What I Learnt from 6 Months of No Meat
First of all, I'm not writing this in an attempt to convince you to become a vegetarian, vegan or anything else that you don't want to be. This probably isn't going to make you enjoy meat any less and enjoy a plant-based diet more. This is my own personal experience with becoming a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian. I still eat products with eggs in and I still eat cheese (yes, I love pizza). However, my mindset has been tweaked and shifted to appreciate a diet that involves more vegetables, grains, and legumes, that I have found more beneficial. From a young child to a fully grown, adult man, I had been eating meat and fish in one form or another. Every now and again, I've given up red meat, just to see the effects on my body but I'd never taken the plunge to give it up entirely. I grew up in a family that was "spiritual" and always dipped in and out of vegetarianism and I was curious to see if I could ever give it up for a while.
As someone who started to get a little fluffy around the edges in 2011 - 2012, I decided to start a Ketogenic diet. I was eating meat once or twice a day, pairing this with a copious amount of cardio and I was rapidly dropping fat. It actually wasn't the best health choice for me, my face didn't look particularly healthy, I rarely smiled and I had wilder mood swings than Ben Stiller's character in Dodgeball.
In 2017, I started to slowly phase meat out of my diet. I kind of just looked at the animal on my plate and thought, is that really benefiting my health? My taste for meat and fish slowly started to deteriorate and every time I would eat an animal, I would just be like, nope. Nope. Nope.
I ate fish and chips in January 2018 (I'm British, so). This was the last time that I consumed any animals. Even though my meal was delicious, something in me just decided that I really couldn't condone eating an animal for two reasons:
- It's a shitty health choice.
- Why do animals need to die, so that I can eat?
I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person, so when I have my mind committed to doing something, I'm going to give it my all. So, I just stopped eating it. If you're considering quitting meat and/or fish, then you'll hear actionable advice, like, start to cut things out in stages but if you want to do it, then the only thing stopping you from doing it is your own mind and possibly your tastebuds.
Top of the Food Chain
Eating, or not eating meat is a choice, or at least, it should be. Dr. Melanie Joy refers to the psychology of eating meat as "carnism", a belief system that has conditioned society to consume certain animals. After researching for over a decade, she deduced that eating meat is ingrained in society and we're unable to distinguish that eating it is not a human necessity. The ideology of carnism invisibly influences the majority of people and perpetuates the idea that animals and animal products are normal, natural and necessary.
Over 56 billion farmed animals are slaughtered every year just so people can eat them. It wasn't exactly like I had developed a conscience overnight but I did consider to myself, was there any real need for me to sustain my life by consuming an animal that used to have its own life.
- What made me better than the animals that I was eating?
- Why did I deserve to live and they didn't?
- Why are certain animals given moral privileges over others?
- Why is it the sole purpose of those animals to be grown, just so they could be killed and fed to me?
The choices that we make stem from our core beliefs. Society believes that household pets deserve more love, respect, and care than chickens, cows, pigs, and lambs. If you break that down and align it with your moral compass, it's pretty fucked up. I don't need a cow to survive, I would eat that cow purely out of taste and I wouldn't throw my dead dog on the barbeque, making sure to brush marinade on him, while he cooks.
I have gained answers to these questions over time and they've given me a sense of clarity with my belief system and my diet.
One thing that I noticed when first making the transition to a vegetarian diet is that my portion size doubled. I was eating more. I wanted to feel fuller and that went hand-in-hand with eating a shit load more carbohydrates. I was eating pasta, rice, bread and everything else that I could and shovel into my mouth. But it's cool because no animals were harmed, right? The transition also led me to eat a lot more veggies that I integrated with my carbs and yeah, it often led to a carb coma. Actually, it still leads to carb comas.
Back when I was on a keto diet, I was under the impression that carbs were the root of all evil and I should avoid eating them because they'll make me fat. Like I previously mentioned, I was eating meat and I wasn't looking very healthy.
Anyway, I must be boring the absolute shit out of you, so what did I learn after a good 6 months of not eating meat?
I learned that my body is not dependant on eating meat or fish. I wasn't eating animals as a dietary requirement, I wasn't eating animals to supplement my body for a lack of protein or nutrients. I was eating meat as an addiction, for the enjoyment of eating it.
Not eating any animals, has taught me to appreciate the vast lifeforms of this planet more. From the small insects in my garden to the cows that populate fields. An animal is a living, breathing user on this planet with its own journey. It's unfair to take that life for our own pleasure.
This isn't a sales pitch or a call to action telling you to be more considerate to animals or to stop eating meat, even though you think you need it. I'm not asking you buy my 30-day vegan plan or green powder supplement. I'm simply asking you to introspectively consider:
- Why do you need meat?
- What effect does it have on you and the world around you?
Ultimately, life is consistently hurling lessons at us. We're always moving up in levels and this is how I, personally kicked it up a notch. I feel healthier and stronger in mind, body, and soul. I have more drive to consider what I'm consuming and how I'm consuming it.