On the Joys of Flexitarianism

According to Urban Dictionary, flexitarian (noun) means:
1. they eat whatever they feel’s right at the time – vegan Buddhists
2. an omnivore who maintains a predominantly plant-based diet, but continues to eat animals (including fowl and sea animals).
3. some one (sic) who essentially eats just vegetables (as well as fish, eggs & milk) who’s not too uptight about eating meat ocaisionally (sic) as a matter of convenience; a lenient vegetarian
4. 1) a pretend vegetarian; 2) one who claims to be vegetarian, but eats meat when it’s “convenient” (see faketarian) (me: hahahahahahaha) 
5. Someone who eats both vegetables and meat but tries to eat vegetarian/vegan sometimes for health and/or environmental reasons.
6. a vegetarian that sometimes eats meat or fish
7. a silly word to categorise people whose eating habits don’t already fit into a category but desperately want to belong to a label
8. A flexible vegetarian who can allow meat and fish in his/her diet.
9. Somebody who pretends to be a vegetarian, but eats meat when they think no body (sic) is watching.

While #4 is probably my favorite due to how spiteful it appears to be, I would have to go with #2 in terms of accuracy. In all seriousness, though, I think that the word “faketarian” provides us with a very useful lens through which we can begin to talk about dietary choices: it points us towards the binary opposition of Meat-eaters vs. Vegetarians/Vegans. (Before school got out I was trying to explain my blog to some students by describing it as recipes that don’t have any meat or dairy in them. My students were totally kerfuffled. One in particular shouted out in frustration, “but, Ms. Hendrickson, WHAT ARE YOU???”) We live in a world that is so deeply entrenched in the mindset of bipartisanship that we can’t imagine that there are more than two different ways of doing or thinking about ANYTHING. We are either democrat or republican. Gay or straight. Male or female. Meat eating or not. Country or city. Right or wrong. Liberal or conservative. In or out. And, in an increasingly “gray” world, this reaction totally makes sense (I mean, not logical sense, but emotional sense). We want something to hold onto steadfastly, a static way of identifying ourselves.

However, we all know that, in reality, black and white don’t really exist. Most things lie on some sort of spectrum and our task as human beings is to live an inquisitive life hunting for our special place on the many spectrums that we’re a part of. At least that’s what I think, anyway. Don’t live the unexamined life, always ask questions, don’t claim to know anything. Basically, I’m Socrates. But, like Hippocrates, I believe that food should be our medicine and like Bacchus I just want to have a good time. So how do I try to (responsibly) meld these three very different ways of thinking? My friends, it’s called flexitarianism. One of my favorite things about being a flexitarian is watching people’s brains explode when I try to explain it. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey I have this blog you should totally check out! I write vegan recipes!”
“So, you’re a vegan?”
“Well, not really, I eat meat and dairy sometimes.”
“But not all the time?”
“Yeah, I try not to cook with it at home.”
“Are you like really into animals or something?”
“Not really, more the environment and my own health.”
“So, when was the last time you ate meat?”
“Um, like a couple of days ago?”
“WHAT?” (As I try to serve them a home made vegan hot dog…)
“Yeah, I mean, I sort of just try to be really healthy most of the time, and then if I feel like eating something else then I eat it. I basically just eat whatever I want. All the time.”

If I were to philosophize about it, I’d feel pretty awesome about how liberated I feel as a flexitarian. I have total freedom: I am neither shackled to meat nor fake-meat. What I want is to be healthy and feel good, and for me that means eating mostly vegetables and then maybe once every couple of months ordering the Ultimate Omelette at Denny’s (like I did this morning). It makes so much sense, but at the same time, it was so hard for me to wrap my brain around it at first. My brain would shut down in the grocery store because I felt like I was breaking allegiance to both the tofu section and the meat section (which, incidentally, are adjacent to each other at my grocery store). I’d just stand there, in a daze, looking back and forth, back and forth, until finally I was like,  screw it. What do I want? And once I started practicing tapping into my personal desires it became a lot easier.

Holding ourselves accountable to ourselves is something that we’re not very good at here in America (probably also the world, but I can’t speak for other countries, especially those where the majority of people don’t have the luxury of sitting on their patio, typing away on a laptop about all the different foods they could but choose not to eat). We’re really not very tuned into our souls, our spirits, our minds or our bodies. As a hard-working, goal oriented society we’re usually striving to achieve things that other people have told us we should and that, no doubt, we truly think we believe are good. But I think that if we took the time to examine what desires led us to each of our goals we’d be startled to find that it was easier, at one point or another, to pick somebody else’s goal that was already there rather than inventing our own.

So that’s what I’m into these days. Living intentionally, trying to do right by myself. Listening to what my body and my creative spirit tell me are good things, and trusting these inklings since I know that deep down my core desire is to be the most kind, helpful, hopeful and positive person I can be for myself, my family, my friends and the world.

And since being serious makes me seriously uncomfortable, here’s an email my mom forwarded me the other day that had me LOLZing. Enjoy. Have a great weekend, everybody. Xoxo, Sara

Inner Peace: This is just so true
If you can start every day without caffeine,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your woes,
If you can eat the same food every day and be really grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can accept criticism and blame without feeling resentment,
If you can conquer all your tension without medical help,
If you can just relax without cigarettes or alcohol,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs . . .

. . . then you are probably the family dog.

And you thought I was going to get all spiritual …

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One Response to On the Joys of Flexitarianism

  1. S.P. says:

    “Flexitarian” is just another word for omnivore. There is no difference at all.

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