I am not ready to be exclusive with vegetarianism.
The thing is, I really love the idea of being a vegetarian. I love the thought of confidently, slightly condescendingly telling people, “No, I don’t eat anything with a face,” while I bite into a somehow ultimately-satisfying slice of tofu and chuckle about how slender I’ve become. I love the animals. They’re friends, not food! One of my go-to moves during a “my career is going nowhere!” panic attack is to Google law schools in my area and decide to become an animal lawyer (it’s a thing!), which would inevitably result in my becoming a vegetarian. It was essential for my new career.
And yet somehow, week after week, I found myself horking down another batch of Winco chicken strips.
My husband, a fourth year veterinary student, has been feeling increasingly weird about eating animals that he spends time with. Which makes sense. As a mortgage professional, if there was some kind of equivalent to killing and eating financial documents, it might give me the heebie-jeebies as well.
The thing about pain is that it will make you do and try things that you might normally think are totally dumb. I’ve never been a fad dieter. I sucked at keto—I lasted about three weeks before I swore I had cooked my last cauliflower steak. So when my gyno told me I could try an anti-inflammatory diet to try to help with my endometriosis pain, I thought it was a stupid idea.
“What do I do?” I asked.
“Be a fake vegan,” she said.
I didn’t want to be a fake vegan. Or a real one. Really, I just wanted to simultaneously flirt with the idea of vegetarianism while continuing my chicken horking at its regularly scheduled pace. My uterus and ovaries had already turned on me. E tu, comfort food?
But then my husband said, “Hey, I had a crazy dream last night.”
“Me too! We were at this restaurant and I had to pee but all the toilets were broken! What was yours?”
“There were just rows and rows of sheep waiting to be slaughtered and it made me sad.”
I felt nauseous.
So, I took him aside later. I told him I wanted to be a vegetarian, at least for a little bit. And he said okay. We agreed we would still eat fish. I’m meh about how cute fish are.
At first, the vegetarianism failed epically. We were at my best friend’s house and went out to pick up lunch from a Hawaiian place. We agreed in the car we would get a veggie plate.
But the beef just sounded. So. Good.
Driving home, I said, “God, we suck at this. We couldn’t even be vegetarians for a full four hours!”
But after that, we got our act together. We ate tofu. We ate rice. We ate veggies. We didn’t eat any meat.
Or anything greasy. Or really any processed sugar or dairy. Basically if, according to a quick Google search, a food was likely to cause inflammation, I didn’t eat it. Don’t need any inflamers in my life!
And although I thought this whole thing was really stupid, I started feeling much better. Significantly better. Able-to-wear-normal-jeans better. My god, I thought. What a life-changing life change. I am an anti-inflammatory vegetarian goddess.
But then I went to the mall. And we parked by Red Robin. It was the most heavenly smell I’ve ever smelled.
“Okay, hear me out,” I said. “The only way we’re going to know for sure if this anti-inflammatory diet thing is for real is if I scarf down a big, juicy burger. It’s research, pure and simple.”
“No,” my husband said.
“Okay but how else will I know? Plus we won’t have to dirty up our kitchen tonight.”
I laid out my case strongly. You know, like a vegetarian animal lawyer would do. And he cracked. And I got my big greasy burger. Oh, and two baskets of fries.
I’m not sure there’s ever been a steamy romance scene written or filmed that could come close to capturing my feelings as I sunk my teeth into that delicious slab of salty protein. My tongue cried out in ecstasy and my brain perked up immediately at the first taste of something other than salad and tofu. Oh my god—that burger. It rocked my world. It was juicier than a sex scene out of The Witcher. Sorry, Geralt.
I wish I could say that it turned out that I kept feeling better even after eating the burger and that the anti-inflammatory diet is just a load of hooey. But that would be a lie.
On the drive home, that sharp, familiar cramping on my right side kicked into full gear and I struggled to get comfortable.
“Worth it?” my husband asked.
“Still going with yes, but ask me in an hour.”
So right now I’m living with one foot in the anti-inflammatory food camp, and one foot in the “eating things that taste good” camp. If I eat meat (or greasy foods, or sugar), I do tend to feel pretty godawful after. But if I eat nothing but vegetables, I feel a bit weak from lack of protein. (I am the gazelle at the back of the herd about to get picked off. Poor little endo gazelle.) Like everything else, I’m just taking it one day, and one chicken strip, at a time.