My Food Journey: Introducing Meats

It has been several months since I’ve shared any information on my diet. If you have snooped around even a little, you probably noticed that my husband and I don’t eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). You may wonder what in the world you might cook for us should you invite for dinner, but the idea of only eating real, whole foods likely doesn’t surprise you. Fortunately, it seems as if this idea is taking hold.

Aside from being a real food eater, for the last a year and a half I was also a pescetarian, which simply means the only meat I ate was fish. I am not a dietician, and different foods make each of us feel better or worse, please do not take this as dietary advice, this is just my experience.

Why give up meat?

Just a tiny bit of background. My dad has cows which meant a continually full freezer growing up. My dad and brother hunt, so venison and turkey were always abound too. We always had pork. I grew up in the Midwest, so it was a place of “meat ‘o plenty”.

When I was in college, my mother would send me back with a cooler of meat. Meat is expensive and college students, at least in my experience, don’t have much money and the last thing I was worried about was buying awesome food.

I gave up red meat one year for Lint, and after that I never really wanted it. I honestly made myself sick on chicken, so that was out. The last few months before meat was eliminated, I was just having ground turkey.

Once I got married, I realized how expensive meat was. My husband is a healthy man, in that he eats at least 2 times as much as any other human (love you, babe!). For instance, his idea of a “late night” snack is leftovers from dinner, a pork chop, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Aka, a 4th meal. I don’t think we could afford for both of us to eat meat.

I was so close to ridding meat from my diet anyway, I decided to completely remove all meat, with the exception of fish. Aside from the expense, I was just beginning to learn about the “conventional meat” grown in the US. The more education I received on CAFO’s, hormones, chickens whose breasts are so big they can’t walk, I knew I didn’t want meat in my life anymore! It was sickening to see what was happening to these animals and to our planet.

Life as a Pescetarian

At the time, life was good. I felt fine for about a year. Protein consumption was the biggest issue, and the thing I got asked about most. We didn’t eat fish much, I tried to eat a lot of beans, quinoa, and whole grains. At the beginning of this journey, we had not yet started living a whole foods lifestyle, so I would supplement and snack on junk. Chips and salsa, a lot of chips. Bread. Crackers. Carbs.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I lived that way for so long. I was still working out on a regular basis, and felt fine doing it. Somehow the junk was fueling me. It was when we really started cutting out processed food, that I noticed a change. The last 6 months of no meat eating, I was tired and had low energy. I would almost always have to take an afternoon nap. I blacked out once at the gym, requiring my husband to carry me outside. I had bouts of accelerated heart rate and palpitations. Light-headedness was something I experienced almost daily.

Looking back now, it’s so easy to see why my health declined. I literally was not giving my body the calories and the fuel it needed to carry me through the day, let alone the Crossfit-style workouts I was doing. While cutting out processed food was the best decision I’ve made regarding my health, I did not have the knowledge on how to replace them with enough real food calories. I just went for it.

Hello Bacon!

image by tedmurphy

The meat my husband has been eating is grass-fed, sometimes local, organic, and/or free range. I realize that some of these labels don’t mean much, but I believe it’s better than plain ‘ol conventional meat.

Anyway, back to the bacon.

I was cooking bacon a couple times every other week. It looked so good. It smelled even better. Yes, I realized if introducing meat back into your diet after more than 500 days, bacon might not be the best starting point. Well, I certainly paid for it.

A half piece of bacon, which let’s be honest is one bite, gave me stomach cramps that would put any menstrual cramp to shame. I had diarrhea for a day (sorry, TMI?).  It was not fun. I knew I wanted to bring meat back into my life, so I did the same thing for about a week, half a piece of bacon, cramps, excessive bathroom time, whole piece of bacon, cramps…well you get it.

My body did not know how to handle the amount of animal fat it was getting. Not fun. After the bacon, I slowly introduced ground beef. I made spaghetti and meatballs one night and had one meatball. My body was fine. The process of re-introducing meat back into my diet has been slow. I still can’t eat a whole serving of meat without being sick.

My meat intake has been limited to bacon for breakfast and BLT’s. Small amounts of ground beef. Anyone who hasn’t given up meat for an extended period of time will not understand, but whole cuts of meat, think chicken, steak, pork chop, are not happening for awhile. The feeling of having the flesh of an animal in my mouth makes me gag.

Even with the small increase of meat in my diet, and we have been trying to eat more fish, I feel great. The cramps are gone, the fatigue is mostly gone. I can workout without passing out. Go me!

The Meat We Eat

image by rosmary

Some people won’t understand why, but we only eat meat that is minimally processed, meaning the lack of hormones, not farmed (fish), lack of dyes, on the land. Cows doing cow things. Chickens doing chicken things. You know, totally Joel Salatin-style.

To be clear, I never gave up meat because I felt like we shouldn’t kill animals, that was never the reason, though my decision to remain certainly had something to do with the way animals are treated. I still feel that way. I believe that our diet can honor God. God gave us the land and the animals to rule over and take care, I do not believe a world of CAFO’s, steroids, hormones, and confinement does that (just my opinion).

So, where has your diet been? Have you fallen into any fads diets of the past? 

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2 responses to “My Food Journey: Introducing Meats

  1. I was a vegetarian for 4 1/2 years (vegan for 2) and started eating meat again last summer after the birth of our second child. I just felt so exhausted all of the time and needed a change. My first bite of meat was also bacon, and I was also sick every time I ate meat for several months! It took until Spring of this year for me to finally not feel wrong every time I ate meat. It does get better!

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  2. Lisa, thanks for sharing your story. I know some people who flourish without meat, I am just not one of those people either. I am glad to hear things got better for you, and looking forward to that day as well.

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