Disclaimer: I make no assumption about what is good and right for you or anyone else to consume regarding animal products. I make no claims regarding the consequences or benefit of consuming animal products. I only state what I am choosing and a brief cause for why. Please consult reputable research and data to form your own opinions.
It came to me as a matter of intuition. I began joking with friends, “You know how people go on cleanses where they cut out eating this and that for a week to see how they feel?” I’d been on over a dozen cleanses by then. I had a very “clean” diet by so many standards, but I didn’t feel all that great. I felt extremely limited and wholly unsatisfied and created shame around certain ways of eating and indulging. And I started having extreme physical discomfort after eating beans, legumes, and most grains – which appear to be the power basis of a vegetarian diet. My protein sources limited, my energy and morale low, I suggested, “What if I added meat back in for a week, just to see what happens?!” Folks laughed at me: the nut always shaking up her diet. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually go through with it at first, but as soon as I gave myself permission and stopped making animal foods the enemy, the primal cravings quickly surfaced.
It’s been nearly two and a half months since I had that first bite of chicken in seven years. I survived on a low-protein diet for most of that time, so I wasn’t initially compelled to add meat to every meal. When I do have it, my portions are typically half-size and more like a condiment. For example, I’ll chop a bit to go in with pepitas and carrot shreds in a salad. Though it is true that I entertained adding meat back in for sufficient protein, I do not think a vegan or vegetarian diet lacks in protein. My VATA imbalance no longer allows my body to support those kinds of plant-based proteins, and I was at a loss. Subsisting off fruits and vegetables and nuts may sound like a primate’s dream, but I was getting a bit bored, and I often felt malnourished and ravenous. Overall, adding meat and animal protein back into my diet has made me better able to stay satiated on a legume-free, low-grain diet.
More than simply changing my way of eating, I have changed my tune. For a long time I was under the presumption that we had to find our one true way and stick to it. I wanted to be labeled VEGAN so that no one had to guess and I had a set of rules to follow. But my foodie nature suffered, as it mostly meant lame garden salads and faux-meat substances, and things were still highly processed and full of preservatives. I longed for a simpler way of eating without restriction. Lately, I’ve offered my wandering heart more forgiveness. Through studying Ayurveda, I have come to realize that we are constantly seeking a state of balance, and we may flow this way and that, day by day, year by year. If I can understand my needs and how to work toward balance no matter where I’m at, then I can break free of any rigid systems and do what’s best for me in the moment. I believe my scrubbed diet (among other things) tipped me into a VATA imbalance over the last seven years and I am in recovery.
Going vegetarian taught me how to cook. It taught me how to love vegetables and get creative when I wanted a “better” version of something. Recently, that fire started to dampen, and when I opened up the possibility of incorporating meat back into my meals, I began to see a future of delicious creativity ahead. I still think of myself as plant-based, because meat isn’t the main thing I eat, or even my favorite thing to eat. But it has been a good friend to me through this trying time.
THINGS WORTH NOTING:
Ethics: I seek out the most ethically produced meat I know how. There are many ways to research this, many medias to guide your way. I urge you to make these choices for yourself. I want pastured chickens and wild fish. Local when possible. I’m not yet eating red meat or pork (never quite had a taste for them anyway), but if I did, I’d start with buffalo meat, lamb, goat, etc as they don’t tend to be factory farmed like cattle.
Prevalence: I try to only add one animal protein per meal. I may toss a boiled egg into my salad, spread cheese on a cracker, or stir-fry chicken and vegetables – all for separate meals / snacks. I prefer goats’ milk cheese and sheeps’ yogurt to avoid factory-farmed dairy and lactase. I never desire to drink a glass of milk or anything like that. I prefer ghee or clarified butter with the milk solids (casein) removed, but do eat butter when that is what is available. To keep within budget, I alternate when I buy certain products. I don’t keep them stocked all at once.
Mainstays: If I want milk for something like cereal or baking, I use a nutmilk or coconut milk. I find them cheaper and more delicious. I do watch out for fillers like gums and preservatives and “natural flavors” so I never buy shelf-stable boxed milk. I have found a canned coconut milk with only two ingredients: coconut and water. Nut milks you’ll likely need to blend yourself at home, but there are decent options in the refrigerator section with minimal ingredients in a pinch. I avoid whey products (protein powders, bars, etc) as they do not support my personal health.
More ethics: I’m still wrestling with how to eat animals. I have a tendency, with everything I do, to think through the chain of impact with a level of depth that makes it hard to get through the day without being on the verge of tears a dozen times. I make few decisions lightly. This one feels right for me for now.
Additional Reading: You must do the work yourself. You must be interested in order to form opinions. You must research well in order to form grounded opinions. You must believe for yourself in order to form strong opinions. My journey has been long; nearly a decade. These are some sources that have guided my way.
Avoiding Factory Farmed Foods: An Eater’s Guide by HuffPost
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan or any of his other books
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Any memoir about farming, homesteading, eating ethics, food politics, etc.
SOME carefully chosen documentaries: Food, Inc and other factory-farm docus. Important to distinguish between the investigative ones uncovering injustice versus those trying to shame you into veganism.