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What happens when a vegetarian of 17 years switches to meat and paleo?

Published on November 29, 2013,

There’s a fascinating article on Refinery 29 by Leeann Duggan describing why, after 17 years as a vegetarian, she switched to eating a meat-rich paleo diet and the impact it has had on her…

Public domain photograph of various meats. (Be...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After over 15 years eating in a way that I believed to be both morally right and healthy, I had a revelation – that I didn’t feel healthy. And, I sort of couldn’t remember a time when I had. I got sick a lot. Depression and anxiety were constant problems. I slept too much at night, napped like an AARP member in the afternoon, and still had no energy…

Despite the fact that my diet lacked red meat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and all those other enemies of health we’ve been trained to avoid since the Nixon era, despite the fact that I exercised and meditated and did acupuncture and took supplements and generally tried to maintain as chirpy and cheery an outlook as is possible for a natural born cynic, I felt the exact, diametric opposite of healthy. I felt, in a word, like crap.

And, despite the fact that my low-fat, grain-and-legume-filled diet looked exactly like the USDA food pyramid we’d all been trained to follow, I began to suspect that my eating habits might be the thread that connected my moods, my weight issues, and my complete lack of satiety. I finally admitted to myself that all the greens and superfoods in the world couldn’t make up for the effect grains and sugar were having on my body. After 17 years of tinkering with a vegetarian diet, it just wasn’t working for me. I needed a major change — like, quick, before my latest crash diet veered into ABC Afterschool Special territory.

So, in June, I committed to a way of eating that I’d freely dismissed as “insane” for years: the paleo diet. Yeah, the caveman thing: no grains, no sugar, no legumes, no junk or processed food — that is to say, all the foods I had a tortuous, love-hate relationship with. What paleo does offer lots of: veggies (obviously not a problem for me) and fat. Delicious, unctuous, satisfying, previously forbidden fat. Coconut cream in my coffee and veggies sautéed in enough butter to wake Julia Child from the dead — that was easy to get into. But, paleo also typically includes meat. For a week, I tried to do paleo as a vegetarian, which is kind of like trying to be a pacifist serial killer. I quickly realized that if I wanted to subsist on more than steamed kale and fried eggs, I’d have to make peace with meat…

For a 17-year vegetarian, it wasn’t easy eating salmon for the first time (ever!). Chicken was harder than salmon, possibly due to raw chicken’s unfortunate resemblance to a placenta. Steak was even harder than chicken — just kidding, steak was easy because holy crap, steak is freaking delicious. But, overall, it was a bumpy transition, both mentally and, um, gut-wise. Let’s just say that any longtime vegetarians making the switch back to meat would be wise to stock up on these.

However, after those first few bumpy weeks, the benefits started piling up fast. My mood got better. Like, way better. I discovered that “morning person” was, in fact, a real thing, and, even more stunningly: I became one. Ever bounded out of bed two hours before your alarm to drink tea, read paperbacks, and watch the sun rise? Turns out, that doesn’t just happen on Cupcakes and Cashmere, guys: It happens in real life, too. Better still, my new fatty, protein-y diet kept my energy levels steady throughout the day; no more napsies or falling asleep on the subway home for me.

There were cognitive benefits, too. My short-term memory, usually a reliable source of frustration and forgotten names, suddenly improved. I didn’t have to “dig” for words anymore. I felt more motivated at work and my writing got sharper and funnier (my editors may disagree). I think my brain had been starving for healthy fats, and that tragic half-teaspoon of olive oil on a salad from my dieting days wasn’t cutting it…

More at:  Confessions Of A Former Vegetarian

Video: Paleo on a budget – Weight loss tips

Published on April 12, 2013,

Here’s another great video from SexyPaleoFood, this time not a recipe idea but instead looking at how you can make it easier to follow a paleo diet on a limited budget. Tips include buying less common cuts of meat, making your own stock to pad out a meal, cooking with offal like chicken liver, eating more eggs, cooking fish, eating lots of vegetables,  growing your own vegeetables, fruit, herbs, spices and berries, and avoiding processed food (even the paleo kind)…

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See the SexyPaleoFood YouTube Channel here

Mark Sisson’s Words of Wisdom on the latest Processed Meat and Mortality Study

Published on March 18, 2013,

The media has been full of reports of a study apparently suggesting processed meat is bad for us (but fresh red meat is good for us). As the dust starts to settle, here are some words or wisdom from Mark Sisson on what the study really shows (and what it doesn’t) and what we can learn in terms of our consumption of processed meat and our cooking of fresh meat. This is from Mark’s Daily Apple…

English: Two small cans of Spam. One is closed...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was an observational study that only showed correlations. It did not establish causation.

Assuming the correlations indicated causation (which, you know, we have no way of knowing), fresh red meat has no effect on mortality. Processed meat does, but this effect is lessened when you account for the fact that processed meat eaters also lead generally unhealthy lifestyles bereft of exercise and produce and replete with smoking, overeating, and, for men, drinking. Even so, those adjustments were purely mathematical. Even the authors of the study “could not exclude residual confounding,” the general unhealthy lifestyle effect. You can’t quantify general unhealthiness, recklessness, psychological stress, and all the other factors that affect our health and mortality. They didn’t track things like checkups at the doctor, either.

All that said, this research isn’t saying anything we’re not already aware of.

Real red meat, fresh cuts of cow, pig, and lamb, are nutritious foods. There’s no evidence that they’re killing us en masse.

Don’t make processed meat your major source of animal products. Eat steak, not those weird processed meat sticks they sell at gas stations. I’ve said this before.

And yes, bacon is delicious, but it shouldn’t replace real, actual meat in your diet. A pound of bacon for breakfast is a fun thing to have when your vegetarian friends stay over, though – I’ll admit that.

Eat your produce, folks. It’s good for you, and it may even reduce the formation of carcinogenic compounds when co-ingested with meat (steak and salad, anyone?). That could explain the relative reduction in mortality among people who ate lots of fruits and vegetables with their processed meat.

Don’t overcook your meat. The authors speculate that high-heat processing and the subsequent formation of heterocyclic amines (HCA) could explain the association between processed meat and mortality. Other studies have certainly found a connection between high-heat cooking, HCA, and prostate cancer, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a mechanism there.

More at:  Dear Mark: Is Meat Going to Kill Me (Again)?

Here’s another interesting perspective from Zoe Harcombe: Meat consumption and mortality

And another from Dr Briffa: Why I’m not worried about the odd bit of bacon and occasional sausage in my diet

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