Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Giving Up Meat: A Guide For Those Who Cannot Live Without Meat

Last Friday my wife and I attended a buffet style fund raising dinner for our local food bank.  Most of what they served I chose to avoid. White bread, white rolls, some kind of pasta dish, mashed potatoes, both laden with dairy and fat, and a monster roast beef!   Fortunately they had a salad and a huge platter of raw vegetables, with which I filled up my plate and went on my way.

Roast Beast

 When I got to the roast beef I didn't even glance at it, but carried my plate off back to my table without even thinking about it.   I didn't want any.  I didn't look longingly at it and wish I could partake of just a little bit.  I didn't think back to my carnivore days and remember how much I used to enjoy meat.  I didn't feel cheated or deprived.  The truth of the matter is that when I looked at it I did not see food.  It might as well of been Squid Brains, Roast Of Dalmation, or something a Klingon would eat.
 I talk to a lot of people about food, nutrition, and weight loss.  It's hard not to do so after you've lost 160 pounds.  It is a topic that just comes up.  And so many people, when they hear what I eat, feel they could never eat like I do because they love their meat too much!!  I hear "I'm glad that works for you but I could never give up my meat!" all the time!  Quite often from people who know how much meat I used to eat!!
 Let's spend a minute and talk about how much meat I used to eat!  I ate more meat than 99.99999% of people on this planet.   I've never met anyone who ate more meat than I.  I would buy the largest family packs of meat the grocery store had to offer, and I'd dig through and compare the stickers to make sure I got the biggest ones!!  I do not have a large family!!  Just my wife and I, and she never ate a lot of meat.  I didn't mind...  more for me!!   Every meal was centered around meat.  I would easily eat 2 pieces of chicken while serving up our dinner plates, and my plate would always have 3 or 4 more pieces on it!  But only because I had to save some room on the plate for the potatoes or vegetables.  I almost always went back for seconds, which was really thirds when you count that which I ate before even serving up the plates!!  When putting away the leftovers, I'd judge how much I'd need for the next day to make it through till dinnertime, and if there was enough I might snack on a bit more while putting it away!!    My daily intake of meat easily averaged in the pounds.  Exactly how much I couldn't tell you, but every meal was centered around meat and if it wasn't, I felt cheated.  I never went a whole day without eating meat.  When I started contemplating making dietary changes, eliminating meat was OFF THE TABLE.  Anyone who says they'd rather die than give up their meat...   I know exactly how they feel. It's where I started, a year and a half ago.
 I remember feeling the same way about something else, many years ago.   As a young man I was an alcoholic.  I remember coming to the realization that if I didn't do something, it'd kill me.  I would not be one of those lifelong alcoholics who drank just a bit too much and stretched their disease out for many decades.  No, I drank in such excess that my life wouldn't have been manageable for that long.  I remember feeling that parts of me would rather die than live without alcohol.  I would never say such a thing out loud though!  That would be admitting just how bad my problem was!  That is because there is a stigma attached to alcohol and drug addictions.   Tell an alcoholic or a heroin addict that their addiction is killing them and they don't usually respond with "Yeah, but I'd rather die than give it up", even if parts of them really believe that...    No, instead, because of the social stigma attached they'll usually bow their heads and agree that they really should do something about their problem.  And they would, too, if they knew how to overcome that part of them that'd rather die than give up their addiction.
 But there is no such social stigma with meat, and so people are a lot more free to be honest about their feelings, and they blurt it out as naturally as any other feeling they have.  On the mild side some say they'd love to be able to eat healthier but they don't believe they could give up meat.  On the more dramatic side they say they'd rather die than give up meat!  Either way, it's an admission that even if health is on the line, they do not feel they can overcome their addiction.  And let there be no mistake about it...   we are talking about an addiction!!
 Most every alcoholic or drug addict, if honest with themselves, would love to be free from their addiction.  They'd love to not need their addiction.  They hold an intense fear of cutting back because they know they'll suffer and crave their addiction all the more, and they view a world without the substance they abuse as one of constant denial, pain, and misery.  They'd love to be free from their addiction but don't know how it is possible without much suffering and pain, and while they see people around them who have overcome their addiction they aren't sure they could do the same thing and fear trying will leave them even worse off than before.  And so rather than try they focus on the pleasure their addiction brings them and try to convince themselves that it's worth all the suffering it brings them.
 Are food addictions any different?   Yes, and no.  They're different in the sense that there aren't many social costs in having a food addiction.  There can be some social costs if you're on the very extreme end of food addictions, but for the most part, even those don't come close to the social costs attached to other addictions.  Sure, your health may suffer and you may die prematurely, but for the most part, your loved ones will still love you and everyone will have sympathy on you when your health suffers for it.   Very few people take pity on an alcoholic or drug addict who abuse themselves to the point of poor health.  The social stigma attached makes it clear to everyone: It's their own fault!!  In this regard, our food addictions are very different than other addictions.
 But are they any different in non-social costs?   No.  They still take a toll on our health.  They still convince parts of ourselves that we will suffer immeasurably if we tried to give up our addiction, and that trying will only lead to failure, making our suffering for nothing.  They convince the rest of us that the pleasures they bring us now are worth any health costs we may pay down the road. 
 Are there any meat eaters reading this?  I'm talking about people who, like I used to be, don't think they could ever live without their meat?   Would you give it up if it were painless to do so?  Would you give it up if you wouldn't miss it at all?  Would you give it up if you could look at it and not want it?  Would you give it up if you could satisfy your appetite fully and completely without it?  I'm betting some of you would, and that part of you wishes it could be this easy, but that another part of you doesn't believe it can.
 I am here to tell you that the road to giving up meat need not be filled with suffering and pain.  It need not leave you hungry.  It need not leave you with a void in your gut.  You can satisfy your appetite completely and fully without eating any meat at all!!   I do!!
 If you're willing to give it up "cold turkey", just start filling your stomach full of delicious and nutritious vegetables and starches and stop eating meat today!!    If you're skeptical, do as I did, and transition away from meat slowly.  Follow this basic principle...   you tend to eat the same weight/volume of food every day.  If you eat more or less on any particular day you'll tend to compensate the other direction the next.  Use this principle to your advantage.  Do not focus on eating less meat.  Instead, focus on eating more healthy foods.  Load your plate a bit higher on vegetables, a lot higher on potatoes, rice, beans. When you go for seconds, again, pile high the potatoes and rice!  Still put some meat on your plate, but focus on eating MORE of those other things.   You will, without any further thought, start eating less meat.  And you'll learn something in the process...   starchy vegetables and grains, like potatoes and rice, fill you up and satisfy your appetite just as good as meat, but they satisfy your hunger longer than meat does!!  It's true!!   I almost always went looking for more meat to snack on a few hours after eating dinner...  but if I fill my stomach full of potatoes, rice, and beans, I'm not hungry again till the next day. 
 You may find that over a few weeks or months that you're just not eating as much meat as you used to, and more surprisingly...  that you didn't miss it.   Use these weeks/months to watch movies and videos about modern meat production and how much less healthy it is compared to how our grandparents raised meat animals.  Use these weeks/months to educate yourself on the relationship between meat consumption and health.  Do these things and when you realize how much less meat you've been eating by following the suggestions above, you may find yourself at a point where you decide you're ready to stop eating it altogether.  And there you'll be...   ready to make that decision because you WANT to.

 Happy Eating!

 -Norm  aka John Smith


  1. eat live foods not dead foods...its what our bodies want to nourish our cells!

  2. Exactly!!! Meat = dead foods... plants = live foods!

  3. Norm, excellent post. I've been eating plant-based since October 2011. Can't remember exactly when the "switch" flipped for me. I had started seeing Dr. Fuhrman on PBS and I remember the first time it was on, as soon as I found out it was vegan I switched the channel. For some reason, when channel flipping I kept coming upon it and over a period of time ended up watching the entire program. I researched online and before I knew it, I was no longer eating meat. Dairy has been a bit more difficult for me. I do have the occasional slice of meatless pizza or muffin (which I know must contain egg and oil) but these are VERY rare (and I'm working on eliminating them entirely). In February I started working at a vigorously physical job and I honestly don't believe I could do it if I hadn't changed my diet...I feel better than ever and know that my weight loss (albeit slow) will continue until I reach my optimum weight. I feel better when I eat starch based (i.e. Dr. McDougal), probably because I feel more satisfied than when I was eating Dr. Fuhrman's version (although I do want to work on getting more "green" veggies into my diet also. Thanks for all your thoughtful posts. I'm going to share them with my friend in Ohio that has numerous health issues and HOPE that I can somehow enlighten her to eat for health.

  4. Norm I've never even liked meat much at all. My favorite "meats" were always things like meatloaf and hamburgers, that are less like meat than plain meat. Yet I still had a fear of eliminating it completely. It's just so ingrained that meat = vital healthy nutrient. After several months meat-free, I ate pot roast at Christmas and was curious if it would ignite some kind of craving. It tasted "meh" to me and I didn't even finish the leftovers. Even though it was fresh by grocery store standards it seemed to have a faint whiff of spoilage about it. I haven't had meat since.
    --MmmCarbs from McD forums