Leaving Vegetarianism to Eat Healthier

My first beef in twenty years.
My first beef in twenty years.
As of this year, I have been a Vegetarian for twenty years. The beginning wasn’t that noble. I was a teenager and wanted to empress this pretty ballerina. It didn’t really work, but the move helped me start forming my self image. I dived into Native American spirituality and explored other aspects of the new age culture. I stood firm on three reasons that kept true for the last twenty years.

  1. Killing another animal is profound and should be done with respect for the life you are taking.
  2. Most the meat available is from factory farms. There are many reasons to despise these places.
  3. As poor as I eat, if I ate meat too, I’d be huge. I’m still the fattest vegetarian I know.

As my life started to settle down after marriage, house, and twins, I looked for ways to slow down and enjoy life. I wanted to improve myself in ways that would effect my children. They pick up on so much that I do. It’s my job as a parent to make the right choices for myself, as well as them.

I have tried getting into a regular exercise routine. I kept with several different programs for months, but saw little difference in my weight. I also used the exercise as an excuse to eat even worse (I’m burning extra calories, right?!). The only time I really felt a difference was when I was single and on the prowl. I’m married and lazy now.

My trips overseas helped me get some perspective. I have always been struck by grocery stores in many part of the world have 80% FOOD. Not processed food, but real food. I realized that I don’t eat real food. I mostly at things that come out of a box. Even when I cook, I take several things out of different boxes. This bothered me, but I no idea how to change it. I had grown up in the world of supermarkets and worldwide food transport. There are no seasons, all the “fresh” food looks perfect, and 80% of a grocery store is processed food. And nearly everything has some type of corn and/or soy by-product.

Leah and I also started going to Ner Tamid, a Jewish Congregation here in West Cobb. I was really struck by a good explanation of why reform Jews follow Kosher rules. It’s all about mindful eating. When you set forth and think about the foods available to you, and you stop and ask your self if it follows God’s laws, you think about God. You’ve now brought your spirituality to the table. I liked that idea. I don’t give much thought to my eating. I just eat want I want as long as it’s not meat. I wasn’t giving much thought what goes in my body. I wanted to have food be a more important part of my life, to know where it came from, what it does to my body, and what it may do to my children eating this over a lifetime.

I knew I wanted to make a change, but I didn’t know how. Then Leah stumbled on the Paleo plan – a way of eating that mimics the way our human ancestors ate for the vast majority of human existence. The more we read about, the more it made sense for us. I wasn’t a real vegetarian, I was more like a starch and carb-o-tarian. Once I was better educated about how our bodies deal with starches and carbs, I knew I needed to shift.

There are a ton of different Paleo diets out there with slightly different takes on the same premise. Leah and I decided on the Whole30 plan.

There was a big problem. It’s a hunter and gatherer diet. Hunter’s ate meat. Plus, once Leah named out all the restrictions, I realized that was nearly my entire diet. I knew I ate poorly, but never this poorly. The decision was surprisingly simple once it came to it. I had a diet plan that I liked and I wanted to make a change. Then when I realized I had reached my 20th year as a vegetarian, it all came to a head.

I started a few weeks ago. I removed dairy and sugary food. Within 2 weeks I noticed a change in my face. At 3 weeks, I weighed myself and had loss 6.5 pounds. I felt good and it was pretty easy. A week ago I cut out grains, legumes, and everything else on he paleo plan. I accidentally picked up some older slacks for work on Thursday and was delighted to see they fit.

Today I had my first bite of beef in 20 years. It was a bunless grass fed beef burger at Yeah Burger. It was very tasty. Eating meat will round out my diet and help my body reset it’s metabolism and glucose tolerance.

Leah and I also watched Food Inc the other night. It made me realize that I can eat meat and do so in a humane and sustainable manner. Since then we found a local butcher that had all sorts of local humanely raised meats. Plus, we found a farm only 15 minutes away from out house that sells locally.

It all feels good. I feel confident that I can stick with this. It’s a bit tough when I am traveling to find something, but I am getting better at it. And it forces me to be midful, to remind myself that this is good for me, my wife and my kids. I lasted 20 years skipping out on meat. Let’s see if I can do 20 years of mindful eating.

EDIT: I just found this on the Whole30 website and it’s a good summary:

I eat real food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit. I choose foods that are nutrient-dense, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition. And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat, seafood and eggs come from, and buy organic local produce as often as possible.

This is not a “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight. I aim for well-balanced nutrition, so I eat both animals and a significant amount of plants. I’m not lacking carbohydrates – I just get them from vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal or pasta. And my meals are probably higher in fat than you’d imagine, but fat is a healthy source of energy when it comes from high-quality foods like avocado, coconut and grass-fed beef.

Eating like this is ideal for maintaining a healthy metabolism and reducing inflammation within the body. It’s good for body composition, energy levels, sleep quality, mental attitude and quality of life. It helps eliminate sugar cravings and reestablishes a healthy relationship with food. It also works to minimize your risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack, stroke and autoimmune.


Author: Xavier Ashe

Entrepreneur, Infosec Executive, CISSP, CISM, Ironman triathlete, traveler, UU, paleo, father of 8, goyishe, gamer, & geek. http://linkedin.com/in/xavierashe

6 thoughts on “Leaving Vegetarianism to Eat Healthier”

  1. Congrats, Xavier. It’s always great to hear when someone sees the sense in eating more like our ancestors, and especially when they notice the positive change in their bodies from doing so. Good on ya!


  2. Hey Xavier. Saw your post from Whole9’s facebook. Keep up the good work! Did my first whole30 October 2010 and have been paleo ever since. Noticed you are an IBM consultant so had to drop you a line; I am an ERP consultant for IBM. Anyways, congrats!


  3. Very proud of you. I’ve been reading up on carbs and the like as of late. John and I haven’t had pasta in months, and we feel great! I’m trying to rid myself of any insulin resistance from my sugar-laden childhood and pasta-laden adult diet. More meat and veggies!


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