When I stopped eating meat (seven years ago), it wasn’t about restriction. It was about appetite, or lack thereof, with a side of pure horror. After watching a food industry documentary film—which, to be fair, presented both sides of animal farming and production (industrial and small local farm, organic)—I just could not. I immediately lost my not-so-supple appetite for any and all meat or poultry products. I said, to myself or whomever was listening or asking, I would eat it again when it was appetizing to me. I meant that. It hasn’t been appetizing in about seven years.
I did try some ostrich while we were in Cape Town last fall. It was part of my best friend’s wedding dinner spread. When in South Africa (and a few champagne glasses deep), I suppose.
I do think my transition to an exclusively plant-based diet was a big piece of my eating disorder recovery. That’s backwards from how some experience this type of dietary restriction—in some cases vegan or vegetarianism are simply an eating disorder disguised as a “healthier” diet. I didn’t see it as restriction at all. It didn’t feel restricting to me. It felt like like a sudden craving to explore, taste, and cook new-to-me foods, experiment with plant-based proteins, and eat more plant-based fats. I eventually reintroduced fish to the rotation, so YES, it’s PESCETARIAN if anyone asks. My period came back the same month I stopped eating meat and poultry (after a stubborn six-year hiatus). Coincidence? Maybe. But I didn’t see it that way.
I stopped eating meat in the spring of 2010.
After watching the above-mentioned film, I subsequently wrote a post on my NEW nutrition-focused blog (fka Dietitian on the Run) about “C.L.E.A.N. Eating”, so we can all take a moment to roll our eyes. I made up an acronym and it had something to do with eating local, unprocessed, “edible” foods? I can’t even remember. I’m sure it was preachy; I’m sorry about that. Yet here we are! We’ve recovered.
Real talk: I had fried chicken last week, and it was everything I wanted (in that moment).
A few days ago, I ordered a plate of fried chicken and split it with my husband. We had fries and steamed collard greens on the side (we each picked one; I did not choose the latter). I had a craving for fried chicken. I’ve always joked (in a not-kidding-at-all way) that if or when I eat an animal protein again, fried chicken will be first. Actually, truth be told, I had a bite of his fried chicken a little over a year ago at our anniversary dinner. I felt very meh about it—it didn’t taste great, I didn’t want any more. But on this evening, it was everything I wanted. Nothing else would do. So, we had fried chicken and that was that.
Well, to be honest again, I wanted white gravy on the side and was a bit disappointed it didn’t come with the meal. (The online menu said it did! WOMP.)
He’s an avid meat-eater. He purchases beef and pork from a farm in Maryland. We sometimes cook separate meals. He eats a lot more fish than he would without me; he eats full vegetarian meals with me at least once a week. But there’s no denying we have different preferences, and that’s never been an issue.
He didn’t make a big deal out of this meal at all, which I expressed gratitude for. It didn’t need to be a big deal. We didn’t drink beer or champagne to mark the occasion. It was plain and simple, and I attribute my lack of interest in pomp and circumstance, and the fact that I honored this craving, to my Intuitive Eating learnings.
Labels feel like a form of restriction to me.
For the past year or so, I’ve taken umbrage with the labels we slap on any and all diets. Even as a practicing pescetarian, I resisted that limiting identity. As I learned about intuitive eating, I wondered what it might feel like if I truly gave myself that “All Foods Fit” permission. Now I know.
More recently, I was traveling for an event with the California Strawberries Commission in Monterey, CA. We took a tour of strawberry fields, hand-picked a few, then sat down for lunch outside on the farm. It was a fresh-made taco buffet, with carne (beef) and pollo (chicken) options, refried beans and Spanish rice, wrapped in corn or fresh flour tortillas. I didn’t want a bean taco. I wanted something more substantial. I opted for no carne, pollo (chicken) only. It was spicy, juicy, and delicious. Related: The green chiles on the side almost blew my mouth off.
Refreshed. Free to choose without limits. Free from the grip of a label or self-imposed rules. An evolving palate. This, to me, is what recovery continues to feel like.
I believe all foods (morals, and opinions) can fit.
I’m practicing what that looks like for me. I can still order a veggie burger at our favorite quick-service burger joint tomorrow. I can still have no appetite for beef or pork; I can acknowledge that may change (tomorrow or in a few weeks or years, or never). I can look at a menu and browse everything to see what sounds good, instead of scanning for vegetarian or pescetarian options. That feels different, freeing. And I can still have a mostly plant-based diet because those are the foods I like, there are ample health benefits to doing so, I care about animal welfare and the environmental impacts of an animal-heavy diet, and to reiterate, those are the foods I enjoy. Tastes, feelings, identities, and opinions change. I welcome the transitions and the opportunities to grow and explore because of them.