Image via @lucyactivewear
Two years ago I hopped on the bandwagon with everyone else and tried Whole30 (if you’re not familiar, Whole30 is a strict 30-day paleo diet ie. meat and vegetables). Although I slept better than I ever have in my adult life, which I attribute to the lack of sugar, overall my body did not respond well. I had energy and I felt strong in my workouts, but I didn’t like the food I was eating, I was never satisfied after a meal, and I may or may not have had several breakdowns in the grocery store. It became very clear, that as much as I wanted it to be, paleo wasn’t for me.
Since then, I’ve been curious about how my body would respond to not eating meat at all. This past summer, I made it a priority. I decided to do a 30-day meatless challenge. Six months later, I’m still going strong, and I don’t know that I will ever go back. Here are the unexpected things that have changed for me since I stopped eating meat.
Quick disclaimer: This is what I have found to work for me. I am not judging you if you choose to eat differently, this is America (or Canada or somewhere else, regardless)- we all get to do what we want. I do eat fish, but not more than once or twice a week. I am not simply a carb-etarian, I make sure I get enough protein and that my meals are balanced- you can’t just quit meat and eat pizza 3 times a day, sorry! These are all important things to consider when making a diet change.
I enjoy food more.
Shocking truth: I never really liked meat. I always knew I didn’t love it, for example- I very rarely ever ordered meat out a restaurant, but I never realized what a pleasant change it would be to eliminate it. I feel like now I get to eat all the best parts of the meal- (most of) the appetizers, the salad, the starch, the veggie, and dessert! I just skip the big, calorie-dense, chunk of meat.
I still don’t like the V-word.
I don’t really like labels in general- gay, straight, hipster, vegetarian (shudder). I feel like as soon as you assign a label to something, other people start getting all judgmental. I’ve found that people are much more receptive to “no thank you, I don’t eat meat,” than “I’m a vegetarian (though technically, I guess I’m a pescatarian since I eat fish).” I feel like using the v-word puts me in a box. I automatically become exactly what that person thinks of as a stereotypical vegetarian, and I don’t like that. Again, this is just my experience, if you like to label yourself, I totally support that, I just prefer to not be defined by what I choose to not eat.
My stomach started hurting less.
I’m one of those people that is always saying “my stomach hurts.” This varies from feeling bloated and looking pregnant, to sharp stabbing pains that prevent me from standing up straight. I know, I should probably get that checked out. Anyway, I’ve recognized what seems to trigger this for the most part- tomato sauce, cream cheese, all the fun things in life- all things I still eat. But since I’ve stopped eating meat, the number of times I complain about these things has drastically decreased. It still happens, but far less.
I started caring more about animal rights.
The summer I quit eating meat, I also got a dog, so I can’t be 100% sure which one of those things made me start caring more about animals, but suddenly, I feel differently about things with faces. I did not stop eating meat for animal rights or political reasons, but now that I am more aware of those issues, I am proud that my food choices play a tiny part in saving the animals and the planet.
I’ve gotten really good about taking vitamins.
Quitting meat didn’t change my diet that much so when I started feeling tired and achy, I assumed I was coming down with something. Several weeks in, a dietician friend got word that I stopped eating meat and started drilling me about how I was feeling. She asked me a bunch of questions and determined I was probably iron deficient. I started taking a multivitamin with iron the next week, and haven’t felt like that again- except for the time I went on vacation and forgot my vitamins.
I became less judgmental about other people’s food choices.
Though I’ve always been a “healthy eater” and my lunch choices have been scoffed at for years, I only have experienced true disgust for my eating habits since I’ve stopped eating meat. I now understand what it feels like to be judged and criticized for something that really doesn’t matter to anyone but me. I will never again say “ew” when someone tells me they ate lunch off the dollar menu. Everyone gets to do whatever the hell they want- I choose to embrace it.
Could you live without eating meat? What is something silly that you are judged unfairly for?
Leave a comment or come tell me on Twitter, just please don’t harass me about my food choices!