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One of the most common questions I get once people find out that I am a Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor is, “what do you think is the best diet?” That’s a great question! If I had the right answer for everyone, I would be a billionaire. I believe in the concept of bio-individuality in that each person has unique food and lifestyle needs. One person’s food is another person’s poison, and that’s why fad diets tend to fail in the long run.
So what works for me? Well, if I had to label the way I eat, I’d call myself a flexitarian. What the heck is a flexitarian you ask?? Flexitarian is a marriage of two words: Flexible and vegetarian. Flexitarians eat a mostly plant based diet, but occasionally eat some meat, eggs, honey, or other animal foods. It’s a way of eating when you want to reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet, without completely giving up meat. Flexitarians can have the benefits of a vegetarian diet without having to follow all of the strict rules. Being a flexitarian is a more flexible, more realistic way to be a vegetarian. By adding more flexibility into my lifestyle, I reap the health benefits and never have to worry about finding something to eat if I’m on vacation, get invited to a dinner party, or am out to eat with my sweetie or girlies.
The health benefits of eating flexibly vegetarian are many. Flexitarians weigh 15 percent less than their more carnivorous counterparts; have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer; and live an average of 3.6 years longer. This lifestyle is also shown to reduce the likelihood of diseases and cancers. Blood pressure, glucose, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels typically plunge as well.
I have tried almost every kind of diet out there, sometimes for weight maintenance, sometimes for pure experiment. Here’s my deal with flex. I choose to eliminate gluten and dairy from my diet, which at first was tough, but I feel and look so much better, so it’s absolutely worth it to me and I consider it an upgrade, not a sacrifice. I have tried to be completely vegan, as well as raw. I love both of these lifestyles, but they don’t work for me. Without some animal protein a few times a week, I end up feeling pretty rotten. It’s also really cold in the winter where we are currently living. All the cold raw foods kept my system damp and not running as optimally as I’d like. Now I love the vegan lifestyle (environmentally, nutritionally, and cruelty free) and firmly believe all the enzymes and nutrition in raw foods are very important. I do my best to keep as much raw food in my diet as possible. I can say it varies season to season and depending on the climate of where I am.
The flexitarian lifestyle has given me the freedom to add in some fish, as well as pastured eggs a time or two a week and I most certainly never count a calorie. I do enjoy the occasional southern pulled pork sandwich (with sweet potato fries please), carnitas taco, or strip of pastured bacon with my gluten free, vegan pancakes every now and again. I rarely order animal products when I eat out unless I know the exact source. I am not ok with animal cruelty or putting low quality animal protein in my system. It slows me down and makes me feel morally, as well as physically bad. I also don’t eat much cheese, unless it’s raw, as the dairy industry is among the bloodiest. This may sound really strict to you, but this lifestyle is really helping me to thrive. I have also found many ways to easily manage my flexitarian lifestyle with my busy schedule, and let me tell you, I am not willing to sacrifice taste. Life is too short. I look forward to showing you more and more of what my lifestyle is all about. I hope you enjoy my gluten free, mostly vegan, soy free, and corn free recipes.
Melissa Schollaert is a Holistic Health & Nutrition Counselor and founder of Real Nutritious Living. Helping others achieve their health goals to attain their healthiest, happiest life is her greatest ambition.