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.