eating meat. or not. and how it has nothing to do with weight.

last week i talked about how i place no restrictions on my diet and a very perceptive reader asked me if being a vegetarian is not exactly that, a form of restriction. 

what follows are my thoughts regarding this question.

5 napkin

texans know how to do meat. their barbecue is unparalleled. steaks? unlike anything you've before had. 
i grew up as the cheeseburger queen. it was the only choice when dining out. and i always, always finished my meal--quarter-pounders, half-pounders, full-pounders oh my!

the first time i thought about cutting meat out of my diet was just out of college. i found i wasn't eating much of the stuff, unless out at a restaurant. and so it became a little experiment: could i survive without meat? well, within two weeks i was a hop, skip, and a jump away from eating a stick of butter by its lonesome. butter, you ask? i know. i know, odd right? the fat. my body was missing the fat that comes along with meat. and so the experiment ended.

the second time i was in australia visiting my dear friend stephen and his then fiancee (now wife) miriam who was a vegan. miriam and i were walking along the harbor, the sky overcast, and the sydney opera house just a stone's throw away. and she explained that for her the choice to go vegan was primarily one of environmental concern. environmental, huh? 

a few months later i picked up jonathan safran foer's eating animals, an in-depth look at the factory-farming industry and what it really means to eat meat today. the book was eye-opening and alarming. and the decision to forgo meat was made for me.

i've seen friends go vegetarian. and i've seen friends go vegan. and i've seen many do it for weight-loss. it becomes a game, a challenge. and often they met with great success. but when weight-loss is the primary purpose meat returns, animal byproducts return, and so do the pounds.

cutting meat out of my diet was never, not once, about weight. it was about the consumption of hormones, the emission of greenhouse gasses. but because of my history i was careful not to define myself by the term vegetarian. in fact, i don't think i've ever once said here on this blog that i am in fact a vegetarian, choosing instead the phrase i don't eat meat, or i choose not to eat meat (most of the time) but if i get the urge i'm gonna answer. 

i'm gonna level with you. i like meat. i do. but i choose not to eat it because it's something i can do day after day that will have a positive impact on the environment. it's something i can do day after day that will make me feel good about myself. it has enabled me to think about food in terms larger than myself. 

being a vegetarian, for me, has nothing to do with restriction. nothing to do with weight or what i look like. it is simply this: the choice not to eat meat feeds me in a way that hamburgers and chicken breasts and ribs never will.

ps: anyone see portia di rossi on oprah today? she had some pretty amazing things to say about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia. especially there at the end discussing how she got it had so much to do with allowing herself all foods in any amount. and love. always love.