Updated: Feb 17, 2020
When Ethan and I had Jason Stapleton on the podcast, one of the questions I asked him was "How do you know when to just say 'this isn't working' and move on?" I used it in context of a podcast or a business but his advice seems to apply here, and it was basically that you have to know what the overall plan and direction is for anything and if you're not seeing consistent movement toward that direction (goal) then you need to evaluate what it'll take and if you're willing to put that into it before you call it a day.
I did that. Back in early December, I went vegetarian. At first, I did it accidentally, but when I realized I was doing it and how easy it was, I decided to stick with it. I made it through the holidays, a trip to LA, and so on never eating one bite of meat. I still ate eggs cheese and other dairy (you can pry that from my cold dead fingers) but no meat. I didn't even cheat and use chicken broth or anything like it. I was quite proud of myself and initially I felt great. In fact a few weeks ago, I wrote a post talking about how much better I felt overall.
Then something crazy happened. I not only stopped feeling better, I started feeling markedly worse.
I'm not here to debate the benefits of a plant-based diet. I truly believe it can work for people whose circumstances are normal and whose bodies are able to handle it. My body, digestive system, and circumstances are in no way normal, and the deterioration of my health was becoming noticeable. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it contributed to my depression (which I spoke about last week).
So what specifically went wrong?
I have a theory.
When plant-based is your way to go, you have to find other sources for protein and certain vitamins. No matter what vegetarians and vegans tell you, you cannot get the same nutrients from plants. It's not debatable, it's not something that's open to interpretation, and it's not something that's "propaganda from the meat industry." Things like tourine, creatine and other chemicals are exclusive to meat and those are just two off the top of my head (you can read more here if you're genuinely interested in the topic).
On top of the chemicals you can't get and, at best, can partially supplement, you have the issue of calorie intake and nutrient balance.
I cannot consume large quantities of food any more. I do not have an esophagus and my stomach is a lot smaller than it used to be. Eating enough plant-based food to hit a reasonable calorie number is just not possible for me. Even when I do, that has to be supplemented by some sort of protein additive (I take it in the form of Rebbl protein drinks) because otherwise I have hypoglycemia issues. Additionally, even if I do lean heavily on proteins, unless I continuously do so, I have hypoglycemia problems, so I can't ever just have a light breakfast of say, buttered toast and a coffee. I have to have a protein beverage and, preferably eggs of some kind. That's fine, but it's a pain in the ass. If I'm "off" for one meal or slack at all, I run the risk of a hypoglycemic incident, which if you've never had one, it's terrifying, you feel horrendous, and it drains everything out of you.
After having another one Saturday, I decided I was done. The experiment was over, and in spite of me giving it an effort that is beyond what most people do when they attempt it, I called it quits.
On Saturday evening I had chicken for dinner, and on Sunday I had chicken for lunch.
I have never felt better.
I failed at being a vegetarian, but not because I didn't put in the effort, or didn't balance my meals or did something wrong, it's just not physically possible to do what I need to do to make being a vegetarian work for me. That being said, I'm encouraged by what I learned because it does rule out an "option" I thought I had. I won't have to wonder if I would feel better as a vegetarian or if I have to go to a less "traditional" diet.
The answer is unequivocally no, or if I do it's only temporary.
I jokingly called this post "plant-based failure." Even though this is, in one way, a failure, it was also a learning experience so since I learned something from it, it's not a failure. We always talk on Because We Make about learning from failure. I did. I learned a ton, and I also learned much more about what my "new" and reconfigured body needs.
Now I just need to put it all into action. Not putting into action what I learned is the only thing that would be an actual failure.
Note: Do not regale me with tales of what I'm doing wrong. I really don't care. I did the work, and I did it correctly. I'm not debating the benefits of plant-based diets or other things. I respect your right to make your choice, please respect my right to make mine. Thank you.