Being Vegetarian Does NOT Make You Skinny!
I mentioned earlier today that I used to be a vegetarian. This is true! I was a vegetarian for about eight years until like seven months ago. The reason I decided to become vegetarian in the first place was because I had never been taught how the meat gets onto my plate and I read a PETA brochure that was hanging on a friend’s fridge. I was shocked! I then sought out any and all information about commercial farming that I could find! I was always just one info sesh away from resigning my meat-eater badge – chicken meat had always been a weird one for me; I remember spending so long trimming anything that wasn’t muscle from a chicken breast before I would cook it.
So as I went about figuring out what it meant to not eat meat anymore and trying to decide whether or not I was going the vegan route or not. I had a couple “relapses” – my friend Jen STILL calls me “Ham Sneak” – but it definitely became easier to pick out foods and being vegetarian taught me that it is okay to special-order at restaurants and that there are SO MANY kinds of foods in the world that I really enjoy! I certainly broadened my palate by removing meat from my diet.
I liked to think that I was so healthy by eating only plant-based foods. My cholesterol was phenomenal, my blood pressure was awesome, all of my labwork was outstanding! But I was steadily gaining weight over those eight years and eventually I became insulin-resistant. My diet was about 70% carbohydrates, 25% fat, and 5% protein. And let’s be real here: there is a LOT of junk food that is technically vegetarian… plus pasta. My body didn’t know what to do with all the simple carbs I was eating and it finally got burnt out. I was never diabetic, but I was damn close.
I struggled for a few years with my diet because no matter what I was doing or how I restricted my calories, I couldn’t lose weight, or if I did, I couldn’t keep it off. When I started going to the Medical Weightloss Clinic with Dr Gilbert, we talked about my protein intake. I’d been using My Fitness Pal so I was able to track what my macros looked like (protein vs fat vs carbs) and I wasn’t even close to meeting my body’s needs for protein! I need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight and I was lucky to get 7 grams of protein per meal. I had started sneak-eating cheeseburgers a couple months prior to starting the program and I think that it’s because my body was lacking those amino acids, iron, B vitamins, and other nutrients that I wasn’t adequately getting in my diet.
So, I began the journey out of the closet and openly proclaimed that I was “back on the meat!”
Let’s talk for a second about “responsible meat,” shall we? It is fucking DAUNTING to try to be a responsible omnivore! I still can’t eat chicken, and turkey is apparently a bit iffy for me, but bring on the beef and pork! I was making a conscious effort to spend my money on the closest thing to cruelty-free meat as I could get. I went to my local LifeSource and Natural Grocers and I asked questions about the sourcing of their meat products and I talked up the pork guy at my local Saturday Market. Basically, what I’ve learned, is that the only way to ensure your hamburger or porkchop came from a happy, healthy, loved animal who lived the farm animal dream from birth to death is to raise it and kill it your own damn self.
Since I can’t do that, physically or emotionally, I have decided that I will go ahead and pay $9 per pound for my ground beef and pork and get it at the natural food store (my Saturday market is only seasonal) because these two stores take on the responsibility of visiting the farms that supply their meats. They make sure that the animals have adequate space and are cared for. They use local, small-operation farms who actually take the time to appreciate their animals and treat them with respect and love. For Christ’s sake, I would love if they could put the animal’s name on the packaging, but I get that I’m asking a lot. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the most responsible I can be about shopping for meat at this point in my life.
When I switched to a healthy meat-inclusive diet, my body thanked me! It’s my goal to get 30 grams of protein per meal (not including snacks) and just by reducing my carbohydrate intake and increasing my protein intake, I found my body doing wonderful, amazing things for me! I was able to recover from workouts easier, my muscles didn’t stay as sore for as long, I was able to push harder for cardio and lift heavier on my resistance days. My moods were more stable and I didn’t have the post-meal crash and irritability that I had come to anticipate over the years. It was literally life-changing!
I’m really enjoying the effects of getting adequate protein but I do have to say, it’s tough to remember to get my veggies in too…30 grams of protein per meal is a LOT so it’s a big effort for me to plan out my weekly menu to get my macros right but also my food groups. I do my menu planning throughout the week so I’m able to tweak things as needed up until Friday, then I go grocery shopping and do my meal prep for the coming week on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a great system that really fits my busy lifestyle and lets me be set up for success for the week.
Today I’m grateful for access to healthy food options.