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.

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:

No Pork on My Fork: Why I Decided to Go Kosher

I’m not Jewish.  But I am Jew-ish.

If vultures and possums were easy to sell and market to the public, and people enjoyed the way they tasted, would people still eat them? Surely not. Because those are gross animals. (I’m assuming.)

Hard to believe now, but from 2006 to 2008 I lived in a house full of 4 other guys. If a near cliché is needed here, it was the ultimate “bachelor pad”. A house where there was no such thing as “cleaning day”. The big screen TV was always playing in surround sound. The soonest anyone went to bed was around midnight. Cooking food ourselves almost never happened. Christmas lights on the roof and rotted jack-o-lanterns on the porch were not seasonal items, they were constant.

The owner of the house, Jared, always had a new “toy” that he exploited for all its worth. First it was a bread machine: “You haven’t had real bread until you’ve had my homemade bread…” A few months later: “Taste this beer- I made this stuff myself with this new kit I bought at CVS.” (I specifically remember him also inventing “twine”, a cross between sweet tea and wine.) But my personal favorite was the fruit juicer. He read to me all 67 benefits of drinking carrot juice from Wikipedia as I had a glass myself of it myself.

Juicing really can be a fun thing. I ended up going to Publix and buying grapes, apples, even a banana (which ultimately caused the juicer to disperse a mucus-looking substance). One day after work I was making a healthy concoction when I looked up at Jared at said, “What if we juiced a ham?” He said it would probably give us nothing but yellow fat water.

That mental image has disturbed me ever since. It also helped me realize I’ve never been a fan of ham anyway. Ham is pretty much an accessory to the main dish. I can’t think of many times in my life seeing ham as the main meat of meal on a restaurant menu, with the exception of places like Cracker Barrel.

I may even go as far to say that ham has become an irrational fear of mine. Just the thought of touching slimy, sliced ham. Sickening, really. But everyone else seems to be cool with ham. So what’s the true issue?

I had to accept that one of my destinies in life is to not eat ham. This calling eventually would lead me to learn way more than I or anyone else would want to know, and that knowledge I would gain would be so shocking and unbelievable that those who heard it either A) believed it and acted upon it, B) scorned my stupidity, or C) were intrigued, yet indifferent.

It all started last November when I began going regularly to a hydro colonics specialist in an effort to clear up my eczema. Ultimately, it’s the glorified version of the ancient Egyptian practice of getting an enema. Throughout my many visits, several worm parasites were released from my body. The biggest one was comparable to the size of a human finger. It was clear with a black head.

Of course I asked the doctor what caused this. My two summers in Thailand? My visit to a Korean sauna? Nope. The mostly likely cause of a human having parasites in their digestive system is from eating undercooked pork.

While this incident that happened to me is nothing less of disgusting, it does raise a great question: Which is worse, A) to hear someone tell about pork-transmitted worm parasites that were released through something as weird and socially unacceptable as hydro colonics, or B) to go on living knowing that the chances of having the same worm parasites are pretty favorable, yet doing nothing about it?

With some research, I read that at least 1 out of 3 people in America are living with a similar kind of parasites that I had; some sources stated as high out 7 out of 10. But what good are statistics? Eighty-two percent of statistics are made up anyway, right? The proof was in the pudding (pun).

After sharing my personal results with them, I convinced at least 5 other people to see the hydro colonics specialist. Four out of the five had at least one parasite worm (if not several) come out of them. So all but one out of the six people (myself included) had parasite worms. I’m not good at math. But 5 out of 6 (83%) people is much more definite than 1 out of 3 (33%), as prior estimated statistics had predicted.

Growing up in a Baptist youth group, I always thought it was funny to hear the youth minister pray over our fast food dinners: “And Lord, we pray You will bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and our bodies to Your service…” Really? French fries, cheeseburgers, and soda? All that saturated fat, sodium, and sugar? I see why that would be a necessary prayer, but seriously…

Wouldn’t it make more sense not to eat crap? Speaking of eating crap, I think it’s a little ironic that thousands of years ago God instructed the Jews about certain foods they should not eat. He set apart certain animals to serve as the “clean-up crew of the Earth”.

They eat the rotting carcasses and/or feces of other animals. In plain English, these scavengers include, but are not limited to pork and shellfish (shrimp, scallops, lobster, crabs). Similarly, there are also catfish which are called “cleaner fish”; they feed off the dead skin and parasites they find on other living fish.

Catfish find rotten blood appetizing.

Is it any coincidence that so many people are allergic to shellfish? (Thanks to Dwight on The Office, many Americans learned that the black vein on the spine of a shrimp is feces in its digestive track.) The scavengers of the sea often have a higher level of mercury, commonly being the main cause of allergies in humans. For me it was hard to look past the wonderful taste of these creatures. But if you are what you eat, and especially if you are what shellfish eat…

Going back to those lovable piggies, the more I learned about them the more repulsed I became at the thought of eating one. They are different creatures, physically structured to carry out the task of be custodians of the ecosystem. Pigs have a very high tolerance to toxic substances. They can be bit by poisonous snakes and usually survive.

Instead of toxins traveling through their entire body, they go to the animal’s fat and are stored there. And oddly, they don’t have sweat glands. They are not able to “sweat out” poisons the way most mammals do. Therefore they roll in the mud to cool themselves off. Eventually, humans eat the fat which stored the toxins the pig consumed. What’s really weird is that pork fat, when consumed by humans, remains pork fat, instead of converting to human fat like other animal fats do. It’s hard for me to think of bacon the same way.

We eat these...

But not these.

This is my destiny, to eat like a Jew. My wish for the world is for everyone to continue enjoying sausage, pepperoni, bacon, shrimp, scallops, lobster, crab legs, and catfish as I did for 28 years. But since May 2009, I have chosen to take this whole thing a little too seriously.

Below is a word from a frenemy. This is one thing I can agree with him on.