My Journey to a Meat Free Lifestyle

When I left my home-town and spent my first year away from my family I felt a sudden urge to learn about nutrition and experiment with new foods.

I began to read, research, study, volunteer, and connect with people in the field of my interests, in particular holistic nutrition and health. My journey led me to an important topic that really opened my eyes and made me look my own health and the impact my lifestyle was having on my body – toxins.

Toxins (I will blog more about this topic later)

Toxins are inevitable and enter our body by means of consumption, skin absorption and inhalation. Toxins are present in the tap water that we drink and bathe in, the plastic we drink water from, the lotions and potions we apply, the cleaning products that we use, medication, pollution, chemicals, dental amalgams, heavy metals and the foods that we eat. They are everywhere and mostly unavoidable.

The decision to change

Being an occasional extremist and ‘do-er’, I decided to take control.. This involved me throwing out the detergents, researching homemade recipes for my washing regime, avoiding underarm roll-ons and perfumes (I was au naturel and a little bit pongy!), throwing out the plastic tupaware dishes, labelling the microwave out of order, introducing the soda crystals, lemon and vinegar and omitting bubbles from my bath! Gosh, it made life difficult, dull and a little bit dirtier due to the hassle of cleaning without convenient sprays and liquids. I found the eco-alternatives a little pricey or plain and the whole challenge, well challenging. Hands up to my fellow hippies who have mastered the art of a tox-free household! I salute you J

Finding the balance

So after approximately 2 months, I realised that my all-or-nothing approach to being tox-free was just not fitting with my busy, single-mum-with-2-kids, work-addicted lifestyle and opted to re-introduce the shampoo, roll-on, bathroom spray and microwave! I know, I know… epic fail! But what this had taught me is that instead, I can control the food that I eat which has a very direct and immediate impact on our health. As with any change that we experience in our lives, we have to use a gentle, realistic method to re-wire our mindset to new habits which may go against the grain of the general ‘norm’.

Eliminating one toxin at a time: Meat

I am going back a year to when I was in the early stages of transitioning my health to what it is now so let me explain how the decision came about to eliminatingmeat from my diet. I was still quite naïve to our daily nutritional requirements at this point but figured if other people were surviving without meat or “animal protein”, then so could I. Despite my friends and families biased and uneducated concerns, I committed myself to becoming meat-free without educating myself and feeling a little fearful of being opposed by, well, everybody!

Defending your decision

Empowerment is the word that springs to mind when I remember the first time I refused meat but in all honesty, this quickly turned to embarrassment and self-doubt when friends would challenge me and ridicule me with comments such as “where do you get your protein from” or worse still, actually make me a bacon sandwich and say “now don’t be daft, it’s just bacon” – I mean how demeaning!

Until you understand WHY you are becoming meat-free, defending yourself will always be tricky. My response when asked WHY would be, because I respect animals and feel disgusted by the mass-cruelty and inhumanity across the world, I would then receive in retaliation the response “it never bothered you while you were growing up” or “cruelty will happen whether you eat meat or not”. This is partly true, but people’s values and opinions change when they arm themselves with education and awareness and I now believe that one person can make a huge difference because as an individual, I matter! As do we all.

The meat-defeat

So being meat-free started off easy, I was motivated, determined and dead-certain, however these emotions soon became faltered when I was targeted as being socially selfish, or awkward. I didn’t notice many changes in my hormonal balance, spots, mood or energy levels at this point which led to me falling off the wagon and re-introducing the meat for some time (but only the organic varieties and always cooked and eaten with love and respect).

Reaction to meat

A new relationship led to being defeated by the meat. To impress my partner and make him feel comfortable I started to cook my favourite spicy meat dishes and felt it a shame to leave any wastage (both financially and respect for the dead animal) so I decided to eat the meat and guess what?! I got very unwell, not once, not twice but three times during summer. Always throat infections and always severe. The penny finally dropped… meat was lowering my immune system. Although my meat-free months had never shown any obvious signs of improvement to my health, the elimination of animal flesh had purged me of the putrefying toxins and begun healing itself, this had made me acutely sensitive to this particular food type. My body was no longer immune. I was, and am capable of recognising the damaging effects that meat has on my body and its ability to function, heal and protect me.

Meat free for LIFE

Being so unwell cleared up any conflicting concerns I may have had. I realised that the people who tried to intervene in my new ‘diet’ were just fearful of a life deprived of meat.  I re-evaluated my reasons for not eating meat. Now when people ask me HOW and WHY I gave up meat, they appear less confronting or braggart and more intrigued because I am more confident in my beliefs and choice. My response is “I don’t eat me because it has an undesirable effect on my immune system, I personally prefer not to suffer ailments – and I haven’t been unwell since becoming meat-free”. This seems to have a better reaction and sometimes even a subtle impact on my skeptical and sometime misinformed meat-eating friends.

Feeding the family

This is a controversial topic for many, but I decided not to impose my veganism upon the family. My children have freedom of choice and currently eat meat when it is cooked by my partner or family. I do resent buying meat but feel it would be unfair to prohibit the family until they are ready to implement that change for themselves. A natural side-effect in the house is that meat dishes are being cooked less and my children are gradually enjoying it less. The house is always stocked with ample fruit and vegetables that appeals to them and tends to fill the family up meaning they have smaller weekday meals that sue less meat.

Veganism

One year later and I am still fine-tuning my eating habits although I am inclined to ‘label’ myself as an almost vegan. Veganism is fast becoming more mainstream and basically means you eat a diet free from animal products including dairy, eggs and honey. Veganism may not be an option for you, which is totally acceptable, however I feel it necessary we reduce our meat and dairy consumption as a society for the sake of animal welfare and for our health. Red meat is putrefying on the digestive system, while eggs raise cholesterol levels and dairy is linked to irregular hormones in men and women. As our population sky-rockets it is far more beneficial to save the grains and water that we feed the genetically engineered animals, to instead feed a larger proportion of the world.

Meal alternatives

It is important to prepare yourself mentally and arm yourself with delicious and irresistible meat-free dishes, snacks and alternatives in advance. Research recipes, get inspiration, be creative, learn about beans, herbs and spices and join a supportive forum or community with like-minded people. Once you start the journey, it becomes the norm and habitual to eat more colourful, nourishing foods. Take your meat-free journey one step at a time and if you retract to meat temporarily, don’t feel guilty but take note of how you FEEL. Do you feel pain, guilt, unhealthy, groggy, constipated, lethargic, helpless or lifeless? Ensure you also make a mental or written list of how you feel being meat-free. Do you feel more alive, energetic, in control, unique, like you belong, in touch with nature, empathetic, in tune or alignment with the universe, creative with food, less toxic, cleaner and alkalised? This is your pain/pleasure list and you should refer to it every time you make a food choice. Always be mindful with what you put into your body to get the most out of it.  

Connect and be part of a community

I believe you should be supported by a community and accept love and help when it comes to food addictions and education. I run a forum for people who share their eating habits whether they eat meat or not. The forum is full of people on a personal journey to optimum health, as I am. There is no wrong or right, just a learning process to establish the best foods to nourish YOU.  Come and join us and learn lots of simple habits to re-educate you to gradually transition your bad food addictions to enjoying and loving food and making mindful choices. Join us for fab and fun food and fitness challenges to really push yourself to better health with ease. Click here Beat the Bloat.

Meat Free Mondays

Fancy a health challenge anyone? The Meat Free Mondays will be occurring in July at my Facebook forum

Image provided by Beat the Bloat forum member Valentina Daprile