Investigating Our Relationship to Eating Meat
First, let me just say that I’m not here to tell you vegetarian is the only way to be by any means. I don’t eat 100% vegetarian myself, and this isn’t intended to be a post of telling you what to do with your eating habits. Rather, I wanted to share my experience eating meat and how I’ve really changed my personal eating habits through some reflections
My Story with Meat-Eating
I grew up eating meat and never really considering going vegetarian. Although I understand the problem people have with eating meat, I just didn’t connect with the issue. Also, there are just times where I wanted to eat a burger or some bacon. However, I began really investigating my relationship with meat while staying at a Buddhist monastery back in 2014.
The monks encouraged us to simply tune into the experience of eating and the interconnectedness of it all. As I tuned in, I really began to see the meat I was eating as living animals. Although this didn’t stop me from eating meat upon leaving the monastery, it did plant a seed of curiosity.
In 2015, I decided I wanted to lose some weight and feel healthier physically and mentally. I was fairly overweight, but the main problem was that I found myself tired and unable to focus. This arose in my work life and in my personal relationships. Since then, I’ve lost a little over 55 lbs., mainly through the practice of mindful eating.
That is, I began really tuning into what my mind and body needed. Was I actually hungry, or was I just eating because of stress? Did my body need sugar and carbs, or did vegetables sound like better fuel? And of course I tuned into my relationship with meat. I found quickly that eating red meat made me tired and move slowly. Although I enjoy good food, it just didn’t feel great afterward.
Since then, I’ve taken up the practice of never buying or ordering anything with meat in it. If someone invites me over for dinner or to a barbecue, I eat what is offered. I don’t make it a big deal or ask for a vegetarian dish. Instead, I essentially choose not to eat meat unless it is what is being offered by a host.
What Do We Need?
This is a great question to ask yourself. When people find out I don’t eat meat really, they often ask me about how I get my protein. I’m no health expert, but I can say that when I stopped eating meat, I didn’t suddenly crave protein. I eat other things with proteins like beans, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, and more. It has never really been an issue for me. I almost never find myself craving protein or feeling like my body needs extra protein.
You can see for yourself just how much protein you really need. Do you need meat because it’s the norm in our culture, or because your body actually really needs the animal protein? The truth is that we are omnivores by natures, and the human body is able to digest animal protein in a healthy way. See for yourself what the truth is for your individual body!
Did you know that livestock production uses about 1/3 of the world’s fresh water according to recent research? Or that beef production is a major contributor to greenhouse gases? It’s something worth considering. I know quite a few people who recycle, take care in using plastic, and are very conscious of climate change. However, they eat red meat regularly.
As much as you may love that steak or burger, do you need one regularly? The harm caused may not be immediate and very tangible to you in this moment, but it is real. Simply by being aware of the effect of our eating habits, we can practice some kindness for our fellow humans and the world around us.
The Living Animals
This is one of the huge reasons people stop eating meat. I started myself by switching to only eating meat that was treated humanely. Many animals are kept in horrible living conditions or force-fed unhealthy food. This doesn’t sit well with me, as I don’t want to endorse the creation of suffering in animals just to give me food.
Where I live in California, we actually went to see the farm where we got our meat from. The animals lived full lives in open spaces and all looked happy. This made me feel much better, as these animals were living the best possible life. Try switching from low-quality grocery store meats to more local, free-range, and grass-fed meats!
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