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How to Be You When They Don't Agree

Years ago, my dear friend, Alex Jamieson, told me a secret that had the potential to completely rock her world – for better or for worse.  She was terrified.  Truth be told, even with a clear positive intention, part of me was scared for her too.  After sitting on Oprah’s couch, would she now fall from grace?  We worked together for a year, while she “came out” with her secret.

The moral of this story isn’t about what you “should” eat/want/do. If you read it that way, you’re missing the point. This is a story about finding the courage to trust your desires and live your truth, even when the odds seem completely stacked against you…

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I wanted men, and I wanted meatballs.

This wasn’t an easy realization when I had published three vegan cookbooks, become famous as the “vegan girlfriend” and co-creator of Super Size Me, and was also known for being married to a famous filmmaker.

Getting clear about what I really needed in my life, and on my dinner plate, was a messy, scary, and profoundly important task. It required me to listen to my soul and my body, and be authentically me, in public, even when it felt like I was stepping in front of a firing squad to do so.

Authenticity: An honest action, made faithfully, resembling the facts, reliable, emotionally appropriate and true.

We all want it, but it’s hard to be you – the authentic you.

Few parents teach us how to be ourselves, few teachers share how to follow our gut, and the feminine quality of “intuitive and sensitive” doesn’t hold much sway in our culture.

After 10 years of happy vegan-hood, birthing a baby boy into the world, writing three books and running my own health coaching practice, my life took a dramatic turn for the fucked.

My marriage was in shambles and my hormones were shot, and my business was on hold as my husband traveled the world and I took care of our son. My body and soul began to break down.

I had been known as a vegan expert, but I started craving meat as my hormones swung wildly out of control. I did my best to ignore it, which started a tortuous, abusive relationship with my body.

My husband hadn’t made love to me in over a year, and my coaching business was flailing as I couldn’t authentically promote my services when my own body and soul felt so depleted.

Nothing felt good, except my love for my son, the support of a few amazing friends, and a dim hope and resilience that refused to die.

As I moved myself and my boy into a smaller apartment, and trudged through the long divorce process, I finally got out for dinner with some friends.

I remember seeing their steak and salmon appear on our table, and my mouth secretly salivated as I grimly bit into my tofu salad. I wanted their food, but I couldn’t listen to my body’s cravings because my thoughts were too twisted up in a pretzel about what I “should” eat.

Yet, my body knew. She told me, over and over again, that I needed to change how I was eating in order to save myself. So I secretly bought some eggs, moved to fish, and then finally took the plunge to grass fed beef.

My body sang a Hallelujah! And my mind reeled with fear.

I suffered in silence for over a year about what was happening with my body and my meat cravings. I was afraid I would be ostracized and lose my entire business if I came out and admitted the vegan diet wasn’t working for me.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the butcher. As I ate the meat my body wanted, my hormones came back to balance, and my libido and physical confidence, long lost, came back like a freight train.

I wanted feel alive again, and began dating like it was my job. Through over 100 first dates in eighteen months, I began to make friends with my body and trust her again. We talked a lot, and I listened to her as she gave me insights about who I should not date again, who I should enjoy a fulfilling one-night-stand with, and who I should ask out again and get to know better.

As I gave my body what helped her thrive, both meat and men, my grit and confidence grew. And the trust I had in myself was being built, meal by meal, date by date.

Building trusted relationships with an intimate group of real people, who don’t just retweet your ideas, was an essential step in staying strong on this path of discovery and clarity.

There will always be people who don’t agree with you, or think you’re weird, or call you downright nasty things. Shaming is the new public theater of the internet age. Build your community of actual, in-real-life friends who support you as you are, and who you are becoming. Joining Nisha’s community of heart-centered entrepreneurs was one way I committed to my truth – the women I met there have continued to be a great source of strength in my life.

In positive psychology, the idea that “you are the five people you spend the most time with” has been tested and proven. Cultivate friends and family who are fierce and loyal supporters of your evolution. They may not always agree with your strategy, but they will always agree with your possibility.

When I finally “came out” to my online tribe and Facebook, I was so glad that I had the physical resilience and trusted community around me. The internet blew up, and my story went viral.

I lost friends. Actual friends, not just people “unfriending” me.

But I stuck with my truth, trusted my body, and kept listening to her, throughout the thousands of hate mails, death threats, and angry phone calls from people who now hated me because I changed how I ate, and what I believed.

My journey resulted in my new best selling book, Women, Food, And Desire and a juicy, joyful 3-year romance with my partner Bob. And my passion for helping women find what makes their bodies and lives come alive has doubled my business and my impact on the world.

We need to stay strong and true to the vision for our life and our work, even in the face of negative feedback.

To be our true selves, it’s necessary to act on our body’s instructions and do the things, and eat the foods, and spend time with the people, who help us come alive.

Building a life and a business that feels authentic and honors your truth requires self-knowledge, trust, faith, and a deep, powerful connection to your body. Listen to her, and trust her.

xo,
Alex

—> In the comments below, share about a time when living your truth required incredible courage, and what helped you navigate your way through it.

24 Comments

  1. Thank you for choosing to put yourself out there over and over and over again. You are inspiring all those who are just one hesitation away from stepping into their truth and freedom. And thank you for showing the world that dietary preferences not only range among different bodies, but within our own lifetime we must be open to our range as well. Love your mission, your voice and all that you stand for!

    • I agree, Nadia. Alex is an amazing way-shower! xo, Nisha

    • Who knew, Nadia ~
      that it would take me getting over my fear of groups of women (middle school mean girl torture!) that would finally lead me to the collective strength required to finally be myself. When you can finally find that group of women who will applaud and love you as your evolve? MAGIC!
      xo

  2. What an incredible story, Alex. I think it’s so common for women to stay quiet and small because they are scared of stepping outside of what they think they are supposed to do in the eyes of others.

    I went through a divorce an year and a half ago and that relationship was one where, outside looking in, everyone thought it was perfect. Just goes to show that you never know what someone else is going through or feeling unless you’re walking in their shoes (or rather you’re inside their heart).

    That period of time in my life taught me so much about letting go of trying to live up to the standards that other people have set for me (or, what I THINK they think I should do) and following my heart and intuition first and foremost.

    Life is messy and never a straight line from where you are to what you desire most. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is permission to live according to our own rules and to be the perfectly imperfect human beings that we are. I think that freedom and unconditional love is the turning point where we finally begin to allow ourselves to experience the magic and fun that it’s all truly about. Onward… to more discovery, expansion, and JOY.

    • Thank you Sheila ~
      We women are creatures of balance. We crave freedom, yet desire security. It can be messy, indeed!

  3. I recently read a quote from a teacher of kabbalah that goes very well with your story, it says that we dont need to be attached to “I IAlways…” .or to “I never…” because the best that we can do is: TO DO THE BEST FOR OURSELVES AT EACH MOMENT, we just need to act with love to who we really are… Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Perfect Josefina!
      The only thing I can say I’ll never do again is define how I eat.
      It’s so true – we can only do the best that we can do in any given moment. And honor that others know themselves well enough to do the best they can do.

  4. Alex’s story really touched me – – so many “shoulds” in our world!! While the internet is blessing so many of us with a touch of fame & fortune, there will always be the naysayers. Part of me wishes I could protect others from the nasty side of fame, but clearly that isn’t possible. What IS possible is people like Alex stepping out & sharing stories like this. Thank you for sharing her story, Nisha! <3

    • Thank you Nancy-Lynn ~
      I’m a Mama Bear at heart…
      Wanting to protect my friends, my child, and myself is always at the top of my list.
      But wanting to protect my soul from the “shoulds” of the world has gotten higher on that list as I get bolder (and older).

    • My pleasure, Nancy-Lynn! Thank you for your sweet words and the heart behind them.

      xo
      Nisha

  5. Beautiful. This is so true.

    Among so many women who are “building empires” and “rocking it” – are beliefs that aren’t actually freeing, but look really good from the outside.

    May we no longer build success based on labels, and rather strive for constant connection and devotion to our INNER GUIDE, every step of the way <3

    • Love this Bethie (I hope you don’t mind me calling you that).

      xo
      Nisha

  6. WOW I find Alex’s story so inspiring and brave. I’ve been a vegan for 13 years and not publicly but I could only imagine the comments I would get just from family and friends. I am in aww of her total commitment to herself. Vegan or not she is an inspiration for me to live my life true to me and not to be held back by labels.

    • Alyson, I am totally in awe of Alex, too! Thank you so much for sharing this and I love that you say “… live my life true to me and not to be held back by labels.” It’s so challenging and so necessary, in a world that’s obsessed with adopting labels we can identify with, to generate a [false] sense of security. We simply are who we are.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      xo
      Nisha

  7. Thank you Alex. This is truly inspiring. I just got divorced and am learning to let go and finally take care of myself!

    • Hey Claire,
      Divorce brings such strange emotions, healing, opportunities, and, let’s be completely honest, total shit.
      In some ways I feel I’ll be healing my entire life. In other ways, I know, deep in my bones, that the divorce has given me the opportunity to become even more ME than ever before.
      I have had to get stronger, stand up for myself again and again, get comfortable navigating legal issues, speak up for my needs, speak up for what I believe is best for my son’s well-being, and energetically shed the repression I was putting up with for too long.

      Claire, if you need any support, please read my book Women, Food, And Desire. It’s a memoir of how many women I’ve worked with healed their own lives, and a tale of self-healing from my divorce.

      Stay in touch,
      tons of love,
      Alex

  8. Alex, thank you for sharing your story. I, too, was vegan, and struggled when deciding to add eggs back into my diet. I thought there was something wrong with me, and I beat myself up for it, despite “knowing” that my only job is to listen to my body and act on the information I’m getting.

    Looking forward to reading your new book and connecting further! <3

  9. Nisha and Alex,
    Thank you both so much for this inspiring post. I’ve read it every day since it showed up in my inbox; it’s speaking to me at such a deep level.

    In my own way I’ve been going through a process of evolving while also being more visible and seen in my community (on a much, much smaller scale). One of the things I’m most struck by is this simple statement: “There will always be people who don’t agree with you, or think you’re weird, or call you downright nasty things. ” I’m really in the process of coming to peace with this fact… over the last 18 months I’ve had many opportunities and it’s so crazy-uncomfortable for me as a recovering Nice Girl who feels most like myself when peace and harmony are the vibe du jour.

    People-not-liking-me has been very in my face lately. I’d started praying for guidance, for models and examples of women who’ve gone through something similar and come out the other side of it thriving. And then this post showed up: prayer answered. Bless you both for the inspiration and authenticity here. So much gratitude to you.

    • Hey Laura ~
      Recovering Nice Girls, unite!
      Now I’m nicer to myself, to my soul, while still being respectful and willing to connect with anyone who may disagree with me or my stance. Welcome to the club. xo, Alex

      • Thanks, Alex. Love this so much – I’m making it a new affirmation for myself.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am going through a period in my life where nothing feels good, and I’m running through recognizing a slew of bad decisions I’ve made over the past several years that have led me here. I am having to just face my truth and accept myself despite where I’ve been, and find how to move forward. Just simply hearing that you walked through your own shit show in which you had to completely about face, publically be honest, and risk losing your entire company…and yet you came out with a new best selling book and a beau…..THIS has given me the courage to stop holding on so tightly to my past and just breath and accept the storm. Thank you encouraging me to accept me even in the shit show.

  11. Thank you for this. I am on the verge of a life change, maybe more than 1 and I am petrified and trying to claw my way out of the swamp Ifeel stuck in. I am just starting to ‘come out to friends’. It is still hard. This is deeply encouraging. Thank you.

  12. As a former vegan who needed to choose meat in order to be my healthiest, cheers to you & to talking about this openly!!

    I do believe it can be a great fit for some people & I’m not anti-vegan/vegetarian at all, but we are all such unique ecosystems…and doing the most loving things we can for our bodies is an important piece of being compassionate people.

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