INCOMPLETE WITHOUT MEAT?
By: Lauren Anderson
So… after all the heart scare talk from last week, I’ve been thinking a lot again about what I’m eating and why. Natch.
(If you’re just tuning in… Let me bring you up to speed. I thought I was having heart attacks for the last month or so. I was too scared to go to the doctor for a long time. But after much help and a little conviction, I finally went and found out they were panic attacks! Now I’m feeling better all around, but still on the mend…)
Even though I got good reports back from the doc, and my heart stuff is more like PANIC stuff, I can’t shake the fact that I need a shake up when it comes to what I’m eating.
I mean, let’s get real here. I am always thinking about what I eat. It’s always on my mind. I am never free from the thinking about this. It’s one of the joys of having a disordered relationship to food. I can never fully escape the impact that it has on my day, my life, my mind.
So when I decide to make adjustments in what I eat and why I eat, they have to be small. They have to make really good sense, and they have to be supported by something outside just the typical diet industry propaganda. Obviously. Because I can’t and won’t be a cog in that machine ever again.
For example, in late December a friend reached out and asked me to be a part of something called “Dry January”. It’s basically exactly like it sounds. You get a group of people to join you, and you don’t drink alcohol for the month of January. Boom.
A mini challenge to start the new year off in moderation! I said I would join, because I am not a very heavy drinker. I drink socially at best, and when I do, it’s probably one or two drinks tops. And I almost NEVER drink at home.
(Save the occasional shot of whiskey when I can’t sleep, and have tried everything else.)
Let’s put it this way… in the SEA of THINGS that I have to “work on”, my relationship to alcohol is not one of them. I’d rather eat a sheet cake or drown my sorrows in a plate of fried chicken, if you know what I mean. Which is not to say I don’t drink, but drinking is never a problem for me. Cheese on the other hand? You get it.
So when I was asked to join, I thought, “Hell, why not?!” I might discover something interesting about my drinking habits, and I really want to support my friend– whose reasons for going dry were a lot more acute.
My friend is not an alcoholic. But their relationship to alcohol had quickly turned from fun to problematic.
They are surrounded by drinkers (family and friends… minus me.) and lately they had discovered their nightly cocktail habit had gone from a glass of wine to a whole bottle. They found themselves really wanting to “reset” their body and how they look at drinking, and I was FULLY in support of this!
I know all too well the difference between eating or drinking with intention, and doing something out of habit or as a crutch. It took years for me to understand the difference of what I eat and why I eat it. And honestly? Most days I’m still on a major learning curve.
I am happy to report, that my friend and I made it through all of January without a drop. Other people they had roped in to join us fell out one by one. No one else completed the challenge but us.
I was a little shocked by how many people didn’t join back up. It’s like, they had one drink and they were like– “Im out!” But then I remembered all the “diets” I’ve gone on in my life. How many times I set up something that was too hard to maintain, “fell off the wagon” and felt like a failure. And instead of brushing off and jumping back on, I just said F*CK IT, and stopped.
There are a lot of reasons why I would do this. Sometimes I wasn’t ready. Sometimes I discovered that the “problem” was bigger than anticipated. Sometimes it’s a pre-existing mindset. Like, “I’m already a failure, might as well fail at this too.” And the list goes on and on.
I have felt every single one of those things before.
So what did I learn about Dry January? Well, a lot actually. There were a few nights I was out with friends and ordered a diet coke or an iced tea, and felt a little weird. But overall? It was fine.
What I learned, is that while I had an easy time abstaining from alcohol, there were LOTS of opportunities to drink. If this was a hot button issue for me, I realized how much my life is centered around eating and drinking with friends.
The second thing I learned about the challenge was how important it was for me to show up for my friend. I knew how important this was for them, and I wanted to show them I loved them by doing this with them.
I was actually a little shocked at how much this motivated me. It was SO much easier doing this for them, than anything I ever tried to do for myself. (Hmmmmm, don’t mind me… just adding that to the list of things to talk about with my therapist.)
And third, it was really good to check something OFF my list of things to worry about for once. The challenge was easy enough for me personally, that some days I forgot I was even doing it. And it was good to know– pretty definitely– that for the time being, I don’t have to worry about alcohol. I can focus my time and attention on other stuff.
I have been really gentle with my body lately. Getting plenty of sleep and making water a priority. But there is something that I keep thinking about– and that’s MEAT.
I eat meat for every meal. It is the food I crave the most, and it’s the most important food I think about. When other people at Thanksgiving crave the dressing and the potatoes, I am gunning for the Turkey Leg—EVERY TIME.
So with thinking about my heart, I of course started to assess how much red meat I was consuming.
Again, my overall health is fine, but I wonder… could it be better? Do I need to be eating as much as I do? Do I eat red meat every day? The answer is NO, I don’t. But I could, and have in the past.
Then I was invited to join a FB group for “Climate Crisis”. The name makes it sound waaaaaay more hardcore than it is. The group is simply a collection of people looking to improv their carbon footprint and help the climate in small ways.
And it’s a buddy group so often people will sign up and say “I’m not going to buy any new clothes for a year! Who wants to join me?” Or, “I’m doing a “NO WASTE” March– anyone wanna join?” That kind of thing.
It’s also a place where people post articles. Not to terrify or shame, but to inform and inspire! About Earth health, and stuff that interests us, but we may not know about.
So… I’ve been a part of the group for a couple weeks now, and I keep reading different articles about how meat is really hard on our planet. That meat-based diets have a pretty substantial impact on the environment. Red Meat and Dairy specifically.
I of course, had heard this. But it never really gave me pause before now. I think that’s because I wasn’t in the right head space to even spend time there. Especially when it comes to food. Cause again, food and I are complicated.
But now! I think I’m in a different spot. I seem to have room to think about not just what I eat and how it impacts my own body, but about what I eat and how it impacts the world at large.
I’m thinking about MEAT specifically. I know my body and I know as long as meat is available to eat, I will continue to be a meat eater. I like it and I crave it too much. But perhaps I don’t need to eat AS MUCH meat as I do?
On the heels of the DRY JANUARY, I find I am up for another mini-challenge. One that will tell me more about myself, and possibly help the world at large. To my surprise I think, “I CAN DO THIS.”
So, a bunch of people on that FB group have are deciding to go meat-free for a month. But to me, that feels like I am setting myself up for failure. That feels like an unsustainable challenge that I will fail at and then get disheartened.
But I can go RED meat free for a month, and then see what changes. And in the wake of thinking about my heart for like, the first time in my life, it seems like the perfect time to try it.
So for the next month I am off Red Meat. And I am excited about what I’ll discover. I have some factors going for me that will help in my success.
One: The challenge is big enough that I’ll have to think about it and engage with it, but not so large I’m setting myself up to fail. I can do this!
Two: The challenge is finite. At the end of the month I can assess and adjust. Maybe I’ll find out I don’t really eat that much red meat at all. Maybe I won’t miss it! Maybe I’ll miss it terribly and then I’ll get to know that about myself as well.
It’s like when I was off sugar, and discovered that I don’t need to add sugar in my coffee everyday after all. I didn’t miss it in the slightest. But Cake on my birthday is an ABSOLUTE MUST.
And Three: Just like I did Dry January to help support my friend, this challenge isn’t all about me. I am helping reduce emissions from cattle by reducing the amount of red meat I consume. Which is in definite support of my other good buddy– MOTHER EARTH.
By making this challenge about more than just me, I know I am more well-suited to stick with it. And who knows the underlying reasons for this– right now I just know that it works– so I’m using it to my advantage.
At the end of February, I’ll see where I’m at. I am excited to learn more about my habits, to help out my heart and my planet, and maybe, just maybe– I can accomplish the ultimate challenge–
And check something else off the “List of Things to Worry About”.
Hey! Anyone want to join me?