“Well, I used to be a vegetarian.”

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Over the course of 4 years, my diet went through quite the series of transformations. Omnivore, pescaterian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and back to 100% omnivore. I thought I would never eat meat again, would never WANT to eat meat again. I also thought returning to meat eating would be very difficult, that the thought would weird me out and all normal digestive processes would go to hell. But, when I decided to study abroad in Chile for 5 months (Chile = meat-centric diet and culture), the time had come to return to my roots and embrace meat consumption. Strangely enough, as soon as I made the decision, I had my first meat craving in 4 years. I ate some chicken, it tasted just like I remembered (delicious, that is), and now I’m off and running.

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http://www.thesuperest.com/archives/2010/01/14/k181_omnivore/

My friends chuckle or do a double-take now when I order a bison burger or chicken tacos but my case is not unique in any sense. According to a study done by Psychology Today, about 75% of once-vegetarians return to their omnivorous state. Even as an ex-vegetarian myself, this statistic surprised me. What are some of the reasons ex-vegetarians attributed to their decision? The verdict:

  • 35% of the participants cited poor health as the reason for their return to their omnivorous lifestyle. (Quote of note: “I will take a dead cow over anemia any time”). But wait, isn’t vegetarianism supposed to be healthier? The complexity and contradictory nature of diet-related information available is a topic for another post but this question is relevant.
  • About 25% didn’t want the “hassle” anymore.
  • 20% reported an “irresistible urge” to eat meat again.
  • For 15% of the respondents, their diet had taken a toll on their social life.

I find this report very interesting, especially since I have had personal experience with them all but none of them was actually my reason for changing. Any ex-vegetarians (or others) out there who want to participate in this dialogue?  My opinion is that every person has their own ‘diet journey’. People’s tastes, health needs, culture, and moral values evolve over time so it makes sense that their diet evolves accordingly. What do you think?

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animals-and-us/201106/why-do-most-vegetarians-go-back-eating-meat

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0820/is_n209/ai_15982870/

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Asiago says:

    Neat post Samantha! I have met a lot of vegetarians that have gone back to their meat eating ways. Now, they will eat meat, but only meat that is “ethical” meat. This word “ethical” means different things to different people but I would say in general they are talking about meat from small farms and not CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).

    I am interested, you being a student of Supply Chain Management and all, what are you’re thoughts the high amounts of meat consumption and production? Can we “meat” the demand? Is it different in Chile from the US?

  2. Jenna says:

    Ex-Veggie here in Germany! My decision to eat meat during study abroad has given me a entirely new perspective on the vegetarian culture. I love vegetarian food. I find myself with odd spinach-salad cravings at least once a week. However, I do not miss the restrictions of the vegetarian diet; missing out on my grandma’s turkey dinners or feeling deprived while my friends rave about a great bbq place. I think when I’m home, I will be content eating meat on a handful of special occasions a year. I have accepted that sometimes cultural appropriateness outweighs my ethical dilemma on eating meat. It is something that is not just black and white, and I think the decision on what and how you eat should be made on a day by day basis.

  3. Hey Samantha! Really interesting post and I know we definitely had some discussions about it in Chile. I think it all comes down to the reasons one chose to go vegetarian in the first place. Whether it was for health reasons, animal rights, environmentalism or just dislike of meat. If the reason isn’t holding up any more, you shouldn’t just continue for the sake of continuing. Like you said, it is natural that diets change as people change.

    With regard to the study’s statistics: “35% of the participants cited poor health as the reason for their return to their omnivorous lifestyle”

    If this 35% were following a well balanced vegetarian diet, there shouldn’t be any reason for poor health. I still hold to the fact that a plant-based diet is much better for you. Especially in our developed, Western society where a lot of the meat eaten is through fast food, and frozen, processed meat.

    Will be following your posts with vigour!

  4. Courtney says:

    Hi, I’ve been a pseudo-vegetarian for almost a year ( I still eat fish). My boyfriend is a tried and true vegetarian, and gets upset when I talk about reverting back. I just can’t take it anymore! The cravings are just too strong. And I miss eating the meals that my family eats- I grew up in the south!

    My boyfriend says that to revert back would be “weak”. I don’t like disappointing him, but I’m tired of feeling so restricted. I also don’t want to start eating meat behind his back and feel forced to lie about it later.

    I’m sure you’ll say just do whatever you want, but it’s just not that easy! I’m stuck…and craving chicken 😦

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