Health & Lifestyle, Motivation

How we gave up red meat as teenagers

“Fitness isn’t about being extreme and hard-core. Healthy eating is not about counting calories, weighing food, or finding less tasteful ingredients. Life is about balance.”

Harley Pasternak

March 3rd, 2019

We’ll start by saying that this isn’t a story discussing our transition to ketogenic paleolithic raw vegans. Because that’s not what we are (and we’re not even sure how healthy that would be.) This is just how we, die-hard meat lovers at 15, stopped eating all kinds of meat other than poultry and seafood. The “scientific” term would be Pollo-pescetarian. But we don’t define our eating habits using that term because let’s face it, it sounds a little silly.

Alright, so before we turned 15, we were super super lenient with what we ate and concern over nutritional value was basically nonexistent. We absolutely loved cheeseburgers, bacon, ham biscuits, pulled pork sandwiches, and pepperoni pizza. So much so, that whenever we ate out at restaurants, we basically ordered on routine. We had no real desire to try anything new.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with eating these foods, and we’re not trying to force you to stop eating them as well. It’s just that in our case, we wanted a little more self-control, and to get overall healthier and fitter.

We never actually straight up decided that we were going to stop eating red meat–it just kind of happened. We started swapping out our traditional meals and either trying leaner meat or meatless substitutions. But what really made the whole transition quicker was when we decided to try vegetarianism for 3 months. Now, we know that a whole season can sound a bit daunting but once again, we never actually stated beforehand that we were going to go meatless for three months. The original plan was one month and then back to eating all the meats we wanted again. Honestly, that mindset did make the whole first month easier.

Four weeks went by pretty quick and surprisingly, we hadn’t had any real cravings for red meat. The only thing we ever found ourselves missing was chicken and seafood. And even then, those cravings were pretty brief and may have had more to do with the lack of protein we had been consuming.

We honestly thought that going “cold turkey” would be really challenging but the longer we went without meat, the easier not eating it became. Our skin cleared up, we began feeling less bloated and our taste buds actually started changing. We didn’t believe they would actually start changing either you guys. Vegetables and foods we hadn’t really enjoyed in a long time suddenly tasted sweet, like raisins, oatmeal, carrots, spinach, and mushrooms. And beans and eggs became main staples for protein that were extremely satisfying and satiating.

We started trying a lot of alternate dishes and fortunately, our mom helped make dinner variations for us without meat. The rest of our family still eats every meat, but don’t let the fear of being tempted by those around you stop you from changing your diet if you really want to. There were only a few times when them eating meat made us wish we had some too, but we can honestly count those times on one hand.

At the end of the first month, we decided to go a second. Sometime within that second month was when we decided to give up red meat for good once we started eating meat again. We won’t lie though, knowing that we were still going to be able to eat poultry and seafood made the decision a lot easier. Going through that second month, we mostly stopped craving the foods we use to on instinct. Bacon suddenly seemed less desirable, and hamburgers and pepperoni on pizza seemed way less compelling compared to the tasty alternatives we had tried.

Veggie burgers, veggie subs, cheese pizza, tofu, egg-based dishes, and multiple other swaps made the meatless life a lot tastier. Plus these foods felt less fatty and passed through our digestive systems easier. At the end of the second month, we wanted to try a third. It was like the longer we went vegetarian, the easier it got to keep going. *gasp* We know.

We started with a small simple goal and just kept working up unintentionally. Once that third month ended, we finally started eating seafood and poultry again. Just eating those meats were more than enough to satisfy any urges. Plus adding those sources of protein back into our diet helped us to feel fuller longer and gain muscle.

Once we realized the world of meals out there with deviations from red meat, we felt no desire to go back to our old ways. It also helped to talk to others who ate vegetarian, vegan, or just healthier diets. They made the whole idea seem a lot more possible and gave suggestions so that we wouldn’t feel deprived. Their input and social media gave us a lot of recipe ideas and practical meal substitutions that would allow us to eat more with less caloric intake and more nutrients.

So we pretty much stopped consuming red meat “cold turkey” and tried our hardest to never look back. We feel like if we had known that our last cheeseburger or red-meat based meal was going to be our last, it would’ve made the change more difficult. But we honestly can’t remember what that last meal consisted of and we’re perfectly fine with that.

Our goals were never set in concrete and we allowed our bodies to decide our eating habits. We satisfied our cravings in other ways and didn’t think too long and hard about the dishes we couldn’t eat anymore. It might help to think more about all the oil and fat that comes with a lot of the red meat you consume at restaurants. Read up on the benefits of taking in less meat and try to see some of those effects yourself, and you’ll likely feel inspired enough to keep going until your taste buds finally stop asking for them.

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