My Journey From Meat Eater to Vegan/Vegetarian And Back Again

January 15, 2015

Blogposts, Health

New Guinea - DaragI decided to become a vegetarian when I was in medical school.

For me, part of the reason was health.  The ‘fat was bad for you’ idea came into full force when I was training to be a doctor and I didn’t want to have my arteries block up like I was seeing with A LOT of people coming into hospital.

The other reason was spiritual and philosophical.  I found I had a strong bent to self realisation and finding God, Goddess, All That Is, or whatever you want to call it.  Autobiography of a Yogi was my ‘go to’ book.  I first read it when I was 16 and experiencing the trauma and grief from breaking up from my first love.  I found myself reading it again after each break up for the next several years.  I had an 18 month pattern back then.  In relationship for 18 months to 2 years.  Out of one for about the same time.  There were 3 lovely lasses that I fell in love with and I read that book after each one.

In retrospect, it’s interesting how ‘patterns’ can be created.   My dad left mum and I when I was about 18 months old and went to the other side of the world, from Scotland to New Zealand.  (my mum and dad remet in New Zealand and remarried when I was 9 but that’s another story:)).   I imagine part of my unconscious mind was working with that time frame to bring that pain of separation back to the surface for healing.   Ultimately I believe that the separations we experience in life bring us face to face with how we feel about ‘separating’ from God but that is yet another story and I digress.

So, for me, probably like most people, my choice to become a vegetarian had both spiritual and health motivations.  Spiritual was probably the strongest reason.

It started slow when I was in 3rd year medicine in 1975 but by 1978 I was a house surgeon, living in a yoga centre and had been fully vegetarian for a while.

Over the 35 years of being vegetarian I also went dairy & wheat free in 1990 and was wheat free vegan for 10 years shortly after that.  We brought up our two gorgeous girls when we were in that wheat free vegan phase.

I had left medicine to pursue my spiritual path in 1979, believing that was the true path to health.  Partly I was running towards what brought me joy.  The other part was running away from what terrified me – the possibility of hurting people, even when you were doing all the ‘right’ things.   The part of the Hippocratic oath where it says “first do no harm” must have been hardwired into my system.   So, I haven’t had a lot to do with sick people since then.  If I had I wonder if I would have woken up sooner?

Darag

On the surface it looked like I was healthy.  Weight had always been an issue for me since I was 8 or so and had my tonsils and adenoids out.  I came from a chubby family and given I had my weight relatively well controlled I thought I was doing pretty well.Mum's Side

Then in my early 50’s my body started falling apart.  Inflammatory conditions like blepharitis and pustular rosacea reared their heads.   Then the big C.  It was a little c really in how treatable it is but testicular cancer can be fatal if untreated.  Luckily I caught it early.

That was the point when I really started to have second thoughts about the ‘healthy’ diet I was on.  But nothing changed until about 2 years later where my GP thought he should test my blood for cholesterol and the results came back saying it was getting high.

For me that was like adding insult to injury.

I’ll always remember being handed several sheets of information by the practice nurse that essentially said EAT LESS MEAT and EAT MORE WHOLE GRAIN.   And here was I, a wheat free vegan.  I couldn’t eat less red meat or more whole grain than I was already.

That drove me to the internet to do lots of research and to read lots of books.  What I discovered made me eat a lot of humble pie.  I decided it was time to try something different.

Like becoming vegetarian, becoming a meat eater again didn’t happen overnight for me.  I tried an occasional meal of chicken or fish.  Usually when I was out at a restaurant or at a pot luck dinner, because it was just me at that time that was making those choices and cooking any kind of meat in the house was out of the question.

I found I enjoyed the feeling in my body of eating chicken and fish and carried on with my reading and researching while looking forward to the next meal I could have with those ‘new’ treats.  Canned wild Alaskan salmon crept into the house about that time.

Then there came an opportunity to cook just for myself while my wife Sally and my two girls Sacha and Alayna were in England for several weeks visiting Sally’s parents when her mum was in early stages with dementia.   So I went full steam ahead doing the exact opposite of the pages, the practice nurse had given me, suggested.  I had read Protein Power by Dr’s Michael and Mary Dan Eades and had decided, as I was already wheat free, to ditch grains altogether and get my carb intake down below 30 gms a day by eating only low carbohydrate veggies.  So grains were gone and I went back to eating meat fully.

By then I was eating lamb so I cooked big pots of lamb roganjosh that would last for several meals as well as have eggs, chicken and fish for 3 meals a day and snack on smaller amounts of the same, when I needed it.  It was a remarkable experience.  I felt better in myself.   Not that I was feeling bad before, I generally have always felt good.

My mind reached new levels of clarity and my emotions settled down to a steady and wonderful hum of contented joy.   I was likethe proverbial cat who had got the cream.  At the same time my body fat dropped from 18% to 9% and I experienced what it was like to have my body fat under control, without feeling like I had to starve myself, for the first time since I started dieting at the age of 14.  It had only taken 50 years to figure it out!  Needless to say it would have taken a lot less if medicine and the western world had not gone fully into the low fat myth in the 70’s.

The family came back to a husband and a dad that was not willing to go back to the way life was for us before they left.  It was not an easy time but I felt so different that it would have felt sacrilegious not to stay on the path I was on.

Slowly the family changed.  The girls first, then Sally.  The time when we prepared and cooked our first chicken as a family was a highly charged event.  I won’t tell you the whole story but suffice to say that if relaxed eating is supposed to be healthful then that particular meal had to go down in history as the least relaxed that we have ever had as a family.

But, as difficult as that meal was, our family’s collective inner wisdom prevailed as we all learned to adapt to what our body’s truly wanted.  It’s still stuns me when I see Sacha, our oldest daughter and the one who spent longest with us in our wheat free vegan stage, enjoying steak more rare than I do.

Eating steak did take a while for me.  I’d read a book called Metabolic Typing by William Wolcott and was convinced I was a carbohydrate type because I seemed to naturally prefer white meats like the breast of chicken and light fish and because I’d been a vegetarian for 35 years I couldn’t answer questions like “Do you sleep better after a meal of red meat?”.

To this day I remember the moment I had my first bite of steak.  It was after smelling someone else’s steak while we were out one day and thinking ‘Mmmm, that would be nice to try sometime’.  That sometime came soon after.  When my body experienced that first bite, I had one of those ‘I’ve died and gone to heaven’ moments.  That was when the idea of a Functional Body Type, that I’d read about in William’s book, really made sense to me at a core level.  Because our body’s are so adaptable they will learn to FUNCTION with whatever we give them.  But functioning is not the same as THRIVING.

That first steak was the moment where I fully stepped out of the ‘Functional Type’ I had forced my body to become and let go into the real ‘Protein Type’ that I am.  The whole experience of how the change back to meat eating affected me but this experience in particular brought me home to a culture that I’ve always felt connected with, the culture of the Native American Indians/First Nation people and the tribes that truly honoured and respected the animals they had to kill in order to live.

In many ways it feels like I have come full circle.  My sense of spirituality is alive and well with the awakening of the deepest respect for life that I have ever known.

Lierre KeithIf you are on this journey too, my heart goes out to you.  I know how challenging that shift can be on every level.  If you’d like more input I’d recommend a book that I came across after I’d made the transition.  It’s Lierre Keith’s, The Vegetarian Myth.  It’s a story of how your philosophy truly can wreck your health.  Lierre’s poignant personal story was the inspiration for this very complete look at vegetarianism from all the contexts she had to look at to answer her own questions  –  spiritual, philosophical, political, and environmental as well as personal health.

Somewhere along the way I also learned to add in more fats so it wasn’t so much of a Low Carb High Protein lifestyle as a Low Carb High/Healthy Fat and Adequate Protein one.  It took me a few years and much discovering and exploring to really master the process for myself.

If you want to save yourself some time and angst, download my free report and get access to my free email support series at www.lchfdietmentor.com

Confused about what to eat? LCHFDietMentor

 

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15 Responses to “My Journey From Meat Eater to Vegan/Vegetarian And Back Again”

  1. Claire Says:

    I would prefer it if people did not needlessly harm sentient creatures. I really would like to know what you meant about feeling acceptance, love, and respect for animals… I’m trying to understand your point of view.

    Reply

    • raechel Says:

      I love animals so much and respect them so much i am willing to eat them. i would not eat something i hate or thought was gross and dirty. All life plants, animals, and rocks, the earth, and sky, are one. If you do some spiritual reading or scientific reading you’ll see the connection between all life. All is part of the same conscioisness. Also, along with the readings and viewings the admin pointed you toward, i recommend reading “nutrition and physical degeneration” by weston price. You’ll find that eating animals is integral to humans’ health. Good luck.

      Reply

      • Claire Says:

        I respect animals so much that I am willing to let them live their lives and fulfill their own purposes while I eat food made from plants. I haven’t eaten any animals or their secretions for 7 years and am very healthy. By your reasoning, you would be happy to be killed and eaten by some creature who just felt like killing you even though he didn’t need to eat your flesh, because we are all one. It seems rather strange reasoning I must say, but maybe you can explain it….

        Reply

    • admin Says:

      Well, let’s see if I can explain it, Claire. I’ve never been one to feel unhealthy, even though wheat & soy bloated my stomach uncomfortably, cows milk made my sinuses block up and coffee made my joints ache, (some of the physical reasons I became a wheat free vegan who prefers liquorice tea) I have generally always been healthy with good energy levels. Even when I had cancer I never felt any different. Luckily I caught it early. So being prompted by my body as I share above with blepharitis, rosacea, cancer and bad blood lipids to revisit my thoughts on what a healthy diet was and trying something that a few years before I simply couldn’t have contemplated and finding that it worked for me not only at a blood health level but also as a felt sense of more peace, contentment and joy in my body-mind, I came to a different level of acceptance of life that wasn’t there before. I could feel in an unmistakeable and tangible level the bliss that happened for me as I fed my body as you call them, sentient beings. Having been deeply involved in a personal spiritual path those inner felt experiences take on a keen importance as pointers to a deeper reality for me. It was those feelings that led me to a deeper appreciation of the connectivity of life and the parts we are all playing in it.

      Reply

      • Claire Says:

        Thanks for trying to explain but I don’t think I’ll ever understand what you mean… I’m spiritual too and my spirituality leads me to do as little harm to others as possible, exactly because we and other creatures are all connected. If I harm them then I won’t feel joy or peace… Your “bliss” comes at the cost of others’ lives and happiness so it can’t be authentic. Those other creatures are living and have purposes and joy in their lives, so I won’t make them dead, especially because I have no need to eat them. We tried to understand each other but afraid it didn’t work out.

        Reply

        • admin Says:

          To understand requires a willingness to understand Claire and you probably aren’t there yet. Nothing wrong with that. We’re just on different life paths at the moment. I understand your point of view because I have lived it for decades and I appreciate how challenging it can be for you to understand mine. The way I look at it, on the level beyond the world where oneness exists and death doesn’t, there is no harm here, only the potential to reawaken to love.

          Reply

        • raechel Says:

          That’s the vegan party line. But getting fat in, if vegam requires avocados controlled by the mafia in mexico, which is making life awful for humans that live there. Coconut trees are going up for their fats, but at the expense of ancient forests, and those picking coconuts are being paid slave wages. What about the bunnies being trapped, the deer being killed, the earth being sucked dry for row crops? Focusing on cows, pigs, and chickens is a tiny piece of the puzzle.

          Reply

          • Claire Says:

            So you do want to minimize the harm that you cause, then. So do I. That’s why I buy local food and grow and forage a lot of my food. And that’s why I don’t kill or have killed for me any sentient creatures. I don’t focus only on farmed animals, because veganism means doing as little harm as possible to all creatures and the earth. That doesn’t sound so different from your position except for your feelings about killing animals.

  2. Raechel Says:

    Wow! I too have been through the journey you describe, and it’s great to read it put so well. I commend you on your strength to get past the propaganda and settle in to this knowledge that is so powerful and so opposing of the majority belief right now. And I say majority, as in mass media, developed world sort of people, because as we know, these beliefs are not shared by people eating innately. People connected deeply with their food source understand and acknowledge the death that must be present. And REALLY the death that is always present, from a yogic perspective that everything is really one. There is no object, only subject. I am the plants, beans, the animals, the sky…Everything is one. I feel like (I’m a practicing yogi) that is a major point that is being missed. I read Lierre Keith’s book you mentioned, and I am so happy she put her life out there like that, in the spotlight, to spread this important information. Thank you for posting this piece.

    Reply

    • admin Says:

      Thanks Raechel,

      I appreciate your heartfelt response. Everything indeed is one. For me, realising that is the primary purpose of life. Along with extending the light once you are back in touch with it:) Hopefully we’ll see the majority belief around food shift in the next decade or two. Global oneness may take a little longer:). But what is a little time in the face of eternity but a journey to be enjoyed.

      Reply

    • Claire Says:

      Do you not see a difference between sentient life and non-sentient life? Why kill sentient beings when we don’t need to?

      Reply

      • admin Says:

        That’s one of the questions we all have to come to terms with Claire. For me the journey back to eating sentient beings was a journey of acceptance, love and respect for all of life and the parts we each play in it. If this is a journey that you are wondering about making then I’d recommend Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth Also this video on wolves and this one on elephants and herd animals I found helped open my eyes to the part we all are playing.

        Reply

        • Claire Says:

          Could you explain please how you felt acceptance, love, and respect for animals after you started eating them again? I’m really curious about your thinking because I don’t find it fully explained in this article. I’m not sure how the videos you mention relate to humans choosing to eat animals. I don’t like Lierre Keith’s book. The thing is humans do not need to eat animals in order to be healthy. I don’t know what you were eating as a vegan but it is absolutely possible to be very healthy as a vegan. Since raising and killing animals obviously causes great suffering to them and also is a very inefficient use of resources I don’t believe it can be justified. Eating plants which do not feel pain is in a different moral category than eating animals who do feel pain and who want to continue to live.

          Reply

          • admin Says:

            Reading between the lines Claire it seems to be that you are pretty determined to uphold your position and would prefer it if everyone else felt the same way. Is that a reasonable accurate understanding?

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