Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Flexitarianism and living between extremes

Sometimes I crave a thick, juicy steak. But I'm a vegetarian, so what do I do? I'll tell you what I do, I go out and eat a steak. And when I say eat I mean I totally savour that piece of cow flesh. That's how I roll as lax vegetarian, I eat meat when I want & still call myself a veggie.

Several times in the past people have challenged me on my vegetarian status as I've been mid-bite into a sneaky piece of Dan's hamburger. It used to make me defensive. Who sets the rules for dietetic self-labeling anyway?! Surely I can call myself whatever I want. And eating meat less than a handful of times per year has got to count for something. Plus, calling myself a vegetarian is more socially acceptable than saying at a dinner party, “I'm really picky about meat. Sorry.”

These days I call myself a flexitarian, meaning that I'm mostly veggie but I'm not going to deny myself some beef if my body is telling me to go for it. I like this attitude towards food because it flies in the face of extremist tendencies I'm prone to. I'm the type of person who, when I do something, I go all out, sometimes to my own detriment. Being flexitarian gives me freedom to be what I really want to be: an occasional meat eater.

Dan and I have been applying our newly-celebrated flexitarianism to other aspects of our life beyond the dinner table. When we first arrived in the States we had the idea to go completely carless in Seattle. We were going to milk the bus system for all it was worth and say no to cars. This plan lasted for one day, the day it took us an hour and a half to get a few miles east to Green Lake. We then decided that we definitely needed a car in Seattle, at least where we lived, but we could still take steps to not be completely car-dependent. For example, we'd only get one car. And if we were going downtown or somewhere convenient we'd try taking the bus.

In pursuing a simple life, flexitarianism is a huge thing for me. It can be overwhelming trying to scale back and live simply and to be honest, it's difficult to do it all at once. That's why I'm all about gateway actions that admit going cold-turkey is not sustainable but don't completely throw the intention out the window. I feel this way about a lot of good things that come at a cost: eating organic, living in community (why not just live down the street from good friends instead of sharing a house? It's great!) and even decorating a new apartment exactly the way I want it.

I've definitely chilled out about being an extremist black and white perfectionist in the last decade, and it's a huge change for the better -- so much less stress and guilt, greater contentment and satisfaction. And the occasional steak. Everybody wins.

Any other practicing flexitarians out there, with meat and beyond? Do spill...

P.S. We're all moved in to our new place and I love it! Will show some pics on Friday.

{Crocheted t-bone steak by deba822 on etsy}


Brianne said...

I love this post Alisha! I feel like people can totally trap themselves into being quite unhappy just by using normal labels!
Scott and I have decided to only have one vehicle since we know our Audi SUV is quite the carbon machine...so we try to make our schedules align and ultimately there have only been a few times it has been a real inconvenience, in almost 4 whole years! I too try to make my life simple in needs vs. wants...but then I saw a Chanel lip gloss I decided I wouldn't like to live without it...so I guess a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do ;)

Jenny said...

i proud of you for eating meat...i think it's important to listen to your body's needs..and a steak craving could mean you need the iron..i'm just sayin'

i've been toying with eating less meat ever since my naturopath told me that my A+ blood type usually leans towards vegetarianism. we shall see, i do love eating meat and i certainly don't want to give it up completely.

and living three doors down? yes, i'd agree that it's fabulous ;)

alisha said...

Bri, I agree, a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do. Sometimes we just need a splurge.

Jenny, I'll help you be more veggie if you help me eat more meat. We can meat in the middle. Also, was wondering with your crotcheting skills you could whip up something like this yarny meat feast?

Rachel said...

I read an article about a woman in Sand Point who hasn't set foot in a grocery store in years. She grows most of her own fruits and vegetables on only 1/5 of an acre in the city, has chickens for eggs, and slaughtered her own pig at a nearby farm. That kind of DIY lifestyle actually really appeals to me, but I've had to take it one step at a time since I live in a third-floor condo and the local pea patch has a waiting list. It is quite freeing to not feel like I have to change everything all at once. I can slowly add things to my repertoire of knowledge, and someday maybe I, too, will have a garden and chickens.

Nadine said...

Loved this post!

I stopped eating red meat 18 years ago, but I've had a bite here and there over the years (only about 5 in total, but still)

And I can't stand the debate when people say, "But you eat chicken."

I love the flexitarianism idea! I'm going to go with that.

Matt and I drive (we live out in the boonies) but every once in a while we'll bike to the library or post office. It's such a good feeling, but not something I could do every day. Love the flexitarianism!

Casey said...

Oh I loved this post too...I finally know what to call myself ;) I'm pretty much the same way....was mostly veggie for quite a long time until I lived in Dublin. I don't know what it is about the sausage in Ireland, but I was mad for it. Now I hesitate to call my self vegetarian, but I rarely eat meat and when I do, it's because a nice filet mignon is calling my name :)

alisha said...

Rachel, I agree that that lifestyle is appealing. I think my gateway action in that department is to much into an apartment where the landlords already keep any amazing veggie garden. :) I get to enjoy the benefits without all the work.

Nadine, glad you're a flexitarian as well. Why are people so judgmental of personal food choices?! :)

Casey, glad we're on the same page and can enjoy the occasional filet mignon. Yumm! I think meat moderation really helps you to enjoy it when you do eat it as well. I didn't know you lived in Dublin. Can you believe I never made it over there while living in England for 4 years. Would have loved to though.

Rachael Randal said...

Reading this really makes me want to eat a nice juicy steak! Mike is cooking a lamb meatball crockpot extravaganza for tonight, so good timing!

I feel that personaly Mike and I do need to eat meat to get all the iron and protein that are bodies need, but we only have red meat once a week, as too much is not good either. Ensuring that we only buy free range chicken, meat and sustainably sourced fish is our take on the flexitarianism approach, and it works well for us. Although it can be tricky to apply that to restaurant meals and dinner parties at friends'.

Glad you're settling in well into your new place - looking forward to seeing pics!

Stacy said...

What a great post! I grew up in a very evangelical environment, and it's always a little eerie to me how often idealists of all stripes can sound like fundamentalists. A lot of issues like simplicity, sustainability, fair trade, and so on are moral issues, but like so much morality can often be used to separate the world even further into the Us-es and Thems. So three cheers for flexitarianism on many fronts!

alisha said...

Rachael, hope Mike's lamb meatball extravaganza went well! And I agree that buying sustainably sourced meat is a great way to be a flexitarian. :)

Stacy, thanks for your comment. I'm all about closing the gap between us and them, whoever us and them may be. When I worked as a climate change campaigner we always wanted to make sure we, in all our environmental zeal, never turned into Eco-Pharisees. :) It's so much easier to go to extremes than to find balance in the middle.

Joanna Roddy said...

"I'm just picky about meat." Yeah, me too. Sometimes I wish I were Anthony Bourdain--eating exotic offal without batting an eye. But then, I'm me. And even chicken breast can put me off sometimes.

As for the flexitarian approach to life: I love it. You are, as usual, an inspiration.

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