Cavegirl: From Chickpeas to Chicken
About 9 months ago I was a strict vegetarian. That meant no eating meat and if an animal product even breathed on my plate i.e. a spatula touched my plate for a second after being used to flip some filthy carnivore’s bacon. I truly, wholeheartedly felt that being vegetarian was the best thing for my health.
I WOULD NEVER EAT MEAT AGAIN!
I would have tattooed it on my face I was that certain of it.
TODAY…I EAT MEAT FOR BREAKFAST. LITERALLY!
Lucky I didn’t get that tattoo! So what changed?
I first turned vegetarian when I was about 23. I simply stopped liking the taste of meat, plus I have always loved animals and have always been concerned with their welfare, even beyond my own selfish needs. One day a friend said, ‘why do you order penne con pollo, when you don’t eat the pollo. That’s just penne con cream. You may as well not waste the poor chicken.” She was right. But if I cut out meat from my diet, then what did I eat? Air?
Thus began my educational journey into the world of vegetarianism. I learned about factory farming and saw what happens inside an abattoir and that was it. The fat lady had sung. My heart was broken at the thought of how we treated animals.
The truth of the matter is that I wasn’t at my optimal health living off a vegetarian diet. I’m not saying others can’t live this way and be healthy. I’m saying for ME, it just didn’t seem to be compatible for my make up and my lifestyle. I worked hard to get the right balance of protein and iron and took supplements if I was lacking in any of the above. And I always was. I would frequent the doctors every three-months for blood tests to check my iron and B12, which seemed to be getting progressively lower. I tracked my blood work on a spreadsheet because, well…I’m a bit of a nerd. And yet, through all of this I still argued that I could thrive without meat. In fact, back then, simply reading this article would have made my blood boil. In fact, it still upsets me that I couldn’t live that way.
But…my data just didn’t support my argument on this occasion. Did my really blood want meat?
During this time, I remember taking a Boot Camp program for 4 months. To start with I loved the class and was up the front of the pack with the fast runners, lapping people and laughing and doing push ups till the sun came down. But then one day I was running and it was as if I had just run out of petrol. Like my tank was empty. People started to pass me. I still had breath, but my legs wouldn’t go. I was like a cartoon character running on the spot before takeoff, legs kicking up dust. The next few sessions were hard and what I was able to do with ease before, now felt like climbing Mt Everest. I spoke to the trainer who said I should check my iron.
As it turns out, my tank WAS empty. I was literally running on the smell of an oily rag.
This was how my health was for most of my vegetarian life. But I was still determined to make it work, even with expensive supplements to get me through. But my body just didn’t want to run on what I was giving it. It was like fuelling myself with unleaded, when my body needed premium.
It wasn’t until I started CrossFit training and was doing some six classes a week with intense lifting sessions where I realised that I wasn’t on the same level as some of the others and perhaps it might have been due to my fuelling options. I truly did not want to buy in to the “everyone must eat Paleo, eat like a caveman, meat is the answer” bullshit. It seemed very cult-like and ignorant to say their way of eating was the solution to all health issues. In fact, there were many times I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from calling them Neanderthals for thinking that meat was the answer.
But as my blood reports were still deteriorating, curiosity began to overcome me. My blood reports were like hieroglyphics on a cave – a stick figure cavegirl using her spear to point towards a bison, as if to tell me, “EAT MEAT”.
So I decided I owed it to myself to experiment. I could turn back vegetarian once this experiment failed. Which it was going to, of course. So I made myself a very expensive, free range, organic chicken roast. It took me 3 months to work up to it. There was a lot (A LOT) of mental preparation that went into the moment (and a lot of giving thanks to the animal who took it’s life for me). I was sure I was going to vomit from the taste and from the guilt of killing something for my own selfish needs. But you know what, I didn’t. And I managed to swallow every bite. And as I continued on my experiment, my enjoyment for the flavour and texture of meat increased, and with it my energy increased and my blood work to my surprise, improved too. And since that day, I have slowly worked up to eating free-range lamb, beef, duck, liver…you name it, I’ll eat it!
Adding meat to my food repertoire wasn’t the only change. I also stopped eating chickpeas, bread, soy milk, pasta and lentils. My entire world was turned upside down.
Cutting out the items that as a vegetarian I ate ALL THE TIME – soy latte, toast with peanut butter, vegetables with pasta, lentil dip, rice with chickpeas … GONE! All grains, all legumes….GONE! My diet was flipped on its head, and my world and my beliefs were in turmoil. But my health was on the incline, my blood reports improved and my IBS was under control. Eating my pride and my desire to cling to a diet that on paper seemed so right and that I truly believed in, was one of biggest inner conflicts of my life. If I wasn’t a “vegetarian” anymore, then what was I?
I really had to look inside myself and ask some big questions. Had being a vegetarian become more to me than just the food I put on my plate? Had it become almost like a label for me to sit under, to feel like I belonged to a group or community? To feel special? I did always get my food served before everyone else on the plane, and whenever I ate, it was a sign above my head declaring that I was moral and just, with high ethics along with great discipline and willpower. I’m not saying everyone who is vegetarian feels this way, but I was starting to get used to being “different” and I was proud to say that “I was a vegetarian”, it was like wearing a badge.
I have many friends who are vegetarian and who are vegan. Do I think they are wrong for living the way they do? Different cars can run on different fuel effectively, so no, I don’t think they are wrong. Besides, who am I to judge? What I do know is that I need to focus on whats right for me. I was surviving on a vegetarian diet that included a lot of high allergy foods, but as much as it kills me to say it, I needed meat and to cut out the grain and legumes to be able to THRIVE and to be able to lift and run fast and to keep up with the other cave eating clan. This vehicle, with this lifestyle, requires the right fuel. Beep, beep!
Do I still feel guilty when I eat meat? Yes, I do at times. I am doing my best to stay educated on how the animal has lived, fed and died for me, and am trying to choose the most cruelty-free meat I can find, without creating waste by eating the less “popular” bits such as liver or organs. I would much prefer to be able to farm my own animals that I then could use for my years meat supply, but unfortunately my life won’t allow this at this point in my life. But I’ll get there one day.
Ultimately, I think people need to experiment with their diet. After all, we are all made differently with different constitutions. Whats good for the goose, isn’t necessarily good for the gander in this instance. If you are unhealthy in any capacity, be it bloating after meals, autoimmune diseases, dry skin, low iron, anxiety, PCOS, muscle spasms,, autism or just restless nights…then you owe it to yourself to experiment with your diet to find one that suits your make up. Who knows, maybe it won’t make a difference for you, maybe your health won’t improve, and that’s fine, because then you can do the ‘I told you so’ dance and can comfortably go back to what you’ve always known. But if it does make you feel better then you will be a better person, closer to thriving and we can all pat ourselves on our backs.
As for me, I think I’ve found what works for me. But I want to understand more about why this way of eating works best for me? What are the main foods that cause me so many health issues, and why? And why do they cause issues for me, but not my neighbour?
These questions and more will be unraveled in the not too distant future…
“You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone! ”
What diet do you follow? Have you changed from vegetarian to meat eating or perhaps the other way? What made you make that change? Or what’s stopping you from trying it? And are there any foods that you are allergic too?