I was inspired to write this post after reading BreezyK’s post on The Vegetarian’s Dilemma. I saw it on the Freshly Pressed page, and having happily survived vegetarianism for most of my life, I wondered what her dilemma could be. First, a little about my eating habits.
I was vegetarian for the first 22 years of my life. Yes, really! My mum tried her best to get me to eat meat as a child, but I would have none of it, and in the end (when I was about 4) she gave up. She did not however give up encouraging me to eat full stop; I was nagged until I left home about not eating enough, and until I was about 15, doctors also kept telling me to eat more. Trouble was, my appetite was about as big as a sparrow’s, and I liked the wrong things when it came to putting on weight. Fruit, vegetables, or salad, in any shape or form I would happily eat. However, bread, potatoes, pasta, rice – in any shape or form – I would not. I mean, I would eat sandwiches for lunch at school, but would more than happily give them away to deserving friends and eat my apple instead. I should point out here that I’ve never had an eating disorder (anorexia or the like) – I was under no illusions that I was thin; there was never a fat version looking at me from the mirror.
I started eating meat at the age of 22. Having known my body without the effects of meat, I can say with certainty that being a vegetarian is what kept me slim, never mind about the lack of carbohydrate. Aged about 16 I decided I wanted the womanly curves my friends had achieved, and went through phases of trying to gain weight. They mostly failed, but I did get more used to bread and pasta. Not so much potatoes or rice – they’re still my least favourites today. I made it up to 7 stone by the age of 22, and was encouraged by the boyfriend I was living with at the time, to start eating meat to put on weight. I was going to the gym regularly, but found it very hard to gain muscle. So I started with roast chicken and decided it was edible, as long as there were no strange brown bits. I tried bacon, and didn’t like it. Hard to believe for you carnivores out there, but having never eaten it before, I wasn’t impressed. It was chewy, and the rind was slimy or gristly. Eventually, I discovered that I do like bacon, but only if it’s grilled almost to a crisp. (Sacrilege! I hear you cry. I know, I know…)
I also now eat ham, and occasionally pork. I have tried steak, roast beef, mince, and veal, and don’t like any of them. The flavour does absolutely nothing for me, and as for the texture… yuck. Mince ruins a good bolognese sauce, and Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes don’t need slices of pink/brown chewy stuff to make a hearty Sunday lunch. One meat I really won’t have anything to do with, is lamb. It smells. Simple as that. And not in a good way. I object so vehemently to the smell of lamb cooking, that I’ve no idea if the taste, once cooked, is worse or better than the smell, because I can’t bring myself to try it.
So, you’ve probably deduced that I don’t eat much meat even now, and that I don’t eat red meat at all. I quite enjoy roast chicken on Sunday, and a bacon and avocado sandwich for lunch occasionally. But tell me I could never eat meat again, and I wouldn’t be too perturbed. I much prefer lentils, beans, nuts, and grains as sources of protein anyway. If I lived alone, I would undoubtedly be vegetarian again. I only eat meat because the husband and stepdaughter would complain if I didn’t cook it for them!
As for my weight, well, after starting to eat meat aged 22, I gained weight quite rapidly (for me!) and reached 8 stone. It probably also had something to do with my metabolism slowing down as I got older. According to the medical world, I’m still underweight for my height, but now aged 28 I’m quite happy with being 8 stone, and would definitely feel fat if I was the recommended 9 stone!
In response to BreezyK’s post about the travesty of meat substitutes, I have to say I sit on the fence. I quite like tofu, but appreciate it for its own flavour and texture and don’t think of it as a replacement for meat. Quorn I find a bit dry, but I don’t mind the texture, particularly because I know that each forkful will be the same: there won’t be any gristly bits or veins or anything else unsavoury to contend with. I think the trouble with many carnivores suddenly becoming vegetarian is that they expect there to be something to replace the meat in each meal. They’d actually be far better off just cutting meat out of their diets for a couple of days a week, than to try doing it permanently. In reality (or at least, in my reality), a meal does not need to contain meat to be tasty or satisfying. And most people’s bodies don’t need half the meat they get fed. I think we’d all be a bit healthier if we spent a few minutes thinking about our diets, and for a couple of days a week, leaving out what we know deep down that we eat too much of. For some people, that would be meat. For others, bread, or processed carbohydrates. For me, it’s sweet things. It’s hard to begin with, but not nearly as hard as telling myself I could never eat another home made cake would be!