As per request, I am about to address my huge, life changing, ground breaking decision to become….. A NOT-VEGETARIAN!
Haha, so truthfully, this decision is really not all that grand. Most people on the planet are already omnivorous and have been their entire lives. For me, though, this is a pretty big deal. I’ve, up until just very recently, been a strict Vegetarian for six years. On and off through the last six years, I’ve also been Vegan, abstaining from any animal based foods. This decision doesn’t affect the whole universe, but it does affect my universe; after all, going from mostly no animal products to a diet abundant in animal fats and proteins is quite a change. This change effects not only how I prepare my foods, but also how my mind and body are functioning. What we choose to consume also effects our world on a much larger scale. To fully address this lifestyle change, though, I feel I must go back to the beginning of sorts: why I became a veggie head in the first place.
Believe it or not, a major catalyst I accredit to sooo many life changing decions throughout the years… was Warped tour, 2007. Or was it 2008? No matter, it was the summer between freshman and sophomore year, and my friend Liz invited me to go to Warped tour with her. I am generally down for most everything, especially new experiences, and the tickets were already bought, so I tagged along. The music festival is not exactly what lead me to become a vegetarian, though. Rather, it was pamphlet hocking PETA cronies standing outside the gates. On our way out, they got me. Maybe they could sense that I am a compassionate soul, or maybe they just had a certain number of pamphlets to give away, but whatever the case may have been, I received one, and I studied it raptly the whole ride home. I stopped eating meat after learning of the atrocities that make up conventionally raised meat. It seemed like the only logical thing to do to combat the mistreatment of these animals. After doing more research, I not only abstained from meat to avoid playing any sort of role in the abuse and cruel treatment of animals, but also avoided products that had undergone animal testing. I learned of the extensive environmental degradation that is caused by factory farmed meat and dairy products. For instance, ‘”the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems” (Steinfeld et al. 2006). This includes stresses such as deforestation, desertification, “excretion of polluting nutrients, overuse of freshwater, inefficient use of energy, diverting food for use as feed and emission of GHGs.” (-United Nations Environmental Program)
I’m not writing this to preach to the choir, or try to convert anyone into any sort of ism, though, so if you want to learn more about animal cruelty, or the ecological repercussions of conventionally raised meat, then google it.
I am writing this to inform folks about my decision, and the long and winding path I took to reach it. After some serious nutrition schoolin, I decided that going to the opposite end of the spectrum isn’t the wisest decision for me, either. You see, though my heart was in the right place (I believe) and my convictions were strong, my body (and mind! It’s all connected…) suffered for it. I have struggled with maintaining energy for the last six years, along with many other physiological maladies that, only in hindsight, can I see were caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
The symptoms I can now connect to one another all began shortly after my switch to vegetarianism. Throughout the years, I have been in an almost constant battle with acne and weight fluctuation, and I frequently experienced irregular bowel movement and inadequate elimination (in other words, my pooping was not up to par.) As I mentioned before, my energy levels were never sufficient; I was always exhausted, which I attributed to depression. My circadian rhythms were all out of wack. Even though I was energetically deficient, I couldn’t seem to get to sleep at night, and would stay up for hours before passing out early in the morning, and then having to roll out of bed, always late, and ride the bus to school. And yes, depression was a big part of my life. There is a very distinct line separating my life post and pre-vegetarianism, and I can see clearly now that my energy, vitality, and emotional state were much more balanced before I cut meat and dairy out of my diet.
Though I was careful to switch to vegetarianism in an educated way, the transition ultimately led to some weight fluctuation as my body adjusted to this new diet. Panicked that I was getting fat, I began to restrict the things I was eating even further. I cut out dairy to further control my intake. I was still experiencing a great deal of bloating and constipation, and generally chocked this up to my inability to restrict myself all the way. You see, though I cut out dairy and meat, my body knew that it needed the nutrients that come with those foods. My body could not overcome my minds strong resolve to abstain from meat, but it did periodically overcome my aversion to dairy. And when it broke that barrier, it went all out, consuming any dairy in sight. So my mind and body, they were always battling each other. I just really couldn’t understand why, if I were eating in a way that I considered to be perfect, my body couldn’t get on board.
The answer to this query eluded me until very very recently. Like, as recently as this blasted coolant leak sprang up. Don’t know about the leak I’m talking about? Oh my, you’re out of the loop! I’m referring to the coolant leak that my home, a 1966 city transit bus from Los Angeles, which I share with my two soul sisters, currently has going on. To learn more about said coolant leak, and the rest of our bus adventures, go here. Or, click here. Anyway, this pesky little coolant leak has truly ended up being many blessings in disguise. For one, we met Gerry because of this coolant leak. Gerry is the talented mechanic and energy worker that lives at H.B. Industries, a soon to be closed diesel fleet/bus conversion shop in El Cajon, California. Gerry has been amazing, welcoming us to the shop yard with such hospitably that we felt at home right away. He not only allowed us to stay at H.B. Industries while we worked on our bus, but also guided us along the mechanic journey, and, best of all, has been a great friend to us.
A great passion of Gerry’s is healing. He runs a website geared towards providing people with healing solutions for mind body spirit, called Allow Solutions. He also does energy healing work, specializing in essential oil blending. And, blessing of all blessings, he makes homemade bread, and has been sharing his recipes with me, and allowing me to use his oven! He spread along some information he had learned through Weston A. Price, a non profit nutrition education foundation that has done extensive research regarding traditional diets vs. civilized diets, and how the two effect the body.
Again in my life, I received a pamphlet that I read raptly from front cover to back, and it has changed my life. Its funny, most of the information, I already knew on some level. I guess I just had to learn it deeper in order for it to really sink in and resonate with me. I don’t know why, but reading it again, in this particular format and setting, triggered a response in me. I learned from the pamphlet that animal fats and proteins are needed fore the proper development of bone structure, and to aid in the assimilation of important nutrients and minerals. I also learned about phytic acid, which is the way plants store phosphorus. Phytic acid is an anti nutrient present in grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It’s indigestible to humans and other non ruminant animals, and chelates to important minerals and nutrients like zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium, flushing them out of the body along with solid and liquid waste. You can start learning more about phytic acid, and its effects on the body, here.
Luckily, there are ways to prepare phytate rich foods to significantly diminish the amount of phytic acid present, by employing the three “S’s”: soaking, sprouting, or souring. Traditional diets, incidentally, are full of sprouted and soaked grain recipes. Indigenous people eating real food based, traditional diets rich in essential nutrients have been found to have beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, good physiques, resistance to disease and fine characters. Peoples of the same heritage and from the same region, but eating different diets, show incredible differences in health and development. Those that had began eating the civilized, ultra processed and grain heavy diet had smaller jaws, causing their teeth to come in cramped and crooked, and they exhibited poor dental health. They showed lower vitality and energy, and overall compromised health. Compare that to those eating traditional diets, high in animals fats and proteins, and with grain dishes that have been properly prepared. The difference is amazing. Don’t take my word for it, though. Go do some real foods research on your own!
After being introduced to these concepts, I began to scour the internet for more information. What I found really shocked me, and not because it was so unbelievable, but because it seemed so basic that I could’t believe it had taken me this long to figure it out. I felt like I had been living in denial of what my body was trying to tell me for so long. The messed up sleep patterns, the bloating and weight fluctuation, the lowered immunity and energy… these were all symptoms of nutrient deficiency, and I had been bringing it on myself this entire time! Gerry graciously gifted us with some raw, organic grass fed, cultured, choc-full-of-minerals butter, and as an experiment to test the validity of this new information, I ate this butter daily till it disappeared. And let me tell you, that butter went down like… well, like butter. So good! And the craziest thing was, I began to notice a difference in my energy levels and my mood. I began to wake up without the usual groggy feeling, and it was starting to get easier to stay on the more optimistic side of things.
After that first tub of butter, I began adding more animal foods back into my diet, all the while taking note of how I felt, and whether or not my energy and vitality were improving. I bought a cod liver oil supplement, which I started taking every day, and I began using magnesium oil as part of my daily regime. Gerry gets raw, organic goats milk from a local source, and he shared this precious commodity with us. I even started buying cheese! Which, by the way, just absolutely goes against everything I have believed about nutrition for the past five years. And I really began to feel these changes. So much so that I came to the conclusion that being a strict vegetarian, regardless of my moral vindications, no longer made sense compared to the fact that I was not doing my body, my one and only vessel, justice by restricting the things I eat to the point of self degradation. In truth, I have been hurting my body with the choices I have made, and that is not a very self-loving way to be. So now, I eat cheese, yogurt, milk, eggs, and soaked/sprouted grains and legumes with out guilt, because I deserve to be healthy. And yes, I even eat meat.
And just for clarification, for all you nay-sayers out there, me becoming not vegetarian does not mean me turning into a ravenous, blood thirsty carnivore that doesn’t care about the sourcing or treatment of the meat I eat. I’m still a really picky eater. I doubt I will be eating beef anytime soon, and I KNOW I wont eat pork, because I had a horrific nightmare about it, and that is enough to keep me away. I have eaten chicken twice since making this decision, and it was humanely raised organic chicken that had been allowed to live totally free range and engage in natural behaviors like insect scavenging and dirt bathing, yada yada yada. I love love love fish, and always have. My body responds really well to it. I’ve eaten fish a good few handfuls of times since making this decision. I’m really looking forward going fresh water fishing once we get up into Norther California and Oregon. My diet hasn’t changed all that much. Mostly what has changed is the way I prepare my grains and legumes, and getting a larger portion of my protein from dairy. I’m not about to start eating meat every day, for every meal, either. My diet is still largely plant based. This journey is about finding balance and harmony with the way I’m living. I’m trying to get away from swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other.
If you have any questions, queries, concerns, or words of encouragement, please feel free to share!