More than eight years ago I stopped eating meat. It was 2006 and Spring and I became a vegetarian.
It was a decision made before I reached 21 and one borne of a desire to exert self control at a point when I felt I’d lost it all. It coincided with a particularly gut-wrenching break-up and I was being rather dramatic. (So pleased I grew out of that)
It was an easy method for diet restriction when I was trying to lose weight and it was something which I could focus my devastated energies upon.
That decision, nearing nine years past, has come to define who I am, or at least a large part of that ‘am’, namely a non-meat-eater, who hasn’t slipped up when drunk, who doesn’t recall the taste of meat, and one who bloody well loves her
vag, I mean veg.
At the time I stopped eating meat, I hadn’t gotten around to duck; I’d never eaten a well-cooked steak; I’d steered well clear of game. A few years in I took a blood test and sailed through with exceptional results. I honestly never looked back.
After a fair degree of internal debate, I reintroduced seafood, and now eat it about once a week. It hasn’t redefined my vegetarianism and while I most certainly enjoy it – I am 100% a team member at I Love Salmon – I still consider myself of the leafier variety.
Fast forward (all the way) to 29 years and my hair is falling out. In clumps. In the shower. In my hair brush. All over my clothes. I have the fear of Alopecia in me and I’m beginning to rethink my life decisions. Particularly in the unforgiving bathroom light and when hair loss literature tends to expel the benefits of the more paleo of diets.
The thing is, when someone asks, ‘why did you become a vegetarian’, I can hardly reply ‘a broken heart’. I don’t really have a reason because the heart is a long-time whole and the kilos lost have become kilos gained; I’m also not meat-free due to environmental or sustainability concerns, it’s not ethical or moral; I don’t really even like animals.
But with my hair levels declining and my vanity levels rising, I’m again faced with a decision: do I reintroduce a ready form of protein into my diet, and give my zinc and iron levels a meaty boost, which will hopefully in turn, cause a mane of strawberry-blonde to burst forth from my weather-beaten scalp?
To borrow a term from reality cooking and talent quest programs, ‘my journey’ began on a whim and somehow it stuck. Is a whim an appropriate determinant on which to risk my hair, and oh yes, potentially my health?
You see, I don’t practice a careful vegetarian diet, I don’t like to cook and my meat-eating GL cooks us a separate meal each night. A rather laborious task. I don’t supplement, I don’t take vitamins and the only regular pulse in my life is of the squat variety. The obvious answer to my woes appears to be eating meat.
Each night I most honestly consider it. I tell myself, ‘tonight is the night; your hair will thank you for it’. And then I proceed to try. I edge close to a plate of meat, I smell it’s – frankly – divine scent and recite its health virtues. I coach softly, ‘just one bite, one big bad bite and it’s done; don’t let broccoli define you; you want to eat a sausage’.
I sidle up to that plate of meat, fork poised, teeth gnashing – and baulk. Something greater than me says ‘stop, pumpkin’. And I tell myself, ‘what’s one more day – try again tomorrow night’.
Footnote: on Thursday evening Sheena ate a vegetarian stir fry and cauliflower patties. Her quest to consume meat continues.