I think one of the worst lifestyle modifications I've made over the past year was to start eating meat again, especially red meat, mostly in the form of hamburgers, tacos, and submarine sandwiches, after abstaining and being primarily vegetarian for over five years. Though during my vegetarian days, despite being vegetarian most days of the week, I've never been vegan, or even completely vegetarian, because I still had fish at least once a month, at most twice a week, usually salmon or cod, always wild caught, never farmed; which is an important distinction.
Farmed fish is generally of a lower grade, more likely contaminated, pumped up with antibiotics, artificial chemicals, and is best avoided. Which is not to say that fish couldn't be farmed in a much healthier manner, but just that it generally isn't. Fish farms are like factory farms for fishes, and you know how that is right, it's all about maximizing production at all costs, quantity over quality. Wild caught fish is much better. However, much of the sea life has been contaminated, not to mention over-fished, and some wild caught fish are healthier than others, and some, due to the heavy concentration of toxic chemicals in the fish, are actually quite dangerous to your health. I've heard that these particular types of fish, wild caught Alaskan salmon and cod, as well as sardines, have low levels of mercury contamination, something that is a major threat to many other varieties of fish, especially tuna, which I think is probably the worst; which is a shame, because I've always loved tuna, and now I cannot have it very often because of it.
Well anyway, while there are differing opinions of what constitutes a healthy diet, where some say that eating meat, depending on the quality of the source -- type of meat, cooking method, portion size, as well as what other foods are consumed with the meat, such as the amount of vegetables, type of bread, etc. -- is not at all at odds with healthy living, which may be just as healthy as a vegetarian diet. In other words, just as some fish are healthier to eat than others, certain types and cuts of meat are healthier to eat than others.
But I'm not disputing the fact that being a meat eater may be a perfectly healthy choice for some people, what I'm saying is that I have found that for myself personally, being a vegetarian (but one who sometimes eats fish) is good for me, not just nutritionally, but even more importantly it's good for me psychologically. I see a correlation between being a vegetarian, living simply, and being more mentally disciplined. This may not be true for everyone, but it appears to be true for myself. When I eat meat, my entire worldview is altered, I feel differently, lazier, more arrogant, less patient. Again, this may not necessarily be anything endemic to the meat itself, but is my own personal response to it. When I'm vegetarian, and making a conscious effort to stick to a simple, healthy and well balanced vegetarian diet, which means not just cutting out meat, but also staying away from refined flours and sweets, it's like I'm aspiring to nobility, am refining myself, both my body and mind, but when I eat meat, it's like a drunk falling off the wagon, or like somebody on a diet trying to lose weight, while eating a whole cake...it affects everything. You start slipping, lowering your standards, until you have no standards left to lose.
So, much of it is psychological, in that it's not necessarily that eating meat is always unhealthy, but that for me vegetarianism carries a strong association in my mind with clean, self-disciplined, healthy living. Being a vegetarian also requires that you become better educated about your food choices, to assure that you are getting a well balanced diet. Because it's not just a matter of not eating meat, but about making healthy food choices that do not include meat, that still supply adequate amounts of protein. Meat has a very heavy, rich flavor, very filling, satiating, almost intoxicating, it's like a drug, where the more you eat it, the more you need to eat it. Vegetarian dishes tend to be lighter, more about nutrition than indulgence, and feel less like a pig fest, you know, less gluttonous. Which is not to say that vegetarian dishes cannot be delicious, because they can be very good, but like I said, it is lighter, mainly I guess because they are usually much lower in fat, it is less satiating. Your taste buds become more sensitive, you learn to appreciate the simple flavors and natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables, requiring less sugar and fat to enjoy the meal. In fact, I think you could call meat a gateway drug for refined sweets. The more meat you eat, the more fat, salt, and sugar you crave in your diet.
The point of this post is just to say that I had been vegetarian for a few years, went back to eating meat for awhile, am not happy with the results, have noticed a change in my level of discipline and overall outlook on life, and think that I would be better off completely cutting out the meat again, and going back to a mostly vegetarian diet, with the exception of occasionally having fish.
Questions to think about:
How does the absence or presence of meat in one's diet affect consciousness?
Do meat eaters and vegetarians think differently from one another?
How do the different foods we eat influence the shaping of personality and character, intelligence and beliefs?
What is the connection between food and mood, diet and cognition?