• Wed, Aug 15 2012

Confession: Sometimes, I Think I Should Start Eating Meat Again

Lisa knows what I'm going through.

It has been ten years since I last ate red meat, and seven years since I stopped eating all meat. But there are still times when I wrestle with the decision. Sometimes, in my busy, not-good-at-cooking, perpetually-eating-in-restaurants life, I ask myself an uncomfortable, politically incorrect, positive-to-infuriate question: Should I start eating meat again?

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t eat meat. But there are also a lot of reasons that make me consider changing my mind.

At this point, I’m pretty thoroughly squicked out by the thought of eating animals. I don’t think I’d like the taste, and there’s a good chance that my body would have a hard time with meat at first. I’m also exceedingly repulsed by the idea that I would be consuming something that I, myself, could never bring myself to harm or kill. I don’t like our country’s relationship with the meat we eat–stuck to those Styrofoam trays, all cleaned up and removed from any and all semblance of life. I don’t like what meat consumption means for the environment. The only part I like about the meat industry is that it creates jobs and sustains rural areas where other work is hard to come by.

But then there are those times when, because I’m really (and I can admit this) not very good at, nor do I enjoy, cooking, that I live on fake meats which I know are bad for me and bad for the planet. Because a vegetarian diet done right is super-healthy…but done wrong? It’s less so. Full of sodium, probably poisonous flavors, GMO soy and corn and other crap, my on-the-go protein substitutes and restaurant choices are no better than meat…except that nothing (aside from the soil and possibly the laborers and maybe myself) was harmed in the making.

Did you know that every salad at Applebee's contains meat?

There are also those times when, in a restaurant, the only non-meat, non-dairy (because I’m also not a huge fan of dairy) item on the menu is something highly unhealthy. These times are getting more and more frequent; artisan meat and the “meat hipster” reign supreme in the culinary world. As pork belly becomes a menu staple, I find myself more and more often faced with a $10 salad with little more than iceberg letture. Or the obligatory soy-filled Gardenburger on a nutritionally-devoid white-bread bun. Or fries, which are usually vegan. And I know many vegans who subsist on not much more than fries.

At those times, the chopped chicken salad with walnuts and apples just looks so much…better. And worth the money. And more complete. But would it really be? And, moreover, would I be able to stick with the “rules” that I would surely have to set out for myself?

I tell myself that it would be OK if I only ate only modest amounts of sustainable, humanely-slaughtered, non-red meat. $25-per-pound hormone-free turkey? Sure, maybe I could manage that. It would probably be healthier than consuming the piles of highly-processed Tofurky that I devour when I haven’t had enough time to spend an hour boiling a pot of seitan, right? Except the chances that I’d be able to hold my ground on that seems unlikely.

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  • Erynn

    Well my first piece of advice is, don’t eat at Applebees, because as a non-vegetarian who recently went there for the first time in years (long enough to forget how truly terrible it is) I can tell you that eating meat doesn’t help much in a place like that (although I’m positive they’d be willing to make your salad without chicken if you requested it.)

    The fact is it’s a pain in the ass to have ANY dietary restrictions and attempt to eat anything other than your own cooking. Right now there are more options for vegetarians than there have ever been, really, in America, and it’s still pretty skimpy. Learning to cook a bit helps (and is healthier for anyone, veg or not) and usually in restaurants they’re willing to make substitutions if need be. I don’t think there’s any reason you or anyone should have to feel pressured to eat things you/they don’t want to eat but unfortunately sometimes it requires a little more effort to get the right nutrition.

  • Angela

    This was a great article – thanks for writing it! I can relate to many of your struggles and I appreciate someone coming out and admitting it. It’s hard to follow certain diets and I do hope that it becomes easier over time.

  • Erica

    As a vegetarian for over 5 years now I can empathize with everything you talked about here. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever ‘go back’, especially when I get really tired of choosing between a house salad or a giant plate of pasta every time I go out to eat!
    http://www.EricaDHouse.com

  • Scarlett

    I was in a relationship with a super abusive, & controlling man. He wouldn’t let me take a nap without his permission. I’ve had to see a therapist about all the stuff he did to me. But among his many wishes of me, he wanted me to give him a child. (Thank God I didn’t) Anyhow, he was convinced that my body would be better prepared for the act of childbirth if I ate meat. And he never accepted NO for an answer… So….Yeah. There ya go. The reason I gave up on being a Vegetarian.

  • travis

    I was vegan for 3 years. Had some health issues with my gut, in particular. Poor absorption of nutrients and leaky gut can lead to lots of nutrient deficiency and inflammation, and being a vegetarian/vegan won’t help that much, other than reduce inflammation a bit, initially. Heal your gut and you will heal. I began eating a little grass fed, organic red meat from a farmer medicinally, and the protein will heal your body, no joke. I instantly started sleeping great, getting sleepy at night, waking up refreshed, hormones started working again, muscles looked full. That said, I haven’t eaten meat since the 2 weeks of medicinal red meat eating, but I might occasionally do it once a month. Very uncomfortable subject once you’ve made up your mind about being a vegan, but I did it because I had no other options, and I don’t regret it. Challenge your beliefs, especially if they’re the right ones.

  • Vegannyc

    I have been vegan for 17 years, and it’s very different now from when I first started. You can boycott factory farming and still eat meat and dairy, something that was impossible when I began. So I have had this debate many times. My allergies are way worse when I eat dairy so that is out, and environmentally I just can’t get behind meat. I totally understand the busy life style, I live in NYC, but cooking changes your life as vegan/vegetarian. It just takes more planning. I have a tendency to cook alot on the week-ends and freeze, so that during chaotic work days, I have some emergency things to take to lunches. The options where I work basically consist of iceberg lettuce salad and occasionally one of those Sabra-to-go things, which isn’t too bad, but it’s alot of packaging, so that has encouraged me to bring my lunch. It can totally seem over-whelming, but it’s worth the planning, you will eat better, for way cheaper, and more sustainably.

  • Lindsay

    The key is to eat CLEAN. The less processed, packaged or “messed with,” the better. I rarely eat meat, but if I do, I know exactly what ranch it came from and what food it ate – and know its food was what it’s body was intended to eat. I agree with the other comments that you have to commit to cooking meals yourself. It’s going back to the simpler times when people ate what grew in their communities. Farmer’s markets, CSAs and grocery stores that support local produce need to be supported. Not only does it help local farmers, but you get organic, seasonal, fresh produce that you just can’t find in most restaurants or grocery stores. For more info, see http://www.eatingtolivewell.blogspot.com

  • Kaila

    I was a vegan up until a few months ago, when I tried red meat for the first time in 12 years. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to touch meat again EVER, but the effects that being a vegan was having on my body, coupled with the inaccessibility of good, clean food in the world outside of my kitchen, made it necessary.

    It came to a head when I took a trip to Florida with my family. Besides the fact that I was bloated and covered in chronic acne, I was barely able to eat anything the entire trip. I subsisted on meal replacement powder and apples. At one restaurant, the only thing on the menu was a white bean dip appetizer meant to be shared. I was so hungry I ate the whole thing as a main course, and the waitress came up to me after, raised her eyebrow, and asked, “Well, you were hungry, weren’t you?” in the snidest tone I have ever heard.

    So that decided it for me. It wasn’t worth spending my life miserable for a few purported health benefits (which I wasn’t getting). Since I’ve been eating meat (and, yes, I do organic, grass-fed whenever possible, but I’ve found places to buy my vegetables at good prices, and I’m not eating any processed grocery store items, so it balances out), my skin has cleared up, I lost the bloat, and I do feel healthier and more balanced.

    It was a tough decision, but it’s one that has actually helped me improve my relationship with food. I’ve been blogging about it here: inmyskinnygenes.wordpress.com, if anyone’s interested in reading more!

    Thank you for your article–I know how hard it is to balance ethics, economy, and health, but at the end of the day, this is the only life you’re living and the only body you’re going to live it in. At some point, you have to be able to prioritize you.

  • Patrick

    If you’re honest with yourself, then you’ll come to the conclusion that you’re tempted to enjoy the same food that your friends, family or co-workers eat in restaurants, solely for taste. I know, I’ve been tempted and tried to fool myself into thinking that it may be healthier. It won’t, especially in restaurants! But there is absolutely no benefit to eating meat, not even the grassfed scam.

    Fish is the only meat (and probably only Alaskan Salmon) that will provide any health benefits. Again, it’s about discipline, and it’s not easy. Learn to prepare simple dishes to pack, then train your body to consume less calories (200-300 per meal). Good luck.