Wednesday, February 03, 2010

an unlikely vegetarian

If you told me last year that I would be giving vegetarianism a shot, I would not have believed you. Yet here I am. This is a long story that I have been reluctant to write about because of the backlash. (Do you get enough protein? Aren't you worried about the dangers of too much soy? How much weight have you lost? (Why haven't you lost more weight?)) But in the end, fear is a crappy excuse. So, I'll write.

It's been a long time coming, that's for sure. I actually bought a book last year - in February, 2009 - about yoga and weight loss. I bought it more for the yoga, but the connection of yoga and body and food was interesting to me and I read the entire book. Then I did some yoga and put it down and that was that.

It was a few months later that I decided that I had enough of feeling yucky. After I had my gall bladder removed when Sam was a baby, my body had trouble digesting certain foods. The trouble was that I really liked eating all of those foods. So I ate them in moderation and put up with feeling bad. After one memorable meal - bbq pork ribs and onion rings - I thought I got food poisoning or the flu. But my friend, who shared the meal with me, was fine, and nobody in my family was sick. I faced the truth of my situation: continue eating this way and feel bad, or change my eating and feel better. I decided I wanted to feel better. I cut out all pork and all fried foods. That was a little difficult, but I told myself that feeling healthy was a better choice, and I took it one day at a time. The first time I made bacon and didn't eat it was hard for me. Then I bought turkey bacon, and Sally begged me to never make her eat it again. So I bought her "real" bacon, and the next time it wasn't very hard to not eat it. Now, I can make it, serve it, and the smell doesn't even make me want to eat it. I've lost the taste for it.

Then, towards the end of summer, one of my friends wanted to try going thirty days without red meat. I said I would do this with her. (At the same time, Sally wanted to go thirty days without soda, and I did that with her. I think the soda may have been harder for me!) Eating no red meat was not bad at all, except hamburgers. I love hamburgers. No, scratch that. I used to love hamburgers. Now, I love feeling healthy and feeling good and I've found a veggie burger that I like to eat. But that was the worst. Everything else wasn't so bad.

After the thirty days, I didn't eat very much red meat. I had some, just not very much. Then I fell off the wagon hard. I had a western bacon cheeseburger. It was yummy, but it gave me such a tummy ache. That's when I knew I was ready to make the commitment. No pork. No beef.

The holidays came and went, and with New Year's Day came new resolutions for the new year. I thought more and more about my diet and my health, and I read some more books. A few days into January, I decided that I would give the No Meat Plan a real shot. I was going to eat vegetarian. All the time. And so I did. The hardest part isn't finding things to eat. I have plenty of things to eat. Fruits, vegetables, soups, salads, cereals, and almost any baked good or dessert. Preparing meat isn't difficult for me either because I live with three people who eat meat. I'm usually in charge of the food. Therefore, I cook meat. Since my reasons for eating vegetarian are not ethical, it's not really an issue for me.

No, the hardest thing by far is other people's response. So much so that I haven't told many people. I told my family, of course. Sally was the most upset - which is funny because she's the only one who had a short stint as a vegetarian. "Mommy! You won't be able to have Thanksgiving with us!" Yes, I told her, I can. I can share the meal and be thankful and pass on the turkey. Everything else we like for Thanksgiving dinner is not made with meat. There will be lots to be thankful for. Sam is only concerned with what I "make" him eat (which is unfounded because I usually always give them a choice when it comes to food). I bought some "chicken" nuggets that are all veggies and soy to try, and when I made Sam some lunch the other day, he asked for chicken nuggets but "only if they have real chicken in them and not just vegetables and stuff." That made me laugh. I told him he can try mine if he wants, but I had the "regular" chicken nuggets for him too.

But mostly, I don't tell people. I just load up on the salad and pass up the meat and nobody notices. I read a book that was really helpful to me called "Living Among Meat Eaters". The part that stuck with me is to be happy that my food choices make me feel healthy and to not be discontent that there are foods that I "can't" eat. Also, to pack snacks and food. Last week, I made lasagna. I made a whole pan of meat lasagna, then a whole pan of veggie lasagna. I even roasted eggplant - a vegetable that I haven't had much success with in the past - and put that in and it was so good. (And I made Kristy's homemade rolls and they were so so good - thanks Kristy!) I packed several containers with the leftovers and put them in the freezer for a quick meal. I've also done a baked potato bar (thanks Steph for the idea) with everything on the side - bacon, cheese, broccoli, veggie chili, sour cream, and some other things. Me and my friends and our kids loved it and everyone ate what they liked. It's taking more planning to eat this way, but everyone gets to choose what to eat and I think that is worth it. I'm even getting my kids to try what I'm eating, and they are surprised that it tastes so good. (duh! I'm still me!)

So, for now, I'm not eating meat. I'm happy with my decision, and I feel really good. I'm getting plenty of protein (beans, nuts, soy milk, and sometimes fake meat) and I take a multivitamin. I also take flax seed oil for the omega-3s. That's my story. Maybe in a few months I'll be able to say that I am a vegetarian. Maybe next year I'll try eating vegan. Maybe I'll add meat back to the table. Who knows? For now, I'm just not eating meat. And taking it one day at a time.

Books that helped me (thanks to Carol for recommending these):
Eat To Live by Joel Fuhrman
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barouin
Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley
Living Among Meat Eaters by Carol J. Adams


Tito J said...

Wow. Has anyone really given you crap about your choice as a competent adult to eat what you feel is best? That would be rude!

Amy said...

Sheila, for years I have been mulling a vegetarian trial period. I know there is a secret veggie in me just dying to get out. Problem areas: Pepperoni pizza and cheeseburgers. Oh, and burritos. Crap. See, it would be really hard. I applaud you for sticking with it and am glad you wrote about it. As a new mommy and recently pregnant lady, I know firsthand what it's like to have everybody all up in your business!

mherzog said...

Here's a good video on the subject:

Sheila said...

Wow - I could only watch a minute of that video before I turned it off - it's very very sad. Thanks for the link, but disclaimer everyone - it's a video that the meat industry does NOT want you to see because you will not want to eat meat ever again.

Amy, there are really great veggie burritos out there, but the cheeseburgers are a problem, I agree. Maybe you should just try it and see how it goes. That's what I did!

Tito J, I know, right? :)

Amber said...

1. I agree with Tito J. Why is it anyone's business WHAT you eat? Would they give you crap for eating junk food (probably). Some people's children! :)
2. Thanks for posting your book reads. My hubby has been considering and threatening to go vegetarian for about 2 years now. I've doubted him because of his Danish background, but I'm sure he would feel better. I like how you cook for everyone else, too, and not try to turn everyone else vegetarian along with you.
3. Good for you for taking care of your body!

Lisa P said...

Sheila, I'm a little slow on the read over here, but this is fun! No gall bladder really ups the stakes (or is it steaks?) =). I have a raw food friend who was telling me about her diet and she gets most of her protein from kale. She eats it raw, of course, but said that even when she had tried it sauteed, it was better chopped in a salad. We're going to try it this next week, but if you're looking for new protein options, there is one!

Sheila said...

Lisa, I sometimes put kale in my salad too. I made kale soup but it wasn't my favorite. I'm trying a sweet potato/carrot/lentil soup next - if it's good, I'll post the recipe for you :)