Do you identify with any particular style or have any type of definition or label for the way you eat?
Paleo? GAPS? Vegetarian? Vegan? WAPF? Just plain old *real* food?
Today I bring you a heartfelt story from a wonderful blogger and amazing woman who shares her story from being a strict Vegan to (almost) Paleo. Yes, from Vegan to meat eater. Kalika and I met in high school and have been friends ever since; you know, the kind of friend that can come in and out of your life, but you pick right back up like you were never apart? Well, that’s us and this is her…
Kalika Fortin is a full time mama and part-time blogger. She is passionate about imperfect natural parenting and real food. She also enjoys song writing (find her latest album HERE), making wearable art (visit her Etsy shop HERE), and spending quality time with her family.
Learn how she went from Vegan to meat eater in this informative and interesting story…
I remember that sunny day in my friend Erin’s field. Out among the large elm trees and tall grass lay a severed cow’s head. Its tongue hung from its mouth; and Erin put her white canvas sneaker between its teeth. I stared quietly at this vision. It wasn’t the first time I had seen animal parts. My father is a hunter and fisherman; and I had seen plenty of blood, but somehow, this had more of an impact.
A few weeks later, Erin and I went to McDonald’s. It was cold and wet outside; and we were warm and cozy next to the snowy window. We sat in our little booth eating cheeseburgers and fries. Somewhere midway through my sandwich I was haunted by the fact that this food. In my mouth. Was a cow. I kept thinking, “This is a cow. This is a cow.” Chew, chew, chew. “This is a cow!”
I announced my sudden vegetarianism to my bewildered family. I became the only vegetarian they had ever known. My step-mom would considerately push the sausage to the side of the sausage gravy, giving me a minimally sausagey scoop. I ate mostly side dishes for the remainder of my childhood, occasionally eating meat with friends.
A Deep Conviction
In my twenties, I stumbled upon a PETA website; and it was the beginning of the end, as they say. I became strictly vegan. I was the kind of morally driven vegan that did not eat honey or wear wool or leather. I found a deep conviction against eating or using any animal.
While my intentions were good, my diet was very very bad. I didn’t know how to be a healthy vegan; and really never considered the impact of my food on my health. Outside of the occasional salad, my diet was largely soy: soy milk, soy cheese, soy ice cream, and of course, tofu.
At 25, I moved into a vegetarian yoga center. As a work exchange student, my job was cooking. I didn’t know how to cook but I slowly learned by asking lots of very basic cooking questions and following recipes to the best of my ability. Some of the food was vegan and some was not. I cried sometimes because I didn’t want to use cheese or eggs. I cried for the animals that suffered. But more than anything, I wanted to grow in my new community; so I surrendered.
All of the food was made consciously, with love and intention. My perspective shifted slowly. And I began to eat dairy because it seemed my body needed grounding. Without it, I felt scattered and dry.
I had always been a little too thin and always had irregular menstrual cycles. My health began to improve now that I was eating three hearty vegetarian meals daily. I gained some needed weight but still suffered from hormonal imbalance. Someone recommended acupuncture; and I was in love from my very first treatment. With acupuncture, my cycle became regular. I felt like someone finally understood how to help me.
During one appointment, my acupuncturist said, “Don’t eat meat if you are morally opposed; but if you would like to try it, I think it would help.” I really wanted to feel healthy, so I sourced a restaurant that served humanely raised meat. My boyfriend (now husband) and I went out. I ordered a glass of red wine (my first drop of alcohol in two years) and a steak. And I felt nourished.
I began to crave meat. I ate a vegetarian diet six days a week; and went out for meat on my day off. After three sattvic years at the yoga center, I moved to a nearby home; and started cooking meat for the first time in my life. I didn’t know how to cook it; and I didn’t want to touch it. I would throw raw chicken breasts into boiling water, an attempt to make soup. Eventually, I got more comfortable and more skilled at cooking meat. And my body seemed to say “Thank you.”
Still, my reason for being vegan is a part of me. I do not wish violence against any animal. One principal of yoga is ahimsa which means doing no harm. It is this principle that often guides yogis towards vegetarianism. There is a part of me that wonders if I could be vegetarian and be healthy. I imagine it would help to have a backyard with free roaming hens and something that produced milk (goat or cow). Throw in a garden and greenhouse to complete the vision.
Ironically, diving fully into my yoga practice is what allowed me some flexibility in these convictions. I have more to offer when I am strong. And for now, that means eating *real food, including meat.
My understanding of nutrition, as well as my respect for animals, guides my diet choices today. I buy beef and bones from a local farmer whose cows are fed only grass, not only because it is healthier, but because I want cows to live in pastures, not factories. I also buy pasture raised chickens and eggs because unfortunately, “cage-free” and “free range” isn’t as wonderful as it sounds. Consciously buying food, for whatever reason, feels better to me than blindly buying vegetarian food. You can easily be a morally driven vegetarian unknowingly purchasing eggs and dairy from environments that are frankly, unkind to animals.
I recently read a bedtime story to my daughter called “The Gift of the Sacred Dog.” This story is about a tribe that is starving; and searching for food. With great compassion, a young boy goes to the mountain to pray for help. He receives a gift, sacred dogs (horses), to help the tribe find buffalo. After much suffering, the tribe finally eats, and they do so with great gratitude. They perform a ceremony honoring the buffalo and giving thanks for the food they have been provided.
There is no one perfect diet, in my opinion. In Ayurveda (ancient science of healing) different people thrive on different diets. What is good for one person may cause suffering in another. I have great respect for both vegetarians and those who seek out humanely raised meat because both are making conscious choices. And if I wish to find common ground among all people who are fortunate enough to be eating food everyday, let it be gratitude.
Until next time…
Jess, aka Scratch Mommy