Health Issues and Discomfort Changed my Diet, but Not my Mind
By Victoria Priola
When I was a pescatarian, sitting down to eat at restaurants became more of a challenge than a pleasure.
Huffington Post’s Healthy Living blog describes pescatarianism as being vegetarian while including seafood in your diet. I limited my food options to veggie burgers and shrimp for a year.
It’s not that I didn’t like it—the confinement just drove me crazy.
Jose Tejas was the place where that all changed. As I scanned the menu I began to realize the best fit for my dietary preference was no longer preferred. I skipped over the tofu salad and ordered the chicken burrito.
The slaughtering and mutilation of animals used for meals shown in Robert Kenner’s documentary “Food Inc.” was the inspiration behind my journey to dietary change. The day after I saw that film I went cold turkey and experienced some discomfort.
After a week of no meat I began to feel dizzy and light headed periodically through each day. I didn’t think anything of it until I realized it happened every day for a month. I was always tired and, three months in, I noticed large quantities of my hair beginning to fall out. I knew something was wrong with my protein levels and needed to make yet another change.
I have never enjoyed red meat. To this day, I am repulsed by steak and ribs—which should have made my dietary change an easy one but it didn’t. Chicken is currently my sole source of protein. During my pescatarianism, others around me considered chicken to be poultry, and therefore wasn’t meat. I considered them crazy.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, beef and pork are labeled meat while turkey and chicken are officially labeled poultry. The term “poultry” means that the animal is domestic and farm oriented. My opinion: if it once had a face, it is meat.
Becoming a pescatarian was supposed to help me lose weight but the only thing getting thinner was my wallet. I no longer got away with purchasing the frozen chicken nuggets and calling that dinner. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were my go-to places, but since their products are organic, their prices were higher than most.
According to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, the mean cost for organic food items is 68 percent higher than for non-organic food.
Due to my terrible eating habits and strong dislike for kale, I actually gained weight. When I needed more protein and energy, I thought it was logical to eat more foods high in sugar and fat so my body had extra fuel to run on. Reading that now, I still scratch my head and ponder on what sense that made.
Finding a place to eat while on the go became progressively harder as the year progressed, because most of the restaurants I favored left out their vegetarian menu. With four hour work shifts and eight hours of school five days a week, I had no time to prepare a full course meal with all the vegetables my body desperately needed.
I lived out of my car so I needed something quick and simple. On days that I would be in a rush, I would drive to Wendy’s and grab their cod fish sandwich. After a while, I was informed that the sandwich was seasonal and that they had taken it off the menu and replaced it with a Baconator doppelganger— a switch great for their business but not great for me.
A piece of advice I would give to someone wanting to embark on a similar lifestyle change would be to make small changes and work your way up. My goal was to be a vegetarian and I thought I was doing such a great job until I took a step back and realized living off of bagels and shellfish was not a way to live.
Before jumping right into changing your ways, pregame your fridge by looking up recipes for pescatarian breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals. A favorite source of mine is Pinterest because most of the recipes require minimal work and common household ingredients.
A life change is more effective if you have someone to try it out with you. It is more likely you’ll stick to being a pescetarian if you have a friend to cook with and keep each other on track. Having dinner dates at home reduce the risk of being stumped with a limited restaurant menu.
When done right, not eating meat is awesome. There is a comfort in knowing that you are not indulging in a mass amount of protein and supporting the killing of animals. I may try to eliminate meat from my diet again someday but until then, I’ll have the chicken beef burrito–hold the tofu please.