How I Broke Up With Meat

Edited By: Kala Ali

In this age, the definition of “healthy” swings wildly across so many different opinions that it has become almost as ambiguous an expression as the term “all-natural”.  There’s no question why people are too exhausted to participate in the health debate, and instead settle for the diet they’re more familiar with. There’s the ugly issue of access to consider—a political problem, then the issue of convenience—what’s time-efficient. Emptying out all the kitchen cabinets filled with everything you love because it doesn’t meet the current trend of appropriate-eating is wrong, a waste of hard-earned money.  The biggest issue for me though, was change.

But when your body has had enough, it’s had enough.

I struggled with my body for years, and the only thing that made my situation better was research and gradual shifts. As kids,  we ate meat with every meal like most Americans. For me, as a chubby child, a 16-ounce rib eye was a cause for celebration. I loved steak. When I got just a little older and more able, I made sure to learn how to sear fresh steaks at home myself, using a simple marinade of minced garlic, soy sauce, oil, and pepper (making sure it wasn’t restricted to just birthday parties and dinner guests).   Meat, for me, took on a rich meaning, a meaning of abundance, happiness, celebration, security, and home. It’s these complicated relationships that are hardest for most people to part with.

There are many studies that document Americans high consumption of meat as a problem for both the environment and their individual bodies.  The biggest issue I’ve found with meat is that it makes me sluggish and tired.  Saturated fats and cholesterol that are naturally in the animal cuts clog blood vessels and raise blood pressure.   I hear people preach moderation all the time, but personally, it’s not easy to think “Oh! I should cut off ¾ of this steak I was just served, and box the rest”, or “Ok, I’ll only eat two bites of this juicy chicken thigh.” Our bodies have been trained to eat meat, and fat, and sugar, and to overeat on top of that. It’s hard to resist when all of those things are right in front of us. I’ve found fighting this to be much harder than just piling my plate high with fibrous vegetables, textures, flavors, sauces, vibrant colors.

I still think meat is delicious when cooked correctly, still eat it every now and then, yet, the meaning of has definitely changed. The difference now is that I can go days without even realizing an animal has been missing from my plate. It’s not because I cut meat out, I added a lot of other things like slow-roasted tomatoes or some kind of squash, garlicky greens, steamed whole grains, juicy fruit, candied nuts, puffed beds of tossed lettuce with sweet and tangy vinaigrette—All of these additions took up space on my plate and in my stomach. My cravings for meat eventually subsided.  I never felt a lack, and started exploring flavors that meat just couldn’t offer. It was a matter of reprogramming; Learning to love something better.

Yes. Meat and I had a thing for many years. It was like a toxic relationship with an ex-lover, except it was a toxic food that I was living with, and I needed to start having an extramarital affair with the rest of the food pyramid to realize I could love something better someday, something actually good for my health. My advice: Break up slowly with your meat, so you wont get hurt.

-Jerrelle Guy, Food Blogger/Recipe Developer, @chocolateforbasil

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