On food, and listening to my bossy body

Last week, I mentioned my eating habits — basically, the fact that I’m a dairy-free vegetarian who only eats local backyard hen eggs.  I also noted that I was going to cut gluten from my diet because I had come to understand that it was upsetting my body – and it’s important to listen to your body.

My body has been pretty talkative lately, ever since she realized that I listen to her more.  We’ve been chatting a lot.

My body wants to exercise more. I feel a real craving to do it.  I have yet to muster the motivation to go to the gym more than once a week, but even once is better than people on the couch, as they say.  I’m a work in progress, but I want to go.  I feel amazing when I go work out.

My body wants more greens.  Not liking salads, I bought a blender and I’ve been making green smoothies.  I feel energetic and overall healthier because of the increased vegetable consumption.  If you are afraid of green smoothies — I was too! The secret is to blend the greens with the liquid first, and then add the other ingredients.  Get the spinach, kale, or whatever greens you’re using really pulverized with the liquid (juice, almond milk, whatever) and then add more stuff.  My favorite so far is: Spinach, vanilla almond milk, frozen pineapple, and cucumber.

My body is open-minded about trying new foods.  I made roasted beets.  Delicious.  I made roasted acorn squash. NOT DELICIOUS.  You might like it. I don’t. I gave it a good try.  I am going to try and turn it into a soup.  But I am not optimistic.  Something about the acorn squash does not agree with my body, and I like to listen to her now!

My body has recently told me to stop being a vegetarian.

Ever since reading about the amazing healing properties of some good old-fashioned bone broth, my body has continually whispered, “Hey, you should buy a chicken. We should try that out.  Make some broth, yeah? Yeah.”

So last night, I bought a chicken.  It’s a cage-free, humanely-raised, not-antibiotic-fed, not-given-hormones chicken.  I asked a lot of questions, and the very nice lady at the Earth Fare meat counter answered them all, to the result that I felt really good about my decision to buy a chicken that had had a pretty decent life.

I am not totally opposed to meat.  I realize that we have pointy teeth for a reason, that we evolved to eat an omnivore’s diet.  I believe that animal proteins offer some nutrients that we cannot effectively get from plant sources without supplementing.  I believe that some people thrive on a vegan diet while others feel very sick, and the same is true of a diet with meat.  Everybody is different, and every body is different.

What I am opposed to is animal abuse.  Chickens should not have their beaks cut off or be stuffed into tiny cages.  Pigs should be able to move around.  Animals should be able to live a decent life.  I do not want to eat any animal that was treated poorly while it was alive.  Animals are deserving of our respect and appreciation, whether or not we consume them for sustenance.


While my body was fine with this plant-based diet for the past year of being vegan-except-eggs, now my body needs something else, and I think occasional (ethical) meat and regular servings of bone broth are what it needs.  I think the veganism was a reboot for my body, as I learned about healthier foods.  Now I’m ready to begin re-introducing meat again.

Cutting gluten is a big change, and one that requires me to re-learn how to cook and eat.  It used to be so simple to just have a sandwich or make some pasta or heat up a veggie burger or frozen dinner… but now, I have to be aware of everything, moreso than when I was vegetarian. When you have a gluten intolerance and resulting intestinal permeability, eating the tiniest amount of gluten can cause a flare up and hurt your whole body.  Gluten sensitivity/intolerance is linked to autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and joint pain.  I didn’t believe it until I ate a huge bowl of whole-wheat pasta and two slices of bread for dinner one night, followed by insane pain in my knees the next day.  The inflammation was apparent, and that is the moment I knew going gluten-free was something I wanted to do for my health.

I realize that some friends and readers may be disappointed by this decision.  Some may even think it a betrayal of sorts.  To this end, I must point you to Alex Jamieson’s blog post, “I’m not vegan anymore,” which says all the things I want to say about compassion and health and being kind.

I also want to add that, regarding ANYTHING – any topic at all, whether it is about nutrition or medicine or politics or movies you like – when you talk to others who disagree with you, it is important to be kind and compassionate.  When you attack people, they will not listen to you. We must approach everything from a place of openness and knowledge and help people find the truth they need.

Some people’s truth is that they only eat plants.  Some people’s truth changes.  My truth, right now, is to make some bone broth.

Special note: I say a brief word of thanks to the chickens who lay my eggs every time I eat the eggs, and I will continue this practice to thank the animals I consume for nourishment.  It’s important for me to stay grounded in the circle of life.  When I die, I’m going to be a tree!


20 thoughts on “On food, and listening to my bossy body

  1. I am never one to judge. I feel better when I abstain from meat and cheese, and can’t stand milk so it’s not much of an issue for me, but whatever makes you feel better is what you should eat. I think your decision to stay within your values is shown by the amount of time you took when ensuring the chicken was raised humanely. I have to believe that the stress an animal lives with while alive and in its death is directly passed on to us when we eat the meat so your health is better for the time you took to make your choice. I am definitely going to try your spinach/pineapple smoothie as soon as I find some organic pineapple again.

    1. Thank you for your words! I never thought about it like that, but I think I also believe that the animal’s stress is passed on to us when we eat it… what a great way to keep the animal in mind. I hope you enjoy the smoothie – I bought a fresh pineapple yesterday to try and save some money over buying frozen, but I’m wondering if it’s worth the couple extra dollars to not have to deal with cutting it up!

      1. Yes! I got some frozen organic pineapple and it works in a smoothie just like ice cubes, only made of delicious pineapple 🙂 There’s some plastic waste from the bag, which is disappointing, but at least it’s pineapple!

  2. You’re not alone on this- there’s a book on Amazon by someone who was veggie for decades, found that it was not agreeing with his body, so started eating meat again, and his health improved. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Meat-Fix-Lifetime-Healthy-Eating/dp/184954462X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1362117713&sr=1-1)

    I’ve never been veggie, but don’t eat a lot of meat, and try and make sure that the meat I do eat has had as happy a life as possible. (I don’t tend to eat chicken, as a ‘happy chicken’ is expensive, compared to other meat that has been ethically raised…plus since I got chickens myself, I feel a bit weird about it…)

    I always say ‘thank you, ladies’ which I find eggs in the egg box of my chicken coop 🙂

    On the subject of listening to my body- I am trying to listen to its ‘ok, I’m full now’ signals, as well as work out which foods make me feel energised, and which don’t. I think body listening is something people are generally not very good at- me included!

    1. I agree, I never used to listen to my body. I just told it what was going to happen (i.e., no, we’re going to eat this because it tastes good!) without paying it any attention. Since learning to figure out what it wants and needs, I just feel a lot better. The full signal is one I’ve been working on, but I have been eating less simply as a function of buying and preparing less food at a time. It’s all baby steps! 🙂 thanks for reading, Nicola.

  3. Listening to our bodies is key! I’ve also found that it’s important to accept that we might not have a problem with the things that other health conscious people like to stay away from. For me, at the moment at least, I do better without grains. Once a week or so is fine, but more than that doesn’t agree with me (that doesn’t mean i always follow it though). But when I eat grains, it doesn’t really seem to matter if they contain gluten or not. Often I actually react badly to gluten free breads, while whole wheat or rye is fine once in a while. Also, I regularly crave good quality dairy, and when I eat them it feels nourishing to me. I was low carb for a while, but after a few months discovered that my body needed more carbs. So even if some people feel that carbs are evil (just as some feel that fat is evil), that simply isn’t true for me.

    I’m also coming to terms with the fact that perfectionism is one of the most damaging things to my health. Stressing about always eating the right thing is more damaging to me than to occasinally eat something less than perfect. I think shooting for 80-90% or so is a good thing for me.

    1. I agree, we cannot constantly obsess over food. I do the best with what I have, and I only buy quality and ethical meats and eggs, but sometimes I eat Chipotle – it is my one vice, and as vices go, I think it’s a really reasonable one!! I guess another vice is takeout Chinese, and I order tofu, which is probably not GMO-free so I should stop. Soy’s a bad one! I also eat GMO (I assume) corn chips at Mexican restaurants… I should stop that too… now I’m spiraling out of control! D:

  4. Our lives are a process. To never change is disappointing. Change is great, especially when it is thought through as thoroughly as your decision here. I’m more disappointed you don’t like salad. Poor salad. :p

    1. I blend my salad! And I had a cucumber and two carrots for lunch today… for some reason I just don’t do well with leafy greens. I WANT to like them!! 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

  5. There are so many different truths about health, and the ultimate truth is that what is healthy is different for everyone, and will change frequently throughout one’s life. Congratulations on listening to your body and honoring your Self as well as your environment. If you don’t have the fuel to thrive, you don’t have the fuel to help heal the world either.

    As for salad, according to Chinese medicine raw vegetables are actually a bad choice because they squelch Stomach fire, leading to bloating, indigestion, and absorption problems. Some people who have a hot constitution do need to eat a fair share of raw veggies, especially in high summer, but the rest of the time cooked veggies are a better option 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

    1. I had a consultation with a nutritionist last night, and he advised me to favor cooked vegetables while my gut heals because they are easier on the stomach and intestines. I never knew that!

      Of course, I then ate a green smoothie, whole cucumber, two carrots, and an apple raw today. Whoops. The plus side: My vegan ranch dressing recipe is AMAZING.

  6. I think it goes along with avoiding labels. We don’t call ourselves “vegetarian,” although we eat very little meat. We’re like you–we prefer that the animal was treated kindly. Right now, saving money takes absolute priority over everything else, so we make exceptions, because we absolutely need to save money wherever we can. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the phase we’re in, in our lives, right now. I think things do change, as your life changes.

  7. You are going to love the bone broth! Make sure you let it go a good long time, I love adding a lemon to it while it’s simmering! mmmhhh! Good for you in listening, Funny how our bodies are always trying to tell us something. Wish I would have listened a long time ago!

  8. Hi Caitlin, a bit of a late reply (just catching up on all e-mails!) but I just wanted to tell you that the eating-meat-thing is what we’re doing too -not ready to go fully vegetarian, we only eat “happy” cows and chickens. Of course, they cost a pretty penny more, but that also makes us cut down on the amount of meat we eat per meal. For example, a chicken will last the two of us for about four to five meals, and the bones and other leftovers will be used for broth as a soup base. And a pound of minced happy beef will last around 3 meals for two. So I don’t consider it terrible to eat meat, as long as the animals have had a good life, just as you describe above!

    1. Pro tip: You can re-use those chicken bones at least two or three times for broth. I’ve made two batches off one chicken so far!

      I have seen this diet described as “humaneitarian” and I love that word. I am glad to see it’s working for your family too! 🙂

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