It’s been just over two months since I started this experiment, so I suppose it’s time for a review. I started this experiment to see how changing my diet might improve my overall health (including how “good” I feel). Knowing that I ate too little veggies and fish, taking meat and poultry off the menu seemed like the best way to force the issue and start consuming more of the good stuff. I know me, and a pledge to just eat meat once a week would probably have not stuck, or I would forget some weeks, and let the whole thing slide. So this felt like a line in the sand and something much more dramatic.
So here we are, two months in, and that does not sound very impressive. “I haven’t had any red meat, pork, or poultry in two months.” It sounds more like an accident or coincidence than a planned thing. I found out this weekend that many of my friends had no idea I was even doing this, which is instructive of just how fascinating my life is to others. I wrinkled my brow and thought, “but it’s on the internet.” That is probably one of my dumber gut reactions, and is an excellent scenario to recall whenever I get too self-absorbed. Bruised and tender pride aside, I will outline some of the things I have learned so far.
- I’m not yet convinced this will be a life change. I have not had a sufficiently different experience eating so far to say I will never eat meat again. However, after some of the reading and research that I’ve been engaging in more actively because of this experiment, I can honestly say I will always endeavor to avoid factory farm meat (including fish). I think that eating meat is natural for us as humans (with our sharp teeth), and we metabolize the protein and all that stuff well. I do think that cutting it out totally is helping me gain a lot of perspective for how much is really necessary or desirable.
- I’m re-exploring my thoughts on hunting food. Up until not very long ago, my view on hunting is that it’s mostly unnecessary (with the grocery store and butcher counter). I could understand people hunting for food, for sure, but never really saw it as something that was realistic for me (to be clear, I have no intention of hunting anything myself). I am reconsidering that assumption. It is starting to seem to me that game is becoming one of the only options I have in this area for getting non-corn-fed red meat. That will require more research (and a certain willingness on Bob’s part). I know of people at work who often sell beef and pork from their own herds, so it would also behoove me to research that possibility (and potentially pay a visit to a local farm.)
- I’ve become obsessed with meat. I think about it, I talk about it, I write about it. It has taken up a more more central role in my mind now that it’s lost its starring role on my plate.
- Despite that, the thought of eating a steak fills me with disgust. It just does. All I can think is that it’s oily and fibrous, and I don’t want it in my belly or coursing through my bloodstream.
- I feel about the same. I feel much the same as I did pre-experiment, except that I never feel uncomfortable after eating, like a bag of meat stuffed into another bag of meat. I suppose my level of consciousness about what I consume has risen precipitously, but that may level out over time (or may continue to climb). I weigh about the same, and I look about the same. Although this was never about calories, I begin to wonder that perhaps it should be – just not mine. More about the calories burned to create the food I consume, and how to make that a more equitable equation to lighten my own footprint. So I guess that while I feel about the same, I feel more activisty, albeit mostly in theory for now.
- I’m eating way, way more vegetables and fish. In this respect, the experiment is already a success. I think my meals are becoming better balanced, and I am enjoying the variety. I’ve found that I really like sea scallops. I’m not sure I’d ever deliberately eaten them before. I personally find them delicious, and they are responsibly farmed and harvested, according to the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch list (sea scallops and “farmed off bottom” scallops rate differently). I’m getting a good variety of vegetables into my diet now, and I suspect (but don’t know for sure) that this negates my need for a multi-vitamin.
- I will be a cold day before I eat Iceberg lettuce. On vacation the other week, a salad came with my meal. It was mostly Iceberg lettuce (and no other lettuces) and some topper veggies. I couldn’t bring myself to even take a bite. I often avoid Iceberg anyway, but would eat it kind of out of guilt (derived from my low vegetable consumption) but no more, my friend, no more. I have had good lettuce and Iceberg is not it. I do not want it in a sandwich, I do not want it in a salad. I just will not put up with it any longer.
- This diet is really, really hard for other people to come to terms with (at first). My mom still has occasional moments of non-grasping, for example when she suggested that while everyone else eat burgers, I would be satisfied with a bun with ketchup (both, of course, loaded with high fructose corn syrup). This is the prime mistake most people make when they find out about my diet (diet meaning food choices, not food restriction) — that I will somehow be satisfied with side dishes and remainders. The follow-up assumption is that this is very inconvenient of me and there is no food that will possibly fit the bill. On vacation with Bob’s family, almost all of the dinners (we all took turns making dinners) were pescetarian friendly.
- People are prone to ask, “So what DO you eat?” As if it were normal to consume so much meat that the removal thereof leads to a bereft and dangerously meager diet. It’s so much easier to say what I don’t eat than what I do eat, yet that is not the question I get. Ever.
- This is proving way easier than I thought it would be. I envisioned a lot of time spent planning meals and devising new recipes. Oh please. I probably spend less time worried about what I’m going to eat and just as much time (more, actually) feeling satisfied and good about what I’ve just eaten. Maybe just as importantly, I don’t think about my intake of food in a toxic or negative way (if I eat that, this bad thing will happen – weight gain, pain, bad breath, etc.); rather, I barely think about it at all — it is a good and efficient fuel. It’s become so much more good at that, that it has become almost invisible. To be clear, I think very little about the food I’ve consumed, but a lot about food in general. It’s a fine distinction, I know.
- Man, I eat a lot of pasta. Whole wheat, of course.
I had a vision earlier today, of moving to a small farm that could produce enough food for us to eat as well as a small remainder to either sell or share. A few chickens, maybe a goat (I kind of want to make cheese), and a considered rotation of small crops that we could plant and harvest without the need for mechanical tools. I find myself having this, or similar, daydream often (most likely as a product of my reading, which is instilling a fear of the grocery store in me), and I wonder if small steps over the course of this experiment can help make that pastoral dream realistic in our current setting.
Just some food for thought.