A little while back, I wrote a piece for the 58 about the meat paradox. The idea behind the meat paradox is relatively simple and often explained with cognitive dissonance theory – it’s about altering behaviours to relieve mental discomfort. When it comes to the meat paradox, this comes in play with marketing tactics such as ‘free-range’, ‘grass-fed’ etc. all of these terms suggest ‘humane conditions’ and therefore take away the mental discomfort when purchasing a product that involves slaughtering another live being.
In the meat paradox piece, I also consider the budget as a huge deciding factor for a lot of consumers. I know for myself I am limited to, for example, my wardrobe choices when it comes to my budget. I simply can’t afford some of the more sustainable and ethically made clothing options.
I’ve had my fair share of struggles for the past year with veganism. Here’s the truth, I’ve been eating fish at least 3 times a week. While I maintain a plant-based lifestyle in other retrospects, I am not a vegan but rather a flexitarian. There were a few weeks last year where I gave it all up and had bits of dairy and other animal-derived products. Thankfully dairy messes with my body and gives me the runs, so my dairy intake has been low for years and is non-existent these days. Not surprisingly, meat didn’t interest me, so my meat-free streak continues.
Lately, I’ve been having some severe health problems. I’ve had to drop gluten as part of that. Being gluten-free and vegan is ridiculously limiting. My doctor also encouraged me to continue consuming fish as part of my diet. The reason why I write this is to give you a background on what I am about to write next…
I think that another ‘reason’ for the meat paradox is health. I’ve heard it before, but I never thought I’d be in this position, where I’d also be evaluating what’s more important to me – my health or preventing cruelty. I used to work with someone that hated that she had to eat red meat, but she was so severely iron deficient that additionally to her shots, she had to be eating red meat. It was hard to argue against her reasoning but not being in that situation myself and having, at the time, been hell-bent on veganism, I was still convinced there were things she could’ve done differently. Now, a few years later, I’m in the same boat.
My departure from rigid veganism started off for very selfish reasons, but I kept returning to a plant-based diet for extended periods. As I’ve mentioned before I’m dairy intolerant, don’t like meat and can comfortably live without eggs. My only hurdle has been sea-food. Since my health has been deteriorating and I’ve also been encouraged by my doctor to continue eating fish. Not having fish for days at a time has been difficult for these reasons, it doesn’t help that I’ve always loved sea-food too. Before I went vegan, I was pescatarian for years.
Now I’m at a point, where I don’t know which part of me should I prioritise – my mental health or my physical health? Just this morning I read a CNN piece on the fishing industry that really upset me because I love sharks and I think they’re some of the coolest animals on the planet. Knowing that every time I have sea-food contributes to the torture and death of these majestic animals makes me physically feel sick. On the other hand, while I know I could supplement the omegas instead of having fish, I also know that eating said nutrients is so much more effective when it comes to absorption and it’s anti-inflammatory components. I have an autoimmune disease that on the surface doesn’t really affect my daily life, however, over the past few months it’s been flaring up (it rarely does in the summer), and so it’s started to have some severe consequences. It is essential now for me to lead a stress-free lifestyle and consume a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods.
So where do I go from here?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve spent so long working on my mental health so neglecting my feelings is reversing much of that work. On the other hand, if I don’t get a grip on my physical health, my mental health will suffer long term too – no one enjoys being sick. I honestly don’t know what to do. I’m so confused, hurt and depressed these days.
Okay with that I finish the self-pity party that I’ve thrown for myself. I’ll try and go treat myself with kindness and try to figure this clusterfuck out.
Note: I wrote this a few days ago, and after speaking to my doctor and having thought about this, I will be trying some sort of balance for now. I’ll be limiting my fish intake to reach the minimum of what I need to meet my nutrient needs every week, and the rest of the time I’ll continue with a varied and balanced plant-based diet. This way, I can be plant-based at least half of the time during the week, but it’s not too limiting as I still need to stay gluten-free. It’s not ideal and won’t save all the sharks, but it’s a start.