Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Firstly I would like to add that in this blog I will not be referring to any scientific data, or facts from the articles I have read that have influenced me in my decision. It is a blog to share with you my experiences about what caused me to shift away from a meat diet.
If you had asked me a couple of years ago whether I could not eat meat again, my response would have been a solid no. If you asked me fifteen years ago what eating a plant based diet meant, I would have assumed that you would be just consuming grass and plants from the garden.
All my life I grew up eating meat for most dinners. My memories of a typical Sunday afternoon would be the smell of a lovely roast dinner that lingered through the house, my dad watching the Grand Prix and as soon as the carving knife was heard, I would run and try and take a piece of the meat before it was dished up… much to my mum’s annoyance I am sure. Roast lamb was my favourite and eating roast beef with Yorkshire puddings was another good hit in the household.
Our family always ate healthily though. We never ate poor meat and red meat was eaten sparingly. Mum would always ensure that our diet was balanced and everything was fresh and nutritious. My favourite food was Prawns and Mussels, in fact it still is now. I used to love eating a medium rare steak with chips, a bolognaise and lasagne, mums homemade chicken curry, and I was a sucker for eating large amounts of Cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate out of the cupboard.
So what changed my opinion?
Well over the past few years, a number of things impacted my life which made me think very differently about how we can be the product of the foods we eat. This blog is not to say that my way of thinking is correct and that everyone should eat a meat free, plant based diet. I have had many conversations with friends and family members about this and I do respect everyone’s opinion. I know there are going to be conflicting arguments that meat is good for you and it is important for protein, (an ongoing conversation that I regularly have with my mum) and there may be some of you reading this now that disagree with my points and that is absolutely fine. But this blog is to share my experiences about this change in diet which is constantly around us right now, not necessarily speaking about all the data and facts.
To be honest I am not sure where to specifically start so perhaps I’ll go back to the very beginning when I was a baby and experienced really bad episodes of colic. Between me and my three brothers, I was awarded the title of ‘worst baby in the Young household,’ as I subjected my family to endless screams and cries during the night, where I wouldn’t sleep for long periods of time which provided my poor mother with sleep deprivation. Then as I grew up, I used to find that drinking lots of milk gave me stomach pains and I would feel quite sick. In the evenings, I would sometimes find myself curled up on the sofa trying to relieve the pain but for me this was normal as I became more and more used to it and learnt how to deal with it when I was out with friends.
In my late teens, I began to do some research and decided to self- diagnose myself as potentially being lactose intolerant. (Perhaps this was the reason why as a baby I had really bad colic.)
I thought ok, this could be easy as I don’t drink milk anyway, the only issue I would have is cheese… brie being my favourite and the hardest to give up but I am sure I would be fine. I would try three to four months at a time of not consuming dairy and would find this helped but only slightly as I still often had bad stomach cramps after eating an average dinner portion. This continued for years but I just learnt to deal with it because I knew in the morning, the pain would be gone.
I met my partner Paul, who is French, so this meant a life without cheese would be impossible!
After dating for a few months, I realised that I had probably eaten an entire cow size portion of cheese and that it really wasn’t helping my digestion. But the problem was the cheese I was being introduced to was amazing and I found it so hard to say no! Cheese and wine nights were my favourite so this was very tricky. I was learning more about how cheese compliments wine and I am not going to lie… it was very good! However, after the first four months, I had to reluctantly admit that I need to stop eating this much cheese as it really wasn’t making me feel that good.
Now something that may surprise you too is that Paul, even though he is French, is vegetarian! Being brought up in a culture that is renowned for amazing delicacies but being vegetarian must have taken some will power! At the beginning of our relationship I was still eating meat but very little and every time we cooked together, we would of course cook vegetarian dishes. I did always like vegetarian foods because in restaurants I would often try these options as I used to think they were just as delicious as meat dishes. The more time we spent together, the more vegetarian meals I began to eat and discover. However, I then began to notice a change in my digestion. Those cramps I sometimes used to get after dinner had subsided and I noticed my stomach wasn’t bloating so much. Could this be a reason why for so many years I would feel so sluggish after a meal and would want to curl up on the sofa? Could I actually not be as lactose intolerant as I first thought and it was the combination of digesting the meat and dairy proteins that was causing the pain? Potentially yes but I would only know this if I was to stop eating meat altogether and continue to eat that beautiful cheese.
And then… the biggest influence of them all hit me… my best friend Nats.
For this I need to go back a couple more years to 2018 she was given the most diabolical news that you could imagine. She was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblastoma, a brain tumour. This news hit me so hard as it followed after a number of close family members and friends, one being my father, that had been diagnosed with a type of cancer and had either won or devastatingly lost their battle with it. Now I am not going to talk too much about what Nats went through as this is her story to tell and she has written an incredible article which I have attached to this blog, explaining her journey and what she endured along the way.
However, what I shall share with you is that she changed her diet completely and cut out all animal foods, ate a plant based diet with an extra special something on the side and I am so pleased and proud to say that she is still here to tell her incredible story. It still gives me goose bumps to be able to tell everyone how courageous she has been and her positivity and enthusiasm throughout her journey has also led her to be able to shrink her unwelcomed friend!
Therefore, in 2019 when we received this amazing news, it got me into reading articles and watching documentaries about the effect that eating animal produce can do to the body and whether they could be feeding tumours that we might not know we have. I am not going to divert into data and facts here but I learnt a lot about what could be in the animal produce which we then take into our bodies and how some harmful substances can have major impacts. Again, I do want to stress that I am not saying plant based foods are the only way to survive a cancer scare, or to say that this is the best way to live but this was definitely the turning point for me to move slowly away from meat.
So, what was my last ever meat dish?
It wasn’t exactly a beautifully carved piece of steak, or a delicious roast lamb dish. It was in fact a simple BBQ sausage bap. Not quite what I had in mind for the final goodbye meat meal. But it was after this that a switch went off in my brain and I couldn’t then go back to eating meat like I once did.
One year on and I can definitely say that I no longer have those stomach cramps after dinner and no longer feel sluggish after a meal.
At the moment, my diet is not 100% plant based. I still enjoy the occasional piece of brie, or will order prawns, mussels or fish with my meal when we head over to France. This is partly because it is very difficult to find vegetarian or plant based dishes in some restaurants as they do not offer an alternative meal to meat or fish. (The below picture is one of the seafood dishes at the local restaurant called Le Galet… it shows the size of the dish compared to my hand and I am not going to lie… it is amazing!)
I still cook with butter, occasionally use eggs in my cooking, drink oat milk in my tea and sometimes cook with a little bit of cheese. I have discovered amazing plant based and vegetarian dishes that I now make regularly, many being from my favourite recipe book “The Green Roasting Tin” and I shall share the dishes and meals that I love with you in another blog soon.
So after the research, documentaries and personal experiences, I realised I cannot see myself going back to a meat diet ever again.