After 7 Years of Being Vegetarian, I Chose to Eat Meat- A Holistic Nutritionist’s Experience & Perspective
This is my personal story of why I choose to eat meat, after 7 years of being vegetarian.
Before I begin, I want you, the reader to know why I feel compelled to write this piece. Chances are if you are reading this you are, have been, or maybe are interested in going vegan/vegetarian, the intention of this article is not to turn you away from that path. Rather this article is written to highlight some of the gray areas that often fall under the radar when it comes to choosing different paths of health.
At the end of the day, there is no one diet fits all approach. My model and practice as a Holistic Nutritionist are rooted in the very concept of bio-individuality. Every person is unique, and what serves one person's body will be different from what serves the other. I do believe you CAN be vegan/vegetarian and healthy for years. I do, however, also believe that sometimes we are not always provided with all the information when it comes to diet and what is really at the root of health, and through this, we can end up denying ourselves the essence of what it is we truly need.
I invite you to listen with an open mind. Maybe you can see yourself in my story, and if so, hopefully, you'll listen to your body sooner than I chose to listen to mine.
Why did I decide to go vegetarian in the first place?
I was a ‘vegetarian' for almost 7 years. Occasionally I'd have fish, but as far as meat went, nada.
In 2011, a series of events led me into a slight depression and deep contemplation of who I was and the direction my life was headed. This propelled me to make major life changes which led me into the world of nutrition which is when I began studying it in college. It didn't take long before I discovered the underground workings of the FDA, USDA and meat and dairy industry. Soon thereafter, I learned about the horrendous process of the American meat industry and that alone spoiled my appetite for meat.
(There is a TON of information on this but as it's government related you have to really research in order to dig it up. The point of this article is not to talk about politics. In short, these industries are heavily lobbied and subsidized. Many of the top executives of these industries as well as Monsanto and other big corporations have also been chairmen and important members who sit on the board for the FDA & USDA.)
At the time, I was slightly overweight. I had recently graduated high school and still thought I had the fabulous metabolism you have when you are in high school; boy was I WRONG!
It took a while, but eventually, I realized that I couldn't smoke weed and eat cakes at midnight and not be affected. So, like most things I do, when I make a change I go hard and at that time in my life, it meant saying goodbye to meat.
A lifestyle change
When I look back on this now, I can easily say this was one of the best decisions I could have made. Not only did the meat go, but so did the alcohol, the weed and coincidently (or not) this is when the incredible practice of yoga took a hold in my life. Needless to say, with all these drastic changes the weight went in no time.
Fast forward 6, almost 7 years later and many things have changed.
I continued to study nutrition and as my knowledge of being vegetarian expanded so did my ability to see beyond the label that for years I had so closely identified with.
(Something I've noticed is that as much as we don't want to admit it, as a society we tend to LOVE labels! Feeling connected and the desire to belong is part of human nature; when there is a shared commonality many times we grab onto it and hold on tight– this was me with my identification as a yogi and inevitably vegetarianism.)
As much as I would have loved to stay vegetarian, (because to be quite honest it's easy, cheap and I just love vegetables) my body began to speak a different truth. Let me be clear here since nutrition was what I had been studying in college I was a conscious consumer; meaning I didn't just eat anything that was labeled vegetarian or vegan. I was mindful of protein combining, supplemented when needed and didn't eat the junk that can be abundant in this niché.
My body's cry for help!
Maybe it was a coincidence (doubt it), but I was right in the middle of my schooling to become a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and I started developing food allergies. The symptom first appeared with my skin which was something I have never struggled with before; needless to say, it had a huge effect on my confidence. I began to cut out all things that I thought could possibly be causing it.
The food top allergens are:
I was determined to find the cure and the cause so I said goodbye to the top 5. My skin got better, but this wasn't the end of my skin's story, low and behold about a year later it came back. At that point in time, I was fed up. I could have just settled for the old “oh it must just be hormone changes,” but because I knew that what we eat LARGELY affects our hormones I was determined not to give up (for a great article on hormones click here.) The second time this reared it's ugly head, I had been pretty much gluten, dairy, and nut free for the better part of a year and soy and eggs were also very limited in my diet.
Stress, in combination with my ONE ‘relapse' of gluten and dairy basically put me over the edge and my body said no more! I developed a skin problem which lasted for nearly 4 months (peri-oral dermatitis– for those who are interested, comment below and I will write another blog on how I healed this problem without the use of antibiotics.)
So what does this have to do with eating meat?
It has to do with the fact that my skin was a direct reflection of what was happening inside my body, more or less inside my gut! I developed a condition commonly referred to as leaky gut (or intestinal gut permeability) and the only way to heal this was by giving my body the nutrients it had been missing, evidently for quite some time.
The most common missing nutrients in the vegetarian diet
There are several nutrients that are KNOWN to be deficient in the vegetarian/vegan diet. These include but are not limited to:
B vitamins; mainly B12, B6 & folate (click here & here for more information on the dangers of B12 deficiency)
Iron- (yes I was anemic for years but felt it wasn't affecting me that bad so didn't bother to do more about it)
Zinc– (key mineral involved with healthy skin)
And most importantly in my case these specific amino acids:
Glycine, Glutamine, Proline, Collagen, and Arginine
All of which are very important in our body's ability to build and maintain a healthy gut lining. Your gut is the key to your body's ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients. Therefore, gut health plays a pivotal role in your body's overall ability to function.
Interestingly enough, even meat eaters can have a deficiency in these specific amino acids as today we consume mostly muscle meats which is high in methionine and consume fewer organ meats, tendons and parts of the animals that are high in amino acids such as collagen, glutamine, and glycine.
Let me highlight that the problem isn't the vegetarian/vegan diet in and of itself; it can be and is often far more healthy than the typical Standard American Diet commonly referred to as S.A.D. The thing is, you can eat the healthiest diet in the world, but if you are unable to disgest and assimilate the nutrients from that food, you will develop nutrient deficiencies. It is common in the vegetarian/vegan diet for the HCL to decrease which puts strain on the rest of the digestive system. If this prolongs for a long period of time you can develop anything from; food allergies, bloating, gas, skin issues, hormonal issues etc. (Impaired digestion does NOT just come from vegetarian/veganism, there are many factors that can come into play this is just one of them.)
My healing process
I was desperate. I tried doing everything to stick to the nearly vegetarian way (I was eating more fish especially sardines for the high omega 3 content), my symptoms got better but still after 2 months nothing had cleared.
I began extensively researching leaky gut and started following functional medicine doctors (who almost ALL recommend more of a paleo based diet when it comes to healing anything from autoimmune diseases, to skin, to neurological disorders). I began an extensive cleanse focusing on the elimination of parasites/microorganisms and heavy metals. Eventually implemented a diet that was constructed around increasing the power of my digestion and used the best foods to help heal leaky gut.
The top foods to heal leaky gut:
Goats Milk Kiefer
Foods high in Omega 3's such as; sardines, salmon, flax & chia.
Today, I eat intentionally and I EAT FOR HEALTH.
At the end of the day, I believe that a being too extreme in any one way is a sure way to through anything off balance. Although I don't eat a lot of it, I now consciously choose to consume meat.
In the beginning, I thought this would be quite a huge shock to my system after not eating meat for nearly 7 years. I was told that I would probably get sick, feel terrible and much more. Truth is, none of that happened.
The only thing that happened was that I became super full off a small portion and that fullness lasted for quite some time [you can call me a cheap date ;)].
I won't eat meat always, and when I do I will choose to eat meat that is processed in the best way, avoiding conventionally processed and of course packaged meats.
Anybody who has dabbled in nutrition knows that it's a complex matter. There are so many variables that weigh into everyone's health, it's nearly impossible to know exactly why things happen the way they do.
I write this to share my personal experience of being a vegetarian for years and why for nutritional reasons I chose (or rather my body chose) to make me reconsider. I write this for all those vegetarians out there who question (or maybe don't question) if being a vegetarian is the best thing for their body. And most importantly I write this in hopes to peak interest for all of those who may be experiencing signs and symptoms in their body, regardless of the diet they follow.
I hope that this encourages you to listen to your body. Even the subtle messages your body may be sending are truly cries for help.
Who knows, if someone both with experience and educational background in the subject matter, would have shared their personal story with me years ago, maybe I would have researched more and made different choices. I am thankful that my detox protocol helped recorrect my heath and put me back on track to experiencing health and vitality.
Can you be a vegetarian for eons and not have any problems? Absolutely.
Am I saying that everyone who is a vegetarian or vegan needs to or should eat meat? Absolutely not.
By no means do I think you have to eat meat in order to be healthy. There are plenty of people who never eat meat a day in their life and are incredibly healthy until the day they die. If you are a veggie, I am not telling you to eat meat. I am simply saying to listen to your body. Symptoms are your body's way of trying to communicate, I encourage you not ignore them!
It may start out as something small like fatigue, acne or menstrual issues, but honestly after seeing this with many of the clients I work with, if you don't listen to what your body is trying to tell you they WILL exacerbate and the last thing you want is a serious health problem on your hands.
At the end of the day only YOU know what serves your body best, only YOU know what you need, when and how much. I hope you listen, I hope are smarter than I was and do not choose to identify with a label over listening to the wisdom your body.
As for me, I choose to eat consciously. I choose to listen to what my body needs, putting its needs over my mind's wants. It's taken me a long time to understand what bioindividuality truly means, now that I do, I experience the world in a whole new way.
I've created a program to help you better understand what your body needs. If you are ready to take the next step in understanding you unique program, reach out and we can walk this path together.
I wish all of you who read this an abundance of health, happiness, and joy.
Love & Light,
Amanda Biccum aka #thegutgal
Nutritional Therapist & Holistic Health Coach
#flowithintention on the #biccumblueprint
If you are interested in the 1st phase of the detox protocol I came up with to help heal my gut and skin issues click here.