Let’s Help Out a Soon-To-Be Ex-Veg*n Go Paleo

Here’s an email in from a vegetarian or vegan yesterday who’s in need of some assistance. I’ll let her explain.

You have a great site, and a wonderful attitude. Kudos to you for being fair to everyone. Can you dispense any advice to a vegetarian/vegan wishing to go paleo – in other words, how does one start eating meat again? I looked at broths today at the store but they were loaded with sodium, gluten, and so called ‘natural flavors’. I’ve not had a morsel of anything meaty (fish too) since 1987. Plus, I always hated chicken, fish and turkey as a kid. What’s a gal to do? Bottom line is, I am sick, and this ain’t working. I no longer do grains (severely allergic) and dairy doesn’t work either (unless grass fed and in small amounts) and have always thought soy foods were freakish and scary, so yes, it doesn’t leave me many options. I tried the raw vegan thing and only binged on breads and obsessed about food. Do you have any suggestions to ease the body into this? I’m all over the fresh fruits and veggies – yay!  half way there! Are supplements (enzymes) warranted? Have you heard that veg people lose some enzymes to digest meat and can get very ill? Self hypnosis? 🙂 Yes, admittedly, it will be emotionally challenging, so anything not weird textured, scary to prepare would be optimal. I am seriously meat illiterate. I understand the whole grass fed thing and would see myself living along those lines.

I’ve looked everywhere and haven’t found any answers on this. Normally I wouldn’t pester a blog writer 🙂 I have written some in Weston Price meet ups (couldn’t find paleo ones near me) but I never heard back. Must be the ‘veg’ label. Sigh.

Thanks so much for your fascinating blog and your awesome attitude.

OK, since this certainly isn’t my area of expertise I put it out there for my generous readers to help with specific ideas and/or put up some resource references.

I’ll start with just some references I know of. To start, it would certainly be worthwhile to get and read Lierre Keith’s book The Vegetarian Myth , which I have written about a number of times. Of course, that’s not so much to convince you of anything but to learn of Keith’s experience in becoming very sick after 20 years as a vegan. I believe the first animal protein she had was a can of tuna, so you might try that as a start. Here’s a really wonderful product, High Seas Tuna Co., that I recently ordered and loved. It’s all wild, line caught. I eat it right out of the can with a half of lemon or lime squeezed into it. And the smoked tuna is divine.

OK, as far as other resources I can think of…

Beyond Vegetarianism is a great resource for all things vegetarian and vegan, written by people previously involved in these diets.

The material presented on this site comes from individuals with years of hard-won experience either practicing alternative diets or observing those who do. As you’ll find, no two writers will necessarily agree on all topics. A unifying theme, however, is the intent to squarely acknowledge and discuss the sometimes serious problems that can occur on alternative diets but often go unreported, and to go beyond the simplistic dogmas readily available elsewhere–in fact almost everywhere–to "explain them away."

Ex-Vegan Melissa McEwan writes about Transitioning to Eating Meat on her blog.

I was an ultra-health conscious raw vegan, so I had a different experience than someone coming from grilled cheese. It was very hard to add meat to my diet though because I didn’t know much about it. As a sad survey of my early paleo fridge shows, I ate mostly fruits, vegetables, and fish. I hated fish to death and pretty much had to bury it in sauce, but I really did believe it would make me feel better…and it did. It took me over a year to get into grease, braising, and offal. I was a faileo, but it was a start.

Speaking of sauces, you might check out my Food Porn category to see about making sauces to really get your meat or fish to a taste level you like. Melissa was also recently interviewed at a blog by another ex-vegan, Rhys Southan — now paleo — Let Them Eat Meat. Here’s the link to Melissa’s interview, but there are interviews of plenty of others too. She says near the end:

After about six months of the diet, my GERD, asthma and IBS went away. My own quality of life is so much higher than it was in the past. Things that I didn’t even know were linked to diet have been ameliorated, such as my occasional acne and depression. I got my father into it and he has lost 50 lbs. And through my involvement with the NYC paleo meetup I’ve met dozens of people who have had success with the diet.

For a final bit of info, Melissa has returned the favor and interviewed Rhys on her blog. Here’s a great quote to finish off this post.

I instantly felt better after going paleo (ie, adding meat and eggs to my paleo-ish vegan diet). I wonder if selective memory is making me exaggerate how quickly my mood improved and the brain fog dissipated, but other ex-vegans seem to have similar experiences. As a vegan, a lot of people had told me I was eerily pale; once I started eating meat again, a vegetarian who was shocked by my new meaty diet had to admit that my face had taken on a healthier hue. With my energy back, I got into weightlifting and quickly regained the muscle mass I’d lost by the end of my veganism. My nearly lifelong eczema, which had its worst breakouts during my veganism, hasn’t been a problem since I’ve been paleo.

A less predictable change is that I became more assertive. I tend to be introverted, so maybe I lean toward meekness and passivity naturally, but veganism exasperated the problem. Veganism is a suicidal mentality in the sense that it’s about doing your best not to exist (while still existing). Vegans don’t believe they deserve to put their own interests before the interests of animals. Most humans, however, do think they deserve to put their own interests ahead of the interests of animals. So either vegans respect animals a lot more than everyone else does, or vegans respect themselves a lot less. In my case, veganism was more about lowering myself than raising up the animals.

The opposite of the self-sabotaging vegan mentality — intentionally destroying as much as possible to make your mark — isn’t particularly great either. Going paleo helped me find a balance. As you have pointed out, there isn’t really a moral component to paleo, though being against factory farms and supporting local food can be a part of it. Since paleo is about doing what’s best for yourself, it was great for my self-confidence after sacrificing myself in the name of "the animals" for so long.

Another advantage of paleo’s lack of a moral component is that there’s no reason for me to judge anyone who isn’t paleo. I get along with people better now. (Except maybe for the vegans that I piss off with my blog.)

Alright all, time for you to chime in and help with this reader’s transition to paleo.

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Richard Nikoley

I started writing Free The Animal in late 2003 as just a little thing to try. 20 years later, turns out I've written over 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from diet, health, lifestyle...to philosophy, politics, social antagonism, adventure travel, expat living, location and time independent—while you sleep— income by geoarbitrage, and food pics. I intended to travel the world "homeless," but the Covidiocy Panicdemic squashed that. I became an American expat living in Thailand. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. ... I leave the toilet seat up. Read More


  1. Marc on May 4, 2010 at 09:27

    My wife had to switch from vegetarian to meat eater for health reasons. This was before we were paleo so it was a switch to SAD unfortunately.

    She had a very hard time with things that seemed meaty at first so I tried to help her by making things that minimized the meatiness. Ground beef is probably going to be easier than anything else at first because you can bury it in sauce and the texture will probably be easier. Try making spaghetti with eggplant instead of noodles. She also was able to acclimate to eggs pretty quickly so you might want to try those to start off with.

    As a bit of inspiration to you, my wife who used to get sick eating meat off a bone now makes some of the most delicious ribs I’ve ever had.

  2. Vivian on May 4, 2010 at 10:04

    Jumping in with both feet worked for me: As a veg of 12 years who went paleo after a diagnosis of T2 diabetes, I have to say it was completely painless. One day I was veg, the next day I was eating fish, and the next day some wild game.

    I was apprehensive about making the change – right before I swallowed my first non-veg bite – I thought for sure I was going to be retching in the bathroom shortly afterwards, but I had no reaction at all to eating animal flesh after all those years – either physically or emotionally. My body *wanted* it and my brain just followed along. Within weeks I looked better/felt better and enjoyed massive health improvements, including dropping 75 pounds and establishing non-med control of my blood sugar.

    Can’t even begin to imagine returning to veg – leaving it and going Paleo was completely life-changing.

    • Erin in Flagstaff on May 4, 2010 at 12:23

      Same with me. I’d been vegetarian for 15 years, and had then added fish back into the diet for another four years. When I went low-carb/paleo it was difficult. I was getting so sick of eggs, dairy, and fish (my only animal products for years) that I realized that I was going to have to add meat back into my diet. I decided that my first meal was going to be at a restaurant (I was also sick of cooking dinner — real food seems to require that kitchen commitment), so went to a nice place and got a filet mignon, medium rare. I just KNEW it was going to be objectionable to my taste buds and my system. Ha! I LOVED it. I ate half and saved the rest for breakfast. My system? Happy as could be, no problems at all.

      Since then, I have also dropped about 70 pounds, gained energy, and improved my mood. Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth helped me with some of the moral issues, as our industrial production of “meat” is disgusting. Being a vegetarian was considered healthy, but I had always eaten the junk food version (Cheetohs are vegetarian, after all). Committing to a paleo/primal way of eating is not easy. It’s simple, but not easy. Eating meat again at least made it less hard to do.

      • Dana on May 5, 2010 at 07:27

        For me, when I went vegan for a short while, my diet was very grain-based. People talk about “junk veganism” but let’s face it, you have to get your energy from either carbs or fat if you don’t want rabbit starvation, and it’s very difficult to separate protein from carbs if you’re getting all your protein from plants. And there are few plant foods that are exceptionally high in fat, and you don’t want to eat large amounts of any of them at one sitting. So it was mostly starch for me.

        So I would find myself looking up recipes for homemade rice milk, and that sort of thing. And none of that stuff did a thing for my health. I wound up gaining weight and becoming mentally unstable, almost to the point I would have needed monitoring. Couldn’t deal. I’m glad I dropped it.

      • Agent on May 5, 2010 at 07:43

        Yep, the food selection is awful. I ate mostly recipes from a cookbook called the Veganomicon. Many of the recipes are based on tofu and seitan (basically pure wheat gluten). I had no idea how insanely unhealthy both these products were and just figured since it was vegan it was good for me. Once I started researching diet I was absolutely appalled at how horrible my vegan diet was. I can’t help but wonder if all vegans are as ignorant as I was or if some actually know how bad that stuff is and push it anyway. If so, from an ethical standpoint, that is as bad or worse than people eating animals.

    • Agent on May 4, 2010 at 13:05

      I can absolutely relate to this: “My body *wanted* it and my brain just followed along.”
      I was vegetarian/vegan for about 10 years. Towards the end I hardly ate much at all and would get full very easily (I was convinced I had some kind of early satiety problem). When I started eating meat again I would eat about 1000-1500 calories per meal. This did not cause me to gain weight (read: fat; I did gain some muscle) and now I am beginning to eat a bit less, so I think my body just knew it was deficient in so many ways and was making up for it.

      I wish I could help our soon to be ex-veg friend, but while I was a vegetarian I could never understand meat eaters who could not deal with the fact that they are eating animals (ie people who are afraid of rare meat, organ meat, game, etc.) so I really didn’t have a problem going all out when I started eating meat again. My first steak was bloody and within a couple weeks I was eating liver and heart and making broth using bones. Just like eating meat again for the first time, once you do it you realize the initial revulsion is all in your head.

      From a health perspective, I am hypothyroid (which I would guess is related to the copious amounts of soy I ate as a veg). I used to have no motivation or energy whatsoever and now the energy is back and the brain fog has cleared. I finally feel alive for the first time in years.

      • Erin in Flagstaff on May 4, 2010 at 15:35

        Isn’t that increase in energy and the mood lift amazing? I don’t know how I lived in that fog for so long. I still have my reclusive, lay-around-and0-do-nothing days, but they’re a lot less often, and usually only after a hectic week.

  3. Christine on May 4, 2010 at 10:18

    I don’t know much about switching from vegetarianism, but I did have to give my two cents about the “paleo’s lack of a moral component.” There’s no need think that you’re necessarily better then animals or that they are less then you (or the other way around for Vegetarians). Personally, I’ve been on the primal/paleo trail for almost two years now, and while I feel great, I also give thanks tot he animals that have given their lives to sustain mine; all life is closely interconnected, and no one life is worth more then the other.

    • Erin in Flagstaff on May 4, 2010 at 12:25

      Yes, it sounds a little too New Agey, but I agree, acknowledge the death of the animal that gives me life. It also means working towards a more humane way of treating these animals instead of the huge CAFOs.

    • Dana on May 5, 2010 at 07:29

      People back in actual Paleo times did that, after all. Anthropocentrism is a modern conceit. Ancient peoples may not have thought of themselves as animals but they did consider themselves part of creation or part of Nature, and animals were their family, not some alien “other.”

  4. Chaohinon on May 4, 2010 at 10:37

    My transition from vegan to paleo-ish was marked by lots of eggs, yogurt, and cream. Frittata loaded with fresh sauteed veggies, greek yogurt on everything, and veggies in creamy tomato sauce.

  5. Joyful on May 4, 2010 at 11:01

    Definitely agree with Richard on the Lierre Keith book.

    She might want to try adding heavy cream and butter. Yes, they’re dairy, but have very minimal lactose and casein. Use ghee/clarified butter if it turns out to be problematic.

    Liver pate (or salmon, or whatever else) is a good way to get both animal protein and fat. As crazy as it sounds, she might also want to try meat baby food (or pureed meat added to soups/sauces). I know a lot of vegetarians dislike the texture of meat. Mixing mushrooms with meat might be helpful due to similar textures. Lovely, rich sauces (stock-based if possible) are good, too.

    Eggs are sooooo yummy and versatile. I used to only eat egg whites, but now, every time I eat a soft, runny egg yolk — sometimes with a bit of butter — its golden richness tastes completely heavenly (can I use that word on this website?!)

  6. Cordelia on May 4, 2010 at 11:21

    I third the suggestion for eggs, provided you aren’t allergic. They’re a very easy protein to digest, followed by fish. I was only a vegetarian for a few years, but at the end, I found the smell of chicken pretty revolting. It was actually easier for me to go straight to beef, and then get used to eating poultry later.

    Also: don’t be afraid of cooking meat! I know it’s really intimidating if you don’t have any experience with it (vegetarian parents: I didn’t learn until I was over 25), but it’s not actually that hard. If the bacteria warnings have you spooked, start with recipes that call for long slow moist cooking– like stew. That way, you don’t have to actually handle it much while it’s raw, and it will be very thoroughly cooked.

  7. Kim on May 4, 2010 at 11:42

    I second the suggestion to read Lierre Keith’s book, The Vegetarian Myth. One of the things she did that helped heal her digestion from years of vegan abuse was taking HCL (hydrocholoric acid) supplement that also had pancreatic enzymes in it. You can find it at most health food stores. Since the human body is designed to digest meat/fish, I wouldn’t worry about jumping right in. I would stick to grass-fed meats as opposed to grain-fed feedlot meats especially because grains are so bad for you. I honestly can’t think of anything more healing than a grass-fed steak cooked to just medium rare. Your body will sing for joy!

  8. Chris - ZTF on May 4, 2010 at 11:44

    I would say start with Fish, Eggs and some Dairy. Initially it will be hard and there will be indigestion and all that but it will fade with time. Also try to sneak some meats into your dishes (big veggie stews with small bits of chicken). Try making omelettes with lots of cream and butter.

    If you can get hold of some raw milk that will do nicely to start the transition.

  9. Ann on May 4, 2010 at 12:04

    I was also vegetarian for a few years, kept trying to be vagan but just couldn’t do it. I always wondered why I was supposed to believe that fake meat was better than real meat but I went w/ CW and after a few years my teeth were loose in my head. I went WAP after that and Paleo about 1-1.5 yrs later. I HATED poultry before, the smell, the texture was revolting. Now I gnaw on the bones; I found that what I really liked was dark meat with the extra fat. It did take some time for me to be able to adjust to a diet that was a little higher in fat (ok, a LOT higher in fat). Significantly reducing the amount of gluten has really, really helped, I also don’t do much dairy either. I would start, perhaps by adding in some fermented foods first to prime the digestive system w/ good bacteria and just add small amounts of meat to stir fries and see how it goes. A good roast chicken always makes me smile! I was totally meat-stupid too, but this book has become my Meat Bible:

  10. Janet (Pantry Bites) on May 4, 2010 at 12:25

    I tried a vegan diet once. I was tired, my skin dried out, and I found that I was eating more processed so called “vegan” foods such as soy cheese. Needless to say, I gave it up relatively quickly.

  11. Glenn on May 4, 2010 at 12:34

    I’m with Ann on the River Cottage Meat Book.. its fantastic. Anything at all about meat that you want to know.. here’s the book to turn to..

  12. Mary on May 4, 2010 at 12:55

    Maybe go backwards on a book that tells how to go vegetarian (or vegan) from being an omnivore? I know that kind of book is out there, though I can’t think of any titles off hand.

    • Erin on September 11, 2010 at 22:22

      “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison is a vegetable Bible. It tells you how to choose, clean, and prepare almost any vegetable in existence – and it has really yummy, easy to make, and simple recipes.

      It cost me $60 about five years ago, but I’ve never had to use another cookbook since. And now I know 5 different ways to cook and eat “celeriac”! 🙂

  13. Valda Redfern on May 4, 2010 at 13:00

    My first thought was eggs – if you can tolerate them, it’s possible to do quite well on eggs alone. Their advantage, in addition to nutritional excellence, is that they can be swallowed without much chewing. And what about bacon? I know a number of “vegetarians” who find bacon irresistable. Organic bacon is best if you can afford it, as it tastes much better, and of course it comes from better treated animals. Making your own meat broths is another way to ease into meat eating.

  14. Rachael on May 4, 2010 at 15:07

    Everyone else is making great suggestions, I was a vegetarian for 30 years, and first added eggs, then fish, chicken in the form of sauteed boneless skinless breasts, and finally steak. I had no problems no evidence of missing enzymes, I felt great instantly. I make a lot of bone broths, I eat all sorts of meat now. Many health problems are better, I haven’t lost much weight, but I am controlling my borderline insulin resistance/type II diabetes. I have celiac and thyroid problems so I gave up soy, and then with the blood sugar… well, there wasn’t much left to eat at some point. Rather than advice I guess I would just offer encouragement. Read The Vegetarian Myth, read Animal Vegetable Miracle, buy organic and grass fed. See how it goes, and good luck.

    • AllenS on May 5, 2010 at 08:13

      This is pretty much the progression I followed after being a vegetarian for 20 years. I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian so eggs and dairy never left my diet. I started with fish, then had some chicken salad (which was the most delicious thing I’d eaten in 20 years … the mayo really helped cut the strong chicken flavor), then spicy hamburger in a taco salad (I love Mexican!) I just couldn’t face eating a steak. It took a good 6 months before I had the courage to eat a chunk of solid beef. I was afraid it would make me sick … but then realized it was psychological. I handled it just fine and should have tried it much sooner.

      But I would recommend to start by eating meat dishes/casseroles before eating straight meat. It helps with the mental acceptance of eating meat again.

  15. Craig on May 4, 2010 at 16:22

    I think Nina Planck is a good source, she also went from vegan to meat eater, but she not paleo.

  16. Elenor on May 4, 2010 at 16:36

    I have the opposite problem. I don’t eat veg. Not since I was a toddler in a high chair, when, no matter how my mother cooked them, or what she mixed them with, I spit them back at her (and she was a good cook!). She finally gave up (although, not really: I spent countless hours alone at the dinner table faced with a plate of stuff I *hated* the taste of and couldn’t get the dog to eat!). I’m what the Monel “Smell Lab” in Philly calls a “super taster” — tastes are SO much stronger to me than to “normal” people — and apparently I don’t have the “extinguishment” function, where something that smells or tastes bad stops being so objectionable after a while; everything stays just as strong, just as bad the whole time. I look at veg in the supermarket and they look lovely — and when I taste them, it (actually) gags me (even in high-class restaurant, with good chefs — I can’t manage to eat veg!).

    This makes going low carb or paleo REALLY hard! I had suppressed my thyroid with decades of pasta with cheese and meat, soy hotdogs, bread and peanut butter, and am working with the info on Stop the Thyroid Madness to heal that (with great strides so far, but a goodly ways to go). (Oh, I did — at age 40! — learn to eat a little lettuce (iceberg only) with Thousand Island dressing, but no other veg.)

    Any help for a weirdo?

    • PK on May 4, 2010 at 23:16

      Not nearly as difficult as being vegan/vegetarian to begin with! It sounds like you’re not adverse to meat and dariy, and since fat and then protein should be the base of a paleo diet, so if that is already what you like to eat, I don’t think being paleo or low carb will be difficult at all. Most people switching over don’t like the amount of fat and protein they should be eating or take a long adjustment period to get used to the idea that they’re not going to keel over and die at any minute if they eat the strip of fat off the rib eye. Some people do meat-only diets and do well on them for long periods of time. You might also try chopping up veggies very very fine and mixing them into a lot of eggs, tuna or ground beef or something similar, if the preparation of veggies doesn’t bother you. And we don’t have to feel guilty about smothering our veggies in fatty sauces, so if you find that a small amount of cauliflower smothered in a cream and butter based sauce is tolerable, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not an expert on meat only, but it certainly seems possible long term, possibly with a general multivitamin to make sure the bases are covered. I bet there are a few others around that can give more specific meat-only advice than I can. I think the most important thing is to make sure the meat is fatty meat or covered in fatty sauces, so that one isn’t eating too much protein. When I’m eating very few veggies, I really like ground beef, pot roasts, pork butts or shoulders (I shred these after cooking in the crock pot, and keep ALL the attached fat mixed in with the shredded meat), and rib eyes, personally, I find they satisfy me the most and naturally have a good fat to protein ratio.

  17. EZ-E on May 4, 2010 at 16:59

    I know its a bit of an expense but sous vide is so easy and the outcomes are so amazing (ie the melt in your mouth texture) that would be more in-line then that icky overdone charred steak that comes from newbie meat cooking. A lot of people are afraid of meat thats not cooked to temperature they invariably overcook till the texture is tough and the meat is dry.

    Just my two cents…caveat not an ex-vegetarian though.

    Oh and I recommend an enzyme supplement and possibly a HCl supplement as well. But if you’re already producing HCl at a decent amount that move is counterproductive and will make you feel ill after eating. I find instead of a full HCl supplement a bit of apple cider vinegar in H2O during the meal is a perfect digetive aid. For me I’m hoping everything will come back online after years of SAD and partying :). I think my pancreas and liver are still a little pissed off at me 😛

  18. Matt Baldwin on May 4, 2010 at 17:38

    I’d second almost every suggestion in this list, and add the (not paleo) cookbook by Alton Brown ‘I’m only here for the food’ as a great and fun resource on cooking meats.

    Slow braised meats are your best bet for tender delicious dining. A chuck roast, coated with kosher salt and pepper, lightly seared on 4 sides and placed in a heavy lidded Dutch oven with red onions garlic mushrooms and shallots, with 1/2 cup red wine and 1/2 cup water, cooked for 8 hours at 225 degrees… This is heaven. Grass fed organic, pray for the lovely cow’s soul, you bet. Serve with greens, ripe tomato, asparagus… Oh yeah.

  19. Sonagi on May 4, 2010 at 17:46

    In addition to the good suggestions here about how to ease back into meat eating, why not make your own broth or stock? It’s easy. You can use bone-in meat, soup bones, or leftover bones from ribs or a chicken carcass. If using raw meat bones, you can brown them in the oven first for better flavor. Put the bones in a crock pot with water, salt and pepper to taste and a bay leaf or two. Bay leaf makes all the difference in broths and stocks. You could add other herbs, too, but I just use salt, pepper, and a bay leaf to make basic broth or stock. If using bones to make stock, I add vinegar at the beginning of cooking to draw out the minerals from the bone. If using meat, I simmer for hours, remove the meat from the bones and toss them back in the pot with vinegar to simmer a few hours longer. Vinegar makes a difference. Beef bones look spongy, and smaller chicken and pork rib bones break apart easily because of depleted minerals.

    • PK on May 4, 2010 at 23:24

      Seconding this. I’m not very good at cooking, even though I cook almost all the food I eat, and I found that my homemade broth in the crock pot tastes exactly like broth should. So if I can do it, anyone can do it!

      Now, if only I could learn how to make soups and sauces from this broth without messing up, then I’d really be set.

  20. a on May 5, 2010 at 04:59

    I switched from pescatarian to meat eater ~5 months ago and now love it.

    I was only veggie for ethical reasons, so now I maintain my ethics by only buying free range or wild meat. A nice side effect of this is that the meat is better quality, and more importantly for me, the animals had good welfare.

    Supermarkets sell limited amounts, but my local butcher is really good. i also just signed up to an online frozen meat delivery service which is all free range and much cheaper (farmerschoice.co.uk – for UK delivery)

    I started by putting a tiny piece of ham in my mouth and was almost repulsed…by the thought of the poor animal I was eating. now I find that I’m not all that fussed about the taste, but meat gives me good nutrition.

    Try as many things as possible…I discovered that I love sausages but most chicken leaves me disappointed.

    good luck!

  21. Pam on May 5, 2010 at 08:46

    I went 25 years without eating red meat and was convinced that I no longer had the enzymes to digest it. Happy to report how wrong I was. I started out with bacon, and quickly graduated to buffalo burgers and New York strip steak (seared for 5 minutes per side in bacon drippings in a cast iron skillet). Never had any problems with my digestion. Even my “comfort” foods have completely changed (much to my surprise). Now after a bad day, I cook steak or bacon/chicken/avocado salad. Don’t be afraid to experiment. When you find something you like, make a big batch of it. A pot of paleo beef bourguignon takes a while to prepare, but provides me with meals for a week.

  22. Juan on May 5, 2010 at 11:30

    To help revitalize gut enzymes and bacteria back to their meat-alicious selves, Robb Wolff (very good paleo blogger) recommends “Now” brand, “Super Enzymes” capsules. You might want to check his site for more info but I couldn’t find it with a cursory search. He has mentioned these frequently on his podcast, though, regarding people who cannot digest proteins easily; usually former vegan/vegetarians who need to restore the proper balance of microbes/enzymes. The way I remember it is you take one or two caps — always with a protein-rich food — and see if you have a warm feeling in the gut after a short while. If not, then wait a while longer and do it again, but now take 3 capsules. Keep this up, adding one capsule each time, until you feel the warmth. At that point your “dose” will be one fewer capsule than what provided the warm response. I’ve never done this so I don’t know if it takes all day or if it’s better to do it over the course of a few days. In case you need say, 5 capsules at first, the titrating to get there might make you too full if your portion sizes are unwittingly large. I’m sure it wouldn’t matter if it was done over the course of a few days. Anyway, once your inner meat eater has been reawakened, you can stop using the Now Foods Super Enzymes.

  23. Jan on May 5, 2010 at 11:32

    I agree with all the comments above. I was a vegetarian for 11 years, and once I decided I needed to eat meat again I had grilled a steak. I was worried I’d be sick, but quite the opposite. I felt fantastic! It took me a few months to get to a point of cooking meat myself (or knowing how to cook it)

    One thought, why not try some Indian or Thai Curries in a restaurant? The meat is nicely marinated and spiced, so it’s not quite the same experience as sitting down to a giant slab of steak. It might not be free range organic but it could be a way to start eating meat again until she is ready to start cooking.

  24. Erika @ Dr.TriRunner on May 5, 2010 at 15:33

    I found it pretty ironic that I found your blog the week after I had left my eight year vegetarian/vegan life!! Even more ironic that I went from that end of the extremes to now feeling like I was an idiot (or at least blinded) for those eight years, and turning to a pretty paleo diet. Quickly. I made the switch back to eating meat for health reasons, and though it’s probably too soon to notice a true difference, I honestly am feeling better already.

    I ate buffalo jerky yesterday. Haha who am I? It still seems a little surreal…

    For the emailer in question, I guess I went head first. The first meat I had was shredded beef. At Chipotle. 😀 But since then I have been incorporating stuff I at least knew I *liked* way back then… tuna, chicken, turkey. I have also been loving shrimp, though I had never had it in my pre-veggie days, I definitely like it now! I feel like getting meat at a restaurant is a lot easier than trying to prepare it on your own… at first. Good luck with everything.

    And Richard – thank YOU! I’m really excited to read more as I get more in to all of this!

  25. Erika @ Dr.TriRunner on May 5, 2010 at 15:42

    I guess after reading a couple other posts, I wanted to add on to my semi-“introduction” comment! I’m not making this switch to lose weight, nor to try a “diet”. Haha – far from that! I have endometriosis, which long story short, I’m growing endometrial tissue where I’m not supposed to be, it hurts, and I’m losing too much blood. Many many studies have shown a link between soy and the augmentation of endometriosis, and as a vegetarian for eight years, you can bet that soy played a significant role in my diet. Due to the extra blood loss, which has become more of a problem in the last year, I am worried about anemia because I’m an endurance athlete. I’m a member of two triathlon teams, and a lifelong distance runner. SO. my mind started churning, and suddenly it was almost like my body literally ASKED to start eating meat again.

    Like I said though.. I obviously still have lots to learn, and lots to UNlearn from years and years of soy this and processed that. But I’m doin’ well and feeling awesome so far!

    • Richard Nikoley on May 5, 2010 at 17:07


      Welcome. Great story. I went over and read your blog entry from when you decided to start eating Mr Moo again. I like the supporting comments, many from folks who found out just like you did. Good stuff.

      BTW, you left the first ‘r’ out of your blog URL which I’ve fixed.

    • Agent on May 5, 2010 at 17:13

      It’s never ceases to amaze me how many different health problems are caused by soy. How it’s allowed to be sold as food (and a health food at that!) is beyond me. Hell, even the USDA used to have it listed as an industrial product, not a food.

  26. Kitty on May 5, 2010 at 18:11

    Everyone – thank you so much for taking the time to comment on my inquiry to Richard. Your insightful ideas, experiences and empathy are much needed and appreciated! I had no clue there were so many ex-vegheads ’round here! I am going to pour over the suggestions and acquaint myself with the info. Interesting tidbit: I’m fascinated by genealogy and genetics – happened to get some DNA info back today that a family member did recently (second round in a few yrs) and learned yet again I come from a long line of people who ate from the sea. Generations of coastal dwellers. I actually read in several places these people never had any ‘wheat, grains or rye’. How freaking interesting is that? It’s like these voices from 17,000 years ago calling through the ages, nudging you back to your roots.

  27. cjyp on May 6, 2010 at 00:40

    I also suggest fish and eggs. Easy to digest, and even easier to digest if you can eat the yolks and fish raw (in my experience and because enzymes are destroyed during cooking) . I wouldn’t eat raw egg white because of the anti-nutrient, avidin- unless the egg is fertilized. Seared fish/meat or soft boiled egg are also good if you don’t want to eat totally raw.

  28. Hillary on May 6, 2010 at 08:32

    I was a vegetarian for three years and only recently switched to paleo (though I have been eating meat for about five years now).

    One thing I noticed is how little food I actually need. I am perfectly satisfied with a 4 to 8 oz serving of meat. When I was a veg, I probably ate, volume-wise, at about four times what I do now.

    From what I can tell, an adult female really does not need a lot of food. I know many of the men on this site rave about how much they eat, but I could easily eat half that and be perfectly satiated. (I no longer eat until I am stuffed).

    I personally like making something like a roast chicken with potatoes, onions and carrots. It looks old-fashioned and very appealing to the eye. You pull it out of the oven and the skin is glistening and the dish smells of fresh herbs, not meat. You might want to start with a dish like that.

    (I think a pan full of ground beef with onions can look a little unappetizing.)

  29. Becky on May 6, 2010 at 16:02

    Hello Kitty! I’m a little late to the discussion but I hope you check back in. I think you already have your answer. If you are descended from coastal dwellers who mostly ate sea foods…then that is how you should eat.
    Personally, I’m not much for salmon or tuna, preferring freshwater fish but I love shrimp and all manner of crustateans(sp?) ie lobster, crab, oysters, scallops…etc. Writing out this list make me wish I lived near the ocean so that I could access these items without it costing my left arm and I suddenly crave a homemade seafood chowder. I wish you luck on this new adventure your about to embark.
    @ Elenor – who told you that you need to eat veggies. If they gross you out then for heavens sake don’t eat them. There are whole groups of people that almost never eat veggies and are thought of as zero carb and zero carb is considered paleo. The Inuit come to mind right away. However they did eat a large portion of their meets nearly raw. Currently there is a community of zero carbers on line, and while the rules are strict and has a cultish feel about it, there is alot of good information about the benefits of being zero carb. In fact while I chose to leave the group for personal reasons there are still whole blocks of days where me and my family don’t bother with incuding any veggies with our meals (mostly, ‘cuz I’m lazy and can’t be bothered). I’d include the web address for ZIOH here but I don’t know how Richard feels about it. If you do a quick online search, you’ll find them. Good luck to you too.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 6, 2010 at 16:26


      No prob with links to anywhere relevant. From what I’ve seen, Charles W. Is a bit of a prick in a bad way, ie, prickishness with a propensity to dietary dogma. I don’t mind being a prick from time to time, but with that energy focussed toward true evil, SAD advocates and low-fat and the list goes on.

      I really don’t mind ZC. Many of my days are that or very damn close. But then others I’ll ingest 100gs. I think one is overconfident to rely on one strict dietary dogma. Go natural, Paleo, but explore all the facets of that, as I always say: from equator (Kitavan) to Arctic Circle (Inuit).

      I mean: you CAN. So why not? They couldn’t, they were products of their environments with little to no ability to change it in a short time (mass migrations took place over generations and longer).

      • Becky on May 7, 2010 at 07:35

        Thanks, Richard. Love the blog and I usually agree with you about 90% of the time. Being female, a pagan and Canadian, I’m sure you can figure out where we usually differ in opinion…lol.
        Have a good one,eh!

  30. peterlepaysan on May 7, 2010 at 03:12

    A well flavoured meat pattie or real sausage would b e a good place to start.

    They do not look like meat.

    They do not involve much chewing.

    If bought from a supermarket there is probably sfa meat in them anyway.

  31. Elenor on May 7, 2010 at 21:20

    Thanks Becky (and Richard),
    I read some of the ZC forum a couple years ago. It just seems awfully limiting to eat only meat… and the only thing besides meat that isn’t veg seems to be grains — which I am trying to avoid (way more seriously that just being low carb thanks to Lierre Keith!) I suppose I will need to branch out beyond just a few low-carb rubs and sauces to try to make my sous vided meats more interesting. And maybe expand to more kinds of meat… Richard — you are a real inspiration and help to me; thanks so much for your excellent blog!

  32. Tony on May 10, 2010 at 03:25

    Find a good Chinese herbalist. You will be started on watered down broths, then cranked up to the real thing. Soon you will be chomping on raw bison, the way I eat it!!

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