I swore off meat in my early 20s, not because meat is murder, or because factory farmed flesh is infused with the fear/betrayal hormones the animals release when slaughtered, but because it simply didn’t agree with my system — meat, that is. I went vegan in my mid-20s for the same reason, garnished with a light sprinkling of the superiority I wore on my sleeve for being more pure and spiritual and wonderful than my omnivorous brethren.
It was about seven years into veganhood when I was hit with a powerful craving for sushi, and by “craving,” I mean a ferocious, searing need pulsing with the roaring intensity of a thousand suns.
I hightailed it to my local sushi bar, ordered a spicy tuna handroll, and inhaled it within a matter of seconds. I liken the ensuing high to an MDMA trip, in that I was energized and ecstatic for the five or six hours that followed, except I wasn’t at all hungover or serotonin depleted the next day, which made my sushi trip even better than Molly.
“But, you’re vegan!” admonished my yoga teacher when I recounted the wonderfulness of my otherwise unexpected dalliance with raw fish flesh.
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Being Vegan, For Me, Is a Mostly-True Label
It’s so weird how we label ourselves as this thing
, and then we make choices in service to this thing we say we are – choices which may or may not serve us on a moment-to-moment basis. I mean, it’s true that — as a rule — I eschew meat and dairy, but really, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I don’t eat wheat, or sugar, or grains, or nightshades, or processed anything, or soy, which really throws everyone off, because so many conventional vegan options are tofu-based. And so I say I’m vegan, because it’s kind of, mostly true, except that ever since that sushi experience, every 18 months or so, my body generates a rather ravenous craving for meat, which — while usually sated with a bite or two of organic-fed, pasture-raised lamb — certainly poses a conflict to the vegan identity.
“You. Ate. FLESH?” mocks anyone who knows me upon hearing of one of my cyclical dalliances with meat.
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The Body is in a Constant State of Flux
The thing is, I went “vegan” for health reasons, so that I could feel good in my body. The problem with any fixed ideology – nutritional, or otherwise – is that they don’t leave much room for improvisation. But, the body is in a constant state of flux, and sometimes it needs things that don’t coincide with our philosophical orientation. Like, that time my body stopped producing ferritin, and I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without pausing to hold onto whatever nearby wall I could stumble towards, so as to catch my breath, and try not to pass out, and my doctor prescribed me lamb’s liver to get better.
“But, I’m vegan,” I wheezed in protest.
“I know,” he said, and then went onto explain that lamb’s liver is pure ferritin, and that if I wanted to feel better, I’d get over my self-imposed philosophical limitations, and eat some. And I did. And I got better.
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Before I Eat Meat, I Check in with My Body
I’m hardly lobbying for a Meat rules!
movement. My body still mostly rejects the stuff, and the conventional meat and dairy industries do wreak considerable havoc on the environment. Plus, I don’t actually love the idea of eating fear and betrayal on the regular. But, what I am starting to realize is that animal products – when ingested consciously and responsibly in response to what the body needs – can make for some pretty powerful healing tools.
“Want some bone broth?” my friend Cole asked during a mid-afternoon hang.
I was just off of an eight-day juice fast that left me skinny, weak, and depleted. I was about to reply with my automatic I’m vegan
schtick, but instead took a moment to check in with my body.
YES!!!! YES, YOU DO!!!!
my every fractal cell screamed in unison.
Two bowls of the stuff later, I felt like a new woman – one with energy and pep, strong nails, and thick, shiny hair.
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The Rigidity Of Being Vegan Just Doesn't Always Serve Me
I still call myself vegan, because I still (mostly) eschew meat and dairy, and because I’m still super high maintenance, and because vegan
is about as accurate a shorthand description as I can think of when it comes to communicating to others what a pain in the ass it still is to try to feed me. But, my body continues to shift, and the rigidity that is the vegan diet, as well as some of the options it still leaves available, are no longer serving me. And so it is that I continue to custom craft my nutritional intake, not based on any one philosophy, or the rules they may imply, rather in continuous real-time response to what my body actually needs in the moment. And these days, this sometimes means bone broth, or raw milk kefir, or organic, pasture-raised beef collagen, despite how hard it is to gag down.
It Was Easier Being Vegan, Because My Choices Were Automatic
Meat, cheese, yogurt and eggs were knee-jerk Nos because they didn’t qualify. Vegan-ish, though, is a whole different story – one that requires personal responsibility, and present moment awareness without the easy out that comes along with a nifty, pre-branded nutritional philosophy. I highly recommend it.
WATCH on Z Living: Namaste Yoga, a calming workout for body and soul. Join hosts Kate Potter, Erica Blitz and a cast of experienced yogis as they guide you through a morning yoga flow sure to start your day off right. Get a sneak peek here.
Tell us in the comments: When it comes to your own diet choices, how do you check in with your body?