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11.01.2010

eating meat. or not. and how it has nothing to do with weight.

last week i talked about how i place no restrictions on my diet and a very perceptive reader asked me if being a vegetarian is not exactly that, a form of restriction. 

what follows are my thoughts regarding this question.

5 napkin

texans know how to do meat. their barbecue is unparalleled. steaks? unlike anything you've before had. 
i grew up as the cheeseburger queen. it was the only choice when dining out. and i always, always finished my meal--quarter-pounders, half-pounders, full-pounders oh my!

the first time i thought about cutting meat out of my diet was just out of college. i found i wasn't eating much of the stuff, unless out at a restaurant. and so it became a little experiment: could i survive without meat? well, within two weeks i was a hop, skip, and a jump away from eating a stick of butter by its lonesome. butter, you ask? i know. i know, odd right? the fat. my body was missing the fat that comes along with meat. and so the experiment ended.

the second time i was in australia visiting my dear friend stephen and his then fiancee (now wife) miriam who was a vegan. miriam and i were walking along the harbor, the sky overcast, and the sydney opera house just a stone's throw away. and she explained that for her the choice to go vegan was primarily one of environmental concern. environmental, huh? 

a few months later i picked up jonathan safran foer's eating animals, an in-depth look at the factory-farming industry and what it really means to eat meat today. the book was eye-opening and alarming. and the decision to forgo meat was made for me.

i've seen friends go vegetarian. and i've seen friends go vegan. and i've seen many do it for weight-loss. it becomes a game, a challenge. and often they met with great success. but when weight-loss is the primary purpose meat returns, animal byproducts return, and so do the pounds.

cutting meat out of my diet was never, not once, about weight. it was about the consumption of hormones, the emission of greenhouse gasses. but because of my history i was careful not to define myself by the term vegetarian. in fact, i don't think i've ever once said here on this blog that i am in fact a vegetarian, choosing instead the phrase i don't eat meat, or i choose not to eat meat (most of the time) but if i get the urge i'm gonna answer. 

i'm gonna level with you. i like meat. i do. but i choose not to eat it because it's something i can do day after day that will have a positive impact on the environment. it's something i can do day after day that will make me feel good about myself. it has enabled me to think about food in terms larger than myself. 

being a vegetarian, for me, has nothing to do with restriction. nothing to do with weight or what i look like. it is simply this: the choice not to eat meat feeds me in a way that hamburgers and chicken breasts and ribs never will.



ps: anyone see portia di rossi on oprah today? she had some pretty amazing things to say about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia. especially there at the end discussing how she got better...how it had so much to do with allowing herself all foods in any amount. and love. always love. 

27 comments:

Jackie N said...

It's amazing... when you find a reason bigger than yourself, change becomes so much easier.

Anonymous said...

I saw a statistic that said in order to ingest the same amount of estrogen (the hormone used in beef production) as there is in one birth control pill, you would need to eat 3000 lbs of beef in one sitting. jb

Camilla Leila said...

good stuff here, lady. i could talk about this forever and ever. and even if there are trace amounts of synthetic hormones in the meat i'm consuming, i have a problem with it (to the comment above). And there are WAY more problems with the factory farm meat than just hormones. Our food system is seriously flawed and the fact that so many people accept it as a normal part of life is mind boggling to me. It should be mandatory in life to learn about this stuff.

go you!!

Camilla Leila said...

oh and i love that picture. PROOF that we met!

mrsmonje said...

I loved this blog about meat! While I still eat meat, its very rare that I actually do and I will usually choose not to eat it. I cant cut it out completely because I am married to a man who loves it! I love how you say its a choice for you and something that you decided all on your own. Thanks for the post! oh and Im new to your blog and am very much in L O V E!!!!

Anonymous said...

Love this! Similar to you, I read his book (and saw him speak last month) and it forever changed my view. I do reserve the right to "answer the urge" and I have a few times. You articulated it so well.

karajean said...

Thanks for the answer. I tried not to make my question confrontational in any way, because I was simply curious :)

wilybrunette said...

@karajean: thanks for the comment! i was so glad you prompted this response because i think for many people going vegetarian or vegan is a form of restriction and in that sense it can be very damaging!

jackiek said...

i've been a vegetarian for 3 years. no meat, poultry, or fish. and i'm proud of it.

people always ask me if i do it to stay skinny. and i always so no. i feel exactly the same was you do. it's all about feeling healthy and feel good about myself and what i'm doing for the environment.

and like you, i do like some meat. but really, i dont LOVE it enough to eat it. :)

Jo said...

I'm with you! I went vegan six months ago after watching the documentary Earthlings. My mind and my body are much happier, and it has absolutely nothing to do with weight....it's far more important in every way. :)
I love what you said about how not eating meat has enabled you to think about food in terms larger than yourself. You've said it beautifully!!
Also, a whole new appreciation of other foods opens up once you say no to meat. I'm eating more of a variety of foods than ever before!

Anonymous said...

I really liked the post. I haven't read your blog in a long time but i'm happy to see how happy you seem to be and that you're eating choices are not determined by weight and fat count. I just ordered the book you mentioned because of you :)

Laura Marie said...

LOVED Portia on Oprah... I mean, love Oprah all the time--but what a wonderfully honest, refreshing take on an eating disorder. And how fearless of her to bare her experience on national television!

Kelsey said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. Haven't had meat in 2 years and feeling fantastic.

Lots of love
kels

Alexandra said...

Portia on Oprah made me cry, because so much of her eating disorder journey was like mine. the self-hatred at the root of all, and where the heck does that come from, really? even though I'm on track with eating without restriction, I still grapple with some degree of self-hatred day to day. maybe I'll share it sometime.
loved this.

Jessica Marie said...

"i'm gonna level with you. i like meat. i do. but i choose not to eat it because it's something i can do day after day that will have a positive impact on the environment."

YES. My thoughts exactly...

Sandy a la Mode said...

hello~!! i am visiting from camilla's blog!! must say you have a lovely blog yourself! and i loved seeing portia on oprah!

Michelle said...

I am a chick-a-tarian. I eat chicken. I don't eat eggs, pork, beef, fish or any other game. For me it became more of a moral and environmental issue than anything to do with weight-loss. I actually stopped eating meat because I had a very scary dream about some cows, and it forever changed my view on hamburgers and steaks.
BUT I do eat chicken every now and then, so I don't call myself a vegetarian. And I can't go vegan. I love cheese. It hurts cows not to be milked, so I'd rather they are comfortable and happy. And ALIVE.

Sarah boo said...

I saw that Ophrah and I and I actually thought of your when she was saying that.

Michal said...

I'm so glad you have the eloquence that I don't so the world can really understand that. I have been a vegetarian (or i have chosen to not eat meat) for over two years, and if anything, I've GAINED weight. But it's about the feeling it gives you to know that you're doing good for the environment, or not giving your body access to harmful chemicals, or not participating in the consumption of innocent beings, or whatever your reason be.

Feeling good just feels better than meat tastes.

nicole addison said...

this post was inspirational and came at a great tme! this entire week this has been laid on my heart and you really opened my eyes even more. i need to find that book also:) but my reasons are the same as yours and even the thought of what some of those animals go through just for us to eat them breaks my heart. maybe i, myself can't change that but, you're right... it's something i can do daily to better the enviornment and that's enough for me.

Jessica said...

My father went vegan for the exact same reasons - environmental concern - and it really is shocking just what an impact the beef industry (for instance) has! And if an Italian man, born and raised on meat with every meal can see the benefits of going meat-less, that's saying something. Brava to you for being environmentally aware and active! I myself failed at vegan-ism after 2 months, but I may be giving veggie a try in time...

Eva said...

my husband is a vegetarian and I am very near to being one. I don't see how anyone can lose weight from simply being vegetarian though...I tend to eat a lot more starches and breads and goodies! Sweets don't have meat! :P

http://bottleblack.blogspot.com

Camilla Leila said...

i just looked at this picture again and it made my heart hurt. OH the fun we could have.

...

Oh the fun we WILL have.

right?

wilybrunette said...

eva, me too! i actually find it can lead to weight gain!

tanuki said...

i love how you avoid the term 'vegetarian'—i think it makes a lot of sense. i'd rather be "i don't eat meat (usually)" than vegetarian—that way, if i do have sushi/steak/whatever, it's not "i slipped up", rather it's "i normally don't do this, but that 12 oz. ribeye was just screaming to be eaten. by me."

way cool (^_^)b

SM said...

I too, "don't eat meat" I love how you explain your reasons and they are basically the same as mine. I never force my vegetarianism in peoples faces, I don't do it to get skinny, I do it because it's a challenge and it's "right" for me. It is good to see someone else have the same views and opinions on food, we're hard to find! :)

Sophia Caris said...

I really like your post. It's not always easy to talk about reasons for being vegetarian. I have been a faithful vegan for about 3 years after watching PETA videos, and as I have educated myself more about the benefits of being vegan, I can think of no negative aspect about it all. It only has positives. After going vegetarian, I relied heavily of cheese and "fake" meats, but once I cut dairy out of my life, I lost about 20 pounds very easily. Now I am at a healthy weight and happy in my soul with the decisions I make on a daily basis not being animal products. Best of luck to you!