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Dietary Labels and Why I’ve Decided to Start Eating Meat

Posted Feb 06 2013 6:27am

I want to start this post off saying that diets are extremely individual. While there are definitely healthy and unhealthy diets, both types include a lot of variety and the diet that makes me feel like a rock star may make the next person feel like crap.

I’ve never formally published why I stopped eating meat (besides fish) and that’s because I didn’t really have a “good” reason. I went to college a little sick of chicken and turkey and didn’t find many appealing options at the campus dining hall causing my meat consumption to drop drastically. My willingness to cook meat was also nonexistent so when I moved into my first college house and had access to a kitchen, the only meat I was eating was when I went out to eat or went home to visit family. By the time I was a senior, I was starting to have horrible stomachaches and I thought they might be related to digesting meat so I cut meat out of my diet entirely. I did feel better but my stomachaches didn’t entirely go away.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll remember that last May I finally went to get tested for food allergies and my results indicated that I was allergic to a few common allergens . I cut out the problematic foods and my stomachaches all but went away. I felt (and still do feel) better than I have in years. However, some of my blood work came back strange. Various levels of my red blood cells indicated that I needed more animal protein in my diet (*Note this was my doctor’s interpretation of the results. I’m sure there are people who can live healthy while not eating meat but my lab results were not indicating that I was). I was told to increase my fish consumption and start taking a supplement. We had plans to follow up on my blood work to see if there was an improvement.

Months passed and I went back to have my lab work done. I had consistently taken my supplement but had been unable to increase my fish consumption too much because I started to have weird side effects whenever I ate a lot of seafood. When I got my blood work back both my doctor and I were disappointed to see only a slight improvement in my red blood cell levels. I was told to continue doing what I was doing and that we would check on things again in a few months. This is when I first started to wonder if I should be eating meat.

I wasn’t comfortable with the idea for a long time. I would try a bite of meat and then have to spit it out because I couldn’t stomach the taste or texture. Then all of a sudden around Thanksgiving, I started to crave meat, something that had never happened in my 2+ years of vegetarianism. Could it be that marathon training was really wearing me down and my body needed more protein? Possibly, but I’ve trained for marathons without eating meat before. Could it be that my mom made the best looking turkey this year (she hasn’t made one the past two years)? Maybe, but I doubt it. Is there a chance that it’s related to my already limited diet? I’m going to say most likely.

Even with craving meat it took me a few more months to start eating it consistently. Sure I took a couple of bites of turkey over Thanksgiving and had a few more bites of the leftovers my mom sent for Ian but I wasn’t ordering it in restaurants or cooking it at home until I went to Florida for the Goofy Challenge.

As you may remember, I was lucky enough to get slammed with a stomach bug/food poisoning the week before we left and I had a hard time keeping food down. I was scared to eat too much before getting on the plane because I didn’t want to get sick in the air and by the time we landed at 2 pm, I was about to eat my arm. Ian and I stopped at the first Au Bon Pain in sight and I ordered a salad with chicken on top because it was the only meal on the menu that didn’t contain gluten, dairy, or eggs. Guess what? I ate it and felt fine.

Eating in Florida continued to be difficult for me and as I was concerned about eating enough to fuel me through two races after being sick, I ended up eating a lot of chicken over the weekend. Of note, while I was in Florida I felt strong, more satisfied, and I craved sweets less. I also had very little belly pain.

magickingdom

I didn’t want to make a big deal about eating meat right away because I knew adding a label to the “new” way I was eating might scare me or make me feel guilty (which I already did…) and I really wanted to listen to my body and follow it’s cravings. I couldn’t get over how much stronger I felt eating meat in Florida though so when Ian and I got back to Chicago and did our weekly grocery shopping, I picked up some pre-grilled chicken strips and some chicken sausage from TJs for us to share. Since then, most of my meals have been vegetarian but I’ve been including chicken or turkey in one meal every 1-2 days and I’m still feeling really good. Surprisingly, it’s been a confusing transition (my head is all over the place) but I know that for me, eating meat is a healthy choice, even if it is just temporary.

What I’ve learned from this experience is that dietary choices can be transitory. I’m hesitant to label myself as a meat-eater because I have no idea how long this will last. I’m obviously not eating a vegetarian diet anymore but the majority of my meals are still plant-based. I could follow in the footsteps of this lady and consider myself an everythingtarian (well everything but wheat, dairy, eggs, coconut, and some soy products ;) ) but I think I’m going to stay away from labels for awhile and continue eating foods that satisfy me and make me feel good.

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I really hope that I didn’t offend anyone with this post. I know that talking about diets can be tricky and very personal. If I said anything that upsets you or makes you go “huh?” please leave me a comment or send me an e-mail so we can straighten things out. I do know that I feel better having posted this. Even though I haven’t been sharing a lot of my meals lately, I weirdly felt like I was keeping a secret from you guys and now that it’s out in the open, I can go on with my day guilt free.

P.S. To add some humor to this post, I really struggled coming up with a title. Two suggestions I received from friends were “Meat Treats” and “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?… To Get in My Stomach!”

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