Dead animal, that’s what. In my stock pot.
If you were with me way back in 2009 (Holy crow, 2009? I’ve been doing this here thing for that long?) you may remember this post. The dilemma I wrote about then has not abated, and neither have my health issues.
I have been vegetarian for 22 years. Happily, proudly, peacefully vegetarian. Please read the above post for deeper insight (and to nip in the bud any questions about my naivety), but in brief…my reasons have never been righteous. My decision to not eat animals felt less like a choice and more like a necessity. At that time, at the age of 18, my truth was that I could no longer deny how eating sentient beings felt utterly wrong for me. Not in an intellectual way. In a heart and soul way. When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not find difference or alien otherness. I find commonality, I see the ability to suffer and love and I feel connection. I cannot make a distinction between human animal and other creatures. I would just as soon as eat my dog or my child as I would kill an animal and eat it. As in, I wouldn’t. This ability to find communion with animals is a blessing and in this world of perceived human omnipotence, it is also a curse.
Fast forward all these years later, and another truth is staring me in the face in the form of health conditions that have become chronic and too pesky to ignore any longer. One of the greatest gifts I discovered on my journey through developing body consciousness, was that of using diet as my foundation for wholeness. Learning to listen through intuition to my body’s needs, I have always known what foods I need (or don’t) to stay in balance. The bitter pill to swallow these past few years is that I have begun to feel malnourished, which is pretty ironic since I eat “better” than anyone I know. How then to reconcile my low blood sugar and feelings of constant hunger? Why is my gut so unhealthy and why do I belch like a 500lb man? I began searching for answers, and I found them, but I have been plugging my ears and going “Lalalalalalalala I can’t hear you”.
I’d been hearing the stories for years. The folks who hit the 20 year mark on being vegetarian and began to notice the diet just wasn’t cutting it anymore, so they started to eat meat again. I would think, “Oh, they just weren’t doing it right, or maybe their reasons were more political than heartfelt.”. Because I had been thriving (or so I thought) on my way of eating, a way of eating that initially had eliminated health problems at the time…acne, FMS symptoms, mood swings…I felt I was living proof of just how viable a vegetarian diet could be.
But the information kept surfacing. The former vegan turned enthusiastic meat eater who wrote a book about it. The naturopaths and herbalists who blanched at how long I had been vegetarian and advised me to look into adding meat protein. The hard admitted truth of the unsustainability of the vegan diet and the self knowledge that eating more cheese would help me pack on the pounds while keeping me hungry. All the friends I trust and admire who look to traditional ways of living off the land and eating whole foods, including their animals, and who exhibit vibrant health. And then there was this book, which I initially hated. Now, it has become my new bible. Everywhere I turned, I began learning about just what my body was missing, and I could no longer “get away” with ingenious substitutions.
But what to do? I still could not and will not kill my own animals for food, and I know too much about animal husbandry to fool myself into thinking that “free range” label means anything. This issue alone could keep me from ever facing a hard shift. But there is one thing that trumps all else, and it is for this reason alone that I am embracing a truly whole foods way of eating.
My daughter. I understand enough about the body and nutrition to know that my former diet could hurt her.
So what am I doing? Did I run out to whole foods and buy a pound of Neiman Ranch? Did I rush to a local cafe to try a maple bacon latte? Did I try a piece of fish and the clouds opened up and my cells sang hallelujah in a chorus?
No. What I am doing is going very, very slowly. Here is what I have done so far.
I am a new convert to the importance of eating bone broth and chicken stock. So far, we have bought Mary’s Chickens and I have made stock, using it in soups and feeding the meat to Jeff and Fern. Just this step alone has been quite gnarly, from my aversion to the taste and smell to the nightmares of fowl play (sorry). Not to mention the blood that seeped out of the bones when I tried cutting it up to put into the soup pot (Jefffff!!! The bird is bleeding!!! Can you come do this?!). With the stock and bone broth, I am experimenting with making it twice a month, and for two weeks a month eating soups and grains made with stock. We’ll see what the long term effects are. Right now, I am noticing that I do feel more nourished after eating it, but I can’t rule out psychosomatic causes.
But an even bigger shift is my new obsession with eating fermented foods several times a day. Even more than the trace mineral and animal proteins and fats, I have been worried about the apparent inability of my stomach to do its job. So I’m fermenting like it’s going out of style and introducing helpful flora at every meal. And folks, I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I’ve stopped burping. My blood sugar hasn’t been as crazy. My skin is more glowy. As far as lactobacilli is concerned, I’m converted.
Otherwise, I am also soaking my beans with whey or lemon and am forgoing the canned shortcut. I am also soaking grains, since this seems to clear up what I have guessed for years…that grains are indigestible unless you get the protective enzymes off of them. Finally, I have said bye bye to my old friend Earth Balance and canola oil and hellooooo goat butter, olive oil and coconut oil.
In regards to fats, my biggest concern has been weight gain, and this is the last point I want to touch on.
I am beginning to suspect that I was functionally anorexic for years. Well below “normal” weight for my height, I felt pride in being rail thin. I also got major accolades from society on this point, often being told how “lucky” I was, how my body was “perfect”. But I look at old pictures of myself, and I look skeletal. Still, I have shirked from eating more fats because I couldn’t stand the belly or the plump cheeks. I won’t lie and say I’m stoked about the latter. But I look at photos of myself now and I look robust. I look womanly. And girls, I am so fucking sick of worshipping at the altar of self hatred. Time to burn it to the ground.
For the immediate future, I am looking into small farms like Dinner Bell and Green String to source my chicken and beef bones, and am going to see if fermenting, eating good fats and eating stock can clear up my issues. Beyond that, I may look into finding ranchers who engage with their animals on a spiritual level, creating a convenant with them and slaughtering them with love. (I know of two locally.)
Plus, I get to enjoy things like beet kvaas, which tastes like the blood and salt of the earth.
Do you have a similar story to share? I’d love to hear about your personal issues with such matters. xo