So let’s just drop the bomb, get it over with, and worry about the back story later.
Pick up your jaws.
Got ‘em yet?
Now let me answer the 1756 questions you might have.
A) I am 90% sure that my stomach problems are related to eating an awful lot of dairy, specifically cottage cheese, which leads me to believe I may have issues digesting casein. I have spent the last few weeks researching casein, and sure enough, most of my stomach problems are textbook casein issues — slow digestion, slow motility, bloating, etc. I am not having “allergic” reactions to dairy, as in no rash, eczema, asthma, etc. And I don’t believe this is lactose intolerance because the symptoms just don’t match. Casein intolerance seems likely.
B) I already cannot eat soy. Soy, in most forms, gives me instant stomach problems. As soon as I gave up tofu last year, I saw great improvements in the digestive issues I was suffering. They never fully dissipated (perhaps because of the cottage cheese in my diet), but eating even a small bit of soy — like vegetables roasted in soybean oil — reminds me within an hour of why I gave it up. I therefore cannot replace cottage cheese with soy protein.
C) I already eat eggs and egg whites 2-3 times a day. I love eggs and egg whites, but I remember the day I prepped for my SIBO test last fall. I ate eggs 6 times that day. Who the eff wants to do that all the time?
D) I have spent the last few weeks not only researching casein issues but researching seafood as a protein source as well. I have been looking at mercury-content lists. I’ve been to the Wegmans website many times searching for wild-caught, low-fat options. There was even a morning a few weeks ago where I went into the store to buy greek yogurt and found myself on the tuna fish aisle for a good 12-15 minutes. I read every single can and package label on that aisle.
(Did you know, for example, that some of those foil-packed tunas are doused in vegetable broth made from soy? Read the labels carefully if you’re avoiding soy as I am.)
So I have done my homework.
I had a small piece of Pacific cod for dinner last night.
It was relatively good — I was a little surprised, to be honest, that it wasn’t “fishy” as I seem to recall seafood being when I was a kid. I drizzled some mushroom & sage olive oil over it, seasoned it with Mrs. Dash’s Onion & Herb blend, baked it for 20 minutes, and topped it with salsa.
And even though I forgot that fish shrinks when it cooks and was therefore worried that a mere 4 ounces wouldn’t keep me full for long, I wound up feeling more satiated than I would have had I eaten egg whites instead.
Today I will be having tuna at lunch and cod once again for dinner. And tomorrow, who knows? I am fairly sure that halibut will be my next option since it is ultra low in mercury and pretty sustainable.
I don’t know yet.
My goal right now is to simply cut cottage cheese back as much as possible (today I won’t eat it at all) and to limit greek yogurt and whey to one serving each per day if possible.
Once I see how that goes, I will reassess.
My honest guess, however, is that I may end up trying other animal protein again at some point. It won’t be tomorrow, and it may not be next week, but I’m not going to lie and say that seafood is the end of this for me if I don’t really know that for sure.
It is a myth that we lose the ability to digest animal protein when we become vegetarian or vegan. Besides, I have been eating animal protein in the form of eggs and dairy all along.
Some people who make the transition might feel a little stomach discomfort at first, especially if, like me, they have been vegan or vegetarian for more than a little while.
Until yesterday, it had been at least 14 years since I’ve eaten seafood. Maybe longer since it wasn’t part of my regular diet even when I did eat meat.
But after dinner last night, I had a little stomach tightness — for lack of a better word — and within about an hour, I felt fine.
And today, I feel even better.
It isn’t just because of one seafood meal that I feel great; I started cutting cottage cheese back to one serving a day a few days ago. By this morning, much of my bloating had gone away. My stomach in general feels good — it’s not full, heavy or thick-feeling all the time like it was just last week. My obliques are even back again — I hadn’t seen them in a while. And this is not a question of having lost fat, either; my calorie and macro intake is the same. It’s just that my protein sources are changing.
The only person whose opinion I considered in this process was David’s. I was, to be blunt, kind of worried that he wouldn’t like me anymore if I wasn’t still vegetarian.
We talked this weekend, however, and he’s been more than supportive. This is not a decision *he* would’ve made, but he recognizes that a) I was never vegetarian for ethical reasons in the first place, and b) we already use animal products and I can make this food transition in responsible ways.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was to know he was OK with this.
But aside from David, no one else’s opinion is relevant in this decision. This is a question of my health, my quality of life, and my individual volition. Nothing else.
I did consider waiting to write about this on this blog, but this morning, as I was flying through 4:1 stepper intervals and feeling pretty awesome about my decision, I realized there was no reason to wait with this post. This is a transition I’d like to document for my readers anyway, and I have never been anything but truthful about my experiences on this site so far.
I am also interested to track any changes in my quality of workouts now that this is happening.
This morning, for example, I had a little shoulder breakthrough.
On chest presses, I normally need a spotter to help me hoist up any dumbbells over 22.5# on my left side.
Today, my left shoulder hoisted 25# on its own. Twice.
My trainer jokingly told me that it was the cod. He added that, should I go eat a steak, I might be hoisting the 80#s soon.
That’s not going to be the case, but what if there is a correlation between protein sources and workout performance?
I wouldn’t be able to track that kind of possibility if I wasn’t upfront on this blog about my diet.
Any more questions?
I would be happy to answer ANYTHING you want to know about this, especially if you are one of my vegetarian readers or if you happen to be suffering with similar digestion issues.
And suggestions for good wild-caught, sustainable seafood options are well-appreciated!