Vibrant Wellness Journal is excited to have a guest post today by my dear friend Lily S. She’s the most fashionable lady that I know, and she’s quite the chef, too! She’s always posting awesome food photos on her Facebook site and her blog, Masarap!. In a recent post she shared that she’s changed from eating primarily vegetarian into a ‘flexitarian,’ which sparked my interest. She kindly wrote a post for VWJ to share her experience. This is a follow-up to a recent post about changes to and from vegetarianism.
As a Filipino-American, I grew up eating meat. Our meals consisted of meat or fish, vegetables and rice. My grandmother was responsible for most of these delicious meals. When you grow up this way, you never really question it: it’s what you know.
But my perspective on eating meat changed after I read Skinny Bitch. Like many other Americans, I never considered where my food came from, nevermind how the animals might have been treated. For those that haven’t read this book, it’s an educational yet somewhat crass look into American eating habits, how our food is produced, and why veganism is the best lifestyle. The authors were very persuasive. I felt like crap and instantly regretted my tall cinnamon soy latte that I drank whilst reading it. I recall meeting some friends for dinner later that night- and staring at the chicken fajitas thinking, “Why did I order this? Should I eat it? Was this chicken treated humanely before being slaughtered?” I ate only vegetables that night.
I immediately stopped eating anything that had a face. It took very little time for me to see and feel a difference in my body. I lost eight pounds and never felt tired after eating (usually after consuming meat, I felt lethargic). Omitting meat from my diet left me satisfied and guilt-free. Dining out, however, is challenging in Houston, Texas. One can only have so many salads before wondering, “is there anything else I can eat?” On one occasion my husband admitted that he thought my dinner consisting of sides was rather depressing.
But after about six months into the vegetarian lifestyle, I began to struggle. And frankly, I got bored. I decided to incorporate seafood back into my diet and my golly – what a difference! I know what you’re probably thinking – mercury, fish farms, blah, blah, blah. I wasn’t worried about any of these issues because I don’t buy seafood often, so my rate of consumption was minimal. This may sound like a rationalization, but I don’t care. It was something different and the days of eating just sides were long gone (unless I truly felt like it).
But recently, I visited Thailand, and before leaving I mentally prepared myself to eat meat while I was there. But why? Even with a plethora of fruits and veggies at my disposal, many of the native dishes, especially their soups (which reminded me of my grandmother’s soups) are made with chicken or pork bones. In my opinion, to truly experience another country and culture, you must sample their food; so I did – proudly, unabashedly. Guess what? I liked it.
My favorite food memory is the soup from our last breakfast in Bangkok, the one that cost us only 35 BAHT (around 1.20 USD). Off a main street in the Siam Square area, a vendor was making chicken soup. It was made with homemade broth, thin noodles, pieces of poached chicken breast, scallions, and ampalaya (bitter melon). An addition of fresh Thai basil and bean sprouts transported this dish from satisfying to soul-soothing. The soup tasted exactly like my grandmother’s. Slurping every spoonful of broth and noodles was magic. The dish was simple and utterly delicious. From then on, I ate a few pork skewers and chicken curry. I also ate my weight in fresh pineapple!
This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning my previous lifestyle choices. I’m still going to maintain my pescetarian lifestyle because it agrees with my body and my values. I don’t feel bloated, heavy nor gross after eating. When I was in Thailand I didn’t have any qualms about eating meat because that’s what it’s like there. Yes, I could have made the effort to find vegetarian-friendly fare, but these options are few and far between. In my opinion, indulging myself with meat once or twice a year is not a big deal. For example, I must have pancit (the Filipino version of Chinese lo mein) on my birthday. It’s delicious without meat, but so much better with Chinese sausage. Another exception is when I go back to my home state of Michigan. I’ll eat a junior size corned beef on rye with yellow mustard from The Bread Basket. The fact that it’s Kosher puts my mind at ease.
I’m not going to deny the fact that eating a plant-based diet is better for you. But, I’m not a nutritionist and this assertion is based on my own experience only, and I’m doing what’s right for me and in no way imposing my beliefs on anyone. Vegetarianism is a great thing and I’m grateful to be on that route, but these choices depend on your body.
Through my experimentation, I’ve learned that my body prefers a diet without meat, but will accept it on rare occasions. Do I feel guilty about turning back to my old ways – absolutely not. These cravings and traditions make me happy and keep me full, and I should be able to consume what I wish without criticism. Of course I have a healthy respect for those that choose not to consume meat, but whatever the choice is, you should do what makes you happy and well. I have made the right choice for me and my body!
Thanks so much, Lily, for sharing your story with Vibrant Wellness Journal!