One vegetarian’s dilemma

Now that I’ve decided to add food to my list of things to blog about, I thought I’d share the story of my mostly vegetarian existence to let you know where I am coming from. (Ok, this is also therapeutic for me, but I know I’m not alone in struggling with the veg*n/omnivore dilemma especially when it comes to deciding what to feed a growing family!)

One day, after eating a really gross Taco Bell chicken taco (while shopping for a prom dress… classy, I know…) little 15 year old me decided no more meat. My wise & trusted pediatrician tried to convince me not to go vegetarian. He told me to read at least one book before making up my mind. … I chose to read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation & never looked back.

Until recently.

I have to say that vegetarianism served me well until my body went through pregnancy & birth (or maybe it was the stress of law school… I’ll never know for sure…). But after T was born my body started to protest. I had to eat a lot to keep going. And even then I experienced fatigue (beyond the normal new parent stuff) & my hair didn’t stop falling out after the normal postpartum period & other stuff (that I’ll keep to myself).

I started reading about diet & nutrition. The urge to figure this out through food was almost preternatural. Before I consciously thought about eating meat again I started checking out all sorts of books from the library. I checked out Nourishing Traditions & a paleo diet book even though I knew these were omnivore diets… You know, just for a contrarian point of view because there was no way I was going to eat meat!

All these books led me to the conclusion that there is a “scientific” study to support just about every diet out there. I was most convinced by Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live & was about to embark on a fully vegan diet when my doc informed me that my last round of supplementation had accomplished nothing in the way of improving my blood profile.

As I was about to start round two of heavy supplements to rectify my dietary deficiencies I came across a community of women online, discussing their decision to eat meat after being veg*n. And then I saw them everywhere I looked online & in real life: former veg*ns who found that a veg*n diet was simply not sustainable for them.

And I started thinking about meat & I finally allowed my body to crave it.

I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry when I found myself biting into a grass-fed beef hamburger about a month later. (If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably picked up that I don’t do anything halfway… Red meat has the nourishment I most needed so I wasn’t about to dabble in chicken!) Let me tell you, I noticed changes in my body that same night & I have no doubt now that I am doing right by my body.

Which isn’t easy considering the headlines recently, declaring the dangers of red meat. I don’t ignore these stories, but I take it all with a grain of salt.

I’ve learned three things so far:

1. Learning to cook meat for the first time is a crazy adventure. I literally never cooked it. (Except for the one time when I made chicken soup from scratch when my dear MFA Dad was very sick… Even then I managed to hardly touch the bird.) How do you brown ground beef? I called my parents three times when I was trying to figure out how to cook a straight-off-the-farm chicken with its neck still attached. That I’ve had a learning curve is an understatement (& I so don’t have time for another learning curve right now; my job & son are quite enough, thank you!).

2. I am humbled. By cooking flesh (which is all I am, after all… though probably not as tasty). By coming to terms with this huge change in my life (I kind of feel like I imagine former atheists must feel when they discover religion). By learning that sometimes it’s necessary to reevaluate your ethics & values.

3. The politics of food always seem to touch women, whether it’s who’s preparing it or who’s eating what. I’ve been shocked to find so many women are choosing to give up veg*nism for health reasons. I feel like I’ve been duped into choosing politics (or ethics, if you prefer) over my own health & nutritional requirements. In all the “studies” out there, I have found none that account for gender differences, particularly surrounding the nutritional needs of women during years of child-bearing & nursing.

What’s the “right” way to eat? I don’t know; only your body (& probably a few well-researched guidelines) can answer that question. It’s taken me long enough to figure out what my own body needs. I’ve enjoyed searching out humanely raised animal products & allowing my morals & my body to work together. I still look at this as an experiment. I don’t have the answers but I’m learning a lot & hope you’ll join me in learning to prepare nutritious food for the whole family!



Filed under Breastfeeding, Feminism, Food, Mothering

2 responses to “One vegetarian’s dilemma

  1. Thank you for sharing your struggles with this! I was vegetarian for almost twenty years and vegan for probably five when I became pregnant with my daughter. I developed gestational diabetes and it became very complicated to manage my diet, and then after she was born I just simply felt awful. I went back to eating meat and I feel so much better! I honestly think that different people’s bodies do well on different types of diets, and veganism just isn’t for me. I have certainly made an effort to be conscious of what I do eat, and eat free-range and humanely raised animals when possible, and I often visit the farms where I purchase meat. If I am going to eat the animals, the least I can do is look them in the eye and say “Thank you”!

    • Thank you so much for chiming in, Kelly! I’m glad you made it through the gestational diabetes. Pregnancy really puts our bodies through their paces, doesn’t it? Testing the mettle of our diets & nutritional stamina?

      I love the thought of saying “thank you” to the animals we consume. We started saying thanks (to the farmers & animals & earth… among others) before our meals recently, in part because since going back to eating meat, we are so much more conscious of (& grateful for) the food that passes our lips.

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