The Carnivorous Vegan

I love steak. I mean, it’s one of the best things created by any deity real or fabricated or both (yeah, figure that one out!). The taste, the texture…this is why man invented fire. Not to keep warm, but to open up a Longhorn (look at cave paintings—they were totally drawing Longhorn Steakhouses). You know what else is awesome? Meatballs. It is a fact that I make the greatest meatballs on planet Earth. Grown men have wept to have my balls in their mouths…yeah, I know what that sounds like, and I’m sticking to it! Also awesome: sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon, chicken, turkey, halibut, prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, ground beef, duck, pulled pork, brisket, hamburgers. You know what goes great with anything listed above? Cheese. By the brick.

You know what I’ve barely eaten in the last 3 months? Any of that. Okay, I’ve faltered here and there, but for the most part, I’ve been “plant-strong” since volunteering at Plant-Stock this last August, where my speaker—Natala Constantine—was the keynote sister. Wait…no, where my sister was the keynote speaker (been reading too many essays this morning). The event was kind of awesome and inspiring. And the food—all vegan—was amazing. Except for the lasagna which I’m sure tastes awesome if you forget what lasagna means (a giant heap of cheese, meat, and sauce barely held together by sheets of pasta. Look it up, it’s science).  Plant-Stock lasted all of 3 days and I lost 5 pounds. Now, I’ve been trying to curse less, but I have to say:

Five

Fucking

Pounds

In one weekend. Okay, I’m not going to turn into an advertisement for Engine 2 or the 28 Day challenge or Rip Esselstyn. I’m not going to suggest buying the China Study or the dozens of other books out there. This isn’t a platform to talk about how awesome Forks Over Knives is or tell you to buy something (except for my own book. Trading Saints for Sinners coming December 13th from WragsInk!). What I will do is tell you what my experience has been going Plant Strong.

August:

Being vegan is awesome. I feel invincible! I am losing weight, feeling great. 28 Day Challenge. More like 28 Day Make Veganism My Bitch.

September:

I don’t even miss meat or cheese anymore. Don’t even think about it. Give me a potato, some beans, and a bowl of spinach with a good dressing, and I’m set. Never have to….oh, school is beginning. Well, I’ll be fine. I’ve got this.

October:

I just want something to eat—I have nine bajillion essays to grade and I’m tired and hungry and there’s a Chipotle right near me. If I have it just once, it won’t kill me. I’ve been doing AWESOME!

November (early):

Okay, see, back on the wagon (that’s the expression, right?) No harm, no foul.

November (now):

Yeah, that Triple Stack Steak thing was a mistake. I don’t care. I just want to get through the last few weeks of the semester and I don’t care. I’ll get back on track once I don’t have to think as much. Now, where’s the closest burger joint? I’ve been working 12 hour days grading research papers and getting my novel ready for publication. I—Want—a—ham—burger.

And that’s my biggest problem. I stress eat badly. It’s always been my problem. Things get out of control, I cook a Bolognese and suddenly the world is right again. It’s like by eating a dead animal, I am able to slow down the world around me (worst superpower ever). Things make sense when I sink my teeth into a Five Guys monstrosity. And every time I do this, I keep telling myself “restart tomorrow” and then tomorrow, I’m stressed and overworked and I just want a goddamn burrito. And I’ve been spending the last half month using my special blend of lying-by-telling-the-truth to my sister. I never told her I started eating meat again but I technically never told her that I was still plant-strong. Sorry, Toes.

And that’s part 2 of the problem—I’m a liar. My job is lying and just openly admitting that everything I say is bullshit (we call this Fiction). Not only that, I teach lying. That’s what English Composition is—teaching students to twist words around so that they mean more (or less) than they really do. The problem is, like the infamous demon Screwtape from CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, I am liar even to myself.” I have rhetorically fooled myself into thinking that I am not actually off of the plant-strong diet even as I take a bite into that delicious meatball sub the size of my arm. I’ve become a vegan who just happens to eat meat.

And that’s the new lie I need to trick myself into believing. I need to be the carnivore that just happens no to eat meat. Because here’s the truth—and I really hate this truth. It’s a truth that angers me. The Plant-Strong diet has changed my physiology. From when I started eating vaguely plant-strong (back in June where I kind of alternated days) to when I was hardcore plant strong, I lost 23 pounds. And since I started…what I can only describe as trying to punish myself with comfort food…I’ve only gained back 4. Because even though I have been eating badly, it’s not nearly as bad as I was eating before. Yes, in the past week I’ve caved a LOT and got a sub from the Italian market at the corner, but I’ve also eaten a lot of potatoes, beans, pastas without meat or cheeses and healthier sauces, spinach, and etc. My bad eating now is healthier than my normal eating not 6 months ago. This horrifies me because I am not eating well now.

It’s also a bit comforting. I know I’m doing badly now and that I need to start again, but I also know that this is one of the worst times of the year for me. I’m going to fail, and fall, and falter, but every time I do, I can take a little bit more control. If right now 50% of my meals are not plant-strong, I won’t strive for the next time being 0%. I’m setting myself up for disappointment. Going cold turkey isn’t always good (because a cold turkey sandwich can be so damn good). But if my next stressed out week of hell I am eating 70% plant-strong, I’ll be very happy. And then less the next time. Until I can get into a habit where I am nearly 100% plant strong and when I do fail, I can easily get back on track.

Trying to call myself a Vegan who happens to eat meat or a Carnivore who happens not to eat meat are both not working for me. I’m just going to eat, and basically everything I eat is going to be plant-strong. And hell, I might never eat meat again, but I’m never going to call myself a vegan because the moment I do…then damn, I’m really going to miss that cheesesteak. Oddly, the moment I labeled myself Plant-Strong and Vegan was the moment I became much more tempted to get veal parmesan. I’m also going to stop saying “tomorrow.” This week is going to be terrible. I know it’s going to end with a Turkey Gobbler Sandwich in my hand. But once I have my job under control, I’ll reshift my energies back to eating better.

In every area of my life, I’ve been good with realistic goals—except for health. The reason I have a novel coming out before I turn 30, the reason I have an undergrad degree with honors and a masters with a thesis of distinction and other awards, and the reason I was able to become a college professor at 25 is because I have always set realistic goals. But with health, I’ve tried to do these big goals that just don’t work. If I started working on my weight and health the way I do my career five years ago, I’d have been fit before I turned 26 (I gained a lot of weight when I started teaching). So my plant-strong goal now is not to be like the professional and life-long plant-strong people I met at Plant-Stock. I am not a dietician or health nut. I am a writer. I’m just going to be a writer who basically only eats plant-strong foods

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