No More Meat - 08.21.00

Near the beginning of the year, I re-evaluated my diet nearly completely. I decided that I would not only start spending a bit more money each week buying foods that I enjoyed, but I also wanted to start eating more healthy. I cut a lot of the unhealthy foods that I was eating (replacing chips in my lunch with an orange, and my usual cold cereal breakfast with oatmeal at least 5 times a week), and started actually paying attention to the amount of fat and cholesterol that I was taking in during a typical week. Part of it was a response to my father having heart surgery last year, and part of it was just me wanting to get a little more healthy in general.

Although I'm a lanky person in the first place, and I'm lucky enough to have a super-high metabolism rate, I've also been one to never really watch what I ate (probably because of those reasons). Looking back at times, I cringed when I thought of myself going to McDonalds with friends in high-school and eating 6 40-cent hamburgers for one meal and washing it all down with a soda of some sort. While I hadn't eaten fast food since college, there were still a lot of things that I wanted to cut from my diet.

Over the course of the past 7 months, I've stuck to my new diet additions with hardly any problems. Sure, I'd treat myself to the occassional Little Debbie oatmeal pie, or something else that wasn't particularly good for me, but I'd stopped my crazy eating patterns, and I was putting down more fruits and vegetables than I ever had in my life (and discovering that there are lots of fruits that are much better tasting than their rather unhealthy counterparts). Combined with some exercise, I've felt better than I have in my entire life lately, and I want to keep that going.

One of the things that has been giving me some trouble over the course of this year has been my consumption of meat, so that naturally became something that I started to look at. Not only was it something that was rather unhealthy (for the most part), but whenever I would eat more than a small amount of meat, I'd feel lethargic and sometimes really sick afterwards. Although I had drastically cut my consumption of meat (especially red meat) and I was to the point where I never cooked it for myself anymore, I started looking into options for cutting it completely out of my diet. I was still eating chicken and turkey occassionally, and seafood when I went out to eat, I looked at my consumption of it and decided that it wasn't really anything that I would miss the taste of. My main concern was getting enough protein through my other foods that I could conpensate for my lack of it in cutting out meat from my diet.

After talking with some friends of mine who are vegetarian (and one who is vegan) and getting a great little vegetarian starter pack from here, I decided that it was something I'd sort of ramp up to. Over the course of a couple months, I'd gradually start cutting back on my eating of meat until at the end of the period, I'd give it up completely. If at any time I felt like I was lacking something in my diet, or if I didn't think I was getting enough protein, I could always start it back up again.

I'm at the point now where I have just about one week left in my cut-out period. I've managed to replace nearly all the meat that I've been eating with other things and once I finish off the last package of lean turkey in my fridge, I'll be done with it. Perhaps the strangest thing to deal with (and I was told that this would happen) isn't that I'm personally no longer eating meat, but the reaction of others to me telling them that. Not only do I live in a state where meat is a big product (one of the minor league sports teams in an adjacent city even has a mascot called "the beef"), but my family for the most part are still pretty into eating it at nearly every meal. Many restaurants in town still aren't exactly good in their accompaniment of a meat-less diet, either.

While my main motivations behind the switch are health ones, I've also done a lot of reading into the meat industry (if you want to read some real horror stories, it's your best bet) and feel like I'm making the right choice in terms of not supporting the many things that go on within them (cruelty to animals, destroying of land, etc). I've also given myself the option of choosing to eat it again if I feel like my health is suffering because of it, but given how much energy I've had over the past couple months, and how I feel after eating the stuff, I don't think that will be an issue.