In my entire life I've never been skinny. Not that I much care, because, believe me, I'm getting by just fine. Still, for the better part of nine years, I walked almost everywhere. This kept me in more or less OK shape. But then I entered a phase in life that came with more responsibility and significantly more hours at work. It made sense to buy a car and stop the extra hour or two of walking a day. And it all went to hell.
Right off the bat, I didn't feel as well without the daily miles on foot. My sleep began to suffer and the quick meals I was scarfing down between appointments came from drive-thru windows, food trucks or out of the microwave to be eaten over the sink. I drank at least a pot of coffee a day, often more.
I was also beginning to take notice of how meat made me feel; I was more lethargic and regularly exhausted. I Pavlov'ed myself with early-evening naps to the point I'd automatically feel sleepy by 5:30 pm, even when I shouldn't have been. I gained weight. And I ignored it all, because work comes first and I am but a vessel for the obligations therein.
It was also around this time that the avalanche of animal rights videos on Facebook became harder to ignore. Sobbing pigs trapped in cages and overseas fur farms invaded my feed alongside emotionally devastated mother cows careening after trailers transporting their kidnapped babies to the slaughter. Cows are smarter than they look; pigs are smarter than dogs and, all the while, the vegans I know proffered warnings about the insane cost of water per steak, per chop, per breast, per egg.
Meat had to go, and it was maybe even time to go vegan.
Having been vegetarian for a time some years before, meat was the easiest to leave behind. In many cases, veggie burgers, meatless hot dogs or faux chicken are a fine substitute (though anyone who says they taste just like the real thing is lying to themselves). Items like mushrooms, nuts, fruits and grains round out a diet nicely. Cheese and eggs stayed on the menu, but this was tenuous; my sugar intake rose dramatically.
Veganism was attempted, and I reached out to a longtime vegan friend who said it was a good idea to not push myself or make strict decisions that were bound to fail. I obsessively read ingredient lists to stay vegan and composed dramatic love ballads to long-lost pizzas. Feeling generally lightheaded resulted in adding supplements to the diet and focusing more on proteins. My general morale and energy levels improved.
Last Day of Week 3
Made pizza. No regrets. Fielded emails from vegan "support" groups that labeled me a monster for not getting it together quicker. Still no meat, but cheese was back; soy cheese is disgusting and we should all just admit it. Exhausted again, but this time by Facebook activists who relentlessly post about veganism without taking the knee jerk "screw you" reflex inherent in humans into account. The plant-based coffee "creamer" I'd been using in the mornings tasted fucking terrible and I went back to regular.
Still no meat. Clearly needed to label this switch an "experiment" to delude myself, but it worked. Pizza back in the regular rotation (I'm not made of stone), sometimes eggs for breakfast which, frankly, made me feel much more energetic and strong than any vegan or vegetarian item I found.
Stumbled upon so-called "Impossible Burgers," plant-based meat substitutes available at certain local restaurants and Whole Foods. Still not the same, but delicious. Add green chile and … cheese? Solid. Sweet potato waffle fries? Glorious. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Cashew snacks and baby carrots enter regular rotation. Ability to write normal sentences waned like moon.
Week I Don't Even Know Anymore
I still haven't touched meat; regularly eat eggs and cheese. I feel much better on the whole, even if I do still drive most places. Not even sure if I've lost weight—I don't ask questions I don't want the answers to. I'm not sure if I'll ever eat meat again, but it doesn't seem like I will as of this moment.
I still take supplements (iron, B-12 and a probiotic), which help; less coffee, more decaf tea. Cheese isn't a daily occurrence, nor are eggs. My skin seems to be clearing up. My vegan friends say at least I'm doing something.
It was never entirely political, though. Maybe that's selfish, or maybe it's a matter of self-care. Maybe I just don't want to look and feel awful for the sake of a burger here and there. Haven't decided yet. Maybe never will.
De Vore is SFR's culture editor, film critic and music writer.