I have been thinking about writing this post for awhile and was finally inspired to do so by a recent post on Ashley's blog. This might seem ironic given the topics of our respective posts, but ultimately they are posts about the same thing - trying to do what's best for one's personal health.
Those who read this blog who know me already know that I have been vegetarian (well, semi-vegetarian - I still ate fish - let's not step on any veggie toes out there) for about 5 years. Anyone reading this blog who doesn't know me (though I'm not sure those people exist haha) might have come to this conclusion from the recipes I post and the many veggie friendly blogs I link to.
But here's the thing that not everyone knows - I haven't actually been vegetarian for about 2 months now.
I've hesitated to bring this up as talking about being a vegetarian has never been my favourite thing (which I'm aware sounds odd coming from someone who writes a blog about healthy living). I never wanted to push my beliefs on other people, and now that I've gone back to eating meat, this still applies - I don't want it to come off as a negative stance on vegetarianism or the eating habits of others. But I'm sure people are curious as to why I've begun eating meat again, so I'll do my best to explain.
Ultimately this is and always has been a matter of health. When I went vegetarian it was a quest to make healthier eating choices, and I want to state right away that I do not regret that choice. While vegetarian I moved away from eating lots of processed, junky food and discovered whole foods, lots of new veggies and a love for cooking. Vegetarianism taught me that a meal does not have be a piece of meat, a starch, and a spoonful of veggies. It encouraged me for the first time in my life to really look at my eating habits and to work towards being a healthier person.
One of the first things that made me think about eating meat again was when I became slightly obsessed with a new meatless chicken breast put out by President Choice. I loved having a replacement for chicken in so many recipes - until I started looking at the long list of ingredients. I really try to avoid products that have a list of ingredients as long as my arm, half of which I can't pronounce, yet I was contradicting this with pretty much every meat substitute that I ate. I couldn't help thinking, "wouldn't an actual chicken breast probably be healthier for me?"
There were other factors too. For the first time in years, I began having really strong cravings for meat. It made me think that my body must be lacking something for these cravings to appear out of nowhere. My doctor would agree this was true - blood tests over the past few years have shown my iron levels to be consistently low, though I tried to eat as much iron rich food as possible and even took iron supplements.
Maybe to some people these seem like poor excuses to go back to eating meat. You can certainly be vegetarian without relying on meat substitutes. Cravings for meat probably come and go for most vegetarians, and young women often have low iron levels, whether they eat meat or not. But all I can say is that at this point in my life, this feels like the right thing to do. I'm not saying it's been an easy decision. One issue in particular I've struggled with is the treatment of animals raised for meat. While it's true I became vegetarian for health reasons, and not because of animal rights, as a vegetarian you are inevitably exposed to information about the treatment of farm animals that makes you ill. My goal as I introduce meat back into my diet is to try and eat locally raised, organic meat as much as possible. This is somewhat of a challenge living in a big city - it's not as if there's a farm around the corner raising chickens - but it can be done and I really want to try.
I'm not ashamed about going back to eating meat. Ultimately it's just another step in the process of trying to do what's right for me healthwise. It is important to me, however, that people realize I am not looking at being vegetarian as a silly phase. It wasn't - vegetarianism changed my life, made me a healthier person, and will still continue to affect the way I eat and live.