It was Christmas 2009 when I decided that I wanted to journey into a vegetarian lifestyle. I'm not sure what triggered the change but there I was, in Florida at my parents home, on Christmas evening, a table full of curry goat, curry chicken and oxtail yet I was eating a salad. For whatever reason I wasn't interested in eating meat nor the vegetarian meat that our next door neighbors had been so kind to supply as their entire family was vegetarian. I was very content on eating my salad. That was the beginning of my flexitarian journey.
So there I was eating no meat and I was doing great for a while until 2 months later my body started to reject the fact that it wasn't getting any meat. It was February 2010, the year when Baltimore experienced our last major snow storm. I was trapped at home alone for days. I would try to dig myself out daily as we had up to 16 inches of snow that year. On the 2nd day I came down with flu like symptoms. The usual sore throat, aching, stuffy head, runny nose nothing unusual except the annoying persist cough that followed for days.
A few weeks later the flu symptoms disappeared but the persistent coughing seemed to worsen. The coughing was so bad that vomiting and shortness of breath accompanied it. I would wake at night wheezing and grasping for air from the persistent coughs. A few days in I noticed it was only getting worse. I was rapidly lose weight as I continued to vomit during each coughing attack that seemed to come ever 30 minutes.
It got so bad one day that my daughter, who had finally made her way home through the storm, felt so scared I would stop breathing that she drove me to the hospital. After seeing several doctors, I was diagnosed with pertussis or whooping cough. An ailment so deadly that countless numbers of infants die from it yearly. I was prescribed cough suppressant pills that only seemed to last for an hour but the persistent coughing, gasping for breath, wheezing and vomiting would continue.
I was admitted into the ER on 2 occasions and saw 2 more doctors from there. After sharing a bit of my history with the last physician, it was finally concluded that it was my extreme change in diet that had diminished my immune system. My body wasn't used to the sudden 100% meatless diet. And not only was it meatless but I was not supplementing my current diet with protein or other nutrients that you would get from eating meat. By the end of February I had lost almost 20 pounds and still coughing.
A long story short, I began to take daily supplements and adding small portions of chicken to my diet. It wasn't until the end of March when the the coughing began to go away and August 2010 when I completely stopped coughing.
The task of incorporating meat was a difficult one as I no longer had the taste buds for it and had to literally force myself to at least eat chicken. I dealt with this by choosing to add seafood and the occasional baked or grilled chicken to my diet.
Fast forward 3 years later and my diet consists of mainly fruits, nuts and vegetables with the occasional seafood and baked or grilled chicken 1 to 2 times per month. I opted to stay away from red meat all together as I stopped eating beef years before my lifestyle change and pork was never an option due to my religious background.
People would always ask me if I am a vegetarian. My answer would always be no and the explanation would be because I do eat chicken occasionally. As I became curious about this flexible eating lifestyle I decided to do some further research online which brought me to the term flexitarian.
The term flexitarian is used to describe a semi-vegetarian which is a person that has a plant-based diet but includes occasional meat products. In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year's most useful word and defined it as "a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat". In 2012, the term was listed for the first time in the mainstream Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
There are several reasons why someone would adopt a flexitarian diet. It could be environmental, economic or in my case health.
As I dug deeper I also found out that besides flexitarian diets there are other types of semi-vegetarianism diets which includes:
Pollotarians: They eat chicken or other poultry, but not meat from mammals, often for environmental, health or food justice reasons.
Pescetarians: They eat fish or other seafood, but not poultry or red meat from mammals. The macrobiotic diet is plant-based, and may or may not include the occasional addition of fish or other seafood.
Pollo-pescetarians: They eat fish and poultry, but not red meat from mammals.
In conclusion, if you find it difficult to live a meatless life, try decreasing your intake of meats and eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts gradually. You may find it even easier to go meatless 1 week per month or even 1 day a week until you feel you can go without meat completely.
Make a schedule for yourself. Call it Meatless Mondays or Wellness Wednesdays and make those the days you don't eat meat. One of my favorite non veggie foods are the grillers and many variety of veggie burgers from MorningStar Farms. CLICK HERE to check out the Meatless Mondays movement. I have also found Life Without Meat, a free eBook distributed by Passionistas U. can help on your journey to vegetarianism.
And remember, you must always supplement your body with the nutrients and vitamins that your body will surely miss once you begin your vegetarian or flexitarian diet.
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