I had been a vegetarian for twenty years. Well over half my life. Until today.
I went through the various vegetarian stages: “hopeless”: substituting more fries for my burger. “Smug” – Oh, well, I don’t eat meat. “Apologetic” – I’m so sorry, that looks delicious, the thing is… “Out-smugged” – Of course I don’t mind if Pea eats meat?! Oh, right, the little helpless animals. Hmmm, no, I still don’t mind.
I have stayed vegetarian for three reasons. The first and least complimentary to me is that more than one of my parents stated, in my hearing, that ‘this was a phase’. I am an incredibly stubborn person. I was an incredibly stubborn 13 year old, determined to show she was an adult and in charge of her life and damn well knew better than anyone around her (except her older sister, whom she was blindly emulating. The whole thing does not bear much scrutiny). The second reason was the easiest – I genuinely do not enjoy most meat. I don’t like the texture. Eat vegetarian for a week, and then tell me meat isn’t the stringiest, chewiest, weirdest textured thing out there. I felt that way before I stopped eating meat, so giving it up wasn’t a hardship or something I then missed. The last reason was that, as I aged and gained education and perspective and formed some opinions that were actually my own, eating meat-free was a sustainable option, and as my rant here pre-Earth Day may have twigged – I’m invested in minimizing my impact on the environment.
Taken together – if I don’t like meat, and it’s better for my health and the health of the world to not be eating it, it is an easy lifestyle choice. I’ve played competitive sports, run races, conducted interesting work and maintained a vibrant social life (a bit thin these days, but that’s another post). I have not felt nutrient deficient or low energy. I’ve had my iron tested annually, and it’s always well within normal ranges. I don’t need to eat meat.
Or do I?
There is increased evidence that higher protein diets correlate with better fertility, especially in the IVF world, where food journals and implantation/embryo quality stats can be evaluated (albeit, still on a small-scale). The PCOS diet always recommends low carb, high GI, an emphasis on protein. The general suggestion is that for peak fertility, about 25-30% of your daily calories should be from protein.
I figure, on a good day, I’m at about 10%. I have never felt I needed more protein, and I haven’t bothered to keep track or worry about it. For 20 years, this has been fine.
In the past week, I have tried to eat 25-30% protein in my day. It ends up meaning just over 100g of protein, as I typically eat about 1800 calories (1 g protein = 4 calories, same for carbs).
I can’t do it as a vegetarian. Especially not as a vegetarian who prefers to avoid processed soy, and has to avoid giant quantities of soy in general (estrogenic, ergo, hormone disrupting).
I need something I can do for the next few months (beyond taking coQ10 and metformin) that will let me believe a next IVF would give us some embryos with a chance. From the literature and the anecdotal evidence, protein is it. And for me, that means adding meat. At least some, possibly not every day, but some, and regularly. I can’t have a protein bar and a protein shake every day instead – it’s not healthy, and frankly, is grosser than meat.
I would struggle with this decision more than I already have, except that this past week I have felt measurably better. More energy, less doldrums both mentally and physically. I’m more alert, for longer periods. I may well have been protein deficient this whole time. Just think what I could have been! It’s worth exploring.
The cobb salad I had for lunch was delicious, aside from one bite of chicken I had to stop chewing and just swallow to get it down (gristle? tendon? something… ew). My stomach seems ok so far. My heart is a bit bruised though. ‘Vegetarian’ has been a line on my mental ‘who I am’ list for a long long time, my entire adult life. I am sad to lose it.