Last post, I left you all off with the harrowing tale of how I became a vegetarian at eight years old. Now comes the part where, after 13 years of being a dyed-in-the-wool animal-loving hippie PETA advocate, I bit into one of these:
See those flames in the background? Totally appropriate, because I felt like I was going to hell. And yet it tasted like heaven. Confusing, I know. The transition had a lot to do with this:
Those are red blood cells. Yes, they look like floating bean bag chairs. You see, apparently I’m severly anemic (which is fancy-pants talk for “there’s not enough iron in my blood“). Pretty much everyone in my family has this issue. It’s some weird hereditary thing. I KNOW your immediate response is “I have the perfect solution! Have you tried _____?” YES. Yes I have. I’ve tried everything. Big pills, little pills, weird liquid concoctions from exotic places, disgusting amounts of blackstrap molasses, you name it. Slow FE helped a lot but not enough. As a student doctor so delicately put it: “Your blood sucks. Your diet sucks. Put the two together and it sucks a lot.”
I wasn’t a very good vegetarian. I tried really hard, but I don’t like soy or tofu and really, beans can only get you so far in life (sorry kids, that Jack and the Beanstalk thing is a load of crap). So on top of already tending towards anemia, my body didn’t have enough nutrients in it to really absorb whatever supplements I took. I was constantly exhausted, cranky, dizzy all the time, and had the occasional totally embarassing fainting session. Mortifying. Especially for a high schooler.
When I was 21, I finally made the leap and decided to start eating meat again. I learned quickly that jumping straight back to red meat was a really, really, really bad idea. Trust me. My stomach will never forget that experience. Ouch. It’s like coming off one of those natural food diets. You just don’t jump straight into tacos and pizza. Stomachs can’t handle that.
So I regrouped and started over, tackling the food chain from the ground up (well, not literally – that would required me to eat ants or something…gross). I started with tuna sandwiches, progressed to salmon and through the rest of the sea life, then made my way to chicken salad, chicken cutlets, fried chicken and then…BACON. Oh glorious bacon. And then ham, pork ribs and finally ground beef. I had my first bite of a cheeseburger a month ago, after four years in transition. I now understand why my fiance looks so lovingly at his food.
I feel better and don’t struggle with anemia anywhere near as much as I used to. There have been a few side effects from my diet change: I’ve gained a few pounds, and my skin and hair both went from extremely dry to a bit oily. I simply changed my shampoo and moisturizer.
For those of you who are wondering, I do try to buy organic free-range meat as much as possible. And yes, I do feel guilty. But my health is important to me. And there are certain animals I will always refuse to eat, including: veal, goat, goose, duck, lamb and rabbit. Because that’s like eating Santa Claus.