*Disclaimer: This is not intended as anything but my own story. I am not a dietary expert, nor am I trying to proselytize anyone into going meat-free. I am just a girl on a mission to eat well to be well. Please be respectful of that in your comments. Thanks!
When I was twelve I came across the website Action for Animals and it changed my life. I'm honestly not even sure how this came to transpire because it was still the early days of the internet and I was definitely not an interweb-browsing pre-teen. I was a dorky little naturalist, usually outside collecting specimens, digging holes, and sketching field notes. Plus, my mom did a great job of creeping my ass out about rapey online predators. But I digress. I was suddenly made aware of the atrocious conditions of the meat industry and instantaneously lost my appetite. Thus began my life as a conscious eater.
I gave up meat as a middle schooler who still relied on my Mom for meals and let me tell you, she was not impressed. Mom raised me to eat healthy, but meat was always a staple to her meals, and it was one she was not willing to forfeit for one child at the expense of herself, another child, and a meat-hungry husband. So I wound up piecing together meals out of side dishes like a vegetable-scrounging hobo. My dad's favorite thing to say if I turned up my nose as at meal that was meat-heavy was "go make yourself a peanut butter sandwich". Thanks Dad. A kid can't subsist entirely on PB sandwiches. Needless to say it was tricky, and constantly defending and explaining my choice got pretty old pretty fast, testing my will to stick to my decision.
Since those early years my veg-journey has varied. There was my brief stint as a vegan in high school (I promptly gave it up because I loooooove honey). Then there was my study abroad in east Asia where pork, chicken, and eggs were regular menu staples and not eating them meant going very, very hungry (I lost 25 pounds over my four months spent in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. This left me underweight, undernourished, and caused me to catch a nasty virus that started as a stomach bug in northern China and stuck around as intestinal yuck and a bumpy rash that moved across my face for months after returning to the U.S. There's actually probably just an alien that has taken up residence in me. I'm naming him Tedward.).
For the last few years I have relaxed my rules about restricting any animal products from entering my palate, and have rested upon being what many would refer to as a Flexitarian.
"Flexitarian", according to Wikipedia: A semi-vegetarian or flexitarian diet is one that is plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat products. In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year's most useful word.
I eat yogurt. I have an occasional egg or two. I eat cake made with butter or eggs. I put honey and milk in my tea. If someone serves me breakfast with a slice or two of bacon I certainly won't say "no". I've found that there are some circumstances when I'm fine with a little meat. I don't try to evangelize others, although I still find that meat-eaters love to veg-bash my choices. I have grown in my awareness of the meat and animal industry, and am more relaxed in my acceptance of livestock products when it comes from a local or small farmer, and as long as I know the living conditions were generous (because why on earth would you want to eat something that lived crammed in with other stressed animals eating crap and turning that crap into crap-quality meat?). I've even come to accept my brother-in-law's yearly hunting trips, and others who hunt and respectfully use the entire animal, rather than merely hunting for trophy. I've become less strict on my own body, and less strict overall. I have evolved as a person, an animal-rights activist, a humanitarian, and have gained so much from this journey. So here's why I choose to still eat relatively little in the way of animal products, and why I never cook meat:
- Digestion. My belly feels better without having to focus so hard on digesting meat. On the rare occasion I do allow myself a burger or something, I usually wake up later in the night feeling queasy AF.
- The recipe options are endless. Seriously. And you never have to worry about getting salmonella from under-cooked chicken. In fact, cooking is really frickin easy without the meat part! Lazy girl WIN!
- The constant inflammation and chronic migraines I have dealt with since childhood are less severe when animal products are out of my diet. I would urge anyone who deals with chronic conditions to consider giving up meat or animal products for a time to see if it helps. It's certainly not for everybody, but it's remarkable how much of a difference it has made for me.
- It's cheaper! I save buku bucks not purchasing meat, and still stock up heavily on vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, spices....
- I feel better about myself knowing I'm not contributing to the horrific conditions animals are born into in factory farms. I feel even better knowing that when I do eat meat, eggs, or dairy, that I'm supporting the small businesses and farmers who deserve the $$!
*Side note. I urge you, not to give up your animal foods, but to please consider where they come from. Animals raised in healthy, caring conditions taste better and are so much better for you than those raised in factory farms. Ever cracked a farm-fresh egg? The yolk is practically orange and extremely difficult to break, unlike the runny, pale yellow garbage eggs you get from generic retailers. If that's not proof enough of difference in quality, I don't know what is.
Alas, I know this is mostly just a rambling tale of my life as a kale-snarfing, cashew nut butter-spreading, flax-seed sprinkling gal. But, as I said above, if you are unsatisfied with the food you are consuming, or want to try to tackle your chronic health issues, I urge you to consider eating fewer or no animal products. Trust me. It's so easy. And I never feel deprived. And I feel so much healthier and better for it. As proof of the endless options of vegetarian and vegan recipes available these days, I've attached links below of some of my favorite recipes. Give a few a try! Implement Meatless Mondays! Expand your horizons! You'll be surprised how delicious it can be!
Find these recipes and more over on my Pinterest!