Clean eating and living...or is it?
June 23, 2014 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm curious as to how some people, despite taking up a "clean eating/healthy mind/healthy soul" lifestyle approach, justify frequent alcohol consumption and/or occasional hard drug use as fitting part of the lifestyle. I am curious to read about any anecdotes, studies, what have you, on the matter.

An example of this would be someone whose dietary restrictions are ideology based (e.g., being vegan), practices daily meditation and yoga, forgoes any western medication (OTCs like Advil), but consumes alcohol daily as well as the occasional use of a synthetic drug such as cocaine or ecstasy.

I'm not at all familiar with eastern philosophies, schools of thought, or religions. It seems contradictory to me, to practice a la carte, clean/mindful living. Is it? I'd love to get some perspective on this. Thanks!!!
posted by chloe.gelsomino to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A good friend of my is vegan due to her personal beliefs -- she thinks animals should not be a commodity. And she drinks alcohol. There's absolutely no contradiction between these two things -- alcohol is not made from animals.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:11 PM on June 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

Moderation in all things.
posted by Andrhia at 6:15 PM on June 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think there is no contradiction in trying to have a healthy diet while knowingly including some unhealthy things. I try to avoid refined sugar, I snack on fruit and nuts, I don't drink coke or other soft drinks, but I do drink lots of beer. I'm quite aware that beer is not good for me, but that doesn't negate any other healthy practices I cultivate (does it? I hope not!). I'm in pretty good shape and I'm sure I wouldn't be if I drank coke and ate chips and lollies all the time, for example.
posted by nomis at 6:18 PM on June 23, 2014

Clean eating is in fashion; so are craft cocktails and music festivals.
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:18 PM on June 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Moderation in all things, including moderation. Being strictly black and white in all ways and practices just isn't healthy living.

Some times you just have to let your inner demon out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:18 PM on June 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I had a roommate who was gluten-free, organics only person and also a fitness instructor. She smoked, but only the brand that had no artificial additives. She also regularly drank, but she had some definition for what was good and what wasn't.

There is a definitely a segment of population who do "good" things in order to balance out the "bad" things they do. See this article: How going green may make you mean.

On the other hand, my partner is vegetarian, for religious/philosophical reasons and he is one of the kindest people I know. Drinking is strongly discouraged, but he does it anyway, because the point is not "strict adherence to the rules" but "being at peace with the universe". So as long as you're dealing with your problems and not using alcohol/drugs to run away from them, it's okay. (Or at least, that's my understanding.) And if it helps you get along in the world (e.g., for social reasons), then the key is moderation.

Lastly, from a book called "Animals: Some we Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat", they did a survey on vegetarians (including vegans) eating meat and concluded "60% of people who call themselves vegetarians ate meat in the past 24 hours."
posted by ethidda at 6:19 PM on June 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

There's a big difference between taking MDMA a few times a decade, and eating at McDonald's a few times a month.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:19 PM on June 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

I know a lot of vegans, most of them do it for environmental reasons and/or animal rights, neither of which have anything to do with alcohol or drugs. Actually the only ones I know who are both vegan and abstain from alcohol are people involved with (straight edge) punk, but that's not religious, more like anti-capitalist.
posted by bradbane at 6:22 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm what I call a bad vegan - I'm vegan most of the time, but under stress or on special occasions I have egg-based and cheese-based lapses. So this is not unlike drinking while healthy, or whatever.

Why don't I just go back to being a vegetarian? Because having a goal of being vegan keeps me from eating lots and lots of non-vegan things. (Back when I was vegetarian, my stress-lapses were meat-based.) I know myself pretty well - I'm not one of those people who does "always" and "never" successfully. So I know I'm going to get stressed and hungry far from home, realize that the only sandwich available has cheese and eat the sandwich. It's much better for my health, animals and the planet if I have big goals and come close than if I have no goals and just mooch around.

My point being, someone who knows that they have only enough willpower to avoid carbs and dairy might just say "okay, I'm going to pick the most important things to focus on and not worry about the rest".
posted by Frowner at 6:37 PM on June 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Awesome. Thanks, all.

Any insight into how this aligns with practices such as yoga? And I suppose not the "garden variety" yoga (for lack of a better term, apologies for the misnomer), but someone who is said to deeply embrace the philosophies behind it.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 6:38 PM on June 23, 2014

I'm a vegetarian because I recognize that people are animals, and I don't want to eat creatures like myself. I eat a healthy mix of whole grains, vegetables, reasonable amounts of plant-based protein, etc., because it makes my body feel good, and because I get constipated, tired and cranky when I don't. I drink alcohol and smoke herb because they make me feel good, too, sometimes. I get drunk (rarely), use hallucinogens (rarely) and eat cheesecake, American cheese and other unhealthy crap (a few times a year) because sometimes doing things that are bad for my body can be good for my soul, and because sometimes the short run feels more important than the long run.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:38 PM on June 23, 2014

Best answer: I'm not at all familiar with eastern philosophies, schools of thought, or religions. It seems contradictory to me, to practice a la carte, clean/mindful living. Is it?

This is a good article about trying to be a good Buddhist and trying to eat vegetarian in Tibet. It's more about learning to make good choices and being mindful in all things.
In his 1995 Seattle public talk, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, said he tried being a vegetarian all the time but found it too difficult. At the time of the talk he said he eats meat every other day. This makes him a vegetarian six months of the year. By making an example of cutting his meat consumption in half, he is trying to gently influence his followers. It should be noted that this recommendation received little applause from the audience.
I often think of the parable of the monks and the woman at the river. For many people it's more useful to not stay attached to any ideology that requires levels of self-abnegation. Of course different people have different ideas of what abnegating the self means but there isn't a conflict, for example, between eating vegan if you're opposed to animal cruelty, and taking ecstacy. The whole "My body is a temple" folks can sometimes decide to contort the rules to fit whatever they want to do at the time, sure, but lying in wait to say "Aha!" at them when you (general you) catch them in a contradiction says more about your own rules to live by in many ways.

You seem to have a person in mind that you are arguing with in your mind. I think it might be better to actually have a discussion with them and ask them if they view this as a conflict. Some people are okay without such conflicts being unresolved (I'm not, they make me nuts) and some aren't.
posted by jessamyn at 6:44 PM on June 23, 2014 [21 favorites]

I don't really see a conflict with it. I eat a lot of health food stuff most of the time because it makes me feel good. I'm also a vegetarian mostly out of habit at this point but originally because I didn't want to eat animals that had had sort of crummy lives and didn't seem to get to have a brief crack at the parts of life that are fun. It's like guidelines that I follow because I want to and they make me feel satisfied rather than a rigid self imposed rule thing.

Then sometimes I have a bunch of drinks, knowing I'm going to feel kind of crunky in the morning and that's the trade off. And I do that because the desire to have a drink and participate in the social activity overrides the normal baseline desire to feel healthy and eat carrots and feel proud of my vitamin intake. But it seems sort of normal to have those two different desires.

I guess lots of hard core drug types find it to be a sort of spiritual experience, so on that count it's probably not inconsistent for them to participate it.
posted by mermily at 7:12 PM on June 23, 2014

the majority of these things are personal choices, and as long as they don't effect you or anyone else then said person should not need to justify these choices to anyone except themselves. a "clean healthy lifestyle" is more a product of glossy magazines - though there is a stereotype to be had here it's important to note there is an individual in every situation with their own reasons for making the decisions that they do. i guess the only thing i can see that ties them all together is about feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally. you can achieve that in a variety of ways but some things work better for some people than others.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:19 PM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know a lot of vegans, most of them do it for environmental reasons and/or animal rights, neither of which have anything to do with alcohol or drugs.

Wait, how did you conclude that drugs have nothing to do with the environment? This article about ecstasy factories destroying rainforests would seem to go against that.

But as for alcohol, it depends — by "frequent" use, do you mean one glass a day, or excessive use? If it's excessive, yeah, that's inconsistent with being healthy. But one glass each night with dinner may be more healthy than abstaining.
posted by John Cohen at 7:20 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I actually gave up alcohol and caffeine and ate healthier than I ever had when I was a fairly regular ecstasy user in the early 2000s. It's not necessarily about 'purity' or 'being natural' or 'giving up chemicals', it was just me focusing on feeling better in general. I was just really in tune with how foods made me feel, and just went with whatever seemed to make me happiest.
posted by empath at 8:22 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

In a world where we can't do everything we make choices - some people run, but don't lift weights. Both are good, but you gotta make some choices unless you have endless hours to spend at the gym. I've had yoga instructors who've lived for years on vegan, raw food diets and I've had some that seemed to sustain existence on Diet Coke.

There's no winning answer here. How someone chooses to fuel and utilize their body is personal. It may or may not align with some philosophy.

Probably the simplest answer is they like being a vegan and they like boozing it up
posted by 26.2 at 8:35 PM on June 23, 2014

I'm not at all familiar with eastern philosophies, schools of thought, or religions. It seems contradictory to me, to practice a la carte, clean/mindful living.

As a buddhist, when I see this, I always wonder why Christians never get called on sinning.

People are attracted to a religion because they are looking for a way to deal with the type of thing that causes addictions and all that. I think its a good thing they are thinking about these things.

Sometimes I feel when you tell someone you're a buddhist they expect you to be some sort of saint that doesn't struggle with things.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

This reminds me of when I was younger and would drink a 64 oz. diet coke with my huge McDonald's combo whatever.

People would think it was so bizarre. And quite adamant that I was stupid.

"If you're already eating too much xyz, why bother drinking diet"

I like diet coke more than regular,
And I spend my calories the way I want. That argument never made sense to them.

But their logic was-

If you do one bad thing today, why not do ten bad things today.

They seemed very pushy that I'd given up my right to make "healthy" choices the second I ordered a large fries.

Incidentally a friend of mine was horrified that I had Botox, because it was a poison... But she was a super heavy drinker... There was something more repulsive about "injecting" poison.... Than just drinking it the old fashioned way.

(I realize that my example is super unhealthy! It was years ago)
posted by misspony at 10:01 PM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I eat clean and work out precisely so I can get away with the occasional bout of overdoing it because I am not young enough to eat like shit and laze around and then get stumbling drunk and not really feel it the next day.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:42 PM on June 23, 2014

For a lot of people - sometimes, unfortunately, including myself - working out and eating clean is more of a vanity thing than an ideological thing. I eat kale and run and go to yoga so that I look hot. I drink and do xyz vice as much as I can and still look hot.

Or substitue "look hot" for "feel good." I do [healthy thing] to feel good. I do as much [vice] as I can and still feel good.

God, I miss cigarettes.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:49 AM on June 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

Because people are irrational.

misspony has it - it's all judgment calls, which are personal to the individual.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:10 AM on June 24, 2014

The real issue here seems to be that you have a conception of someone's stated beliefs and lifestyle aspirations and feel they are being hypocritical due to certain choices they make.

The only person who can address these contradictions is the individual. There are as many rationalizations as there are people, although many of them take up the same form. I had the same sort of "concerns" at one point in my youth. I wasn't religious, but among those who were, I felt some behaviors were hypocritical. My real issue was that I disliked the behaviors and was using my understanding of their religious beliefs to fault them.

If you dislike certain behaviors, address those.
posted by mikeh at 7:18 AM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've heard smoking is pretty common among Theravada Buddhist monks in Thailand. (This info comes from a good friend who did his obligatory stint as a monk over there). From what I understand, they weren't allowed to eat or drink anything nourishing after noon everyday. Since cigarettes are an appetite suppressant they might justify them that way? I'm not sure.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 10:44 AM on June 24, 2014

Any insight into how this aligns with practices such as yoga? And I suppose not the "garden variety" yoga (for lack of a better term, apologies for the misnomer), but someone who is said to deeply embrace the philosophies behind it.
I see three possibilities here:
1) The person believes that his or her belief system accommodates use of drugs / alcohol
2) The person indulges in these substances despite their proscription by his belief system because he is unable to completely comply with his system's dictates
3) The person is a hypocrite or engaging in intellectual/spiritual dishonesty
posted by sid at 2:34 PM on April 17, 2015

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