Okay, I admit I’ve been AWOL for a WHILE. So, what the hell have I been eating all this time?
First things first: I’m not eating meat anymore. Well. Kinda.
This year, I did Veganuary (= Vegan + January to the uninitiated). I never in a million years thought I could give up meat, but Veganuary not only was so much easier and more enjoyable than I imagined, but I ate more healthily as a result and it inspired me to give up meat!
Let’s get something straight. My reasons for cutting out meat (for the most part!) are:
They are not to do with animal welfare. As such, I will allow myself to eat meat on special occasions, or on occasions where it will inconvenience someone significantly or where it won’t make much difference if I eat it or not. For example, I visited my boyfriend’s extended family during Veganuary with less than 24 hours’ notice. How rude if I had expected them to change their menu for me last minute?! Jokes did of course ensue…”What a lovely vegan beef casserole, Aunty!”
I suppose my confession here would be that I still eat fish about once per week. Over five years ago, I went veggie for a week but didn’t realise that fish isn’t part of a vegetarian diet… I thought it was like on a menu: ‘meat’ and ‘fish’! (Blonde moment). Knowing now that fish is indeed a meat, I’m a little undecided about it. My morals are torn between the environmental effects of fish and the health benefits of eating its oily omega-richness. I suspect, given time and research, one will win over the other for me!
Being low-FODMAP and vegetarian
What about all the veggies that are “off-limits” to Fodmappers? During Veganuary, I didn’t find my symptoms to be getting dramatically worse. My tricks to making life easier were 1) Madeleine Shaw’s Vegan Meal Plan and 2) replacing half of the higher FODMAP ingredients with a low one.
For example, I would only buy the baby tins of kidney beans instead of the 400g tins suggested by the recipe and substitute the remainder with something like pine nuts or red peppers. I also found that having the majority of higher FODMAP foods in the evenings limited my daytime symptoms. Not being able to eat biscuits was also great for my symptoms control because I don’t get on with gluten but don’t often have enough willpower to resist them! One great benefit for me was that Veganuary forced me to explore my tolerance with higher FODMAP foods. As a result, I’ve reintroduced many foods into my diet which is so exciting.
Doing Veganuary also taught me that the less you have of something, the less you want it. In his book, ‘The Clever Guts Diet’, Michael Moseley explains how the balance in different gut bacteria may be responsible for this. For example, the more chocolate you eat, the more you encourage the growth of gut bacteria which respond to this in your diet. In turn, they continue releasing signals to encourage more chocolate eating. This population grows and grows as you feed it! In contrast, the less chocolate [insert your guilty pleasure here] you eat, the less you will find you want it. The same goes for meat: I don’t find myself craving it like I thought I might.
I wasn’t counting down the days till Veganuary ended; in fact, I looked forward to carrying the inspiration into February. I suppose I shall dip my toe into veganism now and again – I certainly ate a lot less milk chocolate and biscuits!! It felt really good to always be eating so many veggies.
Every little helps
As a doctor, I am aware of growing research into the association between red meats, especially processed meats like sausages and bacon, and bowel cancer. There’s a happy medium between fear-mongering and meat-mongering and it will differ for all of us. For me, I find the evidence against animal fats when it comes to health and disease too great to be ignored.
I often tell people that if you go from eating meat seven days a week to just three, then you’ve more than halved your intake which is incredible both for your body and the planet!
Thankfully, it’s a growing trend to live meat-free and society is more accommodating than ever so it’s not as hard as you might think. The best thing to do is just have a read of the arguments for and against meat-eating and see what you think. No-one can take issue with an informed decision!
Love from Laura
P.S. Going meat-free also saves money!!