Whenever I meet someone new and the fact that I’m a health and food blogger comes up in conversation, the topic typically moves towards whether or not people should eat meat. Mostly because just about everyone has seen Food, Inc. And even though we’re slowly moving away from the idea that “fat makes you fat,” people still equate a big juicy steak with unhealthy.
The problem is, I never respond the way people expect me to. Because I eat meat. And I eat a lot of it. Just this past month I was at a dinner party when one of the guests asked me excitedly if I was “the vegetarian” after it came out that I was a food blogger. When I said “oh god no. A meal isn’t a meal without meat,” he turned away in disgust. He’s a vegan…
The thing is just about everyone can agree that the “healthiest” foods you can eat are vegetables. They’re filled with the vitamins and minerals that you need to thrive, they’re natural and unprocessed, and because of the fiber content they are really hard to overeat.
But it’s what you eat with the vegetables that’s the problem. Every person who is interested in how food affects your body will have an opinion. And every opinion will be different.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Vegetarians scream that meat is bad, Paleo eaters scream that grains are bad, vegans scream that vegetarians are doing it wrong…
And for someone who is just beginning their health food journey, this arguing can be confusing and overwhelming. Trust me, I know. Because I am right there with you.
As I’ve mentioned in my “About me” section of my blog, for years I didn’t have the best relationship with food. Mostly because I never ate it. So when I did start eating, I had trouble figuring out what I was supposed to eat. It was only with a lot of trial and error that I finally figured out that paleo (more or less) was the way to go for me.
The trial and error came through trying every other diet known to man. Including vegetarian and vegan. Because yes, I’ve see Food, Inc too.
Let’s be honest. Factory-farmed meat is disgusting. It’s horrible for the animals, bad for the environment and most likely bad for your body. So a lot of people will take this to mean they’re supposed to just avoid meat entirely. And they will use things like the most recent beef recall as proof they’ve got the right idea. (For those of you who haven’t been watching the news lately, a huge supplier in California was caught hiding “the warning signs of cancer by trimming off diseased parts, using a fake stamp of approval or even replacing the heads of sick cows with ones from healthy animals.” I know…gross).
So yeah. I tried being vegetarian. For a few weeks. Until I started to notice how sick I felt. My fibromyalgia pain started to come back, even though I was still avoiding gluten, dairy and soy. My stomach was pretty bloated, especially after I ate. I stopped going to the bathroom. Granted, I don’t normally have the most regular stomach, but this time it felt extremely uncomfortable.
One day I looked in the mirror and realized something was very wrong.
My stomach was completely distended! No wonder I felt awful! I snapped that picture because I knew one day I would share it with you guys. Just as a reference point, the picture on the right is what my stomach normally looked like. I took that photo at the gym a couple weeks before I started my vegetarian experiment.
So am I saying vegetarians are full of it and paleo is the only way to go? No. What I advocate is listening to your body. Experiment. Don’t pay too much attention to what the TV says or your friend says or that trainer at the gym says. Pay attention to what your body says. My body likes meat. Preferably grass-fed, locally raised meat.
And as for that meat recall. Hopefully if you’re paying a little extra for the good stuff, you’ll avoid the occasional outbreaks of E. coli. Although it’s not just meat that gets infected. To those vegetarians who use recalls as a reason to avoid meat, you might want to tell them to avoid humus. And sprouts.