For over ten years of my life, I did not eat meat. 12 year old me adamantly decided that meat would no longer be part of my diet, and that was that. I never missed it, craved it, or longed for a taste of it. I was known as a vegetarian, fierce in views that meat was not for me, that we can consume sufficient nutrients without it, so why eat it? No amount of persuasion from friends over the years could make me touch it, instead their teasing was met with cries of disgust, and ‘ew’ was the most natural reaction of mine to meat. To eat meat was bad for the environment, bad for the animals, simply unnecessary.
Recently, however, a close friend pointed out to me that I had never been vegetarian. Vegetarianism implies a choice; a lifestyle decision which is made, for whatever reasons, to not consume meat.
This decision was not an informed choice of mine. This decision was a choice of my anorexia.
The elimination of meat from my diet, a few months into the development of a ranging eating disorder, which would ransack years of my life, was based on the fact that the sole meal I had to eat around family was a Sunday lunch with family friends. Remove the meat from the equation, state you’re too full for dessert, and suddenly the one compulsory meal of the week was is reduced to a half plate of vegetables. Ingenious. Even better, I had a mother who had previously been vegetarian, and so didn’t question my decision, instead saying ‘I always knew you’d go veggie for a while at some stage’.
So, my vegetarianism continued. Even when I entered recovery on several occasions, and finally fully committed to it last year, my vegetarianism was unquestioned. Even when I hit weight restored a few months ago, I did not consider giving up my vegetarian lifestyle. I was medically healthy, I could eat carbs, I could eat fats, I was working on eating intuitively. I was doing great!
Hence a hostile reaction when a friend patiently pointed out to me (several times, patiently, until I would listen), that I had never been vegetarian. That I had fallen into the same trap with vegetarian as I had with my excessive coffee addiction – that vegetarianism was a socially acceptable form of anorexia. A way of eliminating an entire food group, without anyone questioning my actions.
I finally accepted this could be the case, but still didn’t see the need in reforming my ways. I was healthy, I ate enough, meat wasn’t a necessity.
The scale of the problem became clear when I first decided to try meat.
My first attempt was wine fuelled, on a rooftop restaurant on holiday, where I tried a bite of a friend’s dish, and was amazed that I liked the taste. A few days later, I tried it again – sober, and under duress, and disliked the taste.
Since then, it’s been an ongoing battle. I’ve reverted to the levels of the initial days of recovery, where it took everything in me to not throw plates of food across the room. The thought, look, and smell of meat repulses me, causes me to tense up, panic, and often reduces me to tears. The knowledge that after so much effort in recovery, food still has the ability to render me powerless and petrified is soul destroying.
And this is what proves, to any remaining doubt in me, that I was never a vegetarian. I was an anorexic. I am a recovering anorexic. Meat is a fear food of the largest type. There is still work to be done. Recovery is an on going path.
Yes, I am medically healthy, I no longer restrict, I no longer over exercise. However that one, socially acceptable, life style of ‘vegetarianism’ in fact left a place for my anorexia to fester, to remain, to gain strength, and, if not tackled, most likely a way to spread and take over more of me. Any anorexic restrictions or behaviours left are a way for it to creep back in, and that is why I am not prepared to let it happen.
And this is why, after ten years of vegetarianism, I am eating meat.