Ideology v. Survival

Today my psychiatrist told me I’m too sick not to eat meat on ethical grounds.

He’s a functional medicine guy, and I trust him about this stuff.  I’ve actually been thinking the same thing myself for the last few months, particularly with the anemia and the severe fatigue/weakness.  But I just can’t quite stomach the idea of eating meat again.

I’ve been vegetarian for more than ten years now.  For me, it’s an ethical and environmental issue, but even before I went vegetarian, I was never all that excited about meat.  It was never hard for me to give it up, and I’ve never missed it.  Now, the thought of intentionally putting meat in my mouth makes me feel queasy.  He wants me to start with bone broth, and that will be easier, I think–it should be easier because it’s not actual physical meat.  But I still have to buy bones and roast them and boil them.  Even that’s going to be hard for me.

My psychiatrist loves to tell illustrative stories.  The first one today was about a Russian Jewish soldier who was stationed in Siberia.  He wrote a letter to his rabbi to ask what he should eat because all they had was pork.  The rabbi’s answer was, “Eat the pork, but don’t suck on the bones.”

“The moral,” my psychiatrist said, “is you don’t have to enjoy it, but survival’s more important than doctrine.  We understand that.”  (I assume by the “we,” he was referring to himself as Jewish, but I got the odd impression that he might’ve thought I am too.  Not sure where he would get that from–I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my own religious practices to him.  But whatever.)

Then he launched into a story about a former Karmapa (leader of a specific sect of Tibetan Buddhism).  Many Buddhists are vegetarian, but in Tibet that’s basically impossible.  So the Karmapa was traveling, and someone served him shrimp.  After dinner, they asked how he liked it.  He replied that he enjoyed the taste, but he was sad that so many living creatures had to die to make one meal  He said he preferred beef because one cow can feed a hundred people, so there’s less destruction of life.  “If I must eat meat,” he said, “I prefer beef.”

It was a strange conversation; my conversations with my psychiatrist usually are, but I like that.  But today, I had so much ambivalence it felt like I was being dragged in two different directions.  Not so much about food–about survival.  I don’t really want to survive…but on the other hand, since I’m still alive, I’d like to be slightly less miserable if possible.  So I bounce back and forth between feeling like it doesn’t matter since I’m going to be dead soon anyway and feeling like I might as well try because what else have I got to lose at this point?

So I’m just sitting in the middle, waiting.  I don’t even know what I’m waiting for.



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5 responses to “Ideology v. Survival

  1. He sounds like he’s very cool. I love meat, but bone broth? I never tasted that. Does it have a weird taste? I hope whatever you decide that it will be a good decision for you. XX

  2. We have had those conversations, too when in treatment for Anorexia. Thankfully, we never were never put in your position.

    I don’t think any of us could eat meat; since it is not something that has been willingly done since very early childhood (around 5, maybe).

    Am unsure what is lacking in your diet that only meat can provide….but wish you all the best in climbing over that bridge between ideology and survival.


    • Iron is the big one. My body doesn’t seem to be able to handle iron supplements–they make my GI symptoms even worse. Also certain amino acids, as well as B vitamins. At this point I’m not able to absorb supplements very well. Even if I could, they’re not as bio-available as actual food sources.

      It’s funny, I was able to recover from my eating disorder as a vegetarian, even in residential treatment. It was before I got sick with the UC, though, so I didn’t have all the other dietary restrictions. I can’t imagine any ED treatment program would be able/willing to accommodate my diet now, which is sad–people with legit dietary restrictions still get eating disorders! In fact, when I first got sick, my ED flared up again because it was easier not to eat than deal with all the symptoms eating caused.

  3. That psych sounds cool. Just a personal experience – I experienced / experience digestive issues, not as severe as yours, but to me, very distressing. I was eating a low meat/veggie type of diet. I was advised to try Paleo, which is basically meat and veg. It’s helped my issues enormously. I was also advised to do the bone broth thing, but didn’t have the energy to do that. I tried some once, and it seemed like a good thing, but I just didn’t keep up with that part of it. I would not have thought that meat was good for digestion, particularly, but it seems to be. That and avoiding grains. Who knew. I also feel ethically I’d like to eat lower on the food chain, but for now I can’t.

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