Looking for stories on leaving vegetarianism
February 1, 2012 6:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering eating meat again after more than a decade of being a vegetarian. I'm looking for blogs or long articles about going back to meat after a significant period without it. I'm looking for people talking about why the change happened and how they re-acclimated themselves to meat. I would also welcome articles about people who struggled with it but stayed vegetarians anyway.

If it matters, I stopped eating meat for a variety of reasons that hit basically all the big categories, health, environment, and ethical. I'm considering changing my position because, well, mainly ennui, but also I'm tired of missing out when there's a big family meal and as my curiosity about cooking grows, I get more tired of changing around the recipes to be vegetarian. The options for locally sourced meat are also way better than they were when I started all of this. I don't think those are very strong reasons, but I've not been able to shake this desire for months now. I generally found not eating meat to be a breeze up until recently, so my struggle with it lately makes me wonder if my body's trying to tell me something, or if this is something that made a lot of sense to 20 year old me and makes less sense now that I'm in my 30s.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Bacon was the gateway meat for my wife. It sucked her back in to eating meat again after many years of vegetarianism. It comes in small portions, it is really tasty, and can be combined with other things. Maybe not very healthy in the long term, or in larger portions, but it'll get your body used to digesting meaty things.
posted by Mark Doner at 6:27 PM on February 1, 2012

I was a vegetarian for several years for ethical reasons. I then started eating free-range, ethically-raised meat for both health and ethical reasons.

I don't regret my decision to eat meat again, as it's what I felt I had to do.

But I am now going to back to vegetarianism, again for ethical reasons. If you choose to eat meat again, I urge you to consider forgoing factory farmed meat...which I'm not sure solves you're problem of missing out.

I say stick to vegetarianism or eat ethically raised meat (seriously the conventional stuff is really unhealthy too.) But of course I'm biased. I have done a lot of reading on the topic of cravings, and unless you are anemic, I highly doubt your body needs meat. And if you are anemic, there are plant sources. If you stay veggie, try and make some more veggie friends that you can cook with. Vegetarian food can be extremely varied and delicious! It's easy to get stuck into a rut of easy veggie foods.

In the end, it doesn't matter what I say. Do what *feels* right to you.
posted by DeltaForce at 6:36 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was raised a vegetarian and didn't have red meat until I was about 18, and started eating chicken and fish a year or two before that. I would recommend starting with small portions of white meat, and then waiting until your body gets adjusted to that, and then increase the portion size or the frequency.

I would also take things slow-ish when returning to red meat. The first time I had meat was a bite or two of my friend's cheeseburger, which gave me a very small stomach ache but was a small enough portion that it was easy for me to handle. I don't know what are the optimal meats to start with, but that worked for me. I would just keep the portions small and infrequent to begin with.

In the end, I think everyone's individual body varies enough that it is important to pay attention to what you feel is working for you. If it's not working, slow down or stop entirely and pick it up a week or two later, try cooking the meat another way, etc.

I don't have anything to say for the ethical considerations of the matter, but good luck with that part of this.
posted by zhi at 6:48 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have been a functional vegetarian at various stages of my life, even though I wouldn't regard myself as one. Once I realised that I hadn't eaten meat for at least six months and had to wean myself back onto meat. I started with white-fleshed fish, worked my way up to salmon and tuna. After that I found it very easy to get back into eating red meat.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 6:59 PM on February 1, 2012

I was a vegetarian for 11 years for the same reasons as you. I stopped being vegetarian also for the same reasons--ennui, wanting to try new food, and also wanting to get more protein and sick of trying to get it through vegetarian sources.

I broke my vegetarianism with a trip to Fogo De Chao, an all-you-can-eat meat place where they carry around giant skewers of meat and cut them off. Stuffed myself and it was great. Did not see any side effects, though the first few times I ate meat I had to get used to the heavy feeling in my stomach from it. I discovered I LOVED pork, which I couldn't stand prior to being vegetarian.

The enzymes in your body that process meat never go away. The nausea, etc that some people have when eating meat again is psychosomatic, tied either towards feelings about meat or distaste with the texture or something like that. I always liked meat, even through my vegetarianism, so that wasn't an issue for me when going back.
posted by schroedinger at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was a very strict vegetarian for at least six years and then started eating meat again. I had no problems transitioning, but I should note that when I learned how to cook, I was a vegetarian. When I started eating meat again, I was too lazy to learn the food safety required for cooking meat. So essentially I'm a vegetarian at home, and an omnivore outside of the house. It works out very well for me.
posted by mostly vowels at 7:50 PM on February 1, 2012

I was a vegetarian, and for portions of that, a vegan, for ten years. I started eating meat again when I began spending time in parts of the world and living in conditions where that wasn't an option.

I didn't do any particular re-acclimation when I started eating meat again and didn't notice any adverse effects. I remember being surprised to find how filling it was, which has been great as when I'm in those places I'm doing field work and have limited access to cooking facilities and snacks.

I've had more problems in the opposite situation - when I come back to the US after eating a meat- and starch-based diet abroad, I have had problems digesting vegetables. I would suggest just paying attention to your body's response and eat small portions of the offending food at first if you find you have indigestion.
posted by scrambles at 7:51 PM on February 1, 2012

I started eating meat at age 20 after never having eaten meat before. I started slowly, and actually with seafood first, then chicken. I've tasted lamb and red meat and don't like them so I've need had more than a bite at a time. I don't think eating meat made me vomit-sick, but it did feel heavier in my stomach than my previous diet and my digestive system was not initially a fan. That didn't last too long and over time (and because of marrying a serious meat eater), I now eat meat almost every day without problems.
posted by echo0720 at 7:54 PM on February 1, 2012

I was vegetarian for 12 years, vegan for some of that. I then slowly added chicken and other poultry, fish and small amounts of beef into my diet and that's still where I'm at 10 or so years later. I still don't do well with lots of beef and I don't eat pork.

It's really nice to have the choice. I feel so much better being able to enjoy meals at restaurants and made by friends without worrying if they forgot to mention that they used chicken broth or something. I've really embraced cooking with a whole new set of ingredients available to me. And my health drastically and instantly improved when I enjoyed the more varied diet that opened up as I added meat back into the OK column.
posted by tinamonster at 7:57 PM on February 1, 2012

This was posted on the blue awhile back. http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/

I am not and never have been a vegetarian but I found the post fascinating. I am a firm believer that if my body is craving something then I should not deny it, it is probably for a reason. And I am not talking about the unhealthy binge type cravings, I am talking things like "My god, I NEED orange juice RIGHT NOW" even though I don't normally drink it.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:06 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was vegetarian for 12 years and started eating meat due to a combination of circumstances including a trip abroad in which I felt that it would be important not to have dietary restrictions. I didn't ramp up or start with fish or anything, I may have just dived right into pork products at a party. I had no ill effects at all.

I still do not particularly like some very high-iron meats (liver, hanger steak, etc) and some ground-meat textures, but that's not out of line with my preferences pre-going-vegetarian, as I recall.
posted by Kpele at 8:10 PM on February 1, 2012

you could read this (by someone I used to know) and follow the links.

Simon Fairlie seems to have converted a few vegetarians back to ethically produced meat.
posted by wilful at 8:19 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I struggled with similar issues, compounded by ceasing to keep kosher--so eating non-kosher meat and poultry felt particularly intense/loaded for me.

Here's what I realized: It's totally OK to change your mind. There's no reason to hold yourself to a decision your early-20s self made if you feel differently now. Vegetarianism is something that a lot of people get very passionate or insistent about and right now you happen to be on the "right" side of that issue to them, but don't let that factor into your decision.

As to whether your body is trying to tell you something--I have never tested anemic, even in my many years of vegetarianism, but shortly after I started eating meat I found out that my longer-term iron stores (as determined by serrum ferritin levels--something not routinely tested) were pretty low.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:05 PM on February 1, 2012

I was vegetarian for more than 20 years and now eat a meat-rich paleo/primal diet.

When I was veg and working out a lot, I noticed that when I used whey protein I had a lot more energy and strength. It occurred to me that instead of using a highly processed supplement that came from factory-farmed cows and was shipped across the continent, I could just buy local chicken for my protein.

Adding meat back in gave me more energy, and taking grains out helped even more and made me lose 25 pounds of fat. Eating meat also makes international travel vastly easier.

I started by eating chicken in curries, and then I added turkey, bacon, and ham. Now I also eat steaks, but I still don't like ground beef or lamb. Many of my friends were vegetarian when I quietly switched, but only one person, a distant acquaintance, gave me any grief at all.
posted by ceiba at 10:11 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you'll find The Butcher and the Vegetarian to be an interesting read.
posted by kitkatcathy at 5:37 AM on February 2, 2012

I was vegetarian (ovo-lacto) from the age of 12 to the age of 23.

The first animal protein I ate was a trout. I was in my first co-op job, had to travel and could claim government rates for a meal. I'd worked really late, couldn't find very much open nearby and when I got into the old-school European restaurant and didn't see a single vegetarian option, I said to myself, "Fuck it" and ordered the trout. And it was soooooo tasty: buttery, lemony, tender, flaky fish that I knew I wasn't going to stay vegetarian for much longer.

I'd become a vegetarian for ethical reasons, but as I came to look at the environment in the prairies (yes, an acre of plants will produce more food than an acre of ranchland, but most ranchland will support grass and little else and cows are great at turning grass into protien), and some of evils of the food system (importing highly processed soy products for urban westerners to consume and what not), vegetarian no longer seemed like the most ethical option to me. I wanted to eat more local products, and more simply prepared foods. I'd also gained a lot of weight as a vegetarian (lots of dairy and processed "veggie" food will do that) I'd begun to hear from others that higher protein intakes could facilitate weight loss as you feel more full.

I actually didn't experience any tummy upset as I began to include more meat in my diet, probably because I'd never given up milk or eggs. In fact, cutting down on legumes meant that I experiences less "digestive upset" (aka gas)What was actually much harder was letting people who'd known me a long time know that I was eating meat again. The fact that I'd come to one conclusion (when I was 12 years old ferchristsakes!) and then rethought came to a differing conclusion was held against me a little bit, for being inconsistent or hypocritical. I just explained that time and additional information caused me to revisit my thinking on this particular issue. It was important to me not to say that I was stupid for becoming vegetarian (because I don't think it was) but that after rethinking, I don't think vegetarianism is the most ethical choice for everyone, and it was no longer the most ethical choice for me.

Nowadays, I'm lucky to have several hunters in my extended family and my boyfriend's family owns a small sheep and pork operation, so I have a steady supply of ethical, healthy, tasty (and often free!) animal protien in my freezer. I think I learned a lot by being vegetarian (for one thing - it forced me to learn to cook) and I still think about complete protiens in my side dishes when cooking with meat. And stretching meat further by using it to flavour vegetables and grains. But it's a lot easier for me to maintain my weight as an omnivore than it ever was a vegetarian.
posted by Kurichina at 7:50 AM on February 2, 2012

I was a vegetarian for 8 years. A couple of years ago, I had to change my eating habits to lose 50 extra lbs. that I was carrying around. When I started eating differently, I started craving meat. I didn't make any planned transition, just started eating the meat that appealed to me. I never had any digestive issues and am comfortable with the ethical choices that I make about the meat I eat.
posted by kamikazegopher at 3:01 PM on February 2, 2012

I was raised vegetarian until age 27 when I started eating small amounts of white meat, mainly turkey, some chicken and a little salmon. I tried a few bites of red meat here and there and wasn't impressed (this includes bacon). I maintained that diet for three years until a few months ago when chicken and turkey became completely unappetizing to me, so I'm now back to being mainly pescetarian (I will eat things cooked with meat or using chicken stock or whatever, which I would never have done prior to eating meat, so I don't actually consider myself vegetarian anymore).

I looked for a lot of the resources you're looking for both when becoming a meat eater and when transitioning back to mainly vegetarianism, and I really didn't find anything.

It sounds like you would probably feel more comfortable listening to your body tell you what it wants than trying to label yourself. That's what makes the most sense for me. I like the ease of being able to order from a menu without asking "what's the sauce made of?" but I also don't like eating any kind of identifiable meat product (many of the veggie substitutes are way tastier!). I don't need to figure out what type of diet that is - it's just mine.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:23 PM on February 2, 2012

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