How do I quit vegetarianism?
July 9, 2008 9:32 AM   Subscribe

How do I go about reintroducing meat into my diet? I've been a vegetarian for about 8 years now (eating seafood the last 2 years) and for a variety of different reasons, I want to go back to eating meat.

I've read (previously, previosuly) a number of arguments about the merits of giving up vegetarianism, but I've decided it's best that I give up the lifestyle. Now I just don't really know how to go about it. Does anyone have experience with this? How slowly do I need to reintroduce meat into my diet?

Things I feel I should mention:

-I don't plan on eating a lot of meat (I don't even like it all that much); I just want to have the option open. I want to get to the point where I can go for a few weeks without having meat, still, but then have some when I feel like it.

-I've already decided, so please refrain from giving me reasons why I should stick to it.

Any advice/commentary is greatly appreciated, except where noted. Thanks!
posted by stvspl to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've spoken to many former vegeterians who had been warned of nightmare scenarios ("The first time you eat a steak you'll poop yourself in minutes, you lack the enzymes to process animal protein now") but nothing happened. It seems to make sense to go back slowly, maybe with some chicken or turkey, and reintroduce steak and barbecue later, if at all. from anecdotal evidence I heard, you should be OK
posted by matteo at 9:38 AM on July 9, 2008

I think you'll be find since you've been eating seafood for the last little while -- just start with smaller-than-normal portions.
posted by kate blank at 9:40 AM on July 9, 2008

Eat something you crave, in moderation. You'll be fine.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:41 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: I went through the same thing a few years ago and experienced no problems, despite the fact that I consider myself to be someone with a pretty sensitive stomach.

I would just suggest starting with chicken, turkey, or fish, in small quantities and mixed with other foods. Then, after a week or two, if everything seems fine, try some red meat. I don't think you'll have any problems as long as you don't eat an enormous quantity of it the first time. (And even then, you might be fine!)
posted by Tren at 9:43 AM on July 9, 2008

Cook the meat, put it in your mouth, chew and swallow. If you're mentally committed to eating it and there's nothing wrong with the meat, nothing will happen to you.
posted by dobbs at 9:43 AM on July 9, 2008

I ate no beef, poultry or seafood for 6 years, and when I decided to start again, I ate normal amounts of pretty much whatever I wanted (as I recall I started off with a juicy hamburger) and my system didn't even blink.

Taking it easy will probably be good just to reassure yourself, but I'd consider all of the urban legends about your colon hurling itself out of your belly button just 'cause you ate some bacon, well, urban legends.
posted by jalexei at 9:52 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: Previously
posted by oneirodynia at 9:54 AM on July 9, 2008

I did the traditional "get drunk, eat bacon sandwich" approach at the end of my long term vegetarianism. I'm still here.
posted by handee at 9:57 AM on July 9, 2008

I didn't eat beef or pork for about 15 years, and when I first went back to meat I literally had a steak every night for 5 nights and was never happier.
posted by tristeza at 9:57 AM on July 9, 2008

I did this a few years ago, and one of my big concerns was being grossed out by the texture/idea of meat. if this is a problem for you, I recommend eating good meat in some sort of sauce, pasta, or stew so meat's not the only thing you're eating.
posted by acidic at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2008

I think the best way to do this, if you're squeamish, is to pan fry small cubes of chicken breast in garlic and work that into things you already eat. It's easy, it's cheap, it's mild, it's protein.

My girlfriend ended a 6-year vegetarianism with a whole turkey sub at Disney World. She hadn't even been eating shrimp before that. No ill effects although she still doesn't care for red meat years later.

If I remember correctly, she had the turkey sub ... then she had some chicken fingers a few days later ... then some shrimp ... then a bacon/egg/cheese biscuit. Today her favorite food is scallops wrapped in bacon and medallion pork chops.

IMO, the hierarchy of meat-eating fortitude is as follows:

white fish > shrimp > tuna > salmon > chicken > turkey > pig > bacon (?) > beef > ... (lamb, wild game, reptiles and amphibeans?)
posted by metajc at 10:03 AM on July 9, 2008

Yeah, what they said. Don't decide your first visit back to the land of taste should be to Lawry's for a gigantic rare prime rib and you'll be fine. Start with some nice fish or a chicken breast and you'll be fine.
posted by Justinian at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2008

I'm a person who doesn't eat meat. But from time to time, I do end up eating it. Nothing has ever happened to me when I have eaten meat.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2008

No-one can really answer this question for you because everyone reacts differently - some people think 'ZOMG you'll be really sick and vomit/poo yourself straight away' etc, some people think its no problem - both these points of view are valid, some people get really sick from a little bit of meat, some people dive right into a steak and have no problems.

From my personal experiences about a year into my vegetarianism I accidentally had some ham (it was hidden under melted cheese and I'd had it before without cheese but it seems the waitor had got it made veggie just for me the previous time) and I got a bit of an upset tummy - though that might have been guilt (I'm just not the kind of person that would call the waitor back or make a fuss). 10 years in I decide to give up (for medical reasons) and my first meal was beef chilli and I was absolutely fine

My advice would be to start with some kind of mince - the large surface area should make it easier to digest.
posted by missmagenta at 10:27 AM on July 9, 2008

Start with a bacon sandwich, in about 20 minutes you will be demanding steak tartare. Welcome back to the top of the food chain.
posted by zemblamatic at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't worry about it. I doubt you've lost your enzymes or your ability to digest meat. I know a vegetarian who, once a year or so, will go out for a nice steak dinner. She has survived every time. Just like anybody, if you eat a big meal of rich food, you're more likely to feel sick afterwards, so stick with something sensible.

That said, if you are nervous about reintroducing meat into your diet, then it makes sense to slowly work your way up from grilled chicken to the bacon-wrapped steak.
posted by LolaGeek at 10:31 AM on July 9, 2008

Joining the chorus, it wasn't a problem at all for me. No fuss, no issues, no weirdness. Friends have all reported the same thing. Obviously, YMMV, but I really doubt that you will have any issues, other than psychosomatic ones.
posted by Forktine at 10:43 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: I was vegan for something like 7 years, then ovo-lacto vegetarian for another year or two, then fish, then straight into red meat with a philly cheesesteak. The fish to meat wasn't planned as some sort of 'slow introduction' strategy -- I had just decided I would eat fish at dinner with my parents, as my father was a great fan of fish. After eating seafood on a semi-regular basis, I realized there was little remaining argument against eating any type of meat, and one day accompanied a friend of mine to a cheesesteak place and ordered up.

I realize it seems like it should be some big deal, deserving of some sort of ceremony, but really, you just start eating meat again. That's it. I had no ill effects starting to eat dairy again, nor later after eating the cheesesteak. If you want, take one of your Bourdian-esque friends who constantly rails against vegetarians with you when you start eating meat again -- they will enjoy it immensely, perhaps even more than you.

My girlfriend, who's been vegetarian for .. at least 7-10 years, I imagine, will on a rare occasion -- maybe once a year or less -- eat a Costco dog, or a hamburger with no problem.

I still eat vegetarian probably 75%-90% of the time anyways, mostly because quality meat takes much more effort to prepare and I'm a poor (or perhaps just lazy) cook.
posted by fishfucker at 11:10 AM on July 9, 2008

I was vegetarian for five years and then went back to eating meat. My first meat meal was a bacon cheeseburger, and it went down with nary a stomach cramp. I've always thought those vegetarians who claim severe gastrointestinal distress as a result of returning to meat might be a wee bit on the hypochondriac side of things... but I realize that everyone's system is different.

Just do it.
posted by GardenGal at 11:12 AM on July 9, 2008

I would only worry about a sensitive stomach if eating meat before vegetarianism gave you problems. I don't think vegetarianism would change anything to make you less able to process meat, I'd only be careful if you had a hard time digesting super fatty foods or rare meats in the first place.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:35 AM on July 9, 2008

I was a vegetarian for 20 years, then I ate a salumi sandwich. I was fine until about two hours later, when I got a horrible stomachache (well, intestine-ache, really) that lasted for about four hours. I could just feel it slowly winding its way through my system. The next few times I only at a tiny bit of meat, and was fine. Then I had hamburger, and went through the agonizing intestine-ache process again. So my advice is to ramp up gradually, and maybe try something on the less fatty end of the spectrum.
posted by HotToddy at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2008

I was veggie for 8 years and dived straight back into meat-eating with near fanaticism. I went meat crazy and suffered no ill effects, but I was in my early twenties. Now I'm older, my system is less inclined to tolerate sudden changes in diet and I think I'd be much less blase about it now.
posted by poissonrouge at 1:50 PM on July 9, 2008

I was a vegetarian for a few years, than I ate some meat. Nothing happened. I think a lot of people who talk about their disgust with the texture of meat after years without, or the sudden and violent changes to their digestion are simply trying to make you think of them as special little souls whose nature is especially delicate and magical and worthy of mention - kind of what GardenGal implies.

Just eat and be happy. You might want to partake of something that is a little lacking in fat and grease, but that's good advice for anyone.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:51 PM on July 9, 2008

I was a veg for 8 years. I went out for lunch one afternoon, asked for the Potato soup, got the Chicken soup and never looked back. I just started buying and eating meat again. And snails. And snakes. And whatever else that used to be alive. I've since dialed it back a bit to create a more balanced diet, but the point is: I went from a no-meat/seafood to a voracious consumer of animal products without issue.
posted by GilloD at 7:22 AM on July 10, 2008

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