I want you to know that it’s OK to eat meat.
I am in no way, shape or form against vegetarianism or veganism: they are both life choices which I respect but do not choose to make. I have best friends who are both vegan and vegetarian. I also have best friends who eat meat.
What I am against is anybody who believes that their diet choices should be followed by everybody else.
I spent a long time feeling very guilty for eating meat and then for eating any sort of animal product at all. I felt that I was morally and ethically failing, and that I was a terrible person because I hadn’t chosen to give up meat.
At a time of my life when I’d accepted that I needed to gain weight, I was feeling pretty guilty all the time just for eating food anyway. I didn’t need to be guilt-tripped for what I was eating as well, but I found that I was surrounded by messages telling me that I was a cruel person; a murderer and – perhaps worst of all – videos and photos posted and shared on Facebook of animals being slaughtered in an attempt to show me how much pain and suffering I was causing.
I am not a murderer or a cruel person. Yes, I eat meat. Yes, that might conflict with your views, but that doesn’t give you the right to make any sort of judgement about me. And, if you do make that judgement (because, let’s face it, we’re all Judgey McJudgeypants on the inside), please don’t share it with me. You are not going to convert me because, just as I made my choice to continue to eat animal products, I am not going to suddenly change my mind.
The other point that I’d like to make (because I might as well whilst I’m already here), is that you don’t have to identify with a group. It’s OK to choose which foods you eat, as long as they are maintaining your health, and it’s OK to eat meat some days and meat replacements on others. You do not need a label. We strain to be free of labelling in so many areas of our lives, why would we strive to gain one in another?
It’s also perfectly healthy to eat meat throughout your recovery. You are not going to balloon, or suddenly develop the dreaded ‘f’ word in places it’s not supposed to be just because you ate bolognese. You do not have to gain weight on lentils if you do not like lentils, and you do not have to swap denying yourself food for denying yourself food that you like. By the same token, it’s OK to not eat meat/animal products throughout your recovery if you’re already vegetarian or vegan: you do not have to force yourself to do things that are against your beliefs.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it’s to wait until you are a healthy weight to choose whether you are a vegetarian/vegan. You physiologically cannot make choices about your diet when your brain is in starvation mode. I was terrified of meat for a lot of reasons, but eating it meant that I confronted fears. Not eating meat would have simply played right into the hands of my anorexia.
The bottom line is that it is OK to eat meat. It is OK not to eat meat. It is OK to eat meat somedays and not eat meat on others.
But you must make those choices for yourself and you must never try to make other people follow them too.
If you are a militant vegan/vegetarian, please stop (and, by militant, I do not mean people who identify as vegan or vegetarian on social media, and are proud of their decision, or at least think about the effect you’re having on others. I mean people who are actively pursuing a quest to convert everyone else to their diet. Not your job.)
The most important job you will ever have in your life is to be you. Don’t let other people make you feel that you’re not good enough, or that you’ve got to be somebody else.
Oh, and I’m not posting this because it’s Eating Disorders’ Awareness Week. I’m posting because it’s National Old Stuff Day and I’m 25 now (this is not a joke – ask Jeeves).
I would also like to point out that this post is not aimed at anybody, including you.