If you haven’t read my recent article Why I Stopped Being Vegetarian, I would recommend reading that before you delve into this one. It will give you a lot of back story and insight into what was going on with my health that caused me to make the tough decision to leave vegetarianism after 11 years. To make a long story short for this article’s sake though, below is a shortened version of why I stopped being vegetarian.
My Issues As A Vegetarian
The problems that I faced as a vegetarian just seemed to get worse and worse the longer that I was vegetarian even after researching healthy nutrition and trying to clean up my diet and make my vegetarian diet as healthy as possible. I was hungry all the time…I would eat a huge full meal then be absolutely starving 30-60 minutes later. I had constant insatiable sugar cravings that I couldn’t avoid no matter how hard I tried. I was aware of the dangers of sugar and wanted to stop consuming it so much, but felt a deep addiction to it.
I learned that my issues were related to blood sugar fluctuations and hormonal/metabolic imbalances which, if not addressed, can lead to even worse problems like inflammation, metabolic syndrome, adrenal fatigue, high cortisol, hypothyroidism, and even in worse cases, diabetes or heart disease (source 1).
What I really needed to do to help my blood sugar fluctuations, hormonal imbalance and poor metabolism was to lower my carbohydrate intake, increase protein and balance my vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates spike blood sugar and lead to these drastic blood sugar changes and hunger issues that I had been experiencing. More protein would help keep me satiated longer and curb my need for sugar. (2)
I tried to increase protein and lower carbs on a vegetarian diet, but it’s almost impossible to do since most sources of unprocessed vegetarian protein like lentils, beans and grains have a very high carb content when compared to the amount of protein they provide. Soy is not a good option either as it can upset normal hormone function (3). Furthermore, most of these items contain anti-nutrients and lectins which can block the absorption of vitamins, minerals and even protein! (4, 5) Of course, I ate pastured eggs which were a good source of bio-available protein, b12 and other fat soluble vitamins, but it wasn’t enough.
How Bad My Sugar Cravings Had Gotten
For so many years, I had felt totally taken over by my sugar cravings. At one point I even thought about just giving up on myself because the desire to eat sugar felt like a heroin addiction (6). I couldn’t stop eating sugar all the time no matter what I did. I had tried to quit sugar so many times to no avail.
I read about how sugar damages your brain and can lead to cancer, but still couldn’t stop (7). I even did a sugar detox and was suffering with cravings the entire time even to the last day…and after the last day despite my better judgement and recommendation not to, I had a sugar-laden baked good and continued to do so after that.
If there were cookies or a chocolate bar in the house, I couldn’t just have one bite and leave the rest…I would have a bite then need to devour the whole thing. I felt totally out of control.
Starting with Bone Broth and Gelatin
I finally made the decision that in order to fix my health problems and keep from developing worse ones, I would have to eat meat.
At first, I started by including chicken broth and gelatin into my diet since they were easier to stomach than delving right into meat. The chicken broth was rather mild tasting, soothing and provided a wealth of nutrients that are very easy for the body to absorb like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, collagen, trace minerals, chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine. Bone broth can help reduce inflammation, heal the gut, and boost the immune system (8).
I added grass fed collagen hydrolysate gelatin to my smoothies for protein and made gummy snacks with grass fed gelatin (the collagen form of gelatin doesn’t gel like the regular gelatin does–which is why I use it in smoothies). The amino acids in the gelatin would help improve my adrenals and metabolism which would aid in balancing hormones. It also contains easy to digest protein which would help me stay satiated longer (9).
I had broth and gelatin for a few months, but didn’t notice many major changes. I knew I would have to move on to eating actual meat.
Finally Adding in Pastured Meats
Once I knew that gelatin and broth would not solve my issues, I worked up to trying some pastured chicken and turkey. At first it was really hard to eat very much…the thought of it made me feel guilty, but I knew it was my health on the line, so I was patient with myself and started with little bits at a time.
I started with having meat probably 1-3 times a week, then once I got used to that I would move it up to 2-4. I still wasn’t eating beef because to be honest….it freaked me out. I was still eating some gluten-free grains like a little bit of lentils, beans or quinoa. I worked up to eating meat as much as once a day, but even then I wasn’t noticing a huge difference in the way I felt.
I continued to research nutrition, blood sugar fluctuations and hormone balancing and kept hearing that it was necessary to have animal protein with every meal to really make a difference with sugar cravings and stabilizing blood sugar.
I didn’t want to believe that it was necessary to have meat 2-3 times a day…it seemed excessive to me especially after being vegetarian for so long. I figured that traditionally our ancestors didn’t have that much meat, so why should we? Then I realized that our ancestors likely had a more balanced diet from birth with home-grown, non-gmo, chemical-free, unprocessed foods. They didn’t have epidemics of diet-related issues like blood sugar fluctuations, hormonal imbalance, thyroid problems or high blood pressure and heart disease.
Unfortunately, I did have these issues and would have to take drastic measures to correct them.
Going Paleo-ish and How it Stopped My Sugar Cravings
After all that I had read, I thought I would at least try having animal protein with each meal and mostly take out grains and see if it made a difference.
Well, after doing this for a few months….I’m happy to report that it has made a HUGE difference!
It wasn’t until I added in beef and really made an effort to have animal protein with each meal that I noticed a big change.
Once I started to have animal protein with every meal and stopped consuming a lot of grains, beans and legumes my sugar cravings just went away. I’m telling you, the difference was like night and day!
I was so happy when I discovered this because considering the challenges I had before with quitting sugar, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to just not have it.
At first I stopped feeling the need to have a sugary snack in the afternoon. But I knew that something had really changed when I went on a trip with friends. We all stayed in a rented house together and they brought a big delicious chocolate bar for everyone to share. In my pre-paleo days I would have probably just eaten nearly the whole thing and then felt guilty about taking all the chocolate or I would have had a few bites and then been infected with the thought of how much I want the rest of it for the following days that it just sat there on the counter…uneaten and calling my name.
But this time it was totally different.
I didn’t really feel like having the chocolate…and as it sat there uneaten on the counter for two days while other people took a square here and a square there, it didn’t eat me up inside with the constant thought of how much I wanted it.
I know I’m making myself sound like I was a total lunatic, but that’s seriously how bad the cravings were…to the point of occupying my thoughts at all times if a sweet treat was in the house until I finally gave in to stop the obsessing.
What My Diet Looks Like Now
I should specify that I’m not actually 100% paleo. I probably eat paleo 80% of the time. Most meals consist of pastured meat, wild fish, seafood or eggs along with vegetables and healthy fats. However, on occasion I’ll have some white rice, white potatoes, organic sprouted corn tortillas or gluten-free grains (if I’m going out to eat).
The paleo diet is pretty low carb which is good for the health issues that I want to address, but sometimes it can be a little too low carb for me if I don’t keep an eye on it.
I usually have paleo-friendly carbs each day like sweet potatoes, butternut squash and fruits, but I’ve noticed that if I have too few carbs during the day, I have a hard time sleeping through the night, which is related to metabolic health. So, if that starts to happen, I make sure to add in some more carbs and sometimes those white potatoes, organic sprouted corn tortillas and rice really do the trick!
When I wrote my Why I Stopped Being Vegetarian article, I got a ton of comments about how my story was very similar to so many others and I was so grateful that readers shared their stories with me. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in having these issues and glad to have the support of so many people.
Hopefully this article can help you address some of your issues too if you think you’re having health problems like mine.
Here are a few meal examples of what a typical day looks like for me (if you want to know more about what I eat on a day-to-day basis follow me on instagram here):
Breakfast: Smoothie like this with added collagen gelatin for animal protein
Lunch: Wild tuna salad on cucumber slices with a green salad
Snack: Apple with almond butter
Dinner: Chicken vegetable soup made with bone broth (very good for the gut and immune system) and a sweet potato with butter
Breakfast: Eggs with veggies like this turmeric kale scramble and a sweet potato w/ butter
Lunch: Turkey wrap with avocado, dijon, lettuce, sauerkraut and these paleo wraps plus salad
Snack: Strawberries with whipped coconut cream
Dinner: Grassfed burger with lettuce wrap and broccoli
Breakfast: Berry smoothie with full fat coconut milk and collagen gelatin for protein
Lunch: Seared wild salmon filet with cauliflower puree made with bone broth
Snack: Nectarine and organic decaf coffee with almond or coconut milk
Dinner: Beef stew with vegetables made with bone broth and asparagus
Resources to help you with your sugar cravings
- Check out my article 5 Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings
- Challenge yourself to a 21 Day Sugar Detox! Anyone can do something for just 21 days…and you can create some healthy habits! Get all the support and resources you need here.
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