Becoming a vegetarian was a big step for me. I had grown up on meat and for someone to tell me that meat was bad was like finding out I was hatched, not born. Not possible.
I read some philosophies about animal products, animal factories, unclean food supplies, animal stress, the amounts of land required to raise the animals and the drugs used or given to the animals so they can produce more food or heavier meats. These same drugs make their way into us, as does the stress the animal goes through. It can be a very unpleasant experience for the animal simply to put some meat on our table.
I took it in stride and from what I learned, decided to give it a go. I was told that I was still going to be able to live a normal life while not eating meat and a much higher quality life at that!
Vegetarianism taught me very valuable lessons about health, about choices and about really doing whatever it takes to nourish ones body. I found that in my city, it was much simpler to make choices and have access to some options, but in my home town – nope. Some times my choices for meals were nothing more than baked potatoes, toast and oatmeal.
Do I recommend vegetarianism today? Not necessarily. I believe that to be a personal choice and that it can be done in serious health conditions to aid the body in recovery. Do we need meat to live. Not sure about that one either. I’ve lived both sides of that coin and have fared well. If I ever was to be in a serious health crisis, I’d drop meat in an instant.
I remained vegetarian for 12 years of which 2 where completely vegan (no egg, no dairy). Most of the 12 years were vegan with the exception of times I’d have bread with some dairy in it, or the very odd pizza which had cheese. For any vegans in the world, being strict is what it’s all about, so, I was a very strict vegetarian with many long bouts of veganism mixed in between.
A Return To Animal Protein
Although I have gone back to eating meat, I am so totally respectful of what the animal has provided for me and I eat only the cleanest possible meats I can find. My food intake on a weekly basis is about 80% vegetarian and 20% meat. I’ll eat 5 to 7 days of vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds and then have a few meals of animal protein. I won’t think twice about going a month eating a 100% plant based diet, however, I eat eggs almost every day.
[Update May 2011: while I did practice a restricted animal protein food cycle for a good period of time while I was writing this, in re-reading it I feel the need to point out that my diet is now based around animal protein, whey protein, nuts and seeds. Each meal has some sort of animal protein component, then with lots of veggies of course.]
Clean – Free Range Meat
When I eat meat, I eat only free range chicken, bison and eggs when I can mixed with wild fish, nothing farm raised. Wasting of any meats is such a disrespectful act to a being that was raised and then died to be thrown away without a thought. As for the term “free range”, I know… the law does not really regulate farms that allow them to say this and the animals can be kept in quite terrible conditions, and be able to say they’re free range. I buy from local farms, from my local farmers market, from farmers where I’ve seen the conditions myself or know someone who’s been to the farm. It’s that important to me to know I’m supporting farms that are trying to make a difference. For more information on natural grass fed animals visit EatWild.com
I learned so much about health and nutrition from my vegetarian ways. I learned about various types of grains and the history of ancient people and what they did and overcame to keep growing their grains to feed their people. A little intrinsic, I know, but there’s so much history to the simple grain Amaranth. Bet you never even heard of it.
It was somewhere here that I began to learn about other food philosophies and began to put them into practice.
I still say that the near perfect diet is one designed by a vegetarian or vegan and then just add pasture raised chicken or beef to it.