So I’ve been eating a lot of crap lately stemming from laziness to cook for self, and a general craving for junk food and fizzy drinks and sugar (OMG this body is screaming feed me sugar ALL THE TIME), and I thought to myself yesterday that this week I will start a week of detox just to clear out the system before I go back to my usual ways.
Every time I do a body cleanup project, the thought of going vegetarian comes back to me again. Firstly, many schools of yoga all recommend a vegetarian diet for various reasons, not only health related (I will discuss this later). Secondly, various religion also advocate a vegetarian diet, or certain food restrictions. So there must be some good to a vegetarian diet otherwise people won’t be talking about it all the time right?
The deal with me is that I grew up in a household of carnivores. As I got older I reduced my intake of meat because I kept hearing how bad it is for you and I thought maybe I’m not supermodel skinny because I ate meat. When I travelled to India last year for 3 months, I feasted on a vegetarian diet about 90% of the time because it was just easier being vegetarian there since a lot of the restaurants did not serve meat. Did I miss meat? A little, but not a lot. Did I feel better? My skin seems to be better, but then that could have been from the moisture in the air too, so non-conclusive result. Do I feel like a better person now that I wasn’t eating meat? Eh, not really, felt the same to be honest, just hungrier.
So what prompted me to write this post was this post over at RecoveringYogi that I read this morning when I woke up. It arrived at the perfect timing for me, just as I started to contemplate maybe I should switch to a “better” diet again. The fact is that I feel better when I eat meat. Especially when I’m teaching yoga, and doing my own yoga practice, AND going for 2 hour walks in the morning, AND walking around town to get to places. I worked out that sometimes I do up to 5 hours of exercise a day, and with my fast metabolism, I’m hungry enough as it is and cutting meat out of that equals one hungry, grumpy Karen.
And by a meat diet I don’t mean that I HAVE to eat meat at every meal and if I don’t eat it I will die. But by having a little doesn’t justify the looks and helpful advice I get when I reveal I do indeed eat meat. I remember on more than one occasion when I got this “I-think-I’m-better-than-you-because-I-don’t-eat-meat” look when studying yoga in India, at yoga workshops, or any places where there may be a congregation of vegetarians. Particularly memorable was in India at this hotel, when my friends and I were having breakfast and this lady at the table next to us started chatting to us. She was a yoga teacher who came to India to do some research for her next yoga retreat, and she said specifically that she asks people who attends her retreat to refrain from eating meat while they are in the group. She then told us the sins of eating meat, including the fields on which the cows and sheep graze can be used to grow wheat to feed human beings. By eating meat, we were essentially starving human beings.
OH-EM-GEE. Whilst there may be some truth to that in terms of how the land is used, I’m pretty sure in parts of African, people are not starving because the cows are taking up space. It is because the land is not arable or they lack the skills to grow crops. Because trust me, if there’s one thing we got in Africa, it’s land baby. There are heaps of land and there are still starving children.
Going back to the teachings of the Krishnamacharya yoga tradition, everyone is an individual. A diet that may work for some, will not necessarily work for another. Only we ourselves know our bodies best, and only we can determine what food our body needs. Also, in some places a vegetarian diet is just not possible. One my my friends was a vegetarian for over 20 years, and he was sent to Nigeria for work for some time, and he said there was nothing he could really eat if he didn’t eat meat due to the lack of fresh wholesome vegetables. So should he starve himself so he can continue to practise ahimsa on animals, but actually neglecting ahimsa on himself?
So my view is, eat what you want in a balanced, healthy, non-excessive way. Whether you are a vegetarian or an omnivore, only you can decide what’s best for yourself, and no one else should be able to tell you otherwise (unless it’s a doctor and it’s for medical reasons!).