Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beef-Less in Seattle

Okay, I lied. I don't live in Seattle but would you have read this article if it were titled Beef-Less in British Columbia? I didn't think so.

I've always tried to practice the 3 R's. I'll recycle a bad habit if I'm not careful. The first time I flirted with vegetarianism I was 17 years old and looking for a cause. That lasted exactly one year before late-night pizza parties and fast-food runs with friends became more appealing than activism. Still, I knew in my heart that someday I would return to embrace the eggplant.

Presently, my reasons for going veggie vary from ethical to environmental concerns. If it happens to improve my fibromyalgic condition along the way, that's a bonus.  My number one reason for rebuffing the beef is I no longer enjoy eating it. Increasingly, I found myself picking out the chunks of chicken from soups and stews. Hamburgers went half-eaten.

I've been an avid animal lover for as long as I can remember. Speaking of remembering, I recall being three years old and seeing a cat up close for the first time. How was I supposed to know you shouldn't pick it up by its tail?  I never got over the guilt once I understood the suffering that I had inflicted (sorry, Kitty) on that poor puddy tat. I've tried to make up for my unintentional animal cruelty ever since. As a result, I have a tendency to anthropomorphize animals. You know, where one person sees venison and I see Bambi. I just can't bring myself to munch on four-legged Disney stars. Or the Looney Toons cast, for that matter. I've never been a big-meat eater so giving it up completely has been a piece of cake. For the record, I like my sugar and have no desire to desert my desserts.

Firstly, there is no need for speed, so take your time in adapting to this new lifestyle. Some people make a gradual transition from eating meat while others go 'cold turkey' so to speak. There are many distinctions in the vegetarian world. There are lacto-ovos that eat eggs and dairy products but no meat. This further breaks down into vegetarians that consume eggs but no meat and conversely, some who do not eat dairy but continue to eat eggs.  The strictest of plant-based diets is the vegan diet which excludes eating or using all animal meats or products. Confused? There are even more categories, such as the flexitarian, which I thought was a sprout-eating contortionist.  It is essential to educate yourself before committing to a full-time vegetarian diet. Knowing how and where to replace meat protein with plant-based protein is vital. There is no point in giving up meat only to consume an unhealthy diet lacking in nutrition. Asking vegetarian friends for advice and suggestions is a good start. A simple way to go veggie is to prepare family meals but omit the meat or meatballs from your spaghetti, for example. Many regular meals can easily be adapted to vegetarian fare.

When incorporating protein-rich foods into your diet, it's best to eat small amounts more often rather than consuming one large portion. Think like a grazer. Legumes, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds are all rich in protein. A vegetarian diet need not be bland or lacking in flavour. The combination of veggies, protein substitutes, herbs, rice and pasta can be limitless. You might be hard-pressed to duplicate a recipe twice. In addition, it's important to pay attention to your Vitamin B levels. The addition of a salmon-oil or Omega 3-supplement is advised. A word to the wise: go easy on the nuts or risk alienating family and friends with a belly full of intestinal gas.

While a vegetarian diet alone is not a cure-all for fibro, it can reduce the amount of chemicals and hormones often found in meat, poultry and fish. As you change your diet, you should anticipate possible physiological responses such as increased fatigue and need for sleep, a skin rash and changes in your digestive system. I can vouch for this personally. I've been vegetarian for a month and as recently as last week I noticed a reappearance of itchy, rash-like skin. My allergies, which are usually under control, kicked in with itchy eyes, ears and nose. I haven't taken anti-histamines in several years but I've found myself routinely reaching for the Reactine.  Last week I felt dreadfully tired. I couldn't get enough sleep. Who naps for seven hours in the day? After doing research for this blog, I understood why I'd been experiencing some unusual symptoms.

Can eating a vegetarian diet help to improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia? Studies are divided on this. According to a University of Maryland Medical Center study, eating red meats can worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia. A diet high in saturated fats and refined sugar may also promote inflammation of the joints and muscle tissues. However, numerous studies have shown that eating a raw vegan diet can signifcantly lessen many symptoms of fibromyalgia. Conversely, some studies have found no significant difference between eating a vegetarian diet and a reduction in fibro symptoms.  Many experts on fibromyalgia agree that eating a vegetarian diet high in fruits and vegetables is less taxing on the digestive system. For IBS sufferers, this is good news. If the idea of giving up a juicy burger turns you into a growly beast, then perhaps eating a vegetarian diet is not for you. But you can make small changes to improve your health by choosing the leanest cuts of meat and reducing your consumption of red meats. Opt for fish, chicken or turkey.

 Some unappetizing facts about animal agriculture:

  • a land area equivalent to seven football fields is destroyed every minute, every day in Central American rainforests. The United States, alone, imports 200 million pounds of beef from Central America every year. Aside from the water and grains needed to feed cattle and the fuel for transport of beef, grazing land is needed which comes from clear-cutting forests.
  • for each hamburger that comes from beef, that is raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed. And it's not just happening in the rainforests. 260 million acres in the United States are clear-cut for animal agriculture.
I could rattle on with more grim statistics but I'll let you off the meat-hook. It isn't my intention to make anyone feel guilty for eating meat. I include the environmental information only because it is my hope that you might consider, however briefly, the benefits of eating a vegetarian diet. If that isn't feasible, perhaps eating fewer meat-based meals a week is doable for you. This blog is my little platform, a tiny corner of the world and my primary reason for writing about vegetarianism is to share my experience with you. - another (mis)adventure with FibroCathy.
Thanks for reading.


  1. Hi, I'm from Sydney australia and i would have still read your post if it was titled "Beef-Less in British Columbia". being from oz I don't get the whole seattle thang.

  2. Hey mate! Glad to hear you would have still read my blog. "Sleepless in Seattle" was an '80's romantic comedy with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. It's become a pop cultural phrase to use variations of the title.

    Thanks for reading.