I can still remember the last time I ate meat.
It was bacon. You know, the crispy, pan-fried kind. I hadn’t eaten much, maybe 3 or 4 slices. I don’t even remember what else I had with it–pancakes or waffles, doesn’t matter anyway.
What I clearly remember though is how I, after the meal, shoved my plate away from me in disgust, feeling the bacon settle like a brick going nowhere. My stomach was clearly revolting against the substance I just consumed and I felt heaviness descend on my body as it attempted to digest the grease and fat (that’s mostly what bacon is anyway, isn’t it?). It was then that I said, “This time REALLY will be the last time I eat meat.”
You see I had been off and on again a vegetarian sometimes vegan diet. I don’t even think you could call it that. Let’s just say for the six months prior to this experience I had TRIED with fickle determination to eliminate meat and dairy products from my diet. It was far from easy for me.
I’m an over eater. Maybe this is the way that it is for most Americans, but I love food. Love to eat it, and eat a lot. Food is everywhere, and there are so many tasty options, too hard to refuse and then hard to stop, even when you’re full.
On top of that, as I mentioned earlier, I was a SUGAR addict! Ice cream, frozen desserts, cookies, cakes, pies. My need for sweets was hardwired into me–from a young age, family events revolved around cookie baking (not to say cookie baking in and of itself was bad, just what we put into the cookies made them atrociously addicting) and in my teenage years, my older sister and I would go on “ice cream runs” almost every night to the local Dairy Queen or McDonalds. While I tried to eat a lot of whole grains, fruits, and fresh vegetables, this didn’t cancel out the ill effects of all the other foods I ate which were less than ideal.
As I mentioned in my very first post, I was first introduced to the idea of changing my diet through a midwife. I was only about a month along in my second pregnancy. Initially I thought this lady was CRAZY! I had said really mean things about vegetarians before (I’m not even sure I was that familiar with what a vegan was at the time) and I sincerely thought that they were just wrong.
Now I wasn’t the biggest meat eater in the world. But I did eat my fair share of meat, especially chicken, salmon, and tuna fish (the health foods right?). And as for dairy, I knew it made me feel sick, but again, all the diet books I’d read really stressed eating dairy to “get your protein and calcium.” Incidentally I did actually prefer drinking soy milk over cow’s milk, but I ate yogurt and cottage cheese frequently, as these were the two “diet” dairy products.
I was excited, but hesitant after that first encounter with the idea of a vegan diet. Impossible to do it for life, I thought, but for this pregnancy, I can at least try it out. I was wishy-washy at best, and it took some encouragement from my midwives to go further and really make changes.
I remember going to an appointment, this was probably about two or three months after my initial meeting with my midwife, and my midwife asked me to tell her what I had eaten in the past 24 hours. I began to tell her, quite proud that I was clearly cutting back on my meat and dairy consumption.
“What did you eat for breakfast?”
“3 bowls of Special K with soy milk, 2 pieces of toast with peanut butter and honey, an egg.”
“A chicken wrap and a whole wheat roll with grapes.”
“Yah, a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and 2 fudgecicles.”
At this point her eyes have gotten wide, I mean, we hadn’t even gotten to dinner. I hadn’t realized how much I was really eating in addition to what I was eating. I thought I had been making an improvement….
I share the above experience to point out that many people say, as I did, “well I really don’t eat that much meat, and I rarely eat dairy products.” In reality, you may be eating a flesh food and/or dairy products with close to every meal (milk, eggs, cheese of some sort–even if you’re not actually eating these, chances are they are IN whatever processed thing you’re eating since milk products such as whey and powdered milk are added to things like soups, pastries, bread, ect.).
I challenge you to honestly write down everything you eat along with portion size and you may be surprised at your findings. I used to really be against journaling food (too much time, work, who cares?). While I don’t do it on a daily basis, I think it’s a very useful tool and should be done every once in awhile to bring you back to reality.
It’s so easy to say, “Oh I eat healthy most of the time,” glazing over all of the less than ideal foods you consume. To really be objective and honest with yourself, you need to write down (or use an app) everything you put in your mouth for a week. Just eat like you normally do, the purpose of this is to simply bring awareness to your patterns and habits of eating.
After a week, you will be in a much better place in terms of assessing where you really are at and what direction and steps you need to go from there. There are a lot of great free sites out there (ie. Calorie Count, CRONometer) where you simply type in the food you ate and amount, and it will give you all of the nutrition information.
So next step, if you’re interested in moving towards a healthier you is to commit to one full week of food journaling. Don’t cheat on your portion sizes (for example saying you only ate 1/2 cup of ice cream while it was really 1 1/2 cups) or skip days. I know it is a bit time consuming and you will have to pull out your measuring cups, but it will be worth it because after one week you will have some concrete evidence of how you really eat.
All you have to do is to commit to being faithful and honest. Just eat like you always have. Remember the purpose of this is to make you aware of your patterns and habits. And then we’ll go from there.