healthnutshell: The Extremes of Being a Meat Head Vs. Being a Vegetarian

What kind of meat did Jesus eat?

In 1990 as a skinny 9 year-old boy weighing well under 100 pounds, I was so proud of the fact that I could eat an entire Double Whopper combo meal at Burger King.  I impressed my parents and Italian grandfather every Friday night when, by tradition, we either went there for dinner, or the now extinct Quincy’s- “Home of the Big Fat Yeast Roll”, and I ate more than any of them.

In fact, one of my childhood catch phrases was “I need more meat.  If there’s no meat, it’s just like eating air”.  I was one extreme carnivore.

Much has changed since then.  As I’ve slowly slipped down the slippery slope of eating organically, it only seemed natural that I would eventually become a vegetarian, or at least go through a vegetarian phase.

Oddly enough, the deciding factor in whether or not I should attempt vegetarianism was based a question derived from a tacky 1998 bracelet craze: “What would Jesus do?”  I asked myself, “What did Jesus eat?”

Jesus ate meat.  He absolutely ate fish- he was a fisherman and even performed miracles which involved multiplying fish to feed thousands of his followers.  In fact, every time I’ve read about Jesus eating any kind of meat in the Bible, it’s always been fish.  Of course, knowing that Jesus was Jewish meant that by religious tradition he also ate some lamb and beef.

It’s safe to assume that Jesus ate a lot of fish and just a little red meat.  (But of course, he didn’t eat pork, being a law observing Jew.)   And that’s the basis of the standard I go by: The less legs, the better. 

Zero legs: Fish have no legs, meaning they’re the healthiest kind of meat to eat.  Except predator fish (like sharks), bottom feeders (like catfish, shrimp, crawfish), and shellfish (scallops, clams). 

Two legs: Chickens and turkeys.  They eat seeds, worms, and sometimes small mice.  They aren’t as healthy eaters as salmon and tuna and tilapia, but they’re better four-legged animals.

Four legs: Cows.  They should be fed grass, because feeding them corn causes health problems for them.  But even when we eat organic, grass-fed beef, our intestines aren’t long enough to fully digest the meat.  On the other hand, a true carnivore, like a wolf, has long enough intestines to properly digest the meat for all its nutrients.  As for pigs, they are scavengers, just like a possum or a vulture, so that’s why I am so adamant on not eating pork whatsoever (healthnutshell: No Pork on My Fork).

The less legs, the better.  Except for predators, carnivores, bottom feeders, and shellfish, which all feed on other animals they killed and ate, or the remains of dead animals they found along the way.

I am not a vegetarian, but I only eat animals that are.  Eating animals that are carnivores and scavengers is the problem.  Meat is not a bad thing or unhealthy at all as long as it’s the right kind of meat.  And the right amount of it.

Recently, studies have been popping up that show that Seventh Day Adventists live longer than the rest of us: Their men live 9.5 years longer and their women live 6 years longer.  Aside of limiting alcohol intake, exercising regularly, eating a health amount of good fats (nuts), most Seventh Day Adventists are either vegetarians or near-vegetarians.

http://lifetwo.com/production/node/20070107-longevity-seventh-day-adventists-life-expectancy

http://www.islandpacket.com/2009/05/16/846639/study-finds-seventh-day-adventists.html

While I will not convert my faith, I have converted to the Seventh Day Adventist  lifestyle of limited meat consumption.  Typically, only one of the meals I eat in any given day actually has meat in it.  And even then, it’s tuna, salmon, tilapia, chicken, turkey, and a few times a month, beef. 

But that’s only so good.  Because what good is it to only eat meat once a day if the portion size is too big?  I look at my hand and visualize the size of my hand without fingers.  That’s around 4 ounces of meat, a quarter of a pound.  That is the proper portion size of meat that I will allow myself to eat per day.  Not per meal.

Because if nothing else, by eating more than a fingerless hand’s worth of meat in a day, I am consuming too much sodium.  Because meat equals sodium.  And too much sodium equals heart disease and high blood pressure, which equals heart attack.

Was it easy to become this way? No.  But not because I go around hungry.  Because it takes more deliberate planning of my meals to make a health meal without meat.  But I’m getting it figured out.

I only eat meat at dinner.  For lunch, sometimes I pack a salad, or a rice and been burrito, or even some homemade, whole wheat English muffin pizzas with low-fat cheese.  All with a generous portion of fruit on the side (which I’ll be writing more about soon: Fruit by the Foot.)

For several months now, I’ve been doing this.  And I’m not hungry in between meals because I eat fruit.  And then of course at dinner, I eat meat with green vegetables. 

If I can add 9.5 healthy years onto my life by not being a meat head, it’s worth it to me.

Here’s a post from one of my writer friends that she just posted this morning, which I highly endorse:  http://www.meetmissjones.com/2010/04/real-food-wednesday-journey-to-real-food/

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Life’s Too Short: The Sad Truth that the Past is an Imaginary Place We Can Never Return To

About a year ago I was watching American Idol and Simon was interrogating one of the male contestants on why he wants to become a professional singer. The man explained he has a wife and a kid and he wants to be sure they’re taken care of financially. Simon asked the man again, “I get that, but WHY do you want to be a singer?” The man again explained it was because he has a wife and a kid… then Simon (who was obviously looking for an answer involving the man’s passion for music, etc.) cut him off with, “I get that, just sing for us.”

We focus so much on “right now”. Chances are, you’re never going to have enough money. Because once you do, you’re going to buy a bigger house or find a new way to get yourself in debt. Money is never enough.

Chances are, you’re never going to have enough time. America has set so much pressure on its people to be thin and in shape, yet it remains one of the most overweight countries in the world. We’re too busy to eat the right foods and to exercise, so instead of making time to be healthy, 74% of the population is overweight but carries the heavy burden of wanting to look like Jennifer Anniston or Brad Pitt, two people who are paid to make time to live healthy lifestyles. So obviously if we as a nation don’t have enough time to be healthy, we’re never going to have enough time.

Maybe I’m weird for not questioning the meaning life, but it’s never really been an issue for me. I’ve just always kind of known. I’ve understood since the age of six that this life is barely a speck of dust in comparison to the life after this. I’ve understood that God has blessed us with friends and family and we need to value them like the precious a gift they are. I’ve understood, more importantly, that God loves us and what it really comes down to our relationship with Him.  Even that goes back to loving people.

I subscribe to a magazine called Details. The thing I like most about it is its unique, random, and yet relevant articles. I realize as someone who earned a degree in English that quotes are only supposed to be a few lines, but for this I will cheat:

“…I climbed eagerly abroad this one-way rocket to Death in Adulthood and left the planet of my childhood forever in starry wake. I know this. My grandparents, my boyhood bedroom furniture… I will never see those or a million things again. And yet, lurking somewhere in the back of my mind is the unshakable, even foundational knowledge- for which certainty is too conscious a term- that at some unspecified future date, by unspecified means, I will return to those people and those locales. That I am going back. No, that’s false. The delusion is not really that I believe, or trust, that I will be returning one day to the planet of childhood…”
– an excerpt from “Time Bandits” by Michael Chabon

my Italian grandfather, Albert Metallo

Only a few weeks after I got married last July, my Italian grandfather died. He is the only one of my grandparents I have lost. Only second to my dad, he had the most influence on me as far as what it means to be a man. I know a lot of the reason I randomly talk to strangers in public is because of him. He always did it. I learned from him that much heaven can be found in spending hours working in a garden and then being able to enjoy the beauty of it. (Even though I don’t yet have a house with a yard.) It was because of his decision to move from Buffalo, NY to Fort Payne, AL in 1973 that I am alive. Otherwise my parents wouldn’t have met.

Like that article reminds me, all those weekends I spent at his house in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s as a kid are only now a memory. He would push me and my sister down the hill in his front yard in barrels. Then when we got too dizzy, he would get in the barrel and make us push him down the hill. We would do that for hours it seemed.

Then he would take us to Burger King for lunch. We would sit next to the window right by the drive-thru and he would make funny faces at the people waiting in the drive-thru. It was hilarious to see a man in his sixties being so goofy in public.

We would go back to his house and he would watch taped professional wrestling from the night before (WWF- Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Vince McMahon… the whole gang) and we would get out the toys (which were Styrofoam blocks). After about 15 minutes of my sister and me playing, and him watching wrestling, he pick up some of our Styrofoam blocks and throw them at our heads. Which would start an all out war in the living room. Then we would sneeze for 15 minutes afterwards from all the dust in the air from those blocks.

He had a bathroom closet full of nothing but bars of soap. And a freezer full of freezer-burnt TV dinners and ice cream bars, which were a treat to us. He wore a flannel shirt, navy pants, and black shoes no matter the occasion. Except for my sister’s wedding, which he wore a tux and sunglasses. He really looked like he was part of the mafia.

And all these strange and funny memories make up who he was to me. There is a major importance to “showing up to life”. He definitely did that. He was always there for every family get-together and would look for an excuse to visit our family, like bringing over a junky knick-knack he bought at a yard sale the weekend before. He knew what life was really about.

I was watching my favorite movie, Garden State, recently and though I’ve seen it probably at least ten times, I heard (and finally processed) what is one of the major themes of the movie:

“You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some where you can put your stuff that idea of home is gone.
…It just sort of happens one day one day and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y2snCNXT2k

I’ll always have that sense of “home” when I think of my grandfather. I still have a lot of family and friends whom I still have that sense of home with. Despite whatever shortage of money or time, despite whatever amount of stress or chaos calls for, life is too short to worry. And if you feel you must worry, pray instead.

Classic song…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6xMqo3wFxw

Food Fast Companies Use Red And Yellow In Their Logos

Sometimes as an elementary school kid I would just simply luck out. An announcement would come over the brown loudspeaker in class to announce that in the afternoon in the auditorium we would be having a Snake Show. Maybe this is just a northern Alabama thing, I don’t know. But what I do know is the entire school got to skip Social Studies once a year to see The Snake Man share his crazy collection of snakes onstage.

Cobras, water moccasins, racers, and even a giant anaconda which he let a group of volunteers hold in a group effort. Every once in a while, he would purposely (“accidently”) let a snake slither off the display table onto the stage of the floor. And whenever that happened, a piercing scream filled the non air conditioned room as many of the girls (and boys) yelled in terror at the top of their lungs.

The Snake Man defined what it meant to have a backwoods country Southern accent, like the kind State Troopers have in Virginia. He had these old fashioned jokes that he thought were hilarious. And by the 4th grade, I had memorized his routine. When he pulled out the albino rattlesnake, he would always say: “The reason this snake is white is because of lack of pigment in his genes. Now I don’t mean blue jeans…” At the end of the show, he gave us all some tips on how to know which snakes were poisonous and which were not. And I will never forget this:

“Red and black, you can pet his back. Red and yella, will kill a fella.”

After the days of Snake Shows were done, I was part of DECA, a Marketing class and club in high school. I loved it. I was actually good at it. We had competitions and got to travel. In the class I learned some neat behind-the-scenes stuff about advertising. One of the things was this: Fast food restaurants usually only use two colors for their signs: Red and yellow.

A quick Wikipedia search of some of the meanings of these colors is interesting. Red: exit, energy, passion, love. Yellow: Slow, fun, happiness, friendship, hope. A person is driving along, sees the red and yellow sign, and subconsciously thinks, “I need to SLOW down and EXIT here, because I have a PASSIONATE LOVE for that food. It brings me HAPPINESS and HOPE, not to mention ENERGY. And Ronald McDonald is my FRIEND.”

It’s hard to find an exception to the red and yellow fast food sign rule. McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardees (Carl’s Jr.), Krystal, Sonic, In-N-Out Burger, Taco Bell, Arby’s, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Pizza Hut, Bojangle’s. A Google image search will cease any doubts.

Red and yella will kill a fella. Applies to snakes and food.

School Lunch Pizza

School lunches weren’t always awful. In fact, sometimes what they were serving in the lunchroom ended up being the highlight of the school day. I always loved “Chef Salad Day” because that was a larger than average meal, plus it was guaranteed we would get a good dessert to offset the healthiness of the salad. And “Chicken Finger Day” was good because they served the chicken with mashed potatoes which I used as dipping sauce. So good.

But of course, there was one legendary favorite lunch, which has become immortalized along with other fond memories of elementary school like Oregon Trail in the computer lab, or that miraculous loudspeaker announcement that we would be getting out of two hours of class because the local community college was promoting their newest play in the auditorium. I am referring to, of course, the always-satisfying “school lunch pizza”.

A simple 4×6 inch flat pizza consisting of a crust reminiscent of Saltine crackers, brushed with tangy red sauce consisting of one sole herb (oregano), and covered in magical government cheese. Of course, I would do my best to scrounge up enough spare change to afford an extra “slice” of rectangle pizza for a dollar.

Every once in a while, I would get lucky because the first 15 minutes of lunch went by and the girl sitting diagonally across from me still hadn’t touched her pizza (or had only taken a small bite out of the corner). At that point, I would softly and nonchalantly ask the famous question, “Do you want your pizza?”

The weird thing is, just recently I realized that our school lunch pizzas didn’t even have any toppings. No meat! How did I just now realize that? As a 9 year-old boy, I would completely devour Burger King’s Double Whopper Combo Meal. Yet I never realized that those pizzas were just dough, sauce, and cheese.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one