Food

6 Things that Happened when I Stopped Eating Meat

Six months later, I'm still going strong, and I don't know that I will ever go back.

6 Things that Happened when I Stopped Eating Meat

 

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!

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I'm an internet marketer by day, blogger and bad ass by night. Erin Cusack Blog is where you will find my ramblings and unsolicited advice on everything from enhancing your career, to starting a blog, to finding your bliss. I love trying new things and figuring them out as I go- and then telling everyone else how to do them faster and better. You can also find me on Twitter, where I share my thoughts on the daily struggles of adulting. Instagram Pinterest SnapChat: erinc415

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  • If I’m talking about it in person, I do tend to just say that I don’t eat meat. I’ve also found that as soon as the word vegetarian appears, so does a lot of judgement. I’ve definitely started to enjoy food more though since getting rid of meat!

    • Glad you’re enjoying it, too!

  • Sorry to say it but I don’t think I could ever give it up, not entirely. I am trying to have more meat free meals though, partly to force myself into creativity, partly because it’s healthy and partly because it’s more environmentally friendly. I’m glad to hear that it’s working so well for you!
    http://inbeckyshead.wordpress.com

    • I don’t encourage anyone to give up meat entirely unless they want to. I think it’s great that you’re considering eating less of it though!

  • I’ve been wanting to stop eating meat for a while now. It’s all because I hate the idea of animals suffering, why should we eat them? It’s not okay. On the other hand my whole family is so used to eating meat that it’s been so hard to stop consuming it. I hope one day I can finally give it up.
    xx
    Ana
    Indie Suns | Bloglovin’ | Instagram

    • Yes, it can be difficult when you are accustomed to eating with family- but you could definitely start eliminating when you’re not around them? It’s always easier to start with small steps anyway!

  • I’m really glad that you’re going strong while being meat-free (I know, I sound just like a stereotypical vegetarian – but I cook meat for my partner most days, so I’m not so stereotypical really, :P). I grew up not liking meat either, and it was hard for my mum to get me to eat anything other than chicken wings. So when I became vegetarian, it was easier to get people to stop forcing me to eat meat, especially my Wog family. Nonetheless, it was super easy to give it up though I get cravings every once in a blue moon. My iron fluctuates, though it’s gone up now despite my forgetfulness with taking iron supplements. The only thing that’s down is my B12, so I’ve been trying to eat eggs everyday to get it back up.

    Stephanie
    The Thrifty Vegetarian

    • I still cook meat too- but it’s starting to get harder!! Haha! I crave a burger when there is one in front of me (shhh, don’t tell anyone).

  • the hardest part for me is letting go of chicken. I’ve never liked seafood and I rarely eat beef, unless I’m grabbing a burger somewhere. but i could 100% do without. I just struggle letting go of chicken.
    thanks for this post! maybe I’ll put myself on a 30 day challenge or something to see if I can go full V 😉

    • You could always cut red meat and stick with chicken and see how that goes. I think if you’re going to eat meat, chicken is the best thing you could be eating. I did struggle with chicken as well though, my dad works for a chicken company, so I’ve always gotten deeply discounted chicken and ate a lot of it.

      • Wow, could I use the word chicken in that comment any more times! haha

  • RealBeauty4RealWomen

    I was getting those stabbing pains in my stomach too. My doctor tested me for food allergies and it turns out that I am allergic to a lot of foods: Shellfish, beef, pork, eggs, and milk to name a few. I’ve cut those things out of my diet and my tummy feels much better!

    • That’s great that you’re feeling better but totally sucks you have to cut out all those foods (I would die of sadness without eggs)!

  • It’s so cool that cutting out meat has made such a positive impact on your life. I’ve been a vegetarian (I hate that label too!) for 9 years now and it’s one of the best things I’ve done. I can definitely relate to a lot of these!
    Steph x.
    marvelsteph.blogspot.co.nz

    • Whoo hoo, good for you!

  • Hi Erin,
    Thanks for this post. I have just recently stopped eating meat, but i am finding it hard to make the right food choices and end up eating more (crap mainly).. I am still adjusting and learning new things, do you have any websites/info or tips that you can recommend to help make the right choices on what to eat and how to make sure you are getting all the right nutrients? Thank you!

    xo Marie
    http://www.mariestateofmind.com

    • Good question! I mainly substitute meat with things like beans, eggs, mushrooms, and veggie burgers. So for example when the BF wants chicken parm, I make it as normal and just use portobello mushrooms for myself and bake in a separate pan. The No Meat Athlete has some great ideas as well (he believes in one salad and one smoothie a day to get nutrients). Focus on fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and whole grain carbs. I heard once that rice and beans (plus veggies) is the ideal meal for vegetarians because it is a perfect balance of protein, carbs, and fat. Hope this helps!

      • Thank you so much for your help! I will definitely go check out the No Meat Athlete.

        xo Marie

  • Camesha

    Oh my goodness! I needed to read this today. I am on the same journey. I have cut out all meat except fish as well.

    What got me most about your post is the description of the sharp pain in your stomach where you can’t stand up. That’s totally me. My doctor can’t figure out what it is. Very comforting, I know. Here’s hoping my new diet will have the same effect as yours and the pains will go away. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • I love this so much and am so glad I stumbled upon it. I did a 30 day no-meat challenge and I’m here in month two with no real sign of going back. I think my favorite point is not liking labels!