I’ve been working on this post for a while now – sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud, and very rarely actually written down. I’ve been taking my time with it because I wasn’t sure exactly where it would go. This is going to be a long post.
When I’ve told people that I don’t eat meat they’ve almost always wanted to know why it is I stopped eating meat. If you remember when I first announced last September that I was going to start consciously eating a vegetarian diet, it was mostly an attempt on my part to make leaner protein choices. I was at a standstill in my weight loss journey and wanted to see if eating more plant-based would help jump start it again.
The resounding answer was no.
I did not get the results I expected, but there were a few unexpected results. For instance, I have more energy overall than I did before. I also started to give much more thought to where my food is actually coming from. I’ve thought a great deal about cross-contamination and what makes the base of many dishes in a way I never even considered before. In many ways I’ve been more mindful of the food I’m putting into my body.
In other ways, however, I haven’t felt balanced and continuing to eat strictly vegetarian became a struggle. I integrated seafood back into my diet because I started to crave it and I took that as a sign that I needed it. An offshoot of that was that it is now a lot easier to eat out because I’m not searching for both vegetarian and gluten-free options. I have to tell you that trying to find both gluten-free and vegetarian options has been like a treasure hunt.
The most frustrating thing is that lately my weight has been back on an unfortunate upswing. This has been paired with sudden cravings for meat. The cravings have been so strong that I’ve started buying fake meat, something I haven’t done since the first couple of months I started eating vegetarian. The other day I bought fake breakfast sausage, then a few nights ago I bought fake chicken to make fajitas (in gluten-free tortillas, I should add). As much as I wanted that fake chicken, which was especially hard to find because I needed it to be gluten-free and meat free, to taste like chicken, it just didn’t. It was gross. There is still some in the fridge and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.
When I was at the Twins game in Minneapolis, I mentioned to Tara that I was craving a hot dog and was conflicted about what I should do.
The hold up? I was terrified of being seen as a fraud.
In the end I didn’t get a hot dog, but I was pretty sad about it. When we got our swag bags and there was jerky inside the Kona Kase, I kind of didn’t want to give it away, but I did. When I saw the Applegate sticker and pin in my bag, I realized I should give those away too. After all, I thought, I’m not a meat eater.
Then I thought back to the conversations I’ve been having with people for the past few months. Every time I’ve spoken about not eating meat I’ve also mentioned growing up on a farm and being around when my family would grind up pork for sausage or cut up fresh-killed deer for roasts, burgers, and other dishes. I’ve mentioned how I’ve personally killed a chicken and how I’ve been ok with that because I knew exactly what kind of life those animals lived and, aside from the occasional chase by a small child or a dog, it’s a pretty dang happy one.
What I’ve been saying to people is that if I could actually know where my meat comes from and know what’s in it, I’d be much more likely to start eating meat again. Then I realized that with companies like Applegate and with a Whole Foods right down the street, that isn’t altogether impossible (or at least I can have a better idea of where my meat comes from)
What I realized is that I was preparing myself. I have been trying to find a way to rationalize eating meat again because that’s what I want to do – at least for a while.
That whole thing about being seen as a fraud is still a pretty big fear for me. When I say it’s hard to find vegetarian and gluten-free options, I know that’s an excuse and I know people can (and probably will) tell me that it isn’t impossible. They’re right. It isn’t impossible, but it also isn’t for me. If I have to choose between gluten-free and vegetarian, I’ll choose gluten-free because that switch has made a huge impact on the way I feel.
If I’m going to eat healthy and lose weight, I need as few obstacles to that as possible. When I have obstacles what usually happens is that I lose control over other kinds of food (like sweets). When I’m obsessing over whether this was made with chicken stock and whether that has tiny bits of bacon, I get stressed. When I get stressed, I want to eat more.
Yes, I realize that stress eating is a whole different can of worms that I need to deal with separately, but for right now I need to do what I can do. For right now, I want to be more flexible with my eating.
I hate the term flexitarian. Anyone who has spoken with me recently can attest to that. Mostly I think it is that I hate labels, but flexitarian really describes what I think is my ideal: a mostly plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat.
I know from experience that I can’t just jump back into eating meat at every meal. When I was in high school I stopped eating beef and pork for a while, mostly to see if I could. One day I was craving a hamburger so I got one. Then I had meat at the next meal too. It was the sickest I have ever been in my life. I have no desire to repeat that experience, so I know I’m going to have to start small. This post has helped me a lot in figuring out how I’m going to re-incorporate meat into my diet and what that means for me. Last night was Joe’s brother’s birthday dinner and I had some of the beef stew. I didn’t get sick and it was delicious. I think that tells me a lot of things.
So there you have it. When you start seeing meat pop up on my Instagram, rest assured that it’s
probably real meat. This may not be a permanent change, but I need to know. I need to figure out if these cravings mean anything. Regardless my diet will still be mostly plant based, you’ll just also be seeing a bit of animal protein in there too.
Have any of you made the switch from vegetarian to eating meat again? What’s your favorite meat-based that I should try for the fall?