I’ve been a vegetarian for 31 of my 35 years on this earth. This week, I’ve tentatively begun experimenting with eating some meat.
This has been a long time coming. Several years ago I went through an elimination diet and discovered that I’m sensitive to wheat and soy; they exacerbate my chronic sinus problems. I studiously avoided eating both for about 18 months and it was exhausting and crazy-making and left me feeling really negative about specialized diets. I felt anti-social and rude saying no to people’s baked goodies at parties all the time, and I was hungry *all* the time. I concluded that I just couldn’t be a healthy vegetarian while eschewing wheat and soy as protein sources.
Ever since then, though, I’ve been wondering if being a vegetarian is really the best thing for my body. I find myself eating too much in order to get the amount of protein I crave, and relying on huge amounts of dairy which leaves me feeling kind of yucky. I’ve gained a lot of weight in the past few years. I’ve wondered if a lower carb/high protein diet wouldn’t give me more energy and help me stabilize my weight.
I have a huge amount of personal identity tied up in being a vegetarian though. It’s one of the core ways I think of myself, along with being a mom and a writer and a Witch. It’s sort of hard to re-vision myself as a person who might eat meat, and meat doesn’t really seem like food to me.
Also, my whole family are vegetarians. My kids have never tasted any meat, except a few bites of fish they caught themselves. I didn’t know how to begin talking to them about changing my diet, since they’ve only recently grown old enough to understand what being a vegetarian is.
So I’ve been eating little bits of fish when I’m out at restaurants with friends, kind of trying the idea out, but hadn’t wanted to make a real shift in my diet.
But I get sick all the time. I come down with bronchitis several times a year. And recently, after my second bout of it in a month, my doctor said I may be slowly becoming asthmatic. It seems like it’s beyond time to get serious about my respiratory health. That means taking care of my house to better manage my dust allergies, and cutting out of my diet foods that I know exasperate my sinuses.
So I’m avoiding wheat and soy, though not completely shutting them out. And instead of just taking those things away and going hungry, I’m eating some meat.
I ate a cookie someone gave me as a gift yesterday, but had salad instead of a sandwich for lunch, and a small serving of salmon at dinner. That’s pretty much how this is going.
It’s pretty weird. I keep forgetting that meat is an option when I look at restaurant menus. I’ve been very deliberate about trying things, even though they seem totally unlike food. So far I’ve tried steak, chicken, salmon and sausage. The steak was surprisingly good, the chicken was bad both ways I tried it, the salmon is delicious and the sausage surprised me in a good way.
I’m feeling OK about the ethics of eating meat; I’ve felt for a long time that there are ethical paths to being an omnivore, and that being a vegetarian wasn’t the only right way to express my commitment to sustainable and just eating. It’s extremely strange shifting my identity around this, but it doesn’t feel bad.
Eating animal protein and not eating wheat is making me feel hungry much less often; I’ve cut way back on snacking and feel less up-and-down with my energy levels. So far that part is a total win.
I’m still sniffly all the time, but my house is still a dusty mess and I’m probably allergic to at least some of our pets. So there’s that. It’s not a cure-all, but it does seem to be good for me. I’m going to try it for the next two months and see how it feels as a long-term prospect.
In the meantime, I’ll happily try your favorite non-veg recipe and take suggestions for non-wheat, non-soy food choices.