Updated: Jan 14
So at the start of 2020 I decided to give up meat and fish!
“Urgh not you as well?” hear you sigh!
Hear me out. This isn’t a preachy blog post.
I wanted to explain my journey on this somewhat polarising topic as I feel I can give a more rounded and objective viewpoint to the conversation.
The transition started a few years ago. My parents being pescatarian for a number of years had often discussed with me about the quantity of meat that I ate.
I ate a lot of meat.
Chicken every day for lunch with different meat for dinner and maybe even eggs for breakfast five times a week!
As a product of the fitness industry, I insisted I needed it for my protein and to be a high-performance machine and maintain my muscle and strength.
I was wrong.
How it started
It began on a trip to Australia with my parents a few years ago. As they were Pescatarian when we cooked at home we ate fish and when we ate out I would normally have fish too.
The benefit of being right by the coast is that the fish is fresh out of the sea so it was delicious. I may have had a little meat out there but it was minimal.
This trip really put into perspective my attachment to eating large quantities of meat and this sparked me looking into the ethical and health implications of my meat addiction.
When I returned I switched to 5:2 pescatarian to omnivore. I would have eggs and meat at the weekends but fish during the week. The meat that I did buy would also be organic, which meant it was free-range and not pumped full of chemicals and the food it ate was organic. As this meat is expensive the quantity was naturally reduced.
I simultaneously started experimenting with vegetarian meals during the week that were rich in protein and flavour. I continued like this for about a year or so.
Within this time, I upped the quality of my vegetables. I began eating organic veg as much as I could afford and access as once I thought about the quality of my food it made sense. I don’t want my vegetables to be sprayed with toxic chemicals or genetically modified as I want to eat as healthily and close to natures intention as possible.
The turning point for me
What changed for me was when I attended a Buddhist retreat where the meals being prepared were vegetarian. Well actually they were vegan but we had access to milk, butter, cheese and eggs should we have wished!
This is where I learnt a few things.
Firstly I learnt that there is a huge variety of dishes you can prepare that are easy to cook, delicious and solely vegan. This was a big change in my head as I recall having vegan friends come to stay with me once and I was baffled at what I could cook! A sentiment I know many people share!
Secondly, Buddhism teaches that we should reduce our harm to the planet and refrain from causing harm to any sentient beings. Even mosquitos!
As I have learnt about Buddhism more over the years I do feel that it is a beautifully clean way to aspire to live to. It reduces harm to one another and our environment and whether or not you believe in God it is a way of living we can all aspire to, that benefits all.
The week on my retreat gave me time to reflect on my choices of what I ate and realising that indeed I do have a choice.
My previous choices were wilfully ignoring how the meat gets to the shops. It ignores the abhorrent conditions most of the animals are kept in throughout their lives. It ignores the fear and suffering that is caused when they are sent to the abattoir to be slaughtered.
It’s one thing deciding to eat meat and eating an animal that has lived a pleasant life outside and then is shot outside not surrounded by the stress of the slaughterhouse but let’s face it, that is very rarely the case unless you eat game.
Even fishing is the killing of a sentient being which is not the Buddhist way however take Buddhism out of it. If you go and fish your own fish yourself then fair enough. However commercial fishing is raping our seas of their life and there is huge collateral damage called “bycatch”. Where 40% of the catch consists of unintended fish that die including endangered specials, turtles and dolphins.
The Dairy industry is also pretty cruel as it turns out. They keeps cows constantly in a state of pregnancy and their calves are taken away from their mothers causing distress for them both. Then after 10 months of milk production they are inseminated again. The cows are in a constant state of stress as they need to produce so much milk and then at the age of about 5 years they are sent off to slaughter.
During this retreat, I decided that I could make a small difference to the world and to reduce some of the suffering that goes on because of humans.
Leaving the retreat I became predominantly Vegetarian unless I visited my mum who had forgotten I was intending to not eat any more meat or fish. Of course, I obliged rather than waste food.
Out with the Meat!
That leads me to 2020. When I no longer ate meat or fish. I learnt new dishes and by this time my Mindset had changed. It was an easy transition and I haven’t looked back.
In fact, my day to day shop is plant-based. The times I ate dairy and eggs where mainly when I ate Take away’s which was far too regularly in 2020! Anyone else?!
I really enjoy plant-based living. There’s a huge variety in the food that you can eat, so much flavour and it really does feel good knowing you are making a difference.
I haven’t noticed any negative side effects as such although due to the quantity of rubbish food I had in addition that year may not have been the best representation.
Not eating meat and fish anymore? I am over it. No regrets.
There are a few things I would like to address though.
Is it healthier for you?
This completely depends on what your current diet is like and how you approach vegetarian/plant-based living. By all means, if you eat pre-packaged food then you can make it just as unhealthy as an omnivore (of course without harming animals). However, if you embrace a Whole food plant-based/vegetarian diet then you could gain substantial health benefits.
Humans are meant to eat meat!
This I cannot confirm or deny as I have not done enough research. It is a question mark I have over plant-based in terms of health. However what I would say is that the meat, dairy and supplement industry has completely warped the landscape for us in terms of how much protein we need. I believe we completely over-consume meat. We would have never been able to hunt and kill enough meat to have full plates twice a day 7 days a week.
We were never designed to eat it so regularly and if you look at the blue zones where they have the highest rate of happiness and longevity meat/fish only consist of a tiny part of their diet, as a garnish almost. So my conclusion is that although yes we may benefit from having meat or fish in our diet this should really be kept as a treat or a special occasion.
Where do you get your protein?
Plants, the same place the big animals you eat get there’s. There’s protein in all plants, grains and legumes. Yes, you have to be more conscious about mixing types of proteins as there are only a few complete protein sources in plants but it’s simple enough to do once you get used to it. I am yet to encounter an issue with eating less meat and I drastically cut down in the year I was performing at my best in Mixed Martial Arts.
Affects on Performance
In 2019 when I was most active in MMA I drastically cut out meat in the September. Yes I add the odd bit of fish and eggs but cut down hugely. I then went on to have two further fights which I felt good for. The Last one in December I weighed in the lightest I have ever competed at (intentionally) and felt very strong.
2020 Is a hard year to judge. Yes I went Vegetarian but i was binge eating junk food 2-3 times a week. So my dairy and egg intake was pretty high. However I did run 3 marathons, a 55km Ultra and a 50 mile Ultra marathons so it couldn't have been all bad.
The proof in the pudding will be this year when I cut out dairy and processed junk and eat clean whole plant based food. I'm pretty sure I am going to feel great however I shall update this blog with my progress.
There are a-lot of people turning Vegan/Plant Based to help save the environment. There seems to be a lot of research suggesting that our Meat and Dairy Industries are contributing heavily to pollution and deforestation. I personally have not done enough research into this so therefore it is not one of the reasons I have transitioned. However it is a bonus if this is indeed true and i'm doing my part for the environment.
Progress not Perfection
Vegans often do the cause a massive disservice which is why they get bad press. Sadly there is this trend at the moment that if you aren’t doing it perfectly then you are not good enough. I have seen Vegans on their high horses tearing other plant-based eaters apart for purchasing a leather item or having an avocado. It’s just ridiculous.
The self-righteousness of these kinds of people really turn people off to the cause and do more damage than good.
The fact of the matter is, if you can drop the meat/fish/dairy from 1 day or even 1 meal a week then you are making a difference to your health, animal welfare and the environment.
Why we need to up transition to more emphasis on whole plant food.
I think whatever your stance on eating meat from an ethical and spiritual perspective the reality is as a western society and as a race, We eat far too much meat and fish.
It’s not only pretty bad for our health it is unsustainable for the planet. We cannot support this many humans who all want animal products every meal of every day.
From an ethical perspective, we are turning a blind eye to the conditions we keep these animals in. We are the cause of immense suffering yet we don’t seem to care even though many of us profess to “love animals”.
As a note swine flu, avian flue and Covid are all viruses directly caused by the conditions we keep the animals we eat! Strange huh? It’s almost like nature is trying to protect itself from the human race!
Don’t believe me? Click here and see for yourself. Warning it isn’t pleasant.
Health-wise I have a question mark over solely plant-based diet. So if you aren’t Buddhist then you may well benefit from some organic ethically raised meat/fish/eggs a couple of times a week or month.
What I believe should be emphasised is increasing our intake of a huge variety of whole plant foods. Vegetables, Fruit, Grains, Legumes, Seeds and nuts.
There is a huge amount of research into fibre as an essential factor in the health of our gut. Our gut possessing 70% of our immune system and influencing all aspects of optimal health including Mental Health. Check out DR. B’s book “Fibre Fuelled” for more of the knowledge and science. So at the very least drastically increasing your whole plant food intake will reap huge benefits.
Instead of 5 a day we need to be aiming for at least 10 a day but realistically more. Not just fruit and veg but let’s think about all things plant based such as grains, beans, nuts, spices herbal teas. All things natural. The more the variety the better your gut and your health is going to be.
How to Start.
If you are up for a little challenge then try this out.
Pick one day each week where you eat completely whole food plant based. So that means no shop bought meals. Experiment with some recipes see what you can make.
Believe it or not there is a huge amount of recipes and foods you can eat and they aren't overly complicated and full of flavour!
Easy wins are picking meals you would normally make and then replacing the meat element with either a root veg or other protein sources such as legumes
Overnight oats full of seeds, nuts and fruit
Currys: Root veg, Chickpeas,
Chilli: Mixed Beans/ Jackfruit
Bolognese: Finely Chopped mixed veg, Onions, carrots, parsnips
Stir fry with Cashew nuts
Just one day. No animal products. Loads of whole plant food! Go!
My Christmas slip up
There’s me at home with my family enjoying Christmas and I wanted to have scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast as a treat. For some reason my Dad offered me smoked salmon with it (he cooked it within the eggs). With my Dad being fully plant based I didn’t over think it (forgetting my step Mum occasionally eats fish).
I said "yes please that sounds nice".... It wasn’t until half way through the first slice that it dawned on me that I was eating fish! I was wondering why it tasted so nice (Who doesn't love smoked salmon?).
How about that for a lack of Mindfulness!? I felt pretty annoyed at first but then figured I may as well enjoy it as it’s on my plate and I’m sure my body would thank me either way.
It was probably good to keep the ego in check as we are all fallible humans that make mistakes. Progress not perfection!
Will I ever eat meat again?
For me now my intention is to completely cut out dairy this year and leaving only eggs as the animal product I may eat on occasion. (Unless I slip up again!)
However will I eat meat again? That depends to be honest. I am going to see how I function on a clean plant based diet. I am going to listen to my body.
If at some point If I decide I could do with eating meat or I find some convincing research to sway me, I will have to consider my options and the ethical implications.
I would likely consider eating game as at least this would have lived outside free and would have less suffering than commercial meat production. I would hold that meat in reverence and think about the sacrifice of that animal to feed myself. I would bring a huge amount of mindfulness and intention to the meal.
For now though, I shall not be eating meat, fish or dairy. I have my beliefs but I hold them loosely and am open to changing my opinion depending on circumstances. Something I recommend everyone trying.
I hope that this blog post may have been useful for you and maybe have inspired you to eat more plant whole food and less animal products!
If this has got you defensive in any way then maybe bring some attention as to why that may be. Being open minded is one of the greatest assets we can have and something we can develop. It often starts when we are triggered into defensiveness.
Whatever you do just bring some awareness to what you eat, where it comes from and the impact on your body and the environment and of course make the whole process enjoyable.
Peace and Love
If you are wondering what difference you as one person can make then I leave you with this quote;
"Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world"