I am a lifelong vegetarian. Since birth I have avoided meat, fish and for a while even eggs. So no one is more surprised than me that in the last few weeks I have found myself tucking in to all manner of meat! How did this happen? The short answer is, I discovered paleo.
When I first heard about paleo I dismissed it as being something that clearly wasn’t for me. The paleo diet, for those who don’t know, involves eating a diet based on what foods man ate in Paleolithic times. Also known as the ‘caveman diet’ this involves eating a fair amount of meat. In fact, pretty much all you eat on a paleo diet is meat, fish, eggs, nuts and fruit and veg (although some versions include dairy too).
However, the more research I did about diet and nutrition, the more I became convinced that cutting out grains and processed foods was the way to go. The more I thought about it, the more paleo made sense. Now I know that the idea of the Paleo diet has sparked controversy, but after I did some research on how grains (and particularly modern grains) affect the body, to my mind a grain free, low carbohydrate diet seemed to be the answer.
I did a bit of digging around on the internet and found that some people have attempted to adapt the paleo diet to suit vegetarians (for example see Paleo Vegetarians and No Meat Athlete). But the problem was protein. Soya is a no-no, so that basically leaves eggs as a protein source on a vegetarian paleo diet. My trainer had recommended that I try and eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight; that is a whole lot of eggs!
So all this got me thinking about meat and why I didn’t eat it. I had been brought up a vegetarian since birth. But the more I thought about it, the more meat seemed to be the answer. I disagree with a lot of modern farming techniques that are involved in the mass production of meat so I knew I would need to find some organic, locally produced meat from farmers who paid attention to the welfare of their animals if I was going to give meat a go. With that in mind, I decided to start with fish instead.
I made a lovely spicy, coconut fish soup but I really couldn’t get into the fish. I just didn’t like the ‘fishy’ taste. So I decided to give chicken a go. Pretty much everyone likes chicken, right? I know this sounds crazy, but my heart was actually beating out of my chest before I took my first bite of meat – I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Surprisingly, it was ok! It didn’t make me feel sick, like I thought it might. It was pretty inoffensive actually.
I started incorporating chicken into my meals 2 or 3 times a week and while I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either. After a month I decided I wanted a new challenge, so I went out for dinner with a friend and ate some buffalo! That was even better than the chicken. In fact, it was pretty delicious! Now, I had read all sorts of things about red meat being difficult to digest if you haven’t eaten it in a while, but I had no problems at all. I actually really enjoyed it!
And so there began my life as a meat-eater. Fast forward a few weeks and I am happily tucking into fish and chicken on a regular basis and even the odd bit of red meat here and there. It has not all been plain sailing though, I have no idea how to store or cook meat so I have found myself regularly phoning a friend to ask them how to roast a chicken or if using the same knife on raw meat and cooked meat will make me sick.
If you had told me a few months ago that I would be eating meat, I would never have had believed you. In fact, I would have been willing to bet large amounts of money that it would never happen. Yet, here I am. It’s too early to tell how much of a difference this has made health and fitness wise – although it is certainly easier to get my protein intake up! I still have moments where I waver and struggle with the idea of eating meat, and I’m not sure if that mental block will ever go completely. But for the moment, I am actually enjoying the experience. It’s like a whole new world of food has opened up to me, and I am excited to explore it!
Have you ever made a drastic change in your diet? Have you also gone ‘paleo’? Let me know in the comments…