I was having a conversation the other day about fad diets like Atkins, Paleo, and Keto that claim they closely resemble the diets of our Stone Age ancestors. The creed by which these diets are structured leads us to believe that our cave-people ancestors dined on filet mignon by the glow of the campfire every night.
That theory is unfairly favorable to two assumptions: that availability of prey was abundant, and the precision of the hunters was exemplary. Remember, they weren’t hunting with rifles back then. Their main tool to hunt animals were spears, which would require a great deal of patience, skill, and accuracy.
I’m not here to tell you to stop eating meat. Although, I would like to encourage you to eat considerably less, or none. But with my personal bias aside, I do believe there is considerable evidence to suggest eating less meat is beneficial to both your health and the planet. That’s why I love the concept of a Flexitarian diet, which in short, is a way to flex into a more plant-forward way of eating without giving up meat completely.
What is Flexitarian
I wish I could take credit for coming up with this term, but I can’t. To be honest, I don’t recall where I first heard it, but it resonated with me because I finally had a way to describe my husband’s “flexible-vegetarian” lifestyle.
By definition, the Flexitarian Diet is “semi-vegetarian”. It’s a way of eating mostly vegetarian without swearing off meat entirely. It can also be a great steppingstone for someone who wants to ease into a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
I always encourage moderation in any diet. Any sort of rigidity leads to failure. Millennials have bravely introduced fluidity into many aspects of our lives like sexuality and gender. So why not embrace fluidity in our diets. Can we allow people to embrace a plant-forward diet while being flexible around eating meat?
I went vegetarian almost immediately overnight, but I’m still on a personal journey to eat 100% vegan all of the time. And, for many people, the road to any healthy lifestyle change is a journey.
The Newly Vegan Lyft Driver
I was in a Lyft last week and the driver started telling me about how she started a vegan diet that week. It had been four days and she felt tired and frustrated. Being a subject matter close to my heart, I asked her why she decided to go vegan and what was frustrating about it.
To summarize, she knew she had to give up animal meat for her health. She was at risk for heart disease, was having digestive problems, and wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. She also admitted that while she wasn’t eating meat, she wasn’t yet eating healthy either, and she knew that was why she was tired.
My advice to her, go easy on yourself. Give yourself permission to screw up or have a bite of meat if you really want it. Ease into the diet until it feels natural and sustainable. Heck, go ahead and have a bite of turkey this Thanksgiving if it’s giving you anxiety! I had a small serving of turkey my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian. I quickly realized that the turkey was only a belief system I could easily let go of because the best parts of Thanksgiving dinner for me were all of the sides.
“Oh my Gosh,” She declared. “Thank you so much for saying that! I was so stressed about Thanksgiving. But you’re right my favorite thing at Thanksgiving is the cornbread stuffing!”
By the time she dropped me off at my destination, I could tell she felt more optimistic about her vegan road ahead. She thanked me for giving her permission to go easy on herself. Sometimes, just the permission to screw up gives you more strength to succeed.
Remind Me Why It’s Important to Eat Less Meat
Raising and caring for livestock is connected to deforestations, water and air pollution, greenhouse gases, heart disease, obesity, and auto-immune disease just to name a few. Let’s break it down.
- The Environment – Raising livestock for food requires a lot of land and water resources. This drag on natural resources also increases greenhouse gas emissions. Most importantly: methane gas, which has an effect on global warming 28 times higher than carbon dioxide.
- Resources – By 2050 we will need to feed almost 10 Billion people. Experts say that continuing to consume meat at the rate we do will take a heavy toll on the Earth’s resources with a greater impact on the planet than plant-forward diets.
- World Hunger – Today, approximately 800 million people suffer from hunger in the world. The calories (aka food) we use to feed livestock instead of humans could feed 3.5 billion people. I’m no mathematician, but simple math tells me we could end world hunger if we simply reduced the quantity of livestock we raise and feed just to be slaughtered.
- Animals – Without going into horrifying details, the animals being raised for our food live miserable lives full of abuse, neglect, inhumane living conditions, and suffering. The cows you see grazing in open pastures on the side of the road are not an accurate depiction of farming conditions.
- Health – Plant-forward diets have been proven to help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. And diets like the Mediterranean Diet have also been shown to reduce depression and improve physical and mental health.
So, The World’s Problems are Solved By Eating Flexitarian?
Obviously, no. But do you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem – any one of the problems? So, you eat Keto and are in perfect health. Great! What about the rainforest? So, you don’t believe climate change is really a thing, but you love animals. Make animal rights your reason. Pick a reason why eating a little less meat resonates with you and make that your purpose.
I want to hear from you! Does eating Flexitarian resonate with you? Are you confused about what that means or what to eat? I’m passionate about helping people eat less meat and optimize their health. Post your questions or comments below.
Looking for some plant-forward recipes, see Amare favorite here.