“I don’t think you want to be on the Whole30 right now.”
“You know what?  You’re right.”

And that’s how it happened.  My food mindset shifted in an instant.  I was sitting across the table from Katie of The Wellness Wonderland having just met her in person for the first time 15 minutes prior and she got me so deeply and wasn’t shy about sharing her observation.  (Thank you, Katie!)

I had decided to complete another Whole30 because I was on the express train to Oatsville for weeks and wanted off.  But did I really want off?  I love oatmeal – like really love it.  Some people reach for macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes when they want a comforting meal.  Me – I turn to a warm bowl of oatmeal.  Is that a crime?!

In my head it was a serious offense.  I’m paleo, after all.  And good paleo girls don’t find comfort in oats (even if they are gluten-free).  So I started my third Whole30 (which I’m supposed to be ending today).  And reflecting on it now this Whole30 was all about restriction for me.  Not establishing healthier habits or feeling my best.  It was a punishment for one too many bowls of oatmeal.  Doing the Whole30 – or anything for that matter – as a way to punish yourself is total nonsense and not how I want to live my life.

When Katie looked me in the eyes and asked me why I wanted to do the Whole30 I had nothing.  I was sitting at a fabulous macrobiotic restaurant in NYC stressing over whether or not to get brown rice and I couldn’t find the words to answer the question.  Because deep down I knew that I didn’t want it.  But I had enthusiastically agreed.  I even recruited one of my close friends and we spent days texting each other tips, tricks, and compliant recipes.  I couldn’t quit.  What would that say about me?  Wouldn’t my friend be upset with me?

So I did what any self-respecting adult would do: I let go of the Whole30 and didn’t tell anyone but Katie and Andrew.  I hid.  How ridiculous is that?!  I felt embarrassed and like an epic quitter.  That is, until I spent some time talking and thinking it through.

You see, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Whole30 (my previous Whole30s have rocked my world and left me feeling beyond fantastic) and everything to do with my lifelong need to stick a label on myself – especially where food is concerned.  It started when I was a teenager.  One night at the dinner table I pushed away my meatloaf and declared that I was a vegetarian – effective immediately.  I hid the real reason – that reason being that one of my mom’s coworkers was a vegetarian and I wanted to be just like her.  All of a sudden I felt like I belonged.  And I didn’t want to let go of that feeling.

Over the years I’ve worn all of the food labels but not a single one fit me properly.  They have all left me feeling like an outsider, a failure, and not good enough even when I’m following the rules precisely.  I’m paleo but not paleo enough.  What the hell does “paleo enough” even mean?

In the past week the universe has shown up in a massive and incredibly loud way (as it usually has to for me to get the memo).  WWRadio (my fave podcast) returned with two incredible conversations with Isabel Foxen Duke along with the launch of Isabel‘s free video series, Stop Fighting Food.  Heather Waxman’s weekly vlog was about releasing food guilt.  I randomly listened to Robyn Youkilis on WWRadio discussing how the stress and guilt around what you are or aren’t eating is so much worse than actually eating the thing that you’re not supposed to eat.  Okay, okay.  I get it.  Message received.

This experience was a call to action.  A call to turn down my food drama and turn up the pleasure and fun.   I’ve been trying so long and so hard to find myself in a label.  Instead I need to find myself within myself.  My body is super smart and knows what it needs.  And you know what, I’m also super smart and know how to be healthy.  And my version of healthy doesn’t match your version and shouldn’t.  The only label I need is Stephanie.  I have the awesome opportunity to design my own way of eating.  I don’t need a rule book or a fancy label.  I can eat to feel my best both physically and emotionally.  I can keep all of the best parts of the eating styles I’ve tried and toss the rest.  It’s liberating and scaring as hell.  If I’m just eating as and for Stephanie, where are my people?

You – you are my people and I hope you’ll pick up the same call to action that I did.  DROP. THE. LABELS.  Right now.  Let’s commit to listening to our own voices and allowing food to be both pleasurable and healthy at the same time.  Maybe in the process you’ll find a label that fits you like a glove and maybe you won’t.  But you will find your own way and your body will thank you for it.

Here’s the part of the blog where I’d love to share my 5 no-fail techniques for letting go of the labels but…

The truth is I’m just getting started.

I haven’t figured it all out yet.  All I have to offer you is my own experience as imperfectly perfect as it is and will continue to be.  Here’s what I do know so far: it’s never about what it’s about.  (It’s NEVER about the food.)  It’s always about you.  So take some time to explore you and don’t be afraid to expose those not so perfect parts because that’s where the magic lives.

Share your experience in the comments below and I’ll continue to share my journey with you here and over on Instagram.