I was originally intending to begin this post with the phrase, “I have a confession to make…”
But then I realized that the use of that phrase makes it sound like I have done something bad or wrong. While many will likely believe that my decision to start incorporating fish into my diet is exactly that, I do not agree. It is what is best for me at this point in my life. But I have not always felt that way. I have to admit that when I first started eating seafood again back at the beginning of December, I felt guilty. I felt like a fraud for continuing to call myself a vegetarian. I also thought it was necessary to keep this choice a secret from pretty much everyone that I knew. My parents knew and my boyfriend knew, and that was it. I guess you could say that I was embarrassed for not being “strong enough” to maintain the way of life I had chosen three years before.
While I was a “closet fish eater” in my apartment and at my parents’ house during the holidays, I do not want to be that anymore. I want to be my true genuine self here in this little corner of the blogosphere. And if that means that I have to admit that I am no longer a vegetarian at this point in my life, then so be it. More on the “labels” at the end of this post.
I do not feel the need to justify my decision to start incorporating fish into my diet, but I realize that many people may be curious or might be in a similar situation as me. So I am going to give you a little background on my decision, starting with my transition to vegetarianism three years ago (today, actually). I am going to break this down into somewhat of a timeline format to make it easier to follow.
January 2012: I quit eating meat cold-turkey (no pun intended) and labeled myself as a vegetarian.
April 2012: I developed knee issues that prevented me from running and being active in the ways I wanted to be. I have since had surgery, received 2 cortisone shots, tried the 5 supartz shots series, been to two rounds of physical therapy, and seen three orthopedic doctors over the past 2 1/2 years with absolutely zero improvement. <– Talk about frustrating! The right knee pain is predominantly what I dealt with from April 2012 until about October 2013. I was still able to be somewhat active with walking, swimming, and weight lifting during this time.
January 2013: I still labeled myself as a vegetarian, but began eating a mostly vegan diet whenever possible. I saw huge improvements in my acne, and felt better physically when I avoided most dairy. This continues to be the case.
Summer of 2013: While I believe I subconsciously knew this for quite some time, I was finally able to admit to myself that I was underweight. When I suddenly transitioned to a healthy vegetarian diet, I did not realize that even though I was eating the same amounts, I was eating far fewer calories since my meals were healthier and the things I was eating were less calorie-dense. At first this was fun since it meant I was at a weight that I was happy with and felt confident in- even in a swimming suit. But then it got to the point where I had lost too much weight, was unhealthy, and was just generally unhappy. I also did not look healthy. It was at this time that I began to wonder if my knee issues were a result of my weight loss. I did not know what else could be the culprit since everything else that I had tried had not helped.
September 2013: I made a promise to myself that I was going to eat a lot more. It was not easy at first (our society is SO focused on eating less, so this was a hard concept to grasp), but I made a conscious effort to eat more food and to eat more often. I was still eating a mostly vegan diet and predominantly “healthy” foods, so this meant eating more healthy fats (nut butter, avocado, etc.), snacking more often, eating two-part breakfasts (which I continue to do), and eating out more often. This is still a challenge for me at times because I feel like I am always eating, but it is important that I listen to my body. As you can imagine, I have also gained weight (probably somewhere between 15-20 pounds), and I believe that my body is back to the “healthy weight” that it needs to be at.
October 2013: About a month into my new eating plan, I had high hopes that I would start feeling better. However, the opposite happened. My body became injured very easily. During a spin class at the end of the year, I had a sudden sharp pain in my lower shin/ankle area of my left foot. I figured I just needed some time off, so I took a break from spinning and began walking and “running” on the elliptical instead. The pain, however, simply worsened. This pain has yet to go away. I have had the area x-rayed, have tried physical therapy, and have been told that I am dealing with shin splints. However, not even rest, ice, or anti-inflammatories have helped. The other more noticeable injury is of my right bicep/shoulder area. After lifting weights one morning, my bicep was very sore. I knew it was more than just a sore muscle, so I rested it for two weeks. After two weeks, I tried lifting again. The pain was still there. I decided to take a month off from weight lifting, but this did not help. More than a year later, and I am still facing bicep/shoulder pain that is now moving into my neck, elbow, forearm, and hand. It makes blogging, working, and everyday activities (like cooking) incredibly painful and difficult. I have an appointment scheduled at the end of this month for both my shoulder and ankle/shin, but I have almost all but given up on conventional medicine since nothing has helped yet.
Summer of 2014: At this point I was still very much dealing with pain in my knee, shin/ankle, and bicep/shoulder. I also began experiencing aches in my wrists, hands, hips, etc. Essentially, it is like waking up each morning and not knowing which joints are going to be hurting on which days. Sounds like a fun guessing game, huh? I mentioned these experiences to my doctor at my annual appointment and have talked about them with my orthopedic doctor. Nobody seems to have any answers for me. I would love to try acupuncture or chiropractic work, but since these can be rather expensive, I do not think I can afford to try something that has no guarantee of producing relief. At this point, I have simply been “dealing” with the pain.
Thanksgiving of 2014: I was talking to my mom about how frustrating these pains are, especially for somebody who has a true desire to be active. At this point in my life, I am doing zero physical activity. Walking is too painful on my shin/ankle, and even swimming is impossible due to my knee and shoulder/arm pain. As you can imagine, I was (and still am) extremely frustrated. It was not rare for me to throw myself pity parties, especially when I saw the people around me being active on a day-to-day basis. My mom and I talked about what could possibly be the culprit of my pains. We realized that everything started back around the time that I became a vegetarian. Could this purely have been a coincidence? Of course. But at that point, I was desperate to feel better and was willing to try almost anything. I made a promise to myself that I was going to try eating fish (the thought of eating chicken, pork, etc. was and still is very unappealing to me) several times a week to see if I noticed any improvements. Fish is known for being high in Omega 3’s, which can help with inflammation, so I figured I might as well give it a try.
December 1st, 2014: I ate my first bite of seafood after more than three years of having not eaten fish (I was not a huge fish eater before I became a vegetarian). This will probably make you laugh, but the first thing that I purchased was a box of Dr. Praeger’s lightly breaded fish shapes that were Dora the Explorer themed. For some reason, they were the only type of seafood that sounded good to me, so I went with it. I remember that I topped one of my tortilla pizzas with them and dug in. And guess what? They tasted really, really good.
Present: I had extreme feelings of guilt with my first fish-eating experience, but it has gotten better over time. Since then, I have eaten tuna cakes, tuna salad, salmon burgers, and broiled salmon. The tuna cakes were delicious, and I am starting to get on board with broiled salmon. However, all I could think about when I was eating the salmon burger was how much I really wanted a veggie burger. Hopefully my taste buds will adjust soon. Regarding my aches and pains, they are still here. I am trying to be hopeful and am continuing to incorporate seafood into my diet several times per week. I know from experience that it can take our bodies time to adjust to diet changes, so I am still holding out some hope that I will begin feeling better. I am hoping to not have to incorporate meat outside of fish into my eating plan, but may try it at some point if I feel the need to. It pains me to not be a vegetarian anymore, but I have reached a point of physical and mental desperation and am willing to try almost anything.
So about those labels… Yes, I am no longer a vegetarian. In the world of labeling diets, I would be classified as a “pescatarian” since I eat fish but no other animals. Giving a label to my diet is a touchy subject for me at this point in my life, though. So I am going to avoid that for the time being. Instead, I simply like to refer to myself as someone who eats a mostly plant-based diet with seafood added in every now and then.
What does this mean for Clean Eating Veggie Girl? I’m honestly not sure. I will definitely still be blogging, and I do not imagine that you will see a whole lot of changes for the time being. I am still learning how to cook fish, so do not expect many seafood recipes until I get the hang of that. You may, however, see some fish popping up in my What I Ate Wednesday posts and Friday Foodie Favorites posts. I hope to keep bringing you tons of delicious plant-based recipes, so if that is why you are here then you can stay happy! I will definitely still be the “Clean Eating Veggie Girl” since my diet is mostly centered on “clean” eating and tons of veggies. I also do not feel the need to change my tag line because I still follow a predominantly plant-based diet. A slightly new “About Me” section is currently in the works.
I am fully open to questions regarding my decision, but what I am not open to is negativity and criticism. This transition has been incredibly hard for me, and I should not have to feel bad about making a choice to try to get back to a place of healthiness and happiness. I will make no apologies for that. Will I still be eating fish a year from now? Who knows? What will my diet look like at that time? I’m not sure. But I have come to realize that the specifics of my diet mean very little. What really matters is doing whatever I can to get back to a healthy and happy way of life. That is the journey that I am on now and will continue to pursue.
Thoughts? Questions? Suggestions?
What are your favorite seafood recipes that are EASY to make?