I’m sitting here this morning a little bit distraught. And truthfully, I have been distraught over the past few months.
I’ve lost it.
I lost a lot of what I considered my identity.
I no longer don’t eat meat. In other words, I now eat meat.
While this wasn’t a lifelong decision, it was dietary convictions that I followed on and off throughout my life and most recently, cultivated alongside … Instagram. Around the time I start my Instragram account @root_for_food, I also stopped eating meat again. I grew into this identity as a plant-based “chef”. My real life day job was even catered around plant based cooking. People in the community knew me as such. This is how I knew myself. It was something I became confident and secure in. I was good at vegan cooking and I was comfortable with my decision not to eat animals. It all made sense to me.
After all, everything I knew about animal agriculture on a large scale broke my heart. (and still does). I would buy local, grass fed meat for my husband, but still abstain myself. I knew that I could live without any other being having to die, and that is what propelled me. I love animals and I love them having the ability to live. I love that with a simple dietary change, I can save hundreds of lives- even in just one year. Something does not have to die for me to live. This brought me joy and a sense of self-satisfaction. My heart then (and still is), was to get people to eat more plants and less meat. I prided myself as a plant-based dietitian. But then everything changed.
I have been more or less radio silent on this end over the past few months. Yes, I’ve been busy with our new life here in Florida but I have also been going through this grand upheaval of my identity. What happened?
I started weight lifting about 10 months ago. (which has been pretty life changing in and of itself… but that’s for another time). All of the sudden, I woke up craving (and I mean CRAVING) things like meat loaf and bone broth for breakfast. Nothing else would satisfy me completely- despite my efforts. The mere thought of a piece of salmon would make my mouth water. The food I was making for Blake was nearly driving me mad. What was happening!? Why was this happening to me?! I felt so guilty. I tried to ignore these cravings and move on.
Now, I also pride myself as an intuitive eating dietitian. Ignoring these cravings was essentially ignoring my body’s plea for more nutrition- a different nutrition that plants could not provide me. And thus, I was 100% going against my other conviction to eat intuitively. I was torn as to what nutritional conviction to stick with. Then I found the Balanced Bites podcast.
To be honest, my decision to not eat meat was never ever a nutritional decision. I am quite unconventional in my beliefs as a dietitian and I believe things like saturated fat and cholesterol not to be our nation’s problem. (Um hello sugar and fat free junk and hydrogenated oils and more sugar and fake food like substances everywhere.) On the contrary, I think they should be embraced while things like low fat milk, and industrialized seed oils should be shunned. But I digress. Like I said, my nutritional convictions were not nutritionally based- But environmentally and ethically based. The case to not eat meat is a very compelling one. I know this.
But alas, I found the Balanced Bites Podcast. And they echoed everything I knew to be true about humans and their need for saturated fat and animal protein, plus so so so much more. Its like a light bulb went off in my head. A bright, and very painful one. I realized that I could not pride myself as a holistic, intuitive eating, real food dietitian and yet remain so ignorant as to believe most humans can and should survive on a strictly plant based diet- despite our innate need to be part of the food chain. I began to eat meat again and suddenly, all my cravings went away. Physically, I felt strong and fulfilled, but emotionally I was broken.
This realization and new found conviction broke my heart. It left me feeling very unconformable and at a loss of what to do in the kitchen. I had developed this entire identity on vegan and vegetarian cooking. I felt guilt. I had 19K people on Instagram following me thinking me to be a “plant based dietitian”. What will they think? Will they be mad? Disappointed? Upset? Will they say hurtful things?
I do not believe I am alone in these feelings of guilt when I comes to dietary convictions. And I think this is very unfortunate. I whole-heartedly believe in encouraging everyone to intuitively eat and to eat the highest quality of food that they can. I believe in ethical and humane raising of animals and the sustainable growing of plant foods. I believe now that my decision to not eat meat was essentially doing nothing to battle what I believe to be the biggest and most devastating problem in our modern food system- commercial animal feeding operations. Doing nothing puts my money nowhere. I was silent. And in the world of food, MONEY IS YOUR VOICE. On the contrary, buying from local farmers who are humane and raise their animals with respect puts my money to what I believe in. It contributes to the consumer tipping point. Something needs to change. Big Ag needs to be stopped. And this can only be done by taking our money away from them and putting it to small, family farms who do things the old fashioned way. Truly, it is an investment. It is more expensive. But ask yourself- why is this product more expensive? Do some research. And suddenly you will find yourself making scarifies in other areas to make it happened. It is THAT important.
Diane and Liz’s (from Balanced Bites) philosophy on food really challenged my thinking on a lot of things. As if I wasn’t left field enough as a dietitian…. I have gone through a few stages of my nutritional believes. First, it started in nutrition school in undergrad with conventional dietary wisdom. I bought into this for a few years until I actually started teaching a nutrition class at a culinary school. I started reading and researching nutrition on my own and discovering what I truly believed. What I found turned my world upside down. My mind was blow to the nutritional darkness I had been living in. Once again, as my nutritional philosophy continues to evolve, my mind is blown. But man, is it exciting! This is why I truly love nutrition and this field. It can be so frustrating but so rewarding at the same time. I could go on about why I believe meat and animal products to be an essential part of a healthful diet (FOR MOST PEOPLE- some people can thrive on a plant based vegan diet, but not most in my opinion...), but we’d be here all day. Plus I believe my badass friend and business partner at The DiehaRD Foodie is going to be making this case in an upcoming blog post…. So we will all wait in anticipation for that! Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading. Writing this has been therapeutic. And honestly I’m hoping this helps me to get my mojo back. I have felt lost on Instagram and in the kitchen and I would love some guidance if anyone has any to offer. Trying to find yourself is sometimes painful but I know I am so much more of a dietitian for it.