After trying acupuncture for the first time when I was 19 years old and falling head over heels with how helpful it was for some various health issues I was having, I began to study Traditional Asian Medicine. First I apprenticed with my acupuncturist and then I went to school for it. While there, I took some of the regular hits that students deal with, but I also noticed significant increased fatigue. I was seen by a senior student practitioner in clinic, whom advised me that I should start to eat meat. She said that the energy of my blood was weak and that how I was eating was not appropriate for my particular constitution. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of eating meat. By accident years back I had eaten some rice that had been cooked with chicken fat and it had made me so sick. I told my practitioner, I didn’t think so. I increased my intake of greens and incorporated some herbs and other foods that were good for building blood.
While my energy did increase some, it wasn’t significant enough. The light headedness I would experience made doing many tasks challenging. In addition, my hands would shake at rest and there were a few times that I felt like I might pass out. I begin to take my own pulse and check my eyelids for changes in color. The next time I saw my practitioner, she and the clinic supervisor (who was also my key acupuncturist mentor) again strongly recommended that I incorporated meat, even if it was fish. I was in school to learn from them and so I decided to give it a try. I smuggled home a piece of wild cooked fish from the city (at the time I lived in the same building with dear friends from college who were vegan). I thought to myself at least if I tried it and it made me sick, I could say that I tried and my practitioner would lay off of me. But, quite the opposite happened. I ate the fish and I didn’t get sick. In fact, in a short period of time, I began to feel better than I had in awhile. This marked the official transition of my beginning to live as what I affectionately call a closet carnivore, lol. And, so like that I was back to eating meat. Over time I incorporated chicken, some turkey and at the advice of another trusted health practitioner since giving birth to my son, occasionally lamb.
For more than 25 years, I have personally tried a variety of diets and used foods to help people improve their health. From this experience and my knowledge as being certified in Traditional Chinese Nutrition here is what I believe to be true. Omission is important for a good diet, but not the only factor. I’ve seen many meat eaters rely on the feeling of satiation from eating animals and animal by-products and miss incorporating sufficient important life giving nutrients that only vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds provide. I’ve also seen people who were vegetarians make some of the same mistakes and trick themselves into believing hat just because they didn’t eat meat that they were eating healthy. I’ve seen both meat eaters and vegetarians suffer with serious health issues and some perish. Incidentally, the people that I’ve seen with the best health over the years were raised on unprocessed foods that were grown where they lived, vegetarian or not. So more important than the meat question is how to get good quality local fresh foods and and to eat a diet inclusive of foods traditional to their heritage.
As much as we like to have hard and fast rules, I don’t think diets work that way. This is because we as human beings are dynamic and as such our needs change. The diet that suited me before I was pregnant did not suit me after and I anticipate that the diet that suits me now, may be different in another 20 years when my body has undergone more changes. Secondly, I believe in the importance of seasonal eating, meaning eating based on the season that we are in, as our health needs vary based on climate and the way our individual health interacts with our surrounding climate. For example those who get allergies in the spring, or experience Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter and during bouts of less sunlight hours. Bottom line is there is a time to have a more cleansing diet (mainly fruits and vegetable based) and a more “building” diet, which should still heavily consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, but could also include wild, pastured, organic animal and animal by-products. The best advice are two key things- 1). Keep a food journal to take note of how you feel when you eat various foods. In particular take note to what you have eaten when you are feeling your best. 2). Regularly see a health professional whom understands how to identify and assist you with your unique health and how to use foods to heal. Enjoy!