I’ve struggled with eating meat. I was a vegetarian for many years and almost completely vegan for a time as well. I have always been extremely empathetic towards those things in the world that are smaller or more innocent than myself — rescuing turtles from busy streets and finding stray cats safe forever homes. Eating animals just felt wrong for a long time. I have always adored my fruits and veggies, so why eat all that flesh ripped from unknown bodies, wrapped in plastic and tossed in anonymous store coolers? I chose not to for a very long time and that decision felt right and good.
When my gluten-free journey began four years ago I eliminated wheat from my diet, but continued to rely heavily on grains — oatmeal at breakfast, quinoa salad at lunch, rice pasta at dinner. I couldn’t figure out why my weight continued to fluctuate so dramatically or why my stomach still hurt so often. Why was I bloated all the time? Why did my joints ache so much? Why couldn’t I sleep and why did my skin break out all the time? I was a busy mama of four very young children so I was just doing what I had to do to get through each exhausting day. I felt like I was already making more educated food choices than so many other people — I’d read Michael Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma and Marion Nestle’s Food Politics — that this must just be how I had to live. I knew about good food, didn’t I? I ate organically when our budget allowed. We didn’t go out often. So, why was I still so sick?
This past year has been one of extraordinary discovery for me personally and for our family as a whole. We have gone through a great stripping away of old habits, unnecessary clutter and a complete reevaluation of what feels right and good. Beyond releasing the unnecessary tangibles, this journey has also been about releasing thoughts and behaviors that no longer serve a positive purpose in our lives. I finally decided, after examining so much internal struggle, that it was time to feel better. I finally came to the realization that I deserve to feel better. That I am worthy of health.
With the encouragement of my husband and the support of my dearest soul sister, I quietly sought out the guidance of a holistic-minded GI specialist. It took me a few unpleasant visits to cold and impersonal offices to finally find someone with whom I connected. Someone whom I could trust with my body. My doctor now is young and energetic and perfect for me. He really listens and doesn’t rush. I can exhale when he is in the room. I can share my secrets — my deep dark I-don’t-share-them-with-anyone secrets. I didn’t realize what a burden I had been carrying around until I finally shrugged it off and looked at it. Until my doctor and I examined it from the inside and the outside. Until we had talked about it and tested it. Until I finally, with deep relief, I accepted it.
My doctor has guided me through some very western medical procedures, removing a precancerous growth from my colon and eliminated certain diagnoses. But he has also, with equal grace, guided me to a new way of eating and nourishing my body. He encouraged me to try a new way of feeding this one and only body I will ever have — this unique and amazing vessel that carries my soul on its journey. This body that is teaching me oh, so many lessons. My doctor, and that soul sister of mine, they knew what I needed.
Paleo — No grains, no dairy, no legumes, no refined sugar, very little caffeine or alcohol.
Eat like a cavewoman? Eat meat at almost every meal? No sugar? No more creamy hummus? No more steaming soy lattes from Starbucks? No more fresh crunchy corn on the cob? Gulp. It has taken me a good long while to wrap my head around such a drastic shift in my eating habits. Although my intuition had been gently guiding me in this direction for a while, I was still holding on to so much fear. I realized that I was fearful of being well. Wow. I believed that I deserved to be unwell. I believed that I deserved to suffer. Again… Wow.
No more and never again.
I believe now that I deserve to be healthy and strong and well. I deserve to have energy. I deserve to have a significant amount of our family resources devoted to me — to my belly, to my body, to my piece of mind. If I am to be a leader of young spirits. If I am to be an example and a role model to my children, they need to see me care for myself with respect and integrity. They need to see me make myself a priority. They need to see me thrive.
This is where a larger-than-life, belly laughing, lederhosen wearing German butcher named Lothar begins to walk with me on my journey. A friend of ours introduced us and we formed a fast friendship. Isn’t it so easy and so joyful when kindred spirits connect? Lothar helps me feel okay with eating meat again. More than okay, in fact, he makes me feel honored to be part of this food chain. He knows each and every farmer from whom he gathers his meat. He has visited their farms and has seen the lives these animals live — they live in open pastures and fresh straw. They eat the grasses and the forage they are meant to. They are allowed to grow naturally and unhurriedly. They are respected and cared for with loving attention. They know no fear or suffering
Every Saturday, in a new and happy family ritual, we travel a couple of towns west to the Purcellville Community Market. There, among the antiques and soaps and pickles, we find Lothar with his coolers of freshly processed meat. He makes almost any meat product you can imagine — smokey bacon, spicy sausages, savory roasts. He saves us extra pieces of our favorite speck and offers us special cuts and previously untried delicacies. (I may eat liver for the first time this spring, when, Lothar promises me, it tastes the most delicious.) I trust him, too, with my body. He respects the animals he butchers. He feeds me and my family food raised purely and cleanly and locally. Food I can feel good about eating.
So for now, and for as long as it feels right and good, I will be a meat eater. My skin is clear, my sleep is restful and rejuvenating, my belly is finally at peace and the endless bloating is gone. My weight is completely stable for the first time in my adult life. My joints are more supple. I am eating more and feeling more nourished than I ever have at any time previously in my life. My moods are more even and so are the moods of my children. We all feel better eating this way. My relationship with food feels different now — more positive, more relaxed, more joyful.
Paleo works for us.
I am a meat eater.
Have you struggled to feel worthy of good health or longed for an easier relationship with food? If you feel called to share, I encourage you to leave a comment, to tell us your story… We all have one.