Confessions of a Meat-Eating Vegan.

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It was probably inevitable that I became a vegetarian as an adult.

As a child, I was revolted by any food that resembled animal flesh. Numerous times I have dabbled with veganism, and this past spring I even went full-on raw vegan for a spell.

But tonight I had meatballs for dinner.

With actual meat.

By choice.

Yes, meatballs. The most un-vegetarian, anti-vegan food maybe ever.

To be clear, it was 100% organic, grass-fed beef, mixed with organic turkey and loads of organic carrots and celery. Parsley, gluten-free bread crumbs and nutritional yeast rounded out these little beef balls. And to be extra clear: I loved every bite.

As a child, I hated red meat. I refused to eat it and dinner was a battle anytime anything resembling an animal was on my plate. Steak—forget about it. Hamburgers—what is this, torture!? If something in any way contained clear evidence of its animalistic origins—bones, skin, veins, scales, fat, flesh (forget about eyes or beyond)—I wouldn’t touch it.

The only animal that passed my lips was pure white boneless, skinless lean chicken breast. Even then I carefully circumvented all discoloration—pink, brown—anything other than the pure white meat. And I only ate that because I didn’t know how to be a vegetarian. For most of my childhood, I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Vegetarian was a foreign word in my family. My meat-and-potatoes parents were perpetually annoyed by my “pickiness.” My grandparents were simply perplexed. My great-grandfather was a butcher, and when he was growing up, a weekly Sunday roast was simply the epitome of quality living. My papa reminded me of this every time I politely declined the meat. But what do you eat? I don’t know what to make for you! My grandmother would fret, every time I went to visit and a roast or ham was in the oven.

Yet there I was, stubbornly refusing to chew and swallow.

But if I’m going to be completely honest, there have been a handful of times I “cheated” on my vegetarianism over the years. And every time, it was with meatballs. Full-on ground beef meat-ness.

To be perfectly accurate, I can literally count on less than one hand the number of times I cheated on my vegetarianism over the course of eight plus years. So whenever the secret came out that I had astonishingly consumed meatballs (of all things!), people invariably inquired whether I had gotten sick. Because obviously when you eat as a vegetarian for years on end and have spent the vast majority of your life shunning red meat, your body naturally rejects it, right? Wrong, apparently.

Here’s the thing: not once did I get sick. Not once did I feel remotely bad.

I know. None of this makes sense. Our bodies aren’t supposed to work like that, right? And I just said I was repulsed by red meat, didn’t I?

Well, I still shudder at the thought of consuming a steak. Or a burger. But wait—a burger is the exact same thing as meatballs, right? Well, not exactly. Not to me. With all the extras, meatballs—at least the version I like best—are a lighter, more flavorful, less meaty form of meat. This is how my complicated mind and discriminatory taste buds work, I suppose.

Here’s another confession: while I cut into my fourth meatball this evening, I suddenly remembered what I was eating. And each bite was a bit less palatable from then on. But I will continue eating my monthly meatballs, because my body really does need a little bit of red meat on a regular basis. I have determined that even consuming red meat just once or twice a month has significant benefit to my body.

After putting myself on a raw vegan diet for life-or-death purposes earlier this year, my nutritionist recommended I add some animal protein to keep my strength up, because even my clean plant-based protein with a full amino-acid profile wasn’t quite gonna cut it. Ideally, she wanted me to add some iron-rich red meat if my digestive system could handle it. Beef and lamb. Lamb was a bit too far of a leap, but beef I could maybe do. Meatballs I knew I could definitely do.

I started with wild-caught fish and organic pasture-raised eggs, a couple days a week. Slowly, I began to feel when my body craved animal protein. I ate the occasional meatball. I was fine—better than fine, truth be told. And then the other month, I read this. My meat cravings—and my health struggles—suddenly made perfect sense.

And since I began my own journey to healing, experimenting with this food and that, I’ve learned through extensive research and through my own health coach training that there isn’t necessarily one diet that’s the best diet for everyone. Different bodies have different needs. When it comes to food, “healthy” is relative and highly subjective, and can change as the tides of our lives ebb and flow.

So as much as I’d love to be a full-time, sustainable, eco-conscious vegan, it’s simply not the best way for me to thrive. And if I’m not thriving, I can’t be of service to others.

These days, when people inevitably ask what my diet is, and what type of restaurants are “kosher” with my latest eating habits, I don’t know what to say, and words sometimes stumble out of my mouth in a confusing jumble: Well, I’m mostly a vegan, often raw, but in the cold weather warm foods are better.

Oh, but I do eat fish sometimes, so pescetarian, but I’m non-dairy, totally organic of course—when I’m at home anyway. Oh, and I do eat meatballs on occasion, only grass-fed organic of course. And I still do love cheese, so when I’m out I’ll eat that if it’s in something, so maybe paleo, very few grains.

I’m not technically gluten-free, I just don’t trust most of the overly-processed wheat products in this country, so maybe I should call myself Pegan—or “Palegan” as I’d prefer to call it because it’s more fun to say. But of course I love my dark chocolate, so uh…yeah. I don’t know. I guess I can eat almost anything these days. Pick a restaurant. I’ll be fine.

Here’s the real answer: I do my best to eat clean, whole foods and eat what feels best for my body. The vast majority of the time it’s vegan. But once or twice a month, I’m gonna eat my meatballs.

And here’s the real kicker: I now eat more mindfully and consciously than I ever have before.

~

Author: Amanda Kelly

Image: YouTube Still

Apprentice Editor: Christy Williams; Editor: Travis May

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Amanda Kelly Jan 30, 2018 8:05pm

Hi Maz, Just saw your comment, I appreciate your thoughtful reply. Thank you for taking the time to write such a well thought out response to my article and address my controversial use of the work vegan with compassion. I 100% understand now that using the word tongue-in-cheek went beyond just diet for many people. That said, we all make mistakes, and I don't think it really serves anyone (nor further the cause of veganism) to attack people who occasionally eat meat. So again, I appreciate your balanced reply. And listen, I know traditional Western doctors know nothing about nutrition. I'm talking about my functional medicine doctor and nutritionist who wanted me on all the supplements and natural treatments while I was battling cancer who told me to add some meat back in. And the fact is I'm still figuring out what works for me. I keep playing with eliminating animals but unfortunately do not feel good if I leave animal products out completely. I spent the first half of the month super fatigued and low-energy and brain foggy.... because I had eliminated animals from my diet to do a cleanse. Maybe I need to supplement more, but I already take a ton of mineral supplements in addition to vitamins and I still felt that way. Plus I do eat a wide variety of plants. So, finding my way back to veganism, if it ever happens, will take some time.

Maz Gasser Dec 5, 2017 11:42pm

The first thing i say to non-vegans and all the other million people in between (vegeatrian, pescetarian etc etc ) is I meet you with compassion. In the light of caring that murder should not exist to animals or the envionrment etc, we are voting for compassion. So it wouldnt be fair to stop that compassion to people who are the perpetrators, this will never change things. However I do believe you have incorrectly used the term vegan in the title. You do seem intellegant and so im sure you can see how this has protrayed you saying you are vegan, theres no arguing that. So i erge you to think about what that 'word' means to people. The human language/ words come attached to so many more things depper than just a bunch of letters put together. That word is like a spiritual word might be to others, and so using this word in a way that could offend others is something you might next time try to be more considerate of. You are allowed to make mistakes :) But please be minful of this powerful fact. Also i have compassion for you, as if I read between the lines of this article, i think you are really looking for permission, permission to feel a little guilty. To use a public arena to look for this permission is brave i give you that! But I think you might just have to prepare yourself next time, if you wish to do it again (as it is your right, no one owns public space), that you are also stepping into a space where you can offend people. I dont judge you for eating animal products. But i do encourage you to remember why? why was it you were trying to be vegan? Remember that one thing, it may help you to really reflect on what is the 'moral' right here? Murder is never ok, I know for me that is a simple one, that makes it easy for me. keeping it simple. Whether it be for our health (I understand your doctor told you to eat meat, but almost all doctors will say that, it doesnt meean thats what is right, doctors have almost zero education in nutrition and the natural remedies that cultures have been using for centuries and centuries, longer than western medicine has even been around), or murder of any other sentient being, including the planet. I hope you try to continue your journey as a vegan, and keep trying, no matter how many step 'back' you might have xxx

Amanda Kelly Dec 29, 2016 1:49am

Thank you for taking the time to comment even though this article did not resonate with you. If you read the article thoroughly, I think you would be reassured that I do not actually call myself a vegan, nor a vegetarian, nor a pescatarian for that matter.. The title was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Anyhow, I don't wear my diet as a badge of personal identity nor try to preach my choices on anyone else. I'm most certainly not making exuses for anything. My intention was simply to share my own struggles with diet and health, which I feel was lost on the commenters.

Amanda Kelly Dec 29, 2016 1:46am

Thank you for taking the time to comment even though this article did not resonate with you. If you read the article thoroughly, I think you would be reassured that I do not actually call myself a vegan, nor a vegetarian. The title was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Anyhow, I don't wear my diet as a badge of personal identity nor try to preach my choices on anyone else. My intention was simply to share my own struggles with diet and health. As for animals, I adore them, and as for the environment, yes I am concerned, which is why I eat mostly plant-based, as much as my health will allow (and which is why for many years I was a vegetarian). No matter how much someone may wish to eat entirely plant-based, it is simply not always feasible. But if you read to the end, you would see that I do, actually, eat mostly plant-based.

Amanda Kelly Dec 29, 2016 1:39am

Thank you for taking the time to comment. If you read the article thoroughly, I think you would be reassured that I do not actually call myself a vegan, nor a vegetarian. The title was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Anyhow, I don't wear my diet as a badge of personal identity nor try to preach my choices on anyone else. My intention was simply to share my own struggles with diet and health.

Vix Charlotte En Dec 24, 2016 3:51pm

You don't do your best, you're not pescetarian, and you're certainly not vegan. You're an omnivore love and making excuses for it because you think you care about animals.

Lacy Michelle Dec 24, 2016 2:13pm

So you don't care about the environment or animals? Also don't call yourself a vegan or vegetarian. You are definitely not one. This cringe worthy article was a joke.

Eunice Wilson Dec 24, 2016 11:12am

You're a meat eater. That's it. Stupid article.

Taylor Huxster Dec 24, 2016 10:32am

What a twat. Stop trying to use labels to fulfill your attention seeking ego. You're as far from vegan or vegetarian as u can be. U eat meat, end of story. Doesn't matter how much or how often. The stupidity with this one is strong

Nicholas Hadziannis Dec 24, 2016 9:54am

NOT A VEGAN OR vEGETARIAN BUT SOME ONE WHO WANTS TO SPORT A LABEL, LKE ITS A HANDBAG. If you have a neutritionalist whos advice you follow and you feel you need red meat to be healthy and you eat it!,,,, news FLASH. your not a vegetarian or a Vegan,,,, you just eat less meat than most people.... im not going to say anything mean or rude... i want you to think about the logic of calling yourself one thing and doing another... its just the same as all the other meat eaters exept they dont pretend there a vegetarian(well some do)

Peter Hinks Dec 24, 2016 9:33am

*Massive attention seeker alert*

Chris Moss Dec 24, 2016 9:06am

Quite simply, you are not vegan!!! How can you look yourself in the mirror and pretend that you are! Disgusting.

Heather Brice Dec 24, 2016 7:06am

Yes, you are consciously choosing to murder animals. Shame on you.

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Amanda Kelly

Amanda Kelly is a writer and health coach seeking to transform suffering and stress into beauty and abundance. As a recovering perfectionist and cancer conqueror, she is dedicated to living deliciously and helping others find their inner light. She is a graduate of Boston College and The London School of Economics and is constantly engaged in further learning. When she isn’t busy researching life, she is plotting her next adventures, practicing yoga, reading, experimenting with deliciously healthy recipes, baking wholesome versions of her favorite treats, and living and enjoying life. You can connect with Amanda via her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.