But before you judge me, hear me out.
I understand vegans and vegetarians are passionate about their cause - but even when I was a vegan I never felt the need to openly condemn someone who was not a vegan. We all come from different places and I have always been of the mind set that if my actions can help you make baby steps towards being healthier that is all that matters - whether you stay an omnivore or not. Am I weak? A sellout for not putting my life wholly towards saving animals? Yes and no. I still believe we need to rely considerably less on animal protein, but I also think that we need to rely considerably less on traditional farming techniques as well. I believe we, "industrialized country citizens," need to have a new relationship with food. We need to leave the broken and abusive relationships we all have with food.
I believe we all need to abandon our belief that food is meant to fill a void greater than physical hunger. It is not meant to fill emotional or spiritual hunger. It is not meant to numb pain, stress, fatigue or apathy. In using food to numb and plug the holes in our lives we make bigger holes and prevent ourselves from life with all the good and bad*.
Nor should we have a hostile relationship with food, eliminating foods because we label them as bad. Yes there are food that are not good to consume in moderate or even large quantities. However, food is not the enemy, even if my intestines feel that way at times. This kind of relationship leads to bulimia, anorexia and other forms of disordered eating - all attempts at control in an unstable world.
I do not believe that chicken fried steak or whatever else is on Man vs. Food is the reason we are an obese, chronically ill and dying society. It's because we don't put our hands on our food aside from lifting it of the paper and into our mouths. Whole foods are beautiful and that includes meat.
Yes, the steak I had for dinner last night came from a cow. I know it was a grass fed, hormone free, organic and I want to believe happy cow. A cow that got to do what cows do. I know where that cow came from and for me that is enough. Maybe the cow should have been given the chance to do what cows do until the time it died. Here is where you and I get to make choices.
I love life. I think that animals should have theirs too.
However, I am not prepared to give my life for in exchange for that cow. That might be horrible of me to say, you might even consider it to be extreme. Well let us have a look at my diet,** I cannot have wheat and I have been advised not to consume egg whites, soy or dairy. The later two I do occasionally purely when there is not alternative option for me and even then I would rather not to.
A vegan can obtain protein from lots of great sources - tempeh, soy, seitan, legumes, nuts and some grains. Looking at this list - I cannot have seitan which is from wheat gluten. I should not be consuming tempeh and soy as they were also suspected instigators in my previous illness. As such I am left with a diet** of nuts, beans, grains and of course vegetable and fruits. From this selection I am not able to on a consistent daily basis provide myself with adequate nutrition on nuts, grains and beans. I however do work to have these be the bulk of my diet, adding meat in the place where tofu/tempeh/seitan would have been.
In this journey to wellness I've learned that food is not my enemy. I cannot live life pouting about all the things I cannot eat; rather, I can live life with all the things I can eat. I chose to eat protein from animals which I believe were treated humanely and given a chance at a full life. You may not think so. That is your freedom to believe that. You also have the freedom of not knowing how sick I have been***.
Please before you condemn me or others who are no longer vegans or vegetarians, consider why you changed and why they might have. The goal is wellness and whole-lifeness.
*Brene Brown has a great talk on vulnerability and consumption
** Diet (def): The usual food and drink of a person or animal.
*** In the span of 6 months I had an MRI, chest and face x-rays, pelvic and abdominal ultrasounds, 10 vials of blood drawn - tested for cancer, all autoimmune diseases (Hep, AIDS, Lupus etc), thyroid problems, allergies and infections, amongst other testing.