In his book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, Mark Bittman presents an eating plan—complete with recipes—which he credits with helping him lose 35 pounds and lowering his cholesterol and blood sugar levels. He shares his easy-to-adapt strategies for eating sanely, judiciously, and consciously, as he puts it. One of the main focuses of Food Matters is the need to reduce our consumption of meat in order to improve the health of the planet and our bodies.

To put it right out there, I loved the book and would recommend it to just about anyone. If meat wasn’t such a polarizing thing in my immediate family, I’d buy everyone a copy, that’s how much I loved Food Matters. The content is timely and compelling, and the recipes are great. I was sad to have to return it to the library.

One of Bittman’s diet strategies is eating “vegan before six p.m.” He writes that most days, he aims to avoid animal products before dinner. Keeping on the straight and narrow early in the day and then indulging a bit at dinner helps him achieve a healthy balance without feeling deprived. He also emphasizes that this is the way he’s found to make sane eating possible for himself, that a diet is not one size fits all.

While I enjoyed reading about “VB6,” I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrow over the catchy label. I’ve heard people say that they’re vegan except on weekends or vegetarian except for bacon, etc etc.  Whenever I’m in a lecture or some other classroom-type setting and someone asks if there are any vegetarians in the room, I always have an inner debate with myself over whether to raise my hand. Sure, I don’t really eat meat (save for the occasional piece of fish), but I don’t like labeling myself in that way.

I think some people feel more empowered when they have a movement/lifestyle they can publicly identify with, but I’ve never been comfortable with that. Why can’t I just politely decline to gnaw on a hunk of cow without having to explain myself?

I’m curious to know how some of you guys feel about  labeling your diet, vegetarian or otherwise. What may be motivating for some could be a buzz kill for others…Do you have set “rules” for yourself or just go with what feels right?

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