From Vegetarian to Paleo: the Ins & Outs.

Via Gerry Ellen
on Apr 20, 2013
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meat, vegan, diet, vegetarian

This is a tough subject.

To a vegetarian, the humane practices of some farming techniques, to eating the animal itself raises some questions on ethics. Vegetarians stand by their lifestyle through in and throughout.

I have seen both sides of the coin. I was a vegetarian for 15 years, and I still dabble in meatless eating and my own debates on a daily basis. I still abide by the rule “what works for one doesn’t work for another.”

But, the dietary habits of people go through many cycles and experiments, based on fads and the media pressure of what good nutrition and healthy eating truly is for each person. Gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, carbohydrate-free; we’ve all tried any and all of the latest greatest food experiments.

“We have eyes in front of our head, not on the sides of our head” says one devout carnivore, who swears by predatory instincts. “Just look at the gorilla, the plankton-eating whales, the elephant, even the brontosaurus; I mean these are large beasts who maintain their strength and stamina on a diet of nothing but plants and berries and nuts” says my omnivore cohorts. It’s a toss up. With ugly Monsanto and their GMO’s charging into our lives and blatantly infiltrating the very core of our health, we have to find the true meaning of good nutrition for each of us.

The Paleo diet and lifestyle is hot right now.

I have watched how some strict vegetarians are transitioning into eating chicken, fish, and eggs just to keep up with their energy demands.

It’s a slow process to transition, and it needs to be done with careful planning and consideration, but doing so doesn’t mean a vegetarian now supports the inhumane practices of the animal food groups. It simply raises the awareness of listening to your body’s needs, incorporating some local, fresh, farm-raised, grass-fed, organic animal protein where the animal didn’t have to suffer.

I don’t like suffering, of any kind. I can even call myself a part-time vegetarian because just eating the true and strict vegetarian way has limited my ability to adjust with my own bodily changes. Sometimes, I just crave a big piece of ahi tuna. I do. I admit. That’s why this is a tough subject. No vegetarian wants to come out of the closet and say that they might have some meat cravings every now and again. Maybe they give into the “gut” instinct of that craving, or suppress it and continue to nurture the vegetarian lifestyle. I applaud both ways of thinking.

Being honest with your dietary intentions is more valuable than ever.

What I am expressing is the Paleo diet is all the rage right now. It is nothing more than limiting grains, dairy, beans and foods that vegetarians thrive on, with the possible exception of dairy. I’ve seen fat vegetarians that live on bread, cheese, and a few vegetables here or there, mainly because they don’t know any better, and feel good about eliminating meat altogether. But, a sensible and whole food vegetarian diet is far more than just taking the meat out of the equation. Vegetarians have to balance their protein intake with their energy output, otherwise they risk anemia, low energy production, osteoporosis, even obesity, because the research wasn’t done prior to the meat elimination. Getting enough protein in the diet is crucial for every human on this planet. How we do it, is another story.

But, it goes deeper than that. The Paleo diet follows in the footsteps of our ancestors. The hunter and gatherer, who ate everything they killed were some of the healthiest people living. It sounds rather gory to me, as I’m not an advocate of violence at all. I shudder to think of any animal that is killed for my own personal well-being. It feels selfish.

But, the Paleo way of eating is, to me, an optimal form of nutrition.

Eating clean meats, fish, eggs, organic vegetables, nuts, good oils (coconut, Ghee, olive), and fruits—it makes sense. Basically, leaving out all “white” foods (dairy, processed anything, rice, bread, sugar) will cut down on inflammation in the body in a most wonderful way.

Every condition from Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, neurological conditions, cancer, autoimmune condition and heart health may be improved with a healthy, humane and safe Paleo diet. If a vegetarian chooses to switch to a Paleo diet, the introduction must be done very slowly, as to not disrupt the digestion process. The stomach acid production is minimal on a vegetarian diet because there is less demand for it, so give the body time to adjust to eating animal foods over time. Your gut will thank you. Throw in a probiotic too, just to keep the healthy flora rumbling around with the digestion process. If you have been eating dairy on a vegetarian diet, you can introduce meat a bit faster, as the digestion for dairy products raises the stomach acid awareness and can tolerate animal sources much easier.

This is not an easy topic to discuss, as it brings forth some passion about eating and living.

From plants to animals. From ethical to practical. It covers all the bases. But, we are all unique. We all have dietary demands and our own philosophies about the best sources of nutrition for each one of us. I guess it boils down to this:
I believe that food is our salvation for what ails us. Get rid of the junk. Open up to new ideas and creative outlets for whole foods. Go to farmer’s markets and buy local and organic. Don’t support Monsanto anything! Eat with passion and splendor. Love the food that goes into your body. Bless the source of where that food came from. And, get the quality information that will help you understand how food works in our systems. It can make a difference between living and dying. Truly.


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Gerry Ellen

Gerry Ellen is an author, freelance writer, and wellness consultant. She recently launched her own gig called *8 Paws Wellness with Gerry Ellen* which combines all of her passions (outdoors, yoga, strength, meditation, writing, dogs, fun!) Her first novel Ripple Effects was published in March 2012. As a regular contributor to elephant journal, Be You Media Group, Light Workers World, Meet Mindful, Tattooed Buddha and Rebelle Society, she also balances incredible friendships, heart-centered connections, and sharing her experiences of life and love. These are the things that matter to her most. Her second book A Big Piece of Driftwood, published in April 2014, is also available on


26 Responses to “From Vegetarian to Paleo: the Ins & Outs.”

  1. Ruthie says:

    Thanks for this article! Wonderful ideas presented here. FYI, In her book The Vegetarian Myth: food, justice and sustainability, Lierre Keith makes a compelling ethical argument FOR eating meat. It's worth checking out: about the circle of life and death and nourishment. I really appreciate the content of this piece, but I wonder: why is there this constant underlying guilt about eating meat? "I admit it– I do crave tuna" — it's as if so many people know they need meat so they eat it, but they feel bad, as if they are doing something wrong. I think we need to heal this misunderstanding that we should feel guilty when we eat meat. We are designed to. If we care about animals then we need to care about humans- we are animals too. And we deserve to thrive.

  2. Gerry Ellen says:

    Thank you for your insight! I actually have no guilt on eating meat. I was reminiscing to when I did have the cravings, even after countless nutrition classes back in college. I was a devout vegetarian at that time, and seeing or smelling meat made my stomach cringe. Then, I listened to what my body was needing as I got older, and just went with it. I love your final comment on caring about animals and humans, as well. Yes, we ALL deserve to thrive!!! Great point.

  3. Gerry Ellen says:

    I think "listening" to our bodies is the best way to eat. Being inhumane is not giving our bodies what we need to function the best, both mentally and physically.

  4. William says:

    ooops, this last comment was mine, not Gerry Ellen's…..we were using the same computer!

  5. @shinemercy says:

    I don't have cravings. I was vegetarian so long it would be like craving .. any other food you had once so long ago you can't remember what it was like. Now I'm vegan and have been for a few years. You have to pay attention that you get a balance, but that's the same for vegetarians, vegans and meat-eaters. Can't help thinking that one's a bit of a non-debate. My view? Ask yourself if your actions and their consequences are compatible with your conscience. If so, good. If not, change.

  6. Katie says:

    I was a vegetarian for 5 years and recently made the decision to follow a mostly paleo lifestyle. I was eating a ton of eggs and was ordered to take b12 shots for 6 months because my levels were too low. After that and my acupuncturist always treating me for blood deficiency, I felt like I was harming myself. It was an adjustment to say the least, but the right choice for me. Now I only eat meat that I know the origin to, joined a wonderful local meat csa, and feel that paleo keeps me balanced. I think you can eat meat and still support humane treatment of animals by mindfully choosing which meats you put in your body. And ultimately, listening to your body on what it needs is so valuable.

  7. eliza says:

    you can be vegan and not eat grains/beans/legumes etc all the items that the paleo diet aims to eliminate…you can get all your dietary needs from fuits and vegetables! as to humane treatment, please let me know where your humane butcher is!!! sorry fools who believe this because no such thing! meat raised "humanely" "organically" blah blah blah still ends up right beside the regular stuff at abattoirs…don't believe me, do your own research! what did you think that the humane ones got put to sleep first? hah wake up

  8. Gerry Ellen says:

    I knew this would be a tough subject, as I mentioned from the onset. Anything dietary is always bound to stir up controversy, and I welcome the views and opinions of others. That's what makes this world go 'round. We aren't all the same. Thank you, Eliza, for your comment, and I will say that in my years as a nutritionist, I do see many illnesses, and reasons and opinions on how to eat. It will always be a subject of debate. Always…, let's all just live happily and be okay with who we are!

  9. Lindy says:

    No animal wants to die. To say it is humane to eat meat, because of the way the animal was raised and then killed for consumption is crazy. It still suffered. Did the animal live it's full healthy life or did it die early to be consumed? Also I do not crave meat. The texture of flesh in my mouth would seem foreign to me at this point. When you have not eaten meat for years the cravings go away just like smoking. When you have not smoked for years the craving for a cigarette goes away. You recognize it as being foreign to your body and not good for you.

  10. Gerry Ellen says:

    Thanks for your input, Lindy!

  11. I am sooo glad I found your article!! My story has similar thoughts or cravings… I could never resist in eating eggs and fish for a too long period. Some weeks, a month maybe was the maximum I could live as a Vegan, raw Vegan on some days in a row even.
    After this period my body always demanded something I could not get from the Vegan/Vegetarian diet.
    PLUS I always found I gained weight or at least felt not so comfortable after a while.
    BECAUSE in my opinion being a Vegan or Vegetarian includes too many grains. And for me this does not feel good. It took me over a decade to understand this. Now I am here and right now I feel very comfortable with the Paleo Lifestyle.

    Thanks for writing this honest article.

  12. gerry ellen says:

    Thanks for your feedback, Kathryn! Keepin' it real….

  13. Marylin says:

    wonderfull thanx
    Yes but any real info?

  14. Gerry Ellen says:

    Marilyn, thanks so much!. Any real info on what specifically? I would be happy to help in any way possible 🙂

  15. Danielle says:

    I was in yoga teacher training and my type of yoga is associated with a lama and a Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, he ate meat at our lunch and also blessed his food with good energy, so we asked him about it. He explained that all things contain energy, life force, prana, he blessed his food respecting the energy taken from our precious planet no matter what form. It is the natural cycle of life,the ying and the yang, energy must be transformed to sustain us which means the death of another life force. It is possible if plants had a brain they would not want to die prematurely either. Everyone has a different physical body that can be sustained on a different diet. Finding a diet that keeps you energized, and able to continue to help others is ideal, this could be vegetarian, paleo, whatever works for the individual. Most important to respect where it came from and bless this beautiful planet for giving us energy to sustain ourselves.

  16. Gerry Ellen says:

    So eloquently put, Danielle. I think the blessing of any food source we ingest certainly keeps the good flow of energy. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Carmen says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I spent some time as a vegetarian and felt absolutely awful the entire time. After some time (and experimenting) I discovered that I do really well on a 80/20 Paleo diet. I try really hard to only buy meat and fish from ethical sources. I have thyroid issues, and if I don't get enough animal protein I can't function. I love your point about dietary being an extremely personal decision, and we must do what is best for us! Also, I love the comment about blessing your food before you eat it. What a great idea.
    Thanks for a well balanced approach!

  18. Gerry Ellen says:

    Thanks Carmen!!! I really love when everyone embraces their own uniqueness, dietary and all the nuances in between. I appreciate your feedback 🙂

  19. alice says:

    please do your research before posting a story claiming that eating animal protein can help with health. Not true! It's not even about humane practices…if you are battling a health issue, animal protein, especially dairy of any kind, creates inflammation and contributes to the disease. We don't digest meat, it rots in our stomachs for 4 days before we pass it. There is plenty of protein in the carefully planned plant-based diet. Meat is fine if you have no health issues, but the moment you do, meat and dairy will kill you.

  20. Gerry Ellen says:

    Alice, I agree that there is plenty of protein in a plant-based diet. My perspective is not to lecture, but simply to shine light on the differences between the two dietary habits, and whoever chooses which is up to their own discretion. Thanks for your feedback, though. If we take responsibility into our own hands, we have no one to blame with whatever ails us. That's my thought, anyway 😉

  21. nunh says:

    This is not true (in my case – for me). I have cravings for cigarettes to this day. Never seems to subside.

  22. Healthy Life says:

    Thanks for your input, Lindy!

  23. Kerri says:

    I am trying to transition to paleo after rapidly spreading vitiligo. I can't help but wonder if my years of vegetarian, heavy grain diet wasn't the cause. I just can't seem to get past eating anything but organic chicken.

  24. Gerry Ellen says:

    hmmm, I'm not sure on the vitiligo/vegetarian/heavy grain connection and their impact. Do you have a naturopathic doctor you can share this information going on with you? Otherwise I would suggest doing some sort of cleanse first (detoxing all foods from the diet), and starting over with the re-introduction of certain foods to see what triggers things. I'm certainly no physician, but I do know that any inflammatory foods will set off some sort of reaction after a cleanse/detox. It might be worth a try, but I'd certainly check with a medical professional first. Thanks for sharing your plight, and I hope the best for you. Both vegetarian and paleo diets have their merits, while everyone is unique in their own experience with either, yet whichever dietary lifestyle you choose, it has to be right for you. Good luck!

  25. Diana says:

    It is interesting the various interpretations we have on what is "compassionate." It's pretty clear to me that compassion reflects a greater good for ALL, not just the individuals. The chiding opinions of some who seek to define what compassion is for us all seem to polarize not build bridges of understanding. Why is it that we often cannot recognize an opinion or dogma for what it is?
    What would the planet look like if we removed all the meat eating beings, that by narrow definition of some are "fools"….who need to "wake up"?
    By this definition of compassion, the list of "fools" include:
    Many birds
    All canines
    Cats including cougars and bobcat
    Many seafaring creatures
    The debated human, omnivore or not?
    And the list goes on……
    What kind of ecosystem would we have without these beings who by design must eat meat? They play an intricate role in a healthy ecosystem.
    Existential questions like "what is death, anyway" are worthy topics.

  26. Gerry Ellen says:

    The greater good for ALL is what compassion is all about. Thank you for your words and thoughts, Diana. You raise some great points here. Having a conversation with your question "what is death, anyway?" is an interesting topic in its own right. Keeping on point with the whole Vegetarian/Paleo transition is always going to be up for debate. I like to give a client options, based on their own unique bodies and preferences. I believe this topic will always be up for debate.