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.
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.
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.
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!