During Easter dinner I decided to try the chicken. I took a small piece and I felt fine. I didn’t want to throw up. My stomach felt OK, and I’m still living another day.
It was organic and free-range chicken. After years of eating conventionally raised meat, my family members have started to show support for my food beliefs by eating organic.
Why was eating chicken such a big deal? I have experimented with a vegetarian diet, and even veganism, for a few years now. It felt right for me when I started it, but my body has been telling me differently in recent months.
Many people, including myself, are passionate about what they eat; it becomes part of your identity and it makes sense to promote what you believe in. But I’ve come to understand that everyone is different and your chosen diet may not be great for your health—your body is like a car and needs the right grade of gas to run most efficiently. And I needed to change up my grade of fuel.
I Used to be a Vegetarian
I started eating a vegetarian diet because it complemented everything I was learning about at the time. Vegetarianism is part of the yogic lifestyle, and I was practising yoga on a daily basis. I learned about the dangers of processed meat and foods, and it made sense to cut them out. The key for me was making lots of vegetables, fruits and other whole foods part of my lifestyle, whereas previously there were few.
It also made sense on a spiritual level that eating plant-based foods gave me a greater connection to the earth. I also respect animals, the environment, and where my food comes from.
Protein Does a Body Good
So I started eating meat again. It began with asking myself the question, “How do I feel?” I simply felt tired, low on immunity, and I knew I needed to make some changes. My busy schedule was wearing me out, and I wasn’t practising yoga as much as I would have liked. Life was getting in the way and I wanted some answers.
I went to see holistic nutritionist Brett Hawes (read all about it here). He respected my spiritual and ethical reasons for practising vegetarianism; however, in his professional opinion, I needed to incorporate a little fish and chicken into my diet.
I thought about it for quite a while. I am more than the food I eat. But what would other people think? The biggest change a person can make is becoming a conscious eater and understanding the food they eat, and I’m doing that. Here are a few reasons why I started eating meat (again):
Absorption of Nutrients: I had digestion troubles and a zinc deficiency with white spots on my nails, so I wasn’t absorbing the nutrients my body needs. I’m improving my digestion with supplementation like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and probiotics.
Not Getting Enough Protein: I was eating plenty of vegetable protein such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus. I was also eating lots of quinoa, brown rice and other whole grains. However, I was losing weight and muscle. Now I’m adding more protein and fats with morning protein shakes (brown rice protein, avocado, ghee, and nuts), organic and free-range eggs and some animal protein. I’ve started eating some wild and organic fish like trout and salmon, once to twice a week, and chicken once a week as well.
Quality of Animal Products
Vegetarians and vegans may argue that an animal is an animal; however, I believe how they are treated makes a difference as well. For health reasons as well as ethical ones, I think it’s best to eat unprocessed meat without antibiotics, steroids, hormones or other chemicals. Has it come from a factory farm or an organic farm? Have you met the farmer? These questions should be taken into consideration when you’re choosing animal products such as meat and eggs.
What I Learned About Myself
Can everyone successfully follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle? I recently asked a vegan friend of mine how she gets her omega-3s, those fatty acids found in fish oil (and supplements). They’re something your brain can’t do without, studies show, but challenging for vegetarians. My friend gets herself checked regularly for any nutrient deficiencies and simply responded to my question with, “I don’t obsess over it.”
Maybe sometimes I over-think things, and my ego analyzes every detail a little too finely. Health shouldn’t be complicated. It should be easy. And when something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body. And ask the right questions to get yourself to the best health possible. That’s my plan—and it’s working!