A section of this podcast with Joe Rogan and Dr. Kelly Brogan was an important step in my journey from strict herbivore back to omnivore (starting at 1:21:19). Just after high school, I decided to stop eating meat for a few reasons: it was kinda gross sometimes, and I heard meat was “bad for you” so eliminating it from your diet could make you feel better overall. Quick note: I do not recommend a diet change based on those reasons, or any reason other than “I’ve seen what the experts have to say, I’ve tried it for a bit and it seems to work for me”.
Admittedly, I was very ignorant going in to this whole diet change thing. I was having issues with severe dysmenorrhea and the number one “cure” was to balance your hormones and stop eating meat. It worked almost instantly, and I didn’t have issues for about 7 years. At that point, I decided to eliminate dairy (going vegetarian made me a cheese fiend) which was difficult but worth it as this was a possible “cure” for the skin problems I had developed. My dermatologist (and plenty of people on the internet) say their skin cleared up when they cut out dairy (hormones, acidity, sugars, excess mucus etc. aren’t the best things for some skin types). This also worked almost instantly, so I didn’t mind my limited diet. Oh, I should mention that sugar is pure evil (inflammation causes a laundry list of problems in the body) so that was cut out as well. I basically ate like a squirrel, but I was looking and feeling great!
I don’t like using the term “vegan” because I have found some people associated with that community to be a variety of things, not all of them good, (plus we had a leather couch at the time) so I’ll call myself “plant based”. I did this for about a year, and because the list of available foods was so short, I increased my soy intake by a lot. Basically, every meal had some sort of soy product (fake meat, fake cheese, fake everything). Still, I felt a sense of… righteousness? I was saving animals, the planet, and my health! However, this is where my personal experience differs from the typical “plant based” experience. Most people adopt this diet and it works for them longterm. I think that is wonderful and I encourage people to do what makes them feel good, but if you start to feel unwell, don’t ignore it!
Physically, I was feeling and looking healthy. I was making 95% of my food at home, I had energy to exercise daily, and I thought I had finally found the answers I had been looking for. Then, gradually, I started feeling depressed and sometimes out of control (emotionally). I could feel incredibly happy and then “sleep all day” low for no reason. I had lost quite a bit of weight and had no trouble keeping it off. You may say “Rita, that’s a good thing” but it ironically made me more judgmental toward myself. I wasn’t thinking in a healthy way about anything really, which wasn’t normal. I finally decided to do some research, and based on my findings, I went in for a hormone test. I had pretty high estrogen (genetics do play a role) and soy is a plant based estrogen-like protein linked to a possible slight increase in estrogen levels in both men and women (without proper gut bacteria to break it down). It’s not the best thing to be eating constantly.
That opened the flood gates to other possible side effects and I realized I knew nothing about the benefits or risks of this diet I was so excited about. Part of the reason I waited so long to educate myself had to do with the already mentioned “righteousness” (I couldn’t possibly be doing something wrong!). The loudest voices on the internet (pushing for a vegan diet) seemed to be the most uneducated (and angry), so I looked for trustworthy and unbiased information on health and nutrition (Dr. Rhonda Patrick is wonderful). I stopped eating large amounts of soy and started using supplements.
Then something weird happened.
I noticed a craving for something I hadn’t eaten in almost 8 years, as if my body was telling me I needed nutrients I wasn’t getting. I’m not kidding, I felt like my body was telling me to eat red meat (specifically steak). I was confused, mostly because the sight of raw meat has always grossed me out, and because I didn’t actually want to eat it. I fought this thought for about 6 months until I realized I truly was lacking vital nutrients based on the decline in my overall health. The section of the podcast above (starts at 1:21:19) was what made me realize I was going in the right direction.
Dr. Kelly Brogan admits to completely rethinking her profession and what she initially believed to be true about mental health because her own experience led her to that point. She also said she won’t work with clients who are unwilling to follow her 1 month detox plan (which includes moderate amounts of red meat). Why? Because there was undeniable (anecdotal) “proof” that it helped the severely depressed come back to life. That spoke to me loud and clear. I should also add that the entire time I was meat-free, I received all kinds of unsolicited and often insensitive opinions about why my diet choice was wrong or lame. The thing is, that stuff never convinced me to take a second look at the choice I had made, if anything, it made me dislike “meat eaters” and view them as incapable of giving up their precious flesh food. They were the weak dummies, not me!
Is what we know truly all there is to know? Could we be wrong? The answer (for me) is a resounding YES, I COULD BE WRONG! I was open to being proven wrong especially if it meant new understanding and a beneficial outcome. After about 4 months of thinking this decision over, I was ready. So on Christmas Day of 2017, my brother-in-law Ricardo cooked steak for the family and my body literally rejoiced. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have issues with raw meat and factory farming (from the perspective of the animals) and I still enjoy meatless options, but I feel like my mental health has improved and it was worth it. My advice for anyone on a similar path is to keep learning, keep searching, and above all, listen to your body.
Since then, I have spoken to people who went through the same thing (randomly craving meat again but feeling guilty) and I’ve watched popular vegans on Youtube “fall from grace” because they chose to eat meat again. It’s crazy to read the comments on their “explanation” videos… so many opinions and harsh judgments about a personal choice. I’m sure that’s why a lot of people remain sick, it’s dangerous to admit you’ve “regressed”. My hope is that this changes.
I go back to an herbivore diet every now and then (easy to maintain weight, less junk food etc.) and I’m still learning to balance what I eat (I went a little crazy with red meat for the first few months and now rarely eat it), but I’m glad I set aside a presupposition in order to uncover what I didn’t know I didn’t know. Ya know? Eating meat has also opened the door to other types of diets I wasn’t able to implement before (I tried Keto for a few weeks which was great) and I feel like there is so much more to try and learn. I hope you enjoy the podcast and check out more from Joe Rogan, he has super interesting guests on his show every day!
Thanks for reading! – Rita