love it, which is amazing seeing as two months ago I couldn’t stand spending more than 10 minutes in the kitchen, preferably just putting something on and return to when done, like eggs or rice in a rice cooker.
    My boyfriend and I watched Cowspiracy and about an hour later we went to get groceries. I swear it was a totally different supermarket, and I’ve been going there for almost two years now. I must admit it was quite tiring, reading labels and ingredients and all that, but BOY does it make a difference. I have never felt better than I do now. No, I don’t eat humanely certified meat every time I do, but I try and I have also started incorporating a lot more “vegetarian” meals into my diet, as well as lots and lots of fruit and veggies every chance I get.
    I remember growing up and there was a show called “You are what you eat” on TV, and I thought it was ridiculous. Today I totally get it. Every single thing I put inside me needs to go somewhere and there is only one body that has to somehow process it, my own. This has been a huge eye-opener for me and I am excited every day for all the new things I get to try in the kitchen.

    Thanks so much for your post, the world needs more of Bad Yogi.

    1. Alexis Kristan

      Alexis Kristan

      May 18, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my post, Maria! I think it’s awesome that your love for cooking and food has grown since you’ve become more aware of what you’ve been eating! I can definitely relate. I also think it’s awesome that you FEEL better since you’ve been eating differently. That is incredibly important! Definitely keep it up! Thanks again for responding, I absolutely love hearing other Bad Yogi’s stories about “guilt free eating”.

  5. Pála Margrét

    Pála Margrét

    May 18, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks for a great article! I´m raised in Iceland, where my grandparents on both sides are farmers, and I “know” the meat I eat and the milk I drink (occasionally). After I moved to Sweden for a year, I haven´t really eaten a lot of meat, as it isn´t as easy to access as at home (Iceland is a country built on agriculture and fishing, can´t imagining going vegan there) and I feel that I do not need so much meat. However, I will never go to say that I´m a vegetarian, as I know I will never be. The lamb we grow ourselves, and live in the mountains during the summer, is to me the healthiest and best meat I can get and I can´t wait to start eating it again when I move back home.

    I also wonder – in a world where everybody is vegan – how would the animals survive? As in, I do not believe that agriculture would keep on going, that farmers would keep on raising sheep without the profit of the meat – and therefore I like your perspective on meat-eating. I also like the fact that it is pure meat – and to me that seems healthier than the vegan meat-substitutes where you cannot understand half of the ingredients list. Clean eating is to me so much more important. I will therefore keep on going on my own diet – without the label of vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free or what-ever. I´m on the Pála-diet! 😀

    1. Alexis Kristan

      Alexis Kristan

      May 18, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Thank you for responding, Pala! I loved reading your story about the kind of meat you ate growing up. You’re comment about vegan meat substitutes being more suspicious than healthy and humanely raised meat makes so much sense and I totally agree! I also, love your perspective on the unlikeliness of becoming vegan in some areas of the world, having grown up in Iceland. It just proves that everyone sees food differently and that everyone’s definition of how to eat is different. Keep preaching and living clean eating, my friend! #BADYOGISUNITE

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    Dawn Alexander

    May 30, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    A really nice perspective on being a Bad Yogi. I could do more, I will admit. For now, I practice gratitude for what I am fortunate enough to have to sustain me. But you set me to thinking now. Thank you.

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