The perils of abstaining from something you love…
Meat or no meat? This has been an ongoing debate for quite sometime. I love meat. I love steak, chicken, sausage, bacon, salmon, etc. Why is biting into a dead animal so satisfying? I have no idea, but every time I eat meat, I feel nourished, grounded and sustained. However, I am also very aware of the perils of eating too much of our furry friends, and how detrimental it can be to our health if a balance of vegetables, fruit and alternate sources of protein aren’t also incorporated. Not to mention the endless ethical debates of how animals are treated on farms, and how meat products are often manufactured and handled poorly. The list of issues goes on, and I can see why it is easy for some to just forgo flesh all together and become a vegetarian or vegan.
For lent, I decided to “give up” meat for 40 days. Here’s more information on why fasting can be beneficial. Boy has this process been tough! I did find myself somehow eating meat on three Sundays while in good company with my parents, a friend or co-worker, and once on a random evening with my sister. If Sunday is meant to be a personal day of worship, rejoicing, and feasting, I felt it was okay to “break” my fast in order experience joy and commune with people in a meaningful way. I don’t feel guilty or feel that I “cheated.” In fact I feel thankful, especially because on each of those times, meat was actually offered and presented to me. I gratefully accepted.
What I’ve learned through this fasting period is that I am definitely meant to be a carnivore. When I was eating meat, I had a pretty healthy diet that pretty much incorporated mainly protein and vegetables, and limited carbohydrates. The carbs I usually eat are rice, quinoa, and gluten-free pasta. However, with meat removed from consumption, I felt myself hanging on the edge of my seat, always hungry, and reaching for bread, gluten, wheat pasta, pastries and carbs galore. I was out of control and slathering butter on everything . Instead of eating more vegetables, I actually ate less. Because I didn’t have the meat to keep me “grounded,” I was substituting other highly processed foods.
Taking this time away has been challenging, however, it has taught me that maybe instead of drastically cutting something out of your life, perhaps taking a conscious break is the way to go. Now that I am transitioning back into my regular eating routine, a few days away from meat still feels very cleansing and is highly encouraged (it’s what I naturally did pre-fast). Beans, eggs, avocado, and dark greens like kale and collard greens are fantastic ingredients I incorporate on a regular basis, which feel very satisfying and “filling.” However, there will never be a substitute for a fresh wild caught salmon filet, a grass fed cut of steak or a sustainably raised piece of chicken.
To take this all to another level, there may be some things in our lives that we are substituting in order to fill a “void.” We may schedule our lives with endless appointments, projects and to-do lists, yet still always be yearning for more. What are some things that are currently “sustaining” you in your life? If you have your mind set on predetermined expectations, sometimes things go as planned, however, often times challenges arise that test what you think you know. I’m not saying you should have no expectations. There has to be a set of standards coupled with dreams and hopes. However, to assume that what may be right for one person is the right way for all is preposterous. To claim that everyone must “save” the animals and stop eating meat is absurd. To ridicule someone for choosing to eat only grains and plants is disrespectful. What works for one person may not work for another. In fact, if you travel to most parts of the world (and in many places in our own neighborhood), what to eat is not even a choice. Many are thankful just to have a small morsel presented to them. A large dinner-sized plate of food would be considered a special feast.
Now that Easter is approaching, I am actually dreaming of a feast.. more specifically a mountain of meat and a fountain of flowing chocolate (I gave up chocolate too). I thought I would have more problems with removing chocolate from my life, but it’s actually surprisingly been the exact opposite (my predetermined expectations were stumped). I haven’t had a drop of chocolate in 36 days, and I’m very confident I’ll make it to day 40. Why did I decide to “torture” myself and give up two things that I love? I wanted to take a close look at some things I was identifying myself with and attaching to.
I invite everyone to take a look at some things you are consuming in your life (doesn’t have to be food and it doesn’t have to be for lent). See if you can take a “break” from something (even if it’s for a very short period) and notice how you feel without it. It might be extremely difficult and may bring up feelings of agitation, frustration, and discomfort. You may go back to your original ways, and that’s fine (maybe your original way is okay and there is no need for change). The pause will either steer you towards a new direction or perhaps return you back to what you were doing. However, you’ll never know where you might land if you never take the first step in the first place.
by Kristin Bach