Today is the first day in a very, very long time that I have not eaten meat.
It’s possibly the first day that I’ve ever voluntarily gone without eating meat, unless you count Yom Kippur fast days, when I ate nothing.
And it’s certainly the first time that not eating meat has been a purposeful choice on my part.
What has inspired this sudden change, you ask?
Well… you probably don’t ask, because you don’t know me, but I’ll tell you anyway. I started reading the kind diet, by Alicia Silverstone. Some part of me feels like I’m jumping onto a bandwagon about a decade after it has left the station… but that’s not why I’m doing it.
I started collecting healthy eating/diet books after someone close to me began having heart problems about a month ago.
“Things are gonna change!” I declared to myself. “We’re going to start a whole new way of life!”
Those are the kinds of things you say when you don’t have a plan.
I still don’t have a plan.
But I wasn’t genuinely motivated to change anything – didn’t know how I should change anything – until I started reading the kind diet. I’m only halfway through, so no spoilers… but I’m pretty sure I know how it ends.
It’s not the first diet book I’ve ever read. It probably won’t be the last. And it’s certainly not the best written.
I vaguely remember when it came out – circa 2009. I worked at a bookstore at the time. And, while I don’t remember ringing up this particular treasure, it’s most certainly an inner-eye-roll item – the kind of book I’d smile and ring up and listen patiently while the customer chattered on about how ‘healthy’ the diet was and how much it was gonna change their lives and blah, blah, blah.
I’d roll my eyes on the inside. That book would end up in a pile to be donating to Goodwill in a month, and they’d be marching back into the store to buy whatever new diet book Dr. Oz had just written.
But I’d smile anyway, and wish them a nice day.
Just another silly actress trying to popularize another silly diet.
This is definitively that kind of book.
And, quite frankly, I’ve never read a book quite like this one – a book in which I so dislike the writing and the writing style and yet couldn’t be more affected by the message.
This is quite possibly the effect of bad editing. I’m sure she has many fine qualities, but Ms. Silverstone is not a writer. Or at least, not a very good one. I don’t suppose I should blame her all that much – her writing style is an attempt at conversational, but lands squarely in the realm of juvenile and annoying.
She lost me on page 16, where she tells the reader that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States (Not – shock and awe – mascara poisoning!) and states “Clogged arteries lead to high blood pressure or – even worse – a stroke or a nice, juicy heart attack.”
To be honest, she really lost me on ‘nice, juicy heart attack.’ For someone so ‘kind,’ it shows a surprising lack of empathy for other people’s health problems. And worse, it seems to blame people for their medical issues, as though they deserved that heart attack, simply because they’re not as ‘enlightened’ as she is.
It irritated me.
And the rest of her book is replete with girlish teenage-speak – unless I’m mistaken and ‘yummy’, ‘yucky’ and ‘stinky’ are all official medical terms.
I can’t help it – everything sounds like Cher from Clueless, even in my head. And the chipper, valley-girl tone in which the book is written certainly doesn’t help the situation.
But, in spite of the immature language and the not-particularly-funny jokes, she has a point.
It’s not that I have a problem with eating meat in general.
I am (was?) the kind of person who would eat bacon whenever possible. Who believes that cheese is a gift from the heavens. Who firmly believes that there is nothing that is not improved by cheese, especially when it’s melted.
When eating out, my preference is a bacon cheeseburger and fries. I love pizza. I have, more often than I would like to admit, been guilty of eating Hot Pockets (Well… Lean Pockets, technically, although I don’t think there’s a damn bit of difference between the two).
So why did I go out of my way to avoid meat today?
Why did I spend time chopping and grating carrots and trying to figure out how to make corn on the cob for the first time in my life?
For a couple of reasons.
Firstly, I cannot, in all good conscience, know the way that these meat products are made and continue to eat them. I’m not opposed to eating meat – far be it from me to ever allow such a phrase to pass through my lips. And if I were assured that the animals I was eating had lived happy, comfortable lives – that they had been treated well and ethically – I might not have problems eating them.
But I cannot justify eating animals that have lived their lives in torture. Cows who live in their own excrement, in stalls too small to turn around in. Who are kept constantly pregnant and lactating, pumped full of hormones and constantly having their calves ripped away from them. The boy calves spend the remainder of their lives chained up, on chains that are so short that they cannot stand. Not that this lasts very long – quite quickly, they are fattened up and slaughtered for veal. The girls face the same fate as their mothers. I cannot justify eating a chicken that lived in a too-small cage, spending its poor little life with its beak cut off (that particular image made me shudder… I can’t explain why that was so much more affecting to me than the rest).
The cheeseburger isn’t worth it to me. Not anymore.
The other reason, quite frankly, is that I’m tired of feeling like crap. I’m tired of being tired. And gassy. I’m tired of just plain never feeling good. I’ve had enough lattes and eaten enough cheese in my life to know that dairy doesn’t make me feel good – however much I love it, I always end up bloated and gassy and… I’m tired of pretending that’s not the reality. I’m done pretending that my love of junk food outweighs the problem of feeling like crap after I’ve eaten it. I don’t want to feel heavy and bloaty after I’ve eaten too much, lying blimp-like on the couch.
I want to, finally, treat myself like I matter. And, by extension, how I feed myself and how I take care of myself matter as well.
There’s a heaviness that comes with eating meat, Ms. Silverstone tells me. It weighs you down. Quite frankly, I’m weighed down enough by my life and my problems without also being weighted down by my diet.
I resolved to try this for a week.
By this, of course, I mean Veganism…. Sigh. I sincerely thought I’d never say that.
Being vegan was always for super-special hipster snowflakes. The kind of people who walk around wearing knit hats in June. The kinds of people who wear glasses without any prescription in them, just for ‘the aesthetic.’ The kinds of people who ask if the restaurant has ‘soy butter’ when you go out to eat with them and give you dirty looks over your chicken sandwich.
I know not all vegans are like this. Not all vegans brag about being vegan. But most do. And it’s annoying as hell.
I am not one of those people.
But I’m trying, anyhow. I’ve decided, for this week, at least, to cut out meat (beef, pork, chicken and fish), try to eliminate my consumption of dairy and cut out wheat.
Is it hard?
Not yet. Today’s the first day. I know I’ll slip up at some point – I love cheese too much not to. And that’s ok. But today I stuck to my guns. Tomorrow, hopefully, I will too.
I might even learn what the hell I’m supposed to do with okra.
I’m not going to be one of those nutters who rambles on about my ‘magical journey’ and invites you to come with me – this is not the magic school bus, or the Tardis, or even Santa’s bloody sleigh.
This is my choice, for now, and I’m going to see where it leads me.
I don’t agree with everything in the book. I still have no idea what the hell a macrobiotic diet is. And I really, really, don’t want to know.
I’ll never ramble on about how amazing ‘organic’ products are and I’ll never be too snobby to eat something out of a can. And I’ll eat a goddamned tomato if I want one (and if you catch me rambling about Belladonna and acidity, just slap me and hand me some French fries, will you?)
Is it possible I’ll have dreams of cheeseburgers and mozzarella sticks and wake up the night calling desperately for a gyros sandwich?
Possible. Not likely, but possible.
Is it possible I’ll end up chasing local pizza delivery men around the neighborhood like a lost puppy?
(At least I’d get a little more exercise that way)
I’m not promising myself anything. Or at least, I don’t think I’m promising myself too much.
I’m going to keep reading. I’m going to try to eat a plant-based diet, avoiding anything that contains cows or little piggies.
And I’m going to try my best.
But seriously, guys, no spoilers – if that book has a twist ending, I want to find it all by myself.