I grew up on the highly fashionable island of Manhattan. The building in which I spent the first few years of my life was transformed into a modeling agency when we moved out. It was not uncommon to see television and movie stars at the local coffee shop, being served by less-known beautiful faces aspiring toward the limelight themselves.
Growing up, everyone had some philosophy on healthy living, strong opinions on diet were rampant, and appearance was always commented on.
Put simply, Manhattan is a place where people want to be seen, and one can easily be made to feel that aesthetic perfection is necessary if success is to be attained.
Coming into self-consciousness as I entered high school, I became hyper-aware of the society I was surrounded by. I thought being healthy required rigid restriction and discipline, and if adhered to, this philosophy was going to reward me with a slim body and positive reception by my peers.
The fad that surrounded me the most at the time was vegetarianism, so I jumped on that bandwagon. I felt righteous and superior to those who ate meat, and loudly advocated for my chosen lifestyle.
Adding fuel to my fire was the discovery of factory farming. This widespread practice not only abuses animals and harms the environment, but also results in meat products that are deficient in the nutrients that make meat a viable food source in the first place.
When Buddhist philosophies infiltrated my worldview toward the end of high school and in college, I felt further supported by ancient wisdom and couldn’t imagine ever turning back to my omnivorous roots.
10 years later I found myself at the Herb Pharm, in Williams, Oregon, where I took classes on nutrition that shattered my belief system. I read literature like Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions that undermined all my preconceived notions of what a healthy diet really entails.
I began to see that as a vegetarian I was seeking nutrients from processed meat replacements that, when broken down, are really nothing more than glorified junk-food.
Indeed, more and more studies are finding that isolated nutrients added to fortify food remain, for the most part, unabsorbed by our bodies. And in terms of meat specifically, usable vitamin B12, an essential building block for the brain, nervous system, and blood production, can only be found in meat products.
On a more spiritual level, I was building intimate relationships with the plant-world at the time, and recognized on a deeper level that, they too, are living beings.
This realization left me with a choice: either I sacrifice my health and ultimately myself, becoming a scavenger by eating only what is found already dead without human intervention, or I could honor my body as part of the ancient network of life and provide it with the best possible food, including meat, and stop being vegetarian.
I opted for the latter.
That said, in some contexts I do still claim vegetarian status. I will not touch meat that has been raised inhumanely, and I avoid meat from animals that are given feed they would not eat in nature. When I do eat meat, I choose wild fish and game, and pasture-raised beef, pork, and fowl. These animals have the happiest lives and are the most nutrient-dense when consumed. Furthermore, the vegetables I eat are seasonal and organic, making them sustainable and free of toxins.
This way, rather than just boycotting the industries that are doing it wrong, I support the small farms that are doing it right. After all, without the support of like-minded people, these places would not survive.
With a diet that is based on sustainable ingredients I am also supporting my own health, and that of future generations.
I listen to my body and its cravings, and trust that because I treat it well, it will know and tell me what it needs.
I really, truly enjoy ever meal I eat now, appreciating what the food is giving my body and knowing that my choices support the earth as well. And as opposed to my vegetarian days, I do not feel deprived or restricted in any way. Quite the opposite in fact!
I would like to close with a note on nutrition.
It is true that when I began eating meat again I felt my vitality soar, but it is not just meat consumption that will lead to health.
A well-balanced diet that is devoid of processed sugar and pre-packaged meals, consisting instead of mostly fresh vegetables, bone broth, unprocessed fats, small amounts of diverse meats, and fruits, is generally the best option for most people.
That said, if you are unwell and generally eat a lot of meat, try eating a less.
If you eat very little meat, or no meat at all, try eating more.
Experiment and find out what makes you thrive, keep eating mostly vegetables, and remember that what is good for you one day may not be the best choice the next.
*The inspiration for this article came from Alex Jamieson’s brave confession that she is no longer vegan. Read what she has to say here: http://alexandrajamieson.com/im-not-vegan-anymore/ and check out the comments section for some juicy debate on the topic!