Why I Started Eating Meat Again
When I was little, I hated meat. I remember I had one of those “My Book About Me” books where you fill in all your likes/ dislikes, answer questions about yourself, write little stories, etc., and under where it said “least favorite food,” I wrote “chicken” and drew little fumes coming off of the word. I wanted to be a vegetarian (only reason I knew what that was was because my older cousin was one and never had to eat chicken at family events but I had to) and just live off mac and cheese and oatmeal.
When I was little, my parents told me I could make the choice to be a vegetarian when I was 18.
But between that time and 18, I began to tolerate chicken and turkey. My “no thank you” meal at home was still meatloaf, and there was a point in time where my dad literally paid me to take a bite of steak. I did it obviously- I wasn't so against the idea of eating meat as a whole- I just still didn’t like it.
When I was 20 I started to learn more. I learned more about the meat industry and the inhumane treatment that goes down there. I learned about how these poor animals are packed on top of each other, pumped with hormones and antibiotics, and forced to watch their friends get slaughtered as they wait their turn. The meat industry in our country is messed up and there’s no denying that.
As I’d never been a huge meat fan in the first place, completely removing it from rotation in my diet was seamless and effortless. It wasn’t that I ever actually wanted it anyways, I just ate it sometimes because it was there and I was used to being told I needed it to “get enough protein” (you can get more than enough protein from plant sources even if you’re active!) But I already ate mostly plant based and fish occasionally- it was just maybe a few times a week that I had a chicken breast or a turkey wrap.
I never looked back for 3 years. In fact, in this 3 years that an entire food category was gone from my diet, I actually made the most progress in regards to food freedom and intuitive eating. I never ever ever craved meat, and felt good knowing I was doing something that made a positive impact on our environment.
But then, late in 2018, around the time of year I stopped eating meat 3 years prior, I started to crave chicken intensely once a month (if you catch my drift). Then it became more often. It just sounded so good and so nourishing. I felt I needed it. For me personally, I know the symptoms I go through when I am lacking in iron, and these symptoms were happening. I tried for a few weeks to up my iron intake, but the fact of the matter is it’s hard to get enough non-heme iron, especially when you’re a girl between the ages of 10-12 through menopause.
Even though my iron intake was up, the cravings for chicken were not budging. I contemplated it for so long. Looking back at this weird few weeks, it’s clear to me that I was having trouble wanting to give up this label of pescatarian I had fit into for the past 3 years. I felt like if I ate meat I’d be failing myself at keeping up with subscribing to this label. But I caught myself fast. Who was going to care? (besides the few vegan haters I’d inevitably get when I brought this to my Instagram- and no not all vegans are haters but this is my experience with comments i get when I post things like cheese lol). Nobody.
What good was I doing at all to deprive myself of something I was so intensely craving? Didn’t I work too hard and come too far to let a label stop me in my food freedom? Yes.
My body is smart, and so is yours. I knew that it was asking me for something because I needed it (it was probably the iron) and I’d always told myself that if I did ever start to crave it, then I’d listen to that and honor that. But I would also be mindful of where my meat was coming from.
We vote with our dollar, and over the three years that I didn't eat meat, the meat industry didn’t make any major positive changes. It is important to me that when I buy chicken or turkey, I purchase some that has no antibiotics or hormones, and that I support local and free range when feasible.
But even if those steps are not realistic or possible to you, as they are not always for me as a student, it’s important to remember that small changes matter. Having a meatless Monday if you’re someone who tends to have meat daily is something that makes a difference. Adding in more plant based meals once in a while makes a difference. Like anything, efforts to help our environment do not have to be all or nothing to matter, as my bff Becca (@bb.healthfit) always says.
We do not have to completely give up meat in order to make a difference. And we also do not need to subscribe to labels just because we had fit into them at a previous point in our lives. We grow and change, and our needs do the same as this happens. I am in a phase of my life where having chicken a few times a week is better for me than sticking to what I had previously been comfortable with. Maybe it won’t always be this way, and maybe I’ll even stop feeling good on it, stop craving it- but until then I am content in knowing that I am doing what’s best for me, and gave kind of a final “f you” to my ED that wanted me to keep holding onto a label for no reason.