Confessions Of a Former Vegetarian: Why I Chose To Eat Meat Again

Cyndi O'Meara

Written by Cyndi

Cyndi is about educating. Her greatest love is to teach, both in the public arena and within the large corporate food companies, to enable everyone to make better choices so they too can enjoy greater health throughout their lives. Considered one of the world's foremost experts in Nutrition, Cyndi brings over 40 years experience, research and knowledge.

April 13, 2018

At the age of 14 I arrived home from school camp and declared to my mother that I was no longer going to eat animals. I was going to become a vegetarian.  

I’m sure my mother didn’t know what to think, but she respected my wishes and when she served me a meal she just left the meat off. This was in 1974 and there wasn’t a lot of information out there about vegetarianism.  

I didn’t notice too many issues with my health during the early years. But at the age of 18, I started noticing my eyesight was deteriorating. I was finishing my final year of school and in those days, we had a three-hour examination for each subject at the end of the year. I remember in one exam concentrating for hours and then looking up at the wall clock to see how much time I had left, and I couldn’t see the clock face. From that day on I struggled to see long distance, plus I started to see grey floaters in my eyes. 

Not long after my eyesight began to fail my menstrual cycle stopped. My energy, too, was up and down and so was my weight. By the time I became interested in nutrition, I had been living as an uneducated vegetarian for nearly 6 years. I read more about the vegetarian diet and made some changes to ensure I was consuming adequate protein. My weight went down and I started to feel good.

This is not an uncommon scenario. A teenager decides to become a vegetarian or vegan and they (or their parents) have very little knowledge of how to approach this lifestyle healthily. So, the nutritional needs of the vegetarian/vegan suffers and so does their health. 

Why Being Vegetarian Was Not the Right Choice For Me

It was not until I was 28 that I began to crave meat. I remember that day very well. It was such an urge, that I ended up caving into it. After I ate that meat, I felt amazing and the craving disappeared. Then 10 days later I found out I was pregnant with my first child. 

Understanding my body and having a good grasp of nutrition, I decided that the craving was telling me that consuming meat was something I needed to have for a healthy child. I began by eating mince, chicken and fish and then eventually began other cuts of meat. It was slow and steady.

It was only in hindsight that I understood that being a vegetarian was not the best choice for me. I still wear glasses every day for distance and have floaters in my eyes. 

Nowadays, I meet many young teenagers and adults opting for the vegan diet, a more restrictive diet that not only omits all flesh but also all foods that come from animals. It is a totally plant-based diet. The reasons are various: saving the planet, preventing cruelty and the death of animals, and for their own health. These are altruistic notions and understandably so. Some vegans go as far as not buying silk or eating honey.

When I was a vegetarian, there were a few plant-based meat substitutes, including TVP (textured vegetable protein). TVP could be made into fake meat and sausages. I chose not to eat them as eating fake meat seemed like a ludicrous idea to me when I was vegetarian.

Quorn vegetarian

It was similar when I gave up wheat in my 50’s – I didn’t consume any of the fake foods that were normally made with wheat, I just decided to eat flesh, vegetables, fruit, eggs, nuts, seeds, quinoa and other non-gluten grains and dairy.

These days I am noticing more and more meat and animal product substitutes. 

I was recently in a vegan shop and noticed vegan rissoles, cheese, cream, hotdogs (I kid you not), sausages, meatloaf, and more. I find this odd, but that’s just me.

I wanted to know what these foods were made of and if they were real or made up from additives, flavours, etc. What I found was shocking. The food wasn’t even real, it was made from some food-like products, but also contained fillers, additives and flavours. For me this is a misrepresentation that the food is vegan. Sure, it may come from plants, but most additives in the food industry are tested on animals. These additives are tested singularly, rather than in combination. It’s a poly-additive mix with no safety standards. We not only see this in vegan foods but most packaged foods too. Not only do these contribute to metabolic disease but cancer as well.

It was a similar story when I visited a restaurant the other day, a healthy restaurant that had vegan options. One of the vegan options comprised a vegan egg with vegan hollandaise. I asked for the ingredients:

The vegan egg: whole algal flour, whole algal protein, modified cellulose, cellulose, gellan gum, calcium lactate, carrageenan, nutritional yeast, black salt.
The hollandaise sauce: made with margarine. Needless to say I asked for the real egg and the real hollandaise (but then they told me they used flour in the hollandaise…Argh!)

Veganism and Health

Lierre Keith was a vegan for 20 years. She explains how the wild plains of America that were once filled with buffalo are now filled with neat rows of monocultures (wheat, corn, soya, canola), all sprayed with chemicals. These chemicals are destroying microcosms and the soil, creating ecological disaster, and are part of climate change. They also, in turn, cause untold human health issues. All while the cattle are back on Highway 5 in California in overcrowded feedlots eating the chemically-sprayed grain and seed grown on the once great plains. Both are causing wastelands.

Lierre was a strict vegan for 20 years and, for her, it was a downward spiral of health problems. She believes vegans who survive veganism cheat. 

Dr Natasha Campbell McBride (founder of Gut And Psychology Syndrome), has a new book out called Vegetarianism Explained. In the first 40 pages she eloquently and scientifically explains the health issues and problems that can come from a vegan diet. She believes that there is a place for a vegan diet, but for no longer than 6 weeks – this is when the body cleans itself. After that, the nourishing, highly concentrated foods found in the flesh and products of animals must be considered. 

If you want to be a vegetarian or vegan, it’s important that it is done with both eyes wide open, with knowledge and education from both sides of the story. For example, a grass-fed cow does not release methane – it is the feed lot grain-fed cow that becomes sick on this unnatural diet that then releases methane. They will die on a diet like this; it is there for fattening then slaughter.

After many years of studying nutrition and anthropology I have learnt much about human diet since my vegetarian days. In the history of human diet there is no culture, to our knowledge, that ate a vegan diet; this is a relatively new phenomenon sweeping the globe. The Hindu successfully have remained vegetarian for well over 5000 years. All other cultures ate flesh from animals, fish and/or birds as well as products from the animal, like milk, butter, ghee, cheese, kefir yogurt and/or eggs. 

We can travel the world and visit cultures such as the Himbas, Hadzas, Kyrgyz, Inuits, Maasai and Bedouin to name a few – not one is vegan.

If you have a daughter or son who has decided to become a vegan to save the planet, I suggest you get them to read this, then listen to the many interviews with Lierre Keith and Dr Natasha Campbell McBride.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Sue

    My husband and I watched “What’s with Wheat” and have removed almost all wheat. We also watched ‘Forks over Knives and stopped eating most mest and dairy. It is extremely confusing to figure out what to do.

    Reply
    • Kerry White

      Hi Sue. There sure is a LOT of information out there! It is best to listen to your body and make the right choices for you. If you feel you need a bit of extra guidance, you can talk it through with your preferred healthcare practitioner. You can also book a consultation with one of our nutritionists. See here for details https://changinghabits.com.au/nutritionist-consultations/ All the best 🙂

      Reply
  2. Steve

    Great article…

    Flour in hollandaise..?? Haha ?

    Reply
    • Stace

      That’s what I thought too. Haha

      Reply
  3. Pauline Crocker

    I disagree that a vegan diet is unhealthy A Whole Foods Plant Based Diet is the healthiest diet on the Planet and is completely Vegan.

    Reply
    • Cyndi O'Meara

      Hi Pauline,

      I don’t think at any time that I said the vegan diet was unhealthy. What I believe is unhealthy are the meat, cheese and some milk substitutes (not all) and the dubious ingredients that are added to them. I also don’t believe the vegan diet is sustainable long term for everyone, short term yes, but not long term. There are exceptions of course to this statement. There is no culture ever that was vegan, so we do not have an historical perspective on this rather modern concept of diet. The Hindu were vegetarian, they have survived well for 5000 years. To make everyone on the planet live a vegan lifestyle would kill more humans than save animals. Cultures like the Himbas, Hadzas, Kyrgyz, Inuits, Maasai and Bedouin (to name a few) all depend on meat and products from animals in order to survive their harsh climates. How do you tell them to change their culture and way of eating? The sweeping statement that vegan is the healthiest diet on the planet does not stack up in culture, traditions nor science but for those who choose to do it – that’s their decision.

      Reply
  4. Cam

    An interesting experience Cyndi. As I’ve only been vegetarian for a year I’m far from an expert on these things, but my own experience of eating an entirely plant-based diet has been not only a quantum leap in health and energy (I’m in my 40s) but also the total remission of autoimmunity. And for me, once I stopped kidding myself that it was ok to eat a cow/pig/sheep/fish (regardless of what alias I gave it to make it alright e.g. steak, pork, sushi etc) I realised what a truly barbaric thing it is to kill another living being just to fill my stomach with nutrients that can easily be found elsewhere. I’d be genuinely interested to hear how you reconciled those thoughts yourself and how you made the return to eating animals ok in your own mind.
    I agree with your point about the questionable quality of some of the vegan pre-made products that are out there. Some of them are not great – just like 80% of the stuff that is sold as ‘food’ in supermarkets – which is why preparing and cooking your own food is always far better for you – quick fixes often involve a compromise. The reality is that you can be an unhealthy vegan and vegetarian just as easily as you can be an unhealthy omnivore. For me though the difference is that by following a plant-based diet I can always strive to eat a cleaner, kinder and more nutritious diet, but as an omnivore I could never pretend that the research into the health impacts of meat, dairy, eggs (etc) didn’t exist, and that the industries and conditions that produce those ‘products’ could ever be healthy for my body or soul. Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s insightful to hear from someone who has shifted their diet around to see what works for them best. Every single body is different, and that’s vital for all of us to understand.

    Reply

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