This afternoon I had an early dinner with friends. The main course was a perfectly roasted, medium-rare prime rib. It was delicious.
Yes, I’m a yoga teacher who eats meat.
Before you imagine Mimm Flintstone drooling over a giant Brontosaurus burger, allow me to explain. Michael Pollan is right – it is a dilemma being an omnivore. But sometimes it’s who I am. It’s who I need to be.
Over the past year a friend and I carried out a nutritional experiment. Our goal was for each of us to find a balanced meal plan that supported optimal health.
We began with an organic, vegetarian diet that teetered on the precipice of veganism. Eight weeks later, after not seeing the results we hoped for, caution was thrown to the wind and we ate whatever landed on the dinner plate. That was not the best move. We quickly regrouped and tried again by introducing meat back into the diet. At the same time we reduced grains. Our morphed version of the trendy Paleo diet. Three months later and I have to tell you:
I feel great.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to sell my vegan friends on the benefits of eating meat. Because I don’t believe everyone functions at their best on a meat-based diet. Some folks thrive on a plant-based diet. Others need to add a bit of dairy to their greens. Me? I like a side of skinless chicken breast with my arugula salad.
The real reason I’m telling you this story is to inspire. It took work to find the foods that help me thrive. It was frustrating. Sometimes we took two steps forward and three steps back. But we kept at it. My friend and I continued to peel back the layers. Paring our list of foods down to their most basic, simple forms. We now maintain a mostly gluten-free diet that includes meat, eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetables. We keep as organic as possible, which means we are also, as much as possible, GMO free.
This is not a sugar-free, fat-free diet. It’s a good, wholesome, meal plan that lets a potato be a potato instead of a french fry. Besides tinned tomatoes, there’s not much in my kitchen that comes out of a can or a box.
Yes, choosing to eat meat was a struggle. Throughout my life I have spent short periods – sometimes a few months, sometimes a few years – playing and ultimately failing at being vegetarian. The movie Food, Inc. was a turning point, but not in the way you might think. The film taught me that meat eaters had choices. I had choices. My friend and I both decided it was worth the extra money to source our animal protein from farms that reared their livestock humanely. We look for labels that say ‘organic’, ‘grass-fed’, ‘cage-free’, ‘pasture raised’. I’m a big fan of the number system Whole Food’s uses at their meat counter to educate the consumer.
If our meat is organic, then it goes without saying that our produce is organic and, when possible, local. Milk is from grass-fed cows. We also drink goat milk. Warmed goat milk with honey and turmeric is a wonderful bedtime treat.
Mornings begin with freshly juiced organic apples, carrots, ginger and beetroot. I dilute my juice 50/50 with filtered water.
Breakfast might be boiled eggs with wild salmon or porridge made with Rice n’ Shine. Lunch is usually the largest meal of the day – a one-pot meat and vegetable stir-fry. Dinner could be leftovers but sometimes a simple bowl of yogurt and fruit.
While my new food choices are bringing results, the meal plan has its challenges. I wasn’t accustomed to planning three meals each day. It’s been a bit of a learning curve but mastering the Crock Pot has helped. So has preparing and then freezing large batches of home-made soup.
Food shopping, in the beginning, can be a bit like an episode of Portlandia. Changing habits takes patience and requires some knowledge. Remembering to read labels and then knowing how to translate what those labels mean, in the beginning, was frustrating. It left my friend and I agonizing for thirty minutes over which honey to choose on more than one occasion.
Fortunately, we’re fast learners.
Do I feel deprived? Overwhelmed with all the planning and cooking? Do I miss spending my lunch hour circling the hot bar at Whole Foods?
Not one bit.
I’ve gained more than good health from my new food choices. I’ve become more mindful and more thankful. More grateful. I can see the farmers hands in the mud I wash from my orange carrots. I can feel the power of the soil and the sun as I slice through deep crimson orbs of beetroot. This can’t happen when we’re eating pre-formed food from a styrofoam box.
The truth is, good health from good food is a wonderful gift. So much has to happen to bring that food to my plate. Pausing to give thanks for all the work and lives that contributed to the food that nourishes my body makes that gift even better.
ps…and despite spending more to choose organic, cage free, humanely reared food I’ve discovered I’m actually spending less on food because I know longer use Whole Foods as a refrigerator. I’ve stopped buying one (sometimes TWO) meals per day from the hot bar!