This is not a detailed post about diet & health, because I am not a doctor nor a dietitian nor a health guru of any kind, but rather someone who has just been inspired by Netflix’s documentary, ‘What The Health?’. This, therefore, is just me thinking out loud in an attempt to make sense of it all.
A failed attempt. Because there is no straight answer. And even if there was, chances are that answer would be overruled by some new breakthrough in scientific findings by the morning.
Just shy of two years ago after months of worrying symptoms including rapid weightloss, acid reflux and cognitive dysfunction, I was finally diagnosed with ceoliac disease, an abnormal immune response to gluten. After mourning the loss of beer and pizza from my diet, my new & improved gluten-free self was feeling better than ever – a happy and healthy ball of energy with a new lease of life. However the full benefits I initially experienced with the elimination of the devil-grain were short lived, and within weeks my acid reflux and foggy brain were back with a bang. A series of follow-up appointments with a number of gastroenteroligists saw me eliminate gluten-free grains, and then dairy products, and most recently – meat. Yes, just like that, my trusted doctor validated all of the notions that dominate our news feeds everyday, and strongly recommended a vegan diet.
This is not a recommendation that I have immediately jumped on board with, mainly because I am already so restricted with my non-negotiable gluten-free diet. I would not be enjoying a vegan breakfast of crushed avocado on toast, but rather a vegan AND ceoliac breakfast of crushed avocado on crushed avocado. And I’m not about that life, I need my gooey eggs. But I was definitely intrigued at the suggestion, because for as long as I can remember, doctors have been warning us about the dangers of a diet deficient in meat, threatening us with anaemia, low energy levels and muscle deterioration. We were always spooked into steering clear of a plant-based diet and led to believe that protein only exists in meat, and then it seemed that as if overnight, we were being inundated with scientific research showing processed meat is as harmful to us as tobacco.
Whether meat is or was ever good for us, I don’t know. But I do believe my doctor when he tells me that the growth hormones and antibiotics that are being pumped into the farmed food industry today, are absolutely not. And aside from my obvious gluten intolerance, these harmful growth hormones and antibiotics are what my doctor believes to be causing my symptoms to linger. But, do the pesticides that are sprayed on 99% of our fruit and vegetables not deserve the same scrutiny? Again, I don’t know.
On the other hand I also believe my brother, strict vegetarian turned omnivore, when he tells me of how his quality of life and overall health has improved dramatically with the introduction of meat.
Is there a right answer? Is it possible to be the picture of perfect health, 100% free from chemicals and toxins and GMOs and additives and pesticides and deficiencies and diseases, without being 100% free from food? Is it feasible, affordable? When the fragility and uncertainty of life means that we can be struck by death at any second regardless of our food choices, is it worth surrendering to the cause?
Here’s my two cents:
- Source responsibly. If you are not sold on the plant-based diet and are carnivore inclined, help yourself & the environment by sourcing your meat & dairy products responsibly.
- Set realistic goals. Don’t feel pressurised into adopting any sort of intense diet, but instead set realistic goals that work for you. Cut down before eliminating, and avoid labelling yourself as a ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’, in case you slip up. You shouldn’t feel guilty for slipping up, but you should feel proud for consciously cutting down.
- Find what works for you. Keep a food diary and note how different types of food make you feel. Do your research, and delve deep into your intrinsic values to ensure you are honouring them. Don’t let your mental health suffer under an obsession with your diet & physical health, for they are all connected.
I haven’t eaten meat since 2017, and have not found this to be a struggle. I am continuing to eat fish and eggs to keep my weight up. I believe that cheese and ice cream are better for the soul than they are bad for the body, and will be continuing to feed my soul unless I find a worthy supplement. In less than a month without meat I’ve lost all cravings for it, but will happily give in to a craving for ham & turkey at the Christmas dinner table should it overcome me. I am not a vegetarian, nor a vegan, nor a carnivore. I am not a doctor nor a dietitian nor a health guru of any kind. I am just playing a game with my taste buds and my health and my conscience to find a little bit of balance. To find what works for me.