Since I went home to Scotland in December, and maybe even for a few weeks before this, I have been contemplating (and experimenting with) making what for me is a big change.
From the age of around 21/22 I have been vegetarian. My main reason for this was a disgust at eating animals and also because I thought I would be healthier and lose some weight in the process (I’ve battled my weight and been on one diet or another since my early teens). So, with no thought to nutrition or what I should be eating, I stopped eating meat.
Yep, that’s all I did – I stopped eating meat. My breakfast would be toast or cereal, lunch would be a sandwich or baguette with cheese or egg salad and evening meals would be potatoes/rice/ pasta and veg, and there would also be chocolate bars, sweets and crisps. Protein, anyone…? But anyway I was healthy because I wasn’t eating meat, wasn’t I…?!
After a few years of this and not losing weight or feeling any healthier (funnily enough!) I decided to read up on vegetarian nutrition and began to add things like beans, pulses, swapping white bread/pasta/rice for whole wheat bread/pasta/ rice and eating a lot of Quorn products and vegetarian ready meals. Figuring this was adding the protein that I had been missing I paid very little attention to the ingredients list on these ready meals and packaged products and for a while the added protein did make me feel better.
I carried on eating this way for a long time. Admittedly I still tried out various diets; smoothie cleanses, raw food only diets, can’t-be-bothered-cooking-so-live-on-crisps-and-chocolate diet, eat everything in site diet, eat barely anything diet. It’s safe to say that although I don’t have an eating disorder I do have a very disordered relationship with food.
During this period I had moved from Glasgow to Norwich to Montrose where I met my super BFF Lucia and we both decided we wanted to run a marathon. So we started training and yep, I was still living on a rubbish diet of junk food supplemented with fruit and something new – protein shakes!! Woo these were definitely the way forward now – just whizz up something that tasted like a milk shake and was full of nutrients!!
One day a friend came to visit and took one of my packs of veggie ham out the fridge and said ‘have you any idea what’s in this? You’d need a chemistry degree to know what you’re eating’. This struck a chord, as once again, with the marathon over, I was feeling tired and sick all the time – not that I would admit this to anyone.
I was also feeling at a low point in my job – I loved my colleagues, we had some brilliant laughs and I made lifelong friends there – but between this and a growing sense of general poor health I decided to add fish back into my diet. This made a massive difference and before long I was feeling much better.
Fast forward to October 2013 and the start of process for my move to Saudi Arabia. I don’t need to go into detail as you’ve read it all already, but in between all the travelling and working I have been reading a lot about the Primal/Paleo lifestyle. I started trying this lifestyle in October 2014 and, without doing too much in the way of exercise (2 x half hour runs per week with the beginners running group on camp) I started to notice my clothes feeling looser and my energy levels increasing. I was loving it!
During my repat holiday at home I started toying with the idea of eating meat and going fully Primal. I talked this through with my mum and dad and started trying little bits of meat from their meals. To my surprise I really enjoyed pork and beef but wasn’t so keen on chicken. Needless to say I did feel a lot of conflict about having eaten meat and having enjoyed it. After 20 years of veggie-ism it wasn’t an easy choice to make but I want to be as healthy as I possibly can be and I think this may be the way forward for me. All my ‘little tastes’ culminated in a delicious ham salad on Boxing Day.
Since I have been back in Saudi I have struggled with making the change to being a meat eater (and being Primal if I’m being totally honest). At home I can find out where the meat comes from, etc. Here, all that is listed is country of origin; not organic, grass fed or anything like that (if anyone knows where to find organic, grass fed beef please let me know).
This past week though I took a leap into the full-on meat eaters world and bought some steak (I opted for ‘premium Australian Black Angus) and made steak, mushrooms and onions and I have to say it was delicious!
So now I can no longer say I am vegetarian, or pescatarian, which will take a bit of getting used to! Now I’m looking forward to feeling fit, healthy and energetic – and Primal!
I’ll keep you all posted…