Why I Started Eating Meat After 7 Years of Vegetarianism

Warning: This article mentions descriptions of eating disorders that may trigger some readers. Proceed with caution.

During Thanksgiving, I ate pork for the first time since I was 15 years old. Although this decision seemed sudden to my family members, I planned this exact moment out weeks prior to the holiday.

Seven years ago, I cut out meat entirely from my diet. Funny enough, I made this decision in the bathroom of a Shake Shack after I took a bite of an undercooked cheeseburger.

In my conscious mind, I believed that this decision was influenced by the abuse of domesticated animals from large corporations. There was no way that I could continue to eat meat and support cruel companies such as Tyson and National Beef.

C’mon, wasn’t anyone else horrified about the conditions of animal farms after reading “Chew on This” in middle school?

However, my unconscious mind thrived as I further restricted my food intake. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing anorexia nervosa.

This does not mean that you automatically suffer from anorexia nervosa if you do not eat meat or animal products.

Although seven years is a long time to restrict your food intake, my symptoms of anorexia nervosa date back to middle school.

In middle school, I downloaded apps that would track my calories for me. Soon enough, I realized that there was a minimum calorie limit for those apps, so I wrote down my calorie intake and weight daily for the entireties of my sophomore and junior years.

Typically, I would eat between 200-400 calories every day. There were some days when I ate more than that amount, which is when I would purge. There were also some days when I would eat less than that amount or nothing at all.

Every day, I weighed about one pound less than the day before. I didn’t mind the constant headaches, bruises or faintness because I felt fragile. To me, fragile meant beautiful.

Some individuals who struggle with anorexia nervosa don’t actually appear to be starving. Although I was never emaciated, I still experienced significant weight loss and symptoms. The type of anorexia nervosa within those who have a higher weight is called atypical anorexia nervosa.

Although atypical anorexia nervosa is still being researched by experts, it resonates with me. The less I ate, the better I felt emotionally. Despite sudden weight changes, my doctors never noticed anything wrong with my health since my BMI remained in a “normal” range for my height.

Like myself, those who struggle with atypical anorexia nervosa experience low blood pressure, vitamin deficiencies, electrolyte deficiencies, extreme fatigue and menstrual dysfunction. To be frank, I didn’t experience my menstrual cycle for a few years, which sparked some jealousy among my girl friends who had absolutely terrible cycles.

It’s interesting to look back on the worst years of my life and wonder how people didn’t notice clear signs of an eating disorder. In fact, those who later found out about my eating disorder including my best friends, my parents and my boyfriend, tend to blame themselves.

One night during my freshman year of high school, I fainted at a church service while I sung in the choir. Luckily, there was a doctor in the audience that got me water and made sure I was okay. She asked me if I ate anything, so of course I lied and told her I did eat throughout the day. Without any food in my stomach, I sucked on a few Hershey Kisses when I got home and called it a day.

Unfortunately, the majority of those who struggle with eating disorders are masterminds at disguising. I was consistently manipulating those around me into thinking that I was healthy, as well as manipulating myself into thinking that I was happy.

Once I graduated, I thought that I had everything under control in college because I was eating larger portions while maintaining my “goal weight” of 140 pounds. I felt invincible until my sophomore year when I started taking medication. This medication triggered a steady weight gain for about a year and a half.

This summer, I was so unhappy with my body that I decided I would start eating healthier and working out more. I was so embarrassed of how “huge” I became. At all costs, I would try to avoid seeing anyone I went to high school with. I was even embarrassed to see family members out of fear that they would be disgusted and disappointed in me. Multiple times a week, I went to the gym for strength training and ate “clean” foods. Months later, the only change I noticed was my endurance.

Frustrated with my inability to lose weight, I decided to see a nutritionist in September. If you didn’t know, Penn State offers free nutritionists and dietitians for students. I wanted to know if there was something wrong with my health since I’ve failed at losing weight so far.

It turns out that I still have been severely restricting my food intake, so my metabolism has lowered significantly. I seriously thought I was eating enough, perhaps too much for a 5’6 woman!

To my surprise, I needed to at least double my current intake of food. I also have some severe vitamin deficiencies caused by years of malnourishment.

At first, I thought eating more would be awesome. I have always been jealous of individuals who need to gain weight because it seems so much easier than losing weight! This is definitely not the case.

Although I try to eat three meals daily with snacks in between, I struggle with making time to eat food and having an appetite for the rest of the day. Every time after I eat, I inherently feel guilty and disgusting.

My nutritionist decided to put me on a team with licensed clinicians at Penn State through a program called HEALS: Healthy Eating and Living Support. After consulting with others in HEALS, I became aware of some bad habits I have continued to practice since my premature recovery. Some of these habits include chewing food without swallowing, cutting food in tiny pieces, chewing for prolonged periods of time and eating in solitude.

This struggle will never end. However, this struggle will be easier to cope with as I practice healthier eating habits. Now, although I am beautiful, I know that my appearance is the least interesting thing about me.

There was a point in my life when I would rather be dead than weigh over 140 pounds. Now as I look back on this, I see how impressionable young girls and boys are by social media and diet culture. I do not blame others for my eating disorder, however, I do hold others accountable for enabling these types of behaviors onto young girls and boys.

You are worth more than what your body looks like. Treat your body with care and do your best to be mindful of others who are also on their journeys of self-love.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, do not hesitate to reach out for guidance and help. There is nothing more important than mental and physical health.


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