How to Stop Being a Vegetarian: Eating Meat Again
Vegetarian diets are touted as being healthier and more nutritious than diets high in meat. However, vegetarian diets are not for everyone. For some it is healthier not to be a vegetarian.
This could be because of protein or vitamin deficiencies or other dietary concerns such as high blood sugar. Some vegetarians tend to eat too many bread products. This can be unhealthy if you are diabetic. Some people also develop food allergies that limit what they can eat and need to adjust their diet to accommodate this.
If you have been a vegetarian for awhile and need to start eating meat again for health reasons, how do you stop being a vegetarian?
Making Up with Meat
If you have been without meat for a significant period of time, it is not a good idea to eat a pound of steak right off the bat. Your body is not used to meat and will likely have a hard time digesting it. You may have stomach pains, cramps, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation from eating meat if you have been a vegetarian for a long time. These will pass with time and go away as your body adjusts to eating meat.
- Begin gradually introducing animal products into your diet. How you go about this should be determined by how strict of a vegetarian you were. Vegans should add meat slower than those vegetarians who ate eggs and dairy.
- Start by eating chicken broth or stock. It is typically light on the stomach and should cause fewer problems. Eat this for a while before adding any other meats.
- Eat foods that are flavored with real meat before eating actual pieces of meat. Soups that are flavored with meat are a good way to get used to the taste of meat again.
- Eat chicken first. If your body handles that okay, add fish, pork and beef.
- Start by eating meat products you liked before you became a vegetarian. It will help with the psychological aspects of the transition.
- Try eating meat that is disguised with other foods such as casseroles. The meat flavor and texture won't be as overpowering as simply biting into a big piece of meat.
- If the texture of meat is a problem, try sandwich meats or even baby food meat. The texture is usually smoother and it doesn't look as much like meat because of the processing. This can help with the mental transition of reintegrating meat.
- Eat digestive enzymes with your meal. You can find them at health food stores. Look for supplements that contain HCL with Pepsin. These will help your body break down the meat. Enzyme complexes will also aid with digestion.
- Taking probiotics can help with digestion. Your intestines aren't used to breaking down the meat. Boosting your body with healthy bacteria that breaks down foods will help with bloating, gas, cramps, and other digestive problems.
- Listen to what your body is telling you. If you are craving something in particular, it may be a sign of something your body is lacking. If your body isn’t handling the meat well, take a step back and integrate the meat into your diet more slowly. If you haven’t had any problems with the meat, then your body is probably telling you that your diet is working.
Psychological Aspects of Eating Meat Again
Many vegetarians stopped eating meat for ethical reasons. Eating meat again can often be more psychologically difficult than physically difficult because you may feel that you have violated your principles. A sense of failure is normal because you are not sticking to a chosen diet. Other vegetarians may give you a hard time because you have left their fold. Meat eaters may tease you for abandoning vegetarianism.
What many meat eaters don't realize is that being a vegetarian or a vegan isn't just a diet. It is a lifestyle. Changing your way of life is hard. Especially when the change is being forced on you by health or other factors.
When you start having negative feelings about this, just remember that you aren’t the only vegetarian who has started eating meat again. Think of how much meat you didn’t eat the time when you were a vegetarian. You are not a failure. You are making wise choices for your body. You can also make informed eating choices now. You can eat organic meat and avoid veal and similarly cruel practices.
There is a lot of literature about vegetarianism versus omnivorous diets. Read up on the facts. Talk to other people about what you are feeling. Look for vegetarian forums and groups and seek out other people who have made a comeback to meat.
If other people rag you because of your diet, just let it roll off your back. They probably teased you when you were a vegetarian anyway. If other vegetarians are giving you a hard time, let them know what you are doing to continue to make ethical food choices. Let them know if you buy organic or are only eating meat one meal a day.
Eating meat again seems strange, especially if it has been many years. It will get easier with time. You may still want to refer to yourself as a vegetarian if you have not fully integrated meat back into your diet. It will make it easier than trying to explain to others what you can and cannot eat. It may also take some of the pressure off in social dining situations.
How long have you been a vegetarian?
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I became a vegetarian in my early teens for ethical and practical reasons. I couldn’t eat a hamburger without thinking about cows. When I saw the veins in a piece of chicken I couldn’t help but think that I was eating muscles. The though of it disgusted me and the sensation of the textures on my tongue repulsed my appetite. After biting into an undercooked hamburger one day, I gave up meat on the spot. I didn’t want to eat food that had once walked around.
I was a lacto-ova-vegetarian meaning I ate dairy and eggs, but no meat, fish, or chicken. In my early twenties I began having problems controlling my blood sugar. I am cursed with a high susceptibility to diabetes thanks to the genes my mother gave me. Eating vegetarian I had a tendency to eat too many breads, starches, and carbs, especially whenever I ate with a group. The body converts that type of food into sugar. Then dairy and eggs started to irritate my stomach, so I had to cut back on them.
After about 15 years of being a vegetarian, I felt like my body was falling apart. I was so tired and drained all the time. I had no energy. Every time I went to the doctor, I had something else wrong with me. First it was blood sugar, then it was thyroid, then dangerously low vitamin D, then I started having acid reflux and laryngitis from that. My stomach hurt nearly every day and I was having headaches. Next thing I knew, I had developed food allergies and had constant sinus infections.
Finally, I had had enough. I was destroying my health. All of these health issues were leaving me with too few meal choices and putting me on the road to becoming a full-fledged diabetic. I didn't want to be unhealthy for the rest of my life trying to live up to an ideal that obviously wasn't working for me. I decided it would be better for me if I could have more meal options that would help keep my blood sugar balanced and broaden my food choices that were limited by allergies. I decided to eat meat.
It was probably the hardest decision I ever made. I agonized over it for probably a year before I finally decided to go back to meat.
I loved Krystal burgers when I ate meat, so I decided that my first meat meal would be a Krystal. I ate just one. The first bite was the hardest. It took me a good five minutes before I ate the first nibble. I kept putting the burger to mouth and then moving it away. After that bite it became a little easier. And each time I ate meat after that, it got easier still.
The hardest part was telling others that I am not a full vegetarian anymore. It was big news when it first happened. Then it got old and everybody forgot about it. Now people know that I am a vegetarian in recovery. I eat mostly vegetarian but have an occasional piece of meat when my body needs it.
There is a new term "flexitarian" that definitely applies to me. Basically it means I am a semi-vegetarian. I eat mainly vegetarian still, but I supplement my diet with meat when I feel like it. I eat meat about once a week or every couple of weeks now.
I had digestive problems after eating meat maybe the first five or ten times I tried. Mainly, I think it was just stress related digestive trouble because I was so nervous and felt guilty about it. Now, I can eat it without problems. What works for me is not thinking about the food. I keep myself distracted while I eat.
Reintegrating meat has given me more options. I don’t have to be as cautious when eating out. I’m focusing on eating balanced meals rather than trying to stick to a certain diet. I have a wider range of food choices. I still have health problems, but they are getting better and better. I have more energy and I don't feel much guilt anymore. If I were meant to eat as a total vegetarian, then why would I feel so much better now?
I feel healthier eating meat. I still recommend the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle to anyone who can eat that way and maintain their health. I think it is an ideal way of life. I just don't think everyone can eat that way and stay healthy long-term.
If your diet is making you feel bad and sick all the time, why do that to yourself? Make some changes. For some that may mean eating meat again. For others, it may mean readjusting and balancing your diet. Everyone should be free to eat what their body needs to feel good and run right.
Feel free to share your story, give opinions and suggestions, ask questions, and make comments. All I ask is that you be respectful with what you say. Hurtful comments are not welcome. Most of the people who visit this article care deeply for animals and for the earth and most would choose to continue to be vegetarians if their health would allow it. Be mindful that one day your health might change as well.