After Being A Vegetarian For 7 Years I Started Eating Meat Again & Here’s What Happened

My personal journey from carnivore, to vegetarian, to carnivore again
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I stopped being a vegetarian, Waiting on Martha

When I chose to stop being a vegetarian after seven years, the amount of questions and messages I received was intense.  Everyone wanted to know why? How did I feel? Was this just a blip or a permanent switch?  I knew I wanted to answer all of those questions, but not until I had time to actually live in my decision and understand the ramifications of it all.  So seven months later, here I am ready to chat.

First things first; why did I stop eating meat?  Let me say, it’s a very personal decision and nothing is worse (or more annoying) than anyone from either side of the table trying to make you feel guilty about eating meat or not eating meat.  For me it was an ethical decision and being completely grossed out by factory farms.  I did my research.  I watched the documentaries, I read the books, I talked to doctors.  That combined with the fact that I had also recently gotten a dog I love more than most humans made the decision to become a vegetarian an easy one.  

Surprisingly, giving up meat was the easiest thing I had ever done.  I never “cheated” nor cared to cheat, I never felt deprived, tired, or weak from not eating meat.  In fact I felt better than ever; at least for the first four-five years.  And then something shifted, and my digestive/gut issues and food sensitivities started.  When I became a vegetarian I promised myself I would listen to my body and adjust accordingly, and something at this time needed adjusting. 

I did every cleanse, intolerance test, celiac test, and even a colonoscopy and endoscopy procedure to try to pin point exactly what was causing these issues.  But every time I thought I had it figured out, something else would trigger my gut.  It was beyond frustrating, especially for someone who loves food so much.  To throw another twist into the scenario, it was also during this time that I began to desire meat again; specifically chicken.  But the cravings weren’t my tipping point, my trip to London was.

What happened in London you ask? I got sick.  Violently sick after dinner one night and was out of commission for two whole days.  Holed up in my hotel room, missing spending time in my favorite city in the world, because something I ate caused some sort of unknown reaction.  I was pissed!  So it was on the plane ride home that I decided I’m done.  And the minute we landed, I had the hubs pull into McDonalds and I ordered every single thing on the menu.  Yes, my first meal after being a vegetarian for 7 years was McDonalds.  

So did I get sick? That’s what you’re wondering right? I mean we’ve all heard the horror stories of what happens to your body when your begin eating meat again after not eating it for so long.  But the truth is I didn’t get sick.  I didn’t get sick from McDonalds, or Wendys, Taco Bell, Burger King, Chick-fil-a, Shake Shack, Five Guys, or any of those places…yes I went on a bit of a fast food bender.  I actually didn’t get sick from re-introducing meat back into my system at all until I had a ribeye steak a few weeks later.  Which if I’m being fair could have just as easily been from the massive amount of butter I put on it and not the steak itself.

Having meat back on the menu has actually done the opposite and its helped my gut/digestive issues.  My stomach feels more stable than ever.  But let’s not ring the dinner bell for being a carnivore just yet.  While my gut is better, there are other areas that I personally feel are worse.

One, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and my eating habits are the worst they’ve ever been.  You see when you don’t eat meat there aren’t a lot of fast food options to choose from; being a vegetarian basically removes that garbage from your brain completely.  But now, I feel like I’ve reverted to eating like I did in college but without the 21 year old metabolism.  

Two, I’m on the sluggish side.  Meat makes me tired.  Maybe not the meat itself, but definitely the majority of meals I seem to eat now make me feel a bit blah.  When I was a vegetarian I ate so many fruits and vegetables, and everything was just naturally on the fresh and lighter side.  As a vegetarian, food was fuel for my body not comfort after a bad day.  

Three, my complexion has dulled and I feel a bit more anxious.  This is a no brainer; veggies and fruits make your skin shine so it’s no surprise mine feels a little dull.  As far as the anxiety goes there are numerous studies and books out there about how animals pass their hormones and feelings on to us and it’s something I completely believe and can honestly feel.  I’ll leave the science of all that to the scientist, but I do urge that if you have anxiety to look into the connection between what we eat and how we feel.

Lastly, I can feel the carnivore guilt starting to creep back in.  At first I didn’t feel it at all; I was literally on a meat bender.  Now, I’m imagining the pig I love so much and questioning if I really want that BLT.  

So where does that leave me?  Actually in a good place.  I’m coming out of my all-meat-everything-haze and remembering how much I loved and respected my connection with food and what it does for my body.  I’m not living on fast food, and I’m focusing on what is healthiest for me.  I actually recently took an eye-opening intolerance test, which I’ll share with you next week, that has really helped pin point a few sensitivity issues I wouldn’t have figured out on my own.  Will I go back to being a vegetarian?  It wouldn’t surprise me.  Right now I’m still trying to find the right balance for my body. Truly, MKR

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Featured image, Kathryn McCrary for Waiting on Martha

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  • Tess / 07.21.2017

    Thanks for sharing! Personally, I’ve found that I do best when I stick to being mostly veggie-minded except two days out of the week I opt for wild caught salmon or grass-fed beef. Everyone is different though but I thought I’d share nonetheless 🙂

  • Kate / 07.21.2017

    I’m a meat eater, but focus mainly on them veggies! 🙂 I try to never eat at all those restaurants you mentioned because they all make me feel sluggish and nasty. I think there are good ways to eat meat- high quality protein surrounded by veggies… and ways to eat meat that really don’t do our bodies any favors, like at those fast food restaurants that taste so good as they clog your arteries!! And if you’re anything like me, once you start eating fast food, it’s almost impossible to stop! I believe everything I read about unhealthy foods being addictive due to sugar, etc! Get it girl! Glad you’re always searching for your balance!

  • I went to a homeopathic nurse this year after recurring sinus issues (and the scary antibiotics that came with them) kept me ill. Sure enough, wheat, dairy, and soy are food that trigger sensitivity in my system. When I cut them out, I feel amazing! But sadly, this makes it harder for me to eat like vegetarian, which is something I’ve always tried to do. Soy has been the hardest thing to stay away from because it’s in everything from gum to sauces to chocolate (but now I can justify spending more money on fancier chocolate because it often doesn’t have soy lecithin in it!) Sadly, going out to restaurants and eating with friends and family is also more difficult. But at least now I know what foods cause me problems and try to stay away as much as possible.

  • Dale / 07.22.2017

    As you continue to post about this, I’d love to hear where you are with fish. Fish is my go-to protein, especially in restaurants.
    I was vegetarian for a while years ago, but for decades now I’ve strived for a balance that let’s me eat anything in moderation. I find I get downright claustrophobic when I limit myself too much, and start to focus on all the things on a menu I “can’t” eat, rather than what I can.

    I love that you are so conscious about this journey!

  • Jayme E Phillips / 07.24.2017

    Thanks for your honesty. It’s sad that people get so mad with how we choose to treat our own bodies. So, because of that, I think this post is super brave.

  • Karen Wilson / 07.25.2017

    I would love to hear your follow up. I have had many issues with food.

  • Thanks for sharing your story and letting people know that sometimes we can’t all be 100% meat-free. Beginning at age 12, I was vegetarian for about 10 years. Then I went to the ER for an emergency digestive issue, and while I was admitted, my body began to crave chicken. When I got out, I ate chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner… I had so much energy! After that experience, I learned that my body sometimes wants and needs meat; not protein in general, but meat specifically. I try to be as plant-based as possible (for myself and for the animals), but I do the best I can and I don’t stress if I turn to dairy or meat or eggs when it feels right. Ayurveda has taught me that meat is actually prescribed for some patients and issues. On that note, did you try non-Western practitioners to help determine the causes of your digestive issues?

  • Thanks for your honest insight on this. I too have gone back and forth on this, mostly for ethical reasons. I have also gone through random phases where I for some reason will find something like chicken very unappealing. I am a big fan of nutritionist Kimberly Snyder and the philosophy she shares on food and digestion. If you haven’t read her Beauty Detox books, I highly recommend! I am also currently reading Wellth by Jacob Wachob and he discusses the mind body connection with food and how you may find yourself going through phases of needing/craving certain types of food. It really resonated with me. I think we often don’t listen to our bodies enough. I think we can all agree that fast food is never the best bet. I try to steer clear, but let’s be honest – a chicken biscuit is pretty tough to pass up! Good luck on your continued journey!

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