THE BLOG
09/19/2014 04:26 pm ET Updated Nov 19, 2014

Are You Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo? Shush

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I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. -- Gerry Spence

Last week I sat in a new doctor's waiting room filling out paperwork. It was standard stuff past medical history, family history, medication information (none for me) etc. Then there was a section about exercise and eating. I described my exercise routine, vitamin regime and then stopped at a question you would think was up my alley. The question asked "Are you a _____?" and then listed various dietary regimes such as vegetarian, vegan, kosher and a few others. I settled on something to the effect of balanced eater.

The truth is I don't subscribe to any particular dietary camp. I'm allergic to wheat, seek out organic produce and wild fish, love certain things Paleo (but also like legumes and dairy) and I enjoy perusing raw food blogs and juice daily. I was reminded of the blogger previously known as The Blonde Vegan whose story received a lot of attention this summer. For serious personal reasons, this blogger transitioned away from a strictly vegan diet and switched the name of her platform to the Balanced Blonde. She received criticism and threats in the process for not being strictly vegan.

Last month a study and corresponding article in the New York Times about low-carb versus low-fat diets made the rounds and I cringed again. The term low-carb seems as outdated as low-fat. Shouldn't the conversation be about which carbs are best to eat and the right fats?

My friend and colleague Ashley Koff, RD has a term "qualitarian," which resonates with me -- but all of this segregation reminds me a little of why I am a more spiritual person than a religious one. Both religion and nutrition should be about improvement, and for me it's individual with aspects from various faiths and dietary regimes resonating with me. And let's be clear, you can have someone who's a junky gluten-free eater subsisting on potato starch-laden products or a vegan mainlining white, bready items.

Why do we need the labels? I can only think the descriptions make sense when someone else is preparing your food. I go to a restaurant and mention my allergy or "gluten-free," and I can imagine "vegan" makes things cut and dry as well. Although I am fine with eating fish, meat and dairy, I understand the desire to exclude all animal products. The second we're judging someone as not vegan enough or devout enough we're focusing on exclusion, and that to me isn't healthy.

How do you describe your eating? Are you a ________? Why do you think these camps or terms have become so popular?