Why I Stopped Eating Meat For Now

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to write this post. I guess there are just so many reasons and feelings that go behind such a massive shift in food mindset, and I wanted to explain myself properly, which takes time. I made the time to write this post, and I am proud to chat about this lifestyle change.

The Backstory

If you are reading this like, “what the heck is she talking about?!”, then let me back up first. Before I started this tiny space on the Internet in 2013, I ate pescatarian. Before that, I ate vegan for about 3 years (2009-2013) and before that, I ate everything under the sun. After I started my blog, I wanted it to be a place for everyone to find food ideas, so I started building other sources of animal protein into my diet (not beef, but pork and poultry.) And as of September 2019 (so about 4 months), I’m primarily eating vegetarian (with seafood here and there – mainly salmon or shrimp and fancier fish if I’m dining out a nice restaurant.)

You can read all of my reasons on my shift from veganism to well, not veganism, here. And please note, I’m saying I “eat” these ways instead of I “am” these ways (ie I “am” a vegan), because my diet doesn’t define who I am. Geez, if I defined myself by the way I ate, I would be a pretty wishy-washy person, haha! And ugh, I hate food/diet labels because they’re restrictive. If you say you’re eating vegan and you decide one day you want to have a slice of cheddar, it’s as if you cheated on your partner, you’re despicable, and your entire 99.9% vegan diet is put into question and you’re no longer able to label yourself as “vegan.” You’re shamed online and it’s a whole thing. I just want to say that if you’re eating a certain way and get a craving for a food outside of that diet box, just have the food. Your body might be literally craving it in that moment for a reason. For example, when I was pregnant, I ate so much meat, my body just needed it. I didn’t question it, I just tried my best to frontload with vegetables and source quality meats.

Needless to say, in my adult life, I’ve been back and forth between plant based diets for more than a decade (it feels crazy to say that!) This is because, in my heart of hearts, I know that veganism is the best for my body. Now, it’s definitely not the best for everyone – people have serious and very major health issues when they eat plant based and that’s real. However, for me, I feel and operate at my optimal best when I’m eating plant based.

My family

So what about my kids? My husband? Do I serve them animal protein despite my sentiment that meat isn’t the best? Well, yes, I do. I want my kids to be exposed to everything so that they don’t develop allergies and so that they can make the choice on their own of what they want to eat. It’s not my decision and they’re not old enough to be able to make a decision, so I will wait until they’re ready. And while I may feel best eating mostly plant based, that doesn’t mean it’s right for Luca and Roma.

For dinner, it’s pescatarian right now, so that I can eat alongside everyone. However, for lunches, I serve meats. We always offer the kids meats when we’re out, too. I make sure the meats are organic and grass fed, local as possible, and from a respectable source.

Also, I like serving primarily plant based, because I’m showing them at a young age that vegetables can be at the forefront and the star of the plate, not just something you have to “get through.” As long as their diets aren’t primarily meat based, I feel good about this lifestyle.

Why I Stopped Eating Meat

Having said that, let me explain why I went from eating everything (aside from beef) to eating as I am now, which is mostly vegetarian, but pescatarian if you had to put a label on it.

These are the main reasons:
• I wasn’t feeling great – lethargic, dull skin, tired
• I do care about the environment
• I was trying to exercise and found myself with lower back pain and I never felt energized for my workouts.
• I was getting lazy in the kitchen.
• I was eating too much meat, as someone who prefers eating veggies.

Now, let’s dive into those a bit.

I wasn’t feeling great

I was feeling lethargic, my skin was dull, and I was always tired. I know I just had a baby (my girl was born in June), but I was not just ‘sleep deprived’ tired, because Roma was sleeping through the night and I was getting a solid 6-8 hours (depending on when I put myself to sleep, ha!) It was just a general malaise and a lack of energy. A lack of excitement, maybe. It’s hard to put words to it, but I just didn’t feel like myself. My skin was dull, I was starting to have more breakouts, and no matter how much chia seed oil I slathered on my face at night, my skin looked the same in the morning.

The last time I was in this position, I started eating more plant based and my energy and focus levels sky rocketed. And my skin was the smoothest it’s ever been. So, I wanted to try it again. And literally within 2-3 weeks, I felt like a new woman. I was getting work done at nighttime instead of just slumping onto the couch. My libido was better, I could focus more during the day and I didn’t need a splash of cold water to the face. I felt clearer, and I put all of this energy into my personal life and then I started exercising more consistently. Without sounding dramatic, practically overnight I started feeling better and all that changed was my diet.

I do care about the environment

Every time I’d look at the news, I’d be frightened by the state of this world, not politically speaking, but physically. Literally, our world’s resources are quickly depleting. Tragically, Australia caught on fire. That’s real and it’s happening. I’m not going to get into it further (especially because there are schools of people that don’t believe in things like global warming and I don’t want to start a political war), but eating plant based makes me feel like I’m doing my part for the environment.

Of course, I limit my plastic use by using Stasher bags/reusable water bottles and coffee mugs/glassware, buying local groceries as frequently as I can, using public transportation, and all of that good stuff, but the biggest change we can make for the environment is by decreasing our animal protein consumption. If you didn’t know, cattle’s poop (and farts!) contribute more to the greenhouse gas effect than car emissions! These byproducts are methane, which is more powerful than carbon dioxide in the greenhouse effect, which depletes the ozone layer. And the water usage to maintain cattle is astronomical. Thus, by simply transitioning to a plant based diet, you’re saving the planet. It’s true! Or, just try a meatless Monday at least?

For that and other reasons like soil sustainability, I know in my heart that it’s better for the environment if I eat more plant based. Now, I’m not a vegan, but I am doing what I can and I’ve found a balance where I can now sleep better at night, because I know my little contribution in this world is helping more than it’s hurting.

And let me preface by saying, you don’t need to eat plant based to save the world. There are SO SO many other ways you can help. This is just the easiest way that I can do it, and it’s working for me and my family. I’m not judging anyone slugging back bone broth and cheeseburgers. Do you!

Lower back pain in exercise

Now this was just something that happened by chance, it wasn’t one of the reasons I went into vegetarianism. I was having bad lower back pain that I get on and off ever since I had birthed Luca. I just kind of accepted it. It would get worse when I exercised, and I was starting to avoid certain workouts, because I didn’t want to engage those muscles and make it worse.

Then, I watched the The Game Changers on Netflix about high performance vegan athletes and another light bulb went off. I tried eating vegan the next few days, and I kid you not, my lower back pain DISAPPEARED. Furthermore, my workouts were better, I had more energy, and I felt like everything from my breathing to my endurance was strengthened.

Now, I don’t eat vegan, and I notice it after certain workouts and the foods I eat. It’s pretty cool to literally track your food intake and your sports performance. For example, when I have something with cheese the night before, I wake up sore from that day’s workout. It’s like it causes instant inflammation in my system.

But alas, I love cheese, so…. little steps. Jokes aside, the documentary further motivated me to eat primarily plant based and this new way of eating paired with consistent exercise (made possible by my quick recovery times and newfound energy levels) has gotten me to a very healthy stage of my life and as a bonus, I lost the baby weight. Losing the baby weight wasn’t an immediate goal of mine, I knew it would happen eventually, but I never thought this quick!

I was getting lazy in the kitchen

Now I’ll admit… of all the reasons I turned to pescatarianism, this is my #1 motivator. Simply, I was getting lazy in the kitchen. When you eat meat, it’s so easy to fall into the “protein/starch/veggie” rut. It’s so easy to just roast vegetables on a sheetpan and serve it alongside some meat and call it a meal. Meat is so flavorful, that you don’t need to amp up the vegetables. And I started making lots of chicken, ground turkey, and sausage. We all know how versatile meat is (especially chicken) and it’s easier to find filling meat recipes rather than vegetarian ones on the Internet.

At one point, I think I was eating chicken 3-4 times a week and ground turkey 1-2 times per week. The other days, I’d eat some sort of pork or other meat, dining out a restaurant. My freezer was full of frozen meats. I was a meat eater through and through! And after every meat meal, I just felt off. I didn’t feel glowing or fully nourished. I always felt like I needed something sweet after my meals. There was just this sense of “this isn’t best for my body, but it tastes good, so I’m having it” (which is totally fine, by the way – we live a life of seasons and this was one of them for me.) I think I went an entire month without eating lentils – and that’s so unlike me!

Anyway, I felt like I wasn’t flexing my creative muscles, especially because I was on maternity leave, so I wasn’t cooking for the blog and just for my family’s meals, which were meat heavy. I had the same rotation of meals each week, and I wasn’t trying to transform vegetables like I so notably do. I wasn’t even spiralizing! I was complacent.

Finally, after I started following some vegan Instagram accounts (this was totally subconscious and I forget exactly what spurred that action), I said to myself, “You know how to eat this way and you know how excitingly delicious it is!” And so, there was that.

I couldn’t be more excited to cook now! When I build my weekly meal plans, my nerdy glasses come on, and I get all giggly planning out what we’re going to eat, from veggie curries to lentil meatloaves. The food is just as flavorful (I’d even argue more flavorful) and it makes me feel better. It’s a win-win! No more mealtime boredom for this girl.

The future

Alright, there you have it – those are the reasons why I decided to transition to a primarily vegetarian diet or simply, a pescatarian diet. I don’t know how long I’ll keep this going or what the future me looks like, all I know is that right now, at this stage in my life, my body feels best eating this way and most importantly, it works for me. This is a healthy and sustainable way to eat for me, I never feel hungry, I don’t ever feel deprived, and I am having so much more fun in the kitchen!

Any questions?

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39 comments

Jennifer says:
Love it! I am going through the same thing right now! We haven't had red meat in years, but we were eating SO much chicken! Suddenly I got really sick of chicken! For the family, last year I switched to only 1 chicken dinner a week, fish 1-2 nights and veggies meals the rest of the time. I was totally surprised the family loves it! No complaints. I think everyone was in a rut! I eat veggies meals for breakfast/lunch as well. We are all seeing improvements in our health! An of course I feel like I am doing my part to help the environment! Keep the creative veggie recipes coming!!! And yes, I like not putting a label on myself! I just eat what feels right to me!
Anonymous says:
This is so interesting! I would love to implement this Into my lifestyle for 1.) energy and 2.) I’m also in a workout slump. My question is how do you work this into your family eating. Primarily when it comes to your husband. My husband is on board but he has always eaten meat his whole life so it would be a major adjustment to just change cold turkey.
Meaghan says:
Little adjustments over time will add up to big results! Keep at it!
Jessica says:
This is a great post! It’s honest, and personal. You are such an inspiration in the kitchen! I love how you have the energy to try new plant based recipes for your family! Keep up the good work :)
Meaghan says:
This is so kind! Thank you!
Ali Maffucci says:
Thank you for the kindness!
Anonymous says:
I feel like you perfectly summarized Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food.” Love your approach to eating!
Ali Maffucci says:
Oh, I need to read that - I've heard great things!
Jessica says:
This really makes me want to try to incorporate this into our life more! I think we are going to try a plant based February and see if we notice any differences. How do you suggest to meal plan where you don’t need a ton of different ingredients for everyday? I Struggle with that and I think that’s why I don’t meal plan... I’m sure you have some helpful tips!
Ali Maffucci says:
I meal plan and try to incorporate very basic groceries, not exotic ingredients (just pantry essentials.) That helps!
Susan says:
Great post. I have been eating a vegan diet, along with my husband and 11 yr old twins for the past year. We all feel great. I watched Dairy is scary, Dominion, What the Health and Cowspiracy. It opened my eyes to so much. My health has never been better and I know it’s good for the environment!
Ali Maffucci says:
Yes, it's all about education!
Catherine says:
Can you suggest any good plant based bloggers?
Ali Maffucci says:
That's a great question! Simply Quinoa, The Full Helping, Cookie + Kate, and The First Mess!
Morgan says:
This is so inspiring! My husband and I can’t wait to try a meatless month. February here we come. Looking forward to more energy, less back pain and getting creative in the kitchen. Thanks Ali!
Ali Maffucci says:
Yay! Cheers to February!
Anonymous says:
I am pro plant based also and agree with you, but the ozone layer hole was caused by chlorofluorocarbons CFC’s found in coolants and aerosol propellants not increased carbon Dioxide levels.
Stacey Erdelsky says:
I was wondering if you post calories for your recipes. I have a really slow metabolism and am unable to work out for health reasons so I have to really watch my calorie intake. I tried going vegan but actually gained weight because beans and other vegan sources of protein are so much higher in calories. I’d rather be a vegetarian/pescatarian but struggle to find low calorie recipes. Any suggestions?
Meaghan says:
We don't! We love to focus more on intuitive eating.
Ali Maffucci says:
I used to, but I do not anymore, because I don't want people focusing on calories. If you'd like to calculate caloric information, MyFitnessPal.com is a great one to enter the ingredients and get a calculation!
Anonymous says:
This is so awesome .Thanks for sharing.What is the name of that Netflix documentry?
Apriori says:
I so appreciate this. I, too, feel so MUCH better eating vegan. My downfalls have been things like nonfat cheese or nonfat half and half for coffee. Brain fog, digestive discomfort. Cut these out (due to weird allergies I can’t have nutritional yeast or many faux dairy products) and I don’t miss them. I feel so much better, instantly. I also say I tend towards eating vegan but don’t claim myself as such just my habits. Thanks for all you do. LOVE my Inspiralizer and spiralizing!
Meaghan says:
This is so great to hear! Keep it up!
Ali Maffucci says:
Thank you for sharing, I love to hear this!
Karen says:
This is so interesting! Do you have any tips on how to get started? I'd be interested in making some changes for myself, but I know that my husband and two kids will still eat meat as you mentioned yours do. Do you typically build out a meal and just omit the meat for yourself? Or add in fish instead? Thanks in advance!
Ali Maffucci says:
There are so many incredible vegetarian and vegan food resources out there with recipes - like my site! IF you want to eat your favorite meat-y classics, there are also so many great alternatives. For example, if you love chicken parmesan, you can make eggplant parm. A simple search will yield great results!
It was perfect the first time. This is very really unique helpful information.I learn so much from you as well! Thank you so much for sharing your helpful information. Keep it up.
Anonymous says:
Thank you Ali for sharing this. I too am trying to eat more plant based and would like to go vegan (for the environment and to stop contributing to the inhumane way that animals are grown and processed). But I’ve eaten meat my entire life and it’s difficult to quit. I really like your comment about not calling yourself a vegan but rather saying you eat vegan. You made me feel better about my choices and knowing that whatever steps I make toward eating plant based is helping. Baby steps. I have followed you for years, have an Inspiralizer and I have all your cookbooks. I love seeing all the photos of your family. Just know that you inspire a lot of people.
Ali Maffucci says:
Yes, it doesn't have to be some big huge permanent shift. It's just the way you're eating - you can change that at any time, it's how YOU eat. Thanks for following!
Kim says:
Meat causes inflammation, Inflammation causes pain!
Meaghan says:
We appreciate you weighing in on this!
Terra says:
Great post! Thanks for your honesty as always, Ali. It's clear your posts are written from a place of openness and truth! Just because it was mentioned in another comment, I wanted to say how hugely grateful I am that you don't post calorie counts for your recipes anymore. I definitely understand that this information is useful for some folks, but the shift away from including them on recipes has made a really positive impact on me, and I'm more likely to read and try the recipes now! Thank you so much for making space for all types of eaters, in all places along their journey, on your blog. :)
Meaghan says:
Oh wow, Terra! This comment is hugely valuable for us. This is the kind of community we want to nourish here. We want everyone to enjoy exciting, good-for-you food that satisfies and fuels you're entire being. It makes us incredibly happy to hear that you have such a positive relationship with food and that we're helping you to embrace that. Food is fun! Food is fuel! Food doesn't need to be scary or restricted. We love you for being here and for contributing to our community.
Yolande Labbe says:
Hi! Thank You! For the good work. Me I stop eating meat about a year ago. I had eat meat all my life and one day I watch a video about why is it OK to eat the pig and not the dog or the cat? The life of animals before they get on our plate. I went to watch a couple of video from Slaughterhouses and I just stop eating any kind of animal egg or milk. I use to like eating meat it taste good. But I think that all animal do not want to die they would like a life. Starting life in a cage never seeing the sun and dies an awful way is very sad.I hope that eating them will not put any of the existence that they had into the well being of the eaters. I am not trying to change anybody's mind. This is My way of seeing things for myself . I do it for mercy for the animals. Plus I love eating vegetable, bean and grains. You have good recipes and I like your style. have a Great Day! Yolande Labbe Canada
Meaghan says:
Thank you so much for sharing!
Teri Magaruh says:
So did you work your way thru that freezer full of meats before you began? I want to do this, but also have a freezer (literally, tall upstanding one in our garage) chock full of meats. I don't want to waste all that money but want to be healthy. Want to hear a real story? My son and his girlfriend have lived overseas for the past three years. They came back to America (end of January) and while eating both at home and out a lot because she had never been here, he mentioned that when he tried to go to the bathroom, he discovered our American diet caused him to bleed a bit when trying to go. She was stopped up pretty badly too. He said that Americans truly don't understand how fortunate we are that we can go to a grocery store and have so much abundance of fruits and vegetables right at our fingertips. Maybe I should start up with three days a week vegetarian and four with meat to use it up. Don't know but that sounds like a good start. Thanks for posting this. I really needed to hear it.
Meaghan says:
Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Teri! We're happy to hear you enjoyed this post.

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